After 36 hours - plane, plane, train, train, taxi - we arrived in SJPP around 7 on Sunday night. It had been a fine day and the sun was still shining (clocks had 'sprung' forward for spring overnight). It was 9pm before the twilight turned to dark, perfect timing to have long spring days as we make our way across the north of Spain to Santiago.
We checked in to our charming room in Hotel Itzapea, dropped our packs and quickly made our way to the Pilgrims' Office. We had thought we would walk today - the first day of Spring - but just as far as Orrison, a very steep 10 km climb, rest there overnight then make our way up and over The Pyrenees and down to Roncesvalles or perhaps a little further on our second day. But The Camino had other plans for us.
At the Pilgrims' Office we were told that the 'up and over' route, also known as the Napoleon route, was closed. Even the refuge at Orrison just half way up the mountain was closed. There was a metre of snow in many parts and two weeks earlier a man had perished just a short distance from Roncesvalles. So we were to take the alternative lower route via Valcaros, which pilgrims have travelled for many hundreds of years when the high mountain pass was not possible. Given that there was still snow on the low road, we could imagine what was above us.
Though it rained for much of the time from when we set out around 8.30, we have had the most wonderful first day and were thrilled to arrive here in Roncesvalles at around 4pm. This mediaeval town has provided refuge for pilgrims since the 12th century. There is a large albergue, two casas and the Hotel Roncesvalles where we have decided to stay. Part of the original Augustine monetary, the exterior retains the history and charm, while the interior is a stunning mix of old and new. We hope the photos give you an idea. We are in heaven.
Already we have met delightful pilgrims. We are just back from sharing a vino with three Irish pilgrims who are on The Camino for just a week - Tim, Deirdre and Sinead whose last name is O'Connor (but not that one). We are of course heading in the same direction tomorrow so perhaps we will see them again along The Way.
We are both feeling great, and none the worse for wear despite a long first day. Thank you to everyone for your best wishes. And an EXTRA BIG THANK YOU to Ed, Steph, Max, Will, Tommy and Ruby (Jill and Martin's neighbours) for the wonderful project you made for us to wish us Buen Camino. We loved it so much especially the drawings of us walking and even slaying dragons! We didn't see any today, but will keep a look out.
We'll sign off now as it's almost dinner time - 8.30. Late by our standards, but not in Spain! We will have the pilgrims' menu - 3 courses for 9 euro including wine.
Lots of photos tonight.
Jenny and Jill xx