In ten days, a walk to the Greyhound bus station will mark the start of this Camino Journey. Ten days! About five hours later, the bus will deposit us at the Port Authority in NYC and we'll take a train to JFK where we'll catch a direct, overnight flight to Paris. I make it sound so easy...
Due to a glitch with Norwegian Airlines, the one-day layover in Paris that we intentionally built into the itinerary has been extended. Oh darn! Two full days to stroll along the Seine, visit world-famous gardens, and indulge in exquisite food and wine. I can already imagine the smell of freshly baked bread slipping through the front doors of a corner boulangerie. Paris will provide a great way to reset the internal clock and stretch our legs.
From Paris, we fly to Pamplona where we'll spend another couple of days grabbing last-minute bits of gear (like trekking poles and sunglasses) and walking through the city's impressive history. With so much to see in terms of roman ruins, an ancient gothic cathedral, and multiple museums, two days will hardly be enough. Then there's Pamplona's famous selection of bars serving pintxos (what tapas are called in that region of Spain) and local cider. We'll need to rack up at least ten miles a day just to stay ahead of the calories. Personally, I feel up to the challenge.
Then it's off to St Jean Pied de Port, France, where our official Camino will begin. Not sure yet how we're getting there from Pamplona, but we have time to figure that out. It'll be a train or a bus or a donkey or a combination of those, no doubt. One overnight in St Jean and a visit to the Pilgrim's Office to collect our passport (the pilgrim credential) and get last minute updates on weather in the Pyrenees. I don't know if sleep will come that night - the anticipation will be overwhelming. I already feel butterflies when I picture taking those first steps up and out of St Jean.
Day one will be short in terms of distance; only about 11km. Sounds easy, right? Well, the tricky bit is that it's all uphill! The first day of the Camino Frances is considered the hardest by many. That's because you have to cross the Pyrenees from France into Spain. (I love the way that sounds.) Rather than injure ourselves by going ALL the way up and over, which would be about 24km, we're going to ease ourselves into the adventure with a short first day by stopping in Valcarlos. In addition to easing our bodies into the physical demands of walking 790km, it allows more time to admire the mountain vistas and the sturdy horses and cows that graze there.
Time is a precious thing. Many who walk the Camino have only a month or so to try to get from St Jean to Santiago de Compostela. Fortunately, our careers allow us to dedicate a bit more time, so rather than race to the next village to beat other pilgrims to the bottom bunk, and to avoid injuring ourselves by racking up thirty kilometer days, we're going to listen to our bodies and take the time to ENJOY the adventure. It's our intention to appreciate the view and find joy in every step.