St Jean Pied de Port is a lovely Medieval town with a fortress and old stone buildings lining cobblestone streets. I met June from Korea as she was trying to manage a 50 pound backpack, a roller bag, and a large shoulder bag. One of the jokes of the Camino I have heard is that if you need something, ask a Korean--they carry everything! Poor June was a good example. I walked with her up to the Pilgrim's Office, which was closed for Siesta, so we opted to go to a French restaurant for lunch so we could set our luggage down.
The meal was wonderful--roasted chicken, baked potato, vegetable salad, and an apple tart for 12 Euros.
Over lunch, June shared with me that she had worked three jobs to save for this big trip. It was bigger than I had imagined. She had flown to Vladivostok and spent a month crossing Russia to St Petersburg before flying to Madrid and right away getting on a night train to Pamplona and then the bus to St Jean. Needless to say she was exhausted. Her last shower had been in Moscow. I asked what she thought of the steep downhill on the bus and she had slept through it.
June's further plans after walking the 500 mile Camino are to go visit her parents, who are missionaries in Tanzania, tour around Africa, then go see "the big waterfall" in South America. Quite an ambitious itinerary. I did talk her into shipping her roller bag to Santiago and sending her backpack ahead to her first overnight stop after the steep ascent the next day. When I saw her the next morning, she had arranged all this through her hostel, but somebody stole the envelope with 70 Euros she was told to leave on top of her luggage for the transport company.
We returned to the Pilgrim's Office after lunch. After the volunteer carefully explained to me the two options of hiking routes over the mountains, I knew for sure I would be taking the bus this first leg. My poor foot can't handle the 3000 foot elevation gain.
I stayed at Gite Izaxulo and shared a room with a Canadian and a British guy. All of us were too tired to do much more than exchange Names.