Sunday, April 24, 2022

Day 1 - 23 April - Burnley to Orisson

As the famous Irving Berlin song goes;

If you’re so intent to go on the Camino             

Why don’t you pack up all your bits                     

And fly to Biarritz... 

Go on, sing it to yourself. It works. Honest.

So anyway, that’s what we’ve done today, followed by a shared taxi to our Camino start point at St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the French Pyrenees, a quick visit to the Pilgrim Office to get our Credencial (pilgrim passport) its first official stamp and then off into the hills for a five mile walk to refuge Orisson where we will be resting our weary heads. I say “five mile walk” but it would be more accurate to describe it as a “five mile climb”. It certainly got the old heart pounding.

We had been tracking the weather forecast for St-Jean over the last few days and it hadn’t been looking good. The best the forecast had been able to offer, for any part of the day, was a ninety percent chance of rain. But that does of course leave open a ten percent chance of no rain and so it proved as we arrived at Orisson somewhat windswept but mercifully dry. En route we had been treated to some fabulous vistas. In a future life, if I ever come back as a cow I could do a lot worse than come back as a cow in the Pyrenees.

The three course pilgrim meal at the refuge may not have been a la carte but it was tasty and there was plenty of it, washed down with a not unacceptable several glasses of red wine. There were twenty eight pilgrims at the meal, probably half of whom were American and the rest a mix of German, Austrian, Dutch, Brazilian, Korean, an Italian and four Brits including the two of us.  As per Orisson tradition, after the meal everyone introduced themselves. All very nice and lovely. Almost, almost a bit too nice and lovely for my liking. Everyone was nicer than me, that’s for sure. 

Having arrived later than everyone else, we were shown to a table already consisting three Germans and one Italian, all rather disconcertingly communicating with each other in English. Lovely, nice and multi-lingual. Almost too much to bear. The two young German ladies were positively bursting to impress with their linguistic capability;

How much duz yor ruksak veigh in kilograms pleez? Eh? Vee hef valked fiftee five kilometres in vun day. What? Coming from zee Inglund I sink you vill be yoosed to zee rain yah? Try living in Burnley mate.

We were shown to our dorm after dinner. Just the two of us in the dorm plus Stefano the Italian guy. He seemed a decent chap so, having sorted ourselves out, we invited him to come have a beer with us at the refuge bar only to find out, having got there, that it was closed. At 9.30 in the evening. The French eh? Still, we’ll be in Spain tomorrow and they don’t even start going out of an evening until 9.30 at night so there's every chance we’ll see Stefano to buy him a drink some time soon as, like us, he is hoping to make it all the way to Santiago.

So, but for the minor setback of bar closed early (probably did us a favour), today has gone well and this part of (Basque country) France is stunning. Looks like we have a wet day tomorrow but we’ll worry about that tomorrow.

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