Gap Day

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Thursday 30 October

The rustling of early pilgrims woke me at 5.30, but I managed to pull back the covers until the ‘official’ wake up time of 6.30. We were supposed to be out the door at 8am, but the hostlier said I could stay until the cleaners arrived.

I began my day wandering the near empty streets, photographing some of the wonderful typography carved into the lintels above every doorway. Basque names and dates, some as early as the 17th Century. A type nerd’s idea of heaven. Most of the shops were still closed, but it was nice to window shop and see the Basque linens, and artisan delicatessens and produce stores. I then walked up to the top of the Citadel for sweeping views of the surrounding countryside.

However, I did have chores to do. I took my washing to the pilgrims office where they had a washing machine, bought some supplies for tomorrow’s walk, as apparently there are no shops on the way, and stored my bike until I can find another solution. Then I went for lunch. There were plenty of options, and as it’s school holidays in France, everywhere was busy. I choose a lovely little place overlooking the river, and opted for the menu, as they are such good value. Tomatoes stuffed with Tuna, followed by Guinea Fowl with vichyssoise, and a pastry thing for dessert. It was ok, not bad, but not spectacular but the surroundings were pleasant.

I then went through the exercise of trying to sort out what to pack and send away, or what to take walking with me, a little stressful, and I’m sure I’ll have regrets, wanting what I have sent away, and wishing I’d sent some of the things I’m carrying. I decided to ditch the tent… hopefully that isn’t a decision I’ll regret. The post office staff were wonderfully helpful, even to the point of sitting on the floor with me trying to stuff things into the standard size boxes. I returned feeling more relaxed, knowing I had less to carry and that I had more time to consider the fate of my bicycle.

I had confirmed earlier that the Pilgrims’ mass was at 7pm tonight, so went to the church at a quarter to, to find it all but empty. I knew it was the quiet season, but only three others, I wondered if it would still go ahead… I was also feeling a little conspicuous, as I don’t know the service in French, and it’s been some time since I’ve been to a Catholic mass… Would I stand or kneel at the appropriate times? Then they started to switch the lights off… So, it wasn’t on. One of the other pilgrims was the person in the bunk close to mine – he spoke English, and said that the mass had been at 6pm this evening and we had been given the incorrect time, again. So I was not to have a Pilgrims blessing. We decided to go and eat, and he said he had eaten at a very nice place for lunch, so we went there. It was excellent. We shared an octopus salad for an entree, and I had sole with mushrooms. He had some kind of game bird which he gave me a taste of, which was very good. So my last meal in France for this part of my trip was not disappointing. I was blessed after all.

We returned to the hostel, and I cracked open the (sadly only) half bottle of Champagne to share with my dinner partner. I, again was the last to go to bed. Hopefully the rustling won’t start too early tomorrow.

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