When first planning our trip, Micah and I decided that we wanted to start at St. Pied de Port, just like the movie. It is where the French route starts and is probably the most common route that pilgrims take. We also figured it would be cheaper for us to fly out of Chicago rather than Des Moines. It worked out perfectly that Micah’s family was having a graduation party in Chicago that weekend, so they drove us there, saving us even more money. I have never really been to Chicago, I have just driven through it or had a layover at the O’Hare airport, so when we got there I was excited to stop at Portillos for a Chicago dog. Boy, was it good!
After picking up one of Micah’s cousins, we got to the airport and checked into our flight. Now, as I’ve said before, I don’t have a plan past August 14, so naturally I didn’t have a return flight. While trying to get my boarding passes, the ladies at the counter told me I have to have a returning flight otherwise the country I’m going to might not let me in, and if that happens the airline could get fined. It didn’t really make sense to me, and was extremely frustrating and annoying, but I wanted my stuff and I had too much anxiety to argue it, so I just bought the cheapest ticket I could find that was the longest time away. I actually got a pretty good deal for a $300 flight from Dublin to Chicago- I’m just going to stay positive and think that it could have been much worse. So after buying my way out of the country, we made our way to Barcelona- three flights over 18 hours, and that doesn’t include the 5.5 hour car trip from West Des Moines to Chicago. We travelled for almost 24 hours total from Friday to Saturday!
We stayed in Barcelona Saturday night, found a nice hostel (to answer Maddy’s questions…there ended up being three other people in the room with us and I ate popcorn and airplane food all day 😆), and explored the city a bit just walking around and enjoying being there and not on a plane.
Sunday we got ready and went to Mass, where we were 30min late because of a few wrong turns and the fact that the church had two worship spaces. After that we rested until it was time for our turn at La Sagrada Familia, which is seriously one of the coolest things I have ever seen. It’s so beautiful, carefully crafted and designed. We did the audio tour, which I was grateful for because it provided so much information, and made me look at things I wouldn’t have if I had gotten a regular ticket. We would have liked a tour from a person or one that goes up in the towers but those were sold out.
After La Sagrada Familia, we made our way to the train station, met a Canadian named Dave, and got to Pamplona. Our second train was so delayed and late overall that we didn’t get into Pamplona until 10, at which point getting to St. Jean was impossible so we found a very nice cab driver who helped us to a hostel. Once we got settled into the hostel we knew we needed some regular food, but since it was about 11 by then, everything was closing and we ended up at Dominos.
We went to sleep with a plan of getting to St. Jean in the early morning and starting our pilgrimage. Unfortunately and fortunately, we overslept and decided to take our time getting to St. Jean and starting on Tuesday. I was stressed because I wanted to start from St. Jean but it wasn’t looking like that was going to happen for a bit and we also started a day late, however, we met another David, but this one is from Hungary. Canada David went on his own way because he has a much tighter time budget. Thankfully, Hungarian David let us tag along with him to get to St. Jean.
The bus ride from Pamplona to St. Jean was one of the worst bus rides I have ever been on. We twisted and turned up and down mountains for the entire 1.5 hours. It was awful. We were all grateful to finally get to St. Jean this morning. We spent the day in St. Jean getting a few key items, like our pilgrim passport (that gets us the cheap hostel rate and proves that we are pilgrims), walking sticks, and a shell to symbolism we are pilgrims on the Camino. We also got to explore the town a bit, it is so beautiful and charming, and we went to Mass and got a blessing after from the priests.
So, tomorrow will officially start our journey of walking the Camino, which is so exiting because I have been waiting for this for so long. I am also about nervous because it is definitely going to be the hardest day of the pilgrimage, but I have received a lot of advice, I hope I can just remember it in the moment!
As always, please let me know what questions you have and I will be glad to answer them!