Monthly Archives: May 2011

Dispatch From St Jean Pied De Port

Camino de Santiago, day 0.

Heavy dark clouds define the morning. A steady rain falls. Cool fog curls around the surrounding hillsides.

The two car train from Bayonne works a slow, meticulous route through the hills, the pace only adding to the tension. An adventure is about to begin and almost everyone on the train is going to be a part of it.

The excitement is stunning.

Somewhere around the half way mark, I realize that I actually have butterflies in my stomach. The walk we are about to embark on has been only a thought, a guess even, for the last year. Now, we’re just over forty days into an amazing journey and only minutes away from the starting point of what could be the most important leg.

As the train pulls into the final station, the excitement boils over. It’s no longer to come, it is here. We plunge out of the train doors and into the rain, our faces smiling at the realities in front of us.

Tomorrow the walk will begin. Today we feel home in St Jean Pied de Port.

¡Buen Camino!

Le Grand Secret En Montpellier

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image via K.Suzuki on Flickr

We don’t speak French.

This is relevant because we are currently in Montpellier, located in southern France, about 12km from the Mediterranean coast.

The fact that we don’t speak French feels like this secret that we’re carrying around with us as we walk the city streets. It’s something only we know and as long as we don’t open our mouths to speak, nobody will find out.

Michelle mentioned as we were walking through the very popular Place De La Comédie that everything felt surreal, almost as if we were in a movie. I agreed completely, although I may attribute some of that feeling to the second hand copy of The Bourne Identity that I picked up for £1 back in Bishops Cleeve. We could both imagine Bourne appearing all of a sudden and racing through the square in a glorious action scene.

Where was I? Language.

While we feel uncomfortable, absorbing the language has definitely helped. We are both studying little pocket guides that we picked up in the London Luton airport, and we’ve been watching some French TV in our room. Between that and walking around town under constant bombardment from French advertising, it has at least started to feel more comfortable being in a place where your default reaction is to not understand a thing.

After some contemplation this morning I came to a few obvious but important conclusions:

  • We aren’t the first to visit a country and not know the language.
  • Other tourists are in this town, so we aren’t abnormal.
  • As long as we don’t freak out and run away, we’ll make it through any situation.
  • We’re walking across Spain after spending a bit of time in France, so we better get over it anyway.

With that concluded, I at least slowed my brain down and started to concentrate more. And so, the cafe on the side of the main square that we stopped at today went much smoother than the previous day’s excursion to the supermarket. Without the deer in headlights look, I explained in French that I don’t speak French. Irony, anyone? I then proceeded, also in French, to order one San Pellegrino with lemon and one coffee while only really screwing up the lemon, which in French is ‘citron’ rather than ‘limon’ or whatever it was I said. But the waitress understood, we got our drinks, we enjoyed our drinks, and all was well.