Today I made it as far as Bayonne, France – about a one hour local train ride from St. Jean Pied de Port. The TGV high-speed train from Paris was amazing. In addition to being fast, the train was remarkably smooth and quiet. It was a pleasure to ride for the 6 or 7 hours it took to get to Bayonne from Paris.
I enjoyed looking at the French countryside as it sped by. Most of the scenery was very rural and I was struck by the absence of people. There didn’t seem to be any people out and about. I don’t have any idea where they might have been. I also enjoyed the opportunity to practice my French. I really didn’t need it. Wwhenever I tried speaking in French, people quickly took pity on me and began conversing back in English. But, it was fun to try and I was pleased at how much I could still understand.
I bought my final rail ticket to St. Jean this afternoon and now all I have to do is get to the train station (only two blocks away from my hotel) on time (7:45 departure time) and my journey to the starting point of the Camino should be complete.
I had a little time to wander around Bayonne this evening. I was able to attend mass at the cathedral here and then had a lovely dinner at an outdoor bistro along the banks of one of the rivers flowing through the town. While eating, I made a new friend – a little dog who hoped, to no avail, that I might share some of my dinner with him.
I was also encouraged to see some other fairly obvious pilgrims in the Bayonne train station. So, we won’t be the only ones starting this trip over the next few days. I had to chuckle as I enjoyed a glass of Guinness in a local Irish pub this evening. I mentioned to one of the other patrons that I was going to hike the Camino de Santiago and his only response was to ask the one-word question, “Why?” I have a feeling I will be asked that exact question many more times before this is all over.