Day 1: Biarritz (0km)

20190716_2003164260154826630872053.jpgFinally, the day arrived and I was seated next to the window on an Easyjet plane to France. The seats were tiny and the man next to me was trying to not take up too much space. I appreciated his efforts as it must have been difficult for a tall man like him to have the middle seat of such a small airplane and I am highly sensitive to my personal space. Unfortunately, he had taken his shoes off and there was a pervasive aroma permeating the air around us. The newborn on the lap of the woman next to him remained miraculously quiet for most of the flight.

That morning, I had set out early. I find traveling by air stressful. There are many points on the route onto the plane that could go wrong and hold me up. The tube train could be late or break down, the security line could be long, there could be a problem getting my bag onto the flight, or anything else my paranoia could imagine. Being fully aware of my anxiety, I like to give myself far too much time to get onto the plane. I woke early, finished cleaning the house, washed my linens ready for when I returned, closed the curtains, switched off the plugs and left the house. En route to the airport, I realised that I had not emptied the water filter jug and kettle. I just hoped a friend would be able to pop over and do that for me.

At the airport, I wrapped my pack and put it through the self-help machine and watched the conveyor-belt move it down the line and out of sight. I worked my way through security with a gentle ease and enjoyed an unrushed Pret a Manger lunch. While queuing down a corridor and waiting to board the plane,  I spoke with an American from Boston  She said that she was taking a shuttle from Biarritz airport straight to St Jean Pied de Port. I’m a worry-pot by nature, and, now, I was worried about how I was getting to St Jean. I had already worried over this bone of uncertainty when planning my first night. I had finally decided on staying in Biarritz to explore the coastal town. Maybe I should have gone straight there from the airport, but I have already booked a bed in a Biarritz hostel that was just 5km from the airport. There was also no guarantee of me finding a bed in St Jean so late in the day. No, I figured it was probably best to stick to my original plan and stay in Biarritz that night and then make my way to St Jean by train the next day. I get too lost in the details of things. I really did need to learn to go with the flow more. I’m a seasoned traveler and should just trust that I knew how to handle situations on the road. Onward I flew, sharing the hazy sky-journey with a few other fellow pilgrims. I needed to embrace this adventure and not seek to control everything.  I resolved to let the coins fall as they would as I embraced the serendipity of happenstance and chance. The swell of adventurous butterflies swirled and tantalised me. ‘Camino’, I thought, ‘here I come.’

Within a short time, we had landed and were welcomed by security. I stripped my pack of the plastic wrapping, feeling guilty for its immense waste, repacked it and walked the 5km to my hostel. Here, I locked my belongings away before leaving and made my way straight to the beach. How wonderful it was to dip my feet in the briny swirl and allow the gaining waves to splash me. I stood, feeling the tide’s push and pull, a bit wet and felt such a great sense of happiness. I was so glad that I had not gone straight to St Jean.

I walked along the promenade into central Biarritz and browsed the shops before finding a place to sit and watch the sea with a glass of wine under an umbrella. The sea was washing higher and higher up the sand and the sun sat low and sparkled on the sea. I knew that this sense of peace might be the prelude to tomorrow morning’s stress of catching buses and trains. But right then, I was content in that very moment and in that very place. It was like a postcard to hold onto when if I became anxious and overwhelmed by whatever was on offer the next day.

I concluded the day with a wonderful three course meal which included eating pork instead of the expected beef. Obviously that dish was a little lost in the google-translation. But it was delicious. I then returned to the hostel and tried to get some sleep which was to prove difficult. The journey to St Jean loomed.

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