After about a 20 hour travel day yesterday, I’m now on a train from Bordeaux, France on my way to St. Jean Pied-de-Port in south western France near the Spanish border. This is where the French Way begins, the most popular route of the Camino de Santiago. I read recently that an average of 400 peregrinos (pilgrims) a day have been leaving from here as the weather turns from winter to spring. Well, add two more Americans as my friend Will and I are going to start walking from there in the morning on May 1st. I’ve known Will for years and as an avid trekker and traveler, he decided a few weeks ago to come join me for the first week of the Camino, and I’m glad he did. It’s easy to be braver with a travel buddy. We had a 6 hour layover in London, so we hopped on a train into central London, had some very large beers and pub food, and we did some hasty sight-seeing around Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament.
Then when we landed in Bordeaux around 10pm (on about 3 hours sleep), we headed out in search of what the city is famous for…the wine. We found plenty, met some really nice European guys in their 20s and chatted and laughed until 1am.
It was an excellent beginning as I’m realizing that one of the things I am most looking forward to is the people part of this journey. I went to Burning Man for a decade even though I despise intense heat because of the sense of community there…people just simply being kind to each other. This is one of the central elements of the Camino by all accounts as I’ve often heard of the Camino “families” that form on the road. Hopefully I’ll keep this positive outlook as I experience for the first time dormitory-style bunk bed accommodations (called albergues). As a light sleeper, my love of community might sour after a few nights of a room full of snorers :). But then again after long days of walking, I’ll probably be so dead tired that I might be snoring away myself.