Arriving at Our Starting Point



Our plane landed early around 7am and we easily found the train station at terminal 2. What was not so easy to find was an ATM that would accept my travel card. I felt like I was in Vegas doing the slot machines. After a lot of frustration and many attempts I was able to obtain a minimal amount of Euros. Then I received a text message from Wells Fargo Fraud Control stating there was suspicious activity and someone was attempting to use my card. Yes, that would be me! The card was set up through a banker who knew I was going to France and Spain for two months. And, I called the bank again before I left to be sure my cards were set up for use in France and Spain. Oh well. It did take a phone call to the bank to get it all straightened out and now I’m cash happy.

Our train arrived in Bayonne, France around 5:30 pm. Being Easter Monday, a holiday in France, there was no evening bus service to St. Jean Pied-de-Port. An employee at the Bayonne terminal helped us find a cab. She arranged for the driver to take 5 of us to St. Jean for $20 euros each. We loaded our backpacks and jumped in the cab for the 1-1/2 hour ride. I gathered the money from everyone and offered it to the cab driver but he said no. So I held on to it.  Here’s where the fun began. It reminded me of the drivers in Honduras — good drivers but very fast and scary. We were entering the mountains and there were several times it felt like a head-on collision was coming. The German guy sitting behind me kept squealing and it wasn’t with delight. The poor woman from Arizona in the far back seat kept pleading, “slow down, you’re making me sick.” The cab driver didn’t speak English so away we went. When we arrived, I handed him the 100 euros. He counted it and a few minutes later came back at us and was apparently unhappy. I don’t speak much Spanish but from what I could understand, his meter read 136 euros. The others responded that it was a pre-arranged price and that is all we are paying. He was angry and began harassing each of us as we walked away. To appease him, Terry and I offered him another $15 euro. He wouldn’t take it — he wanted 36. We just kept walking. He followed us. I did hear the word Gendarme, so I think he was threatening to call the police.  He was in my face barking out Spanish. I just shook my head and said I don’t understand. He followed us to the Camino Pilgrim’s office stated his case to them. Not sure what they said to him, but he left, never to be seen again,. Whew!

So now we were very tired from the 7 hour flight, the 7 hour train ride and the cab driver from hell. Terry and I set out to find a nice quiet Albergue where we could relax and unwind. After much walking around we were frazzled by the time we found, “Le Chemin vers l’Etoile”. The hospitalier stamped out Camino passports and invited us to the dinner which was already in progress. We rushed to get rid of our backpacks and returned to the dining room which was anything but quiet. French fans from two opposing soccer teams were shouting our their team songs and calls back and forth. I’ve been to a lot of Packer games but have never seen anything like this (see video). We filled our wine glasses and sat back and watched. Then we all sang, Allouetta and Frere Jacques. My bed was calling me. It was a bit horrifying to discover that the rowdy soccer fans were our dorm mates. Fortunately the rules are strict at the Albuergues — lights out at 10pm, lights on at 6am. It had been a long day.

Our flight left Minneapolis at 4pm and we arrived in Paris around 7am.

The cell phone charging stations at the CDG airport were pedal powered. What a good idea to stretch your legs while charging your phone or laptop.

Angry cab driver from hell. We just couldn’t get away from him.

Our first Albuergue experience.

Rambunctious soccer fans at dinner time. Dinner consisted of a hearty pork stew, rice and couscous.

The joy of bunk beds! Our dorm room had about 8 bunks. It was weird having that person so close to my bunk. We’ve been calling him “The Corpse”. He was laying in bed when we arrived and still laying in bed when we left. He talks French in his sleep and in English on the trail.

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Jane is a resident of Browndale neighborhood in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

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