A town of hopes and dreams

St Jean Pied de Port has seen so many souls set off on the old old pilgrimage route known as the Camino. I arrived by train, passing through tiny mountain villages with the train track hugging a narrow rushing river. The train was full of backpacks and speculation about the weather. Next to me a charming Danish couple, veterans of three caminos told me they were going the alternative route around the mountain rather than risk the climb in the bad weather forecast for the next day . I am starting off a day later so, I have not yet had to decide what to do. First example of the humility the Camino demands, for months I have dreamed of going over the famous Napoleon route but perhaps it will not be possible, At supper in.the gîte where I am staying for two nights I met other pilgrims, It was interesting to see how well or ill prepared they were. I sat at the “ American” table. How this damned Covid has coloured our attitudes. When one gentleman told us he was from Florida I was uneasy until he expressed his very pro vaccination views. On réflexion I wonder if a right-wing anti-Vaxxer would embark on the Camino. It seems unlikely The town is very hilly and the streets too narrow for cars to pass. My first visit today will be to the church and to the pilgrim’s office where I will get maps, advice and the first stamp in my long fold-out passport. I hope to fill it and that the last stamp will be that of the cathedral of Santiago, a hope to accomplish a dream. This is a common dream in this little ancient town. There are other dreams and hopes -of liberation from sorrow, of thanks for health restored, of wonder at the beauty of the world. The little town is steeped in dreams and hopes. Today is my day to discover them.

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