Did you ever have that tingling feeling in your stomach while getting ready for a new trip?
I'm talking about that small tickling, butterflies for others, nervousness or even some goose bumps that, in my case, come every time something new and exciting is about to happen, like in this case, another adventure: cycling the Northern path of the Saint James Way!
After a little planning some weeks before, the previous travel night should be easy... but that's when all those emotions arise and I end up most of the night packing, and checking, packing some more, checking again, taking out some stuff, put it back again, checking some more, almost ready, but back to checking my stuff, in, out... and so on for a few hours, ending up with less sleep than desired.
But first things first, being too far a journey to leave from my actual home, Nice (France), I flew over to Biarritz to start closer. With some helping hand from my dear friend Alfio, or Rinco for friends, we carried my 20 to 25 kg heavy boxed bike so I could fly without any back pain before the real challenge :) However, once on the plane and without even starting my cycling trip, I suffered my first accident... true, accident and airplane are not a good combination... but rest assured, I just ended up drinking less beer and just got my legs wet. This didn't however avoid me jumping in my seat when I was approaching Biarritz; a town on the South West region of France, with such a diversity that it used to be visited by Monarchs from all around Europe and is now one of France's major surfing spots (more info here). Still warm from the mild and California-like Côte d'Azur, I quickly plunged into gloom and cloudiness, more typical from the Basque Country.
As soon as I literally HOPped off the airplane, I built up my dear Orbea and in no time I was out on the road with clouds but no rain, and with that tingling feeling of a new adventure to be reckoned!
What was supposed to be a quick trip to Saint Jean de Luz, ended up being a sweet Saturday ride, slaloming among all the tourists, surfers and beach lovers. Without being able to find anybody in the churches to get myself a Camino credential (the pilgrim's stamps passport), I left the bustling Biarritz to join the beauty of nature going through narrow pathways all along the amazing Basque coastline.
Starting the route as relaxed as on my 1st Saint James Way (which turned out to be some gruelling 20km uphill, see it here), I couldn't resist temptation to stop at one lovely bar on the way when I saw their pillows, deck chairs and a counter over the beach with the magnificent sea view. Seeing the Basque dishes on their menu and the smell of their kitchen, some great txistorra and a Basque beer were more than enough to convince me for a pit stop before heading to the day's final destination.
Once I finally reached Saint Jean de Luz with sunset stalking me, I entered this beautiful town to discover that, although being on the Saint James Way, it doesn't have any specific accommodation for pilgrims. On the Camino, the most typical form of accommodation is the albuergue which rather than a hostel, it's a shelter conceived for pilgrims. The options you have can range from a hostel-like housing, a private owned home with some rooms for pilgrims, a church, a town's pavilion (during periods of time when there are many pilgrims on a given route) or even some amazing monasteries!
With almost zero options at what was already 10pm in the evening... I had to resort to a thing I usually don't, a hotel! Strolling around, the cheapest I found was one with a very familiar name to me thanks to my work in Monaco... Café de Paris! My choice was based on availability, a safe storage for my bike and the nearby Pub where they were screening the Champions League final between FC Juventus and FC Barcelona, which was won 1-3 for the latter: visca Barça!
After a few pints and some surprise concert during the game, my first short, but intense, Camino day came to an end with a luxurious rest before heading to some very tough 14 days of cycling the coastline to my hometown.
Stay tuned for more Camino days every week and discover how it was to drag a heavy mule across Spain's Northern Coastline ;) !