The last couple of hours today were on the road into St Jean Pied de Port (SJPP) and very hot. SJPP is the start of the Camino de Santiago, the well-known pilgrimage route across northern Spain. It is also the point at which a French pilgrimage route, the GR65, joins the Camino de Santiago. I have walked both routes and have stayed in SJPP twice before.
SJPP is also a popular tourist town with old buildings, fortifications and ramparts. In late July it is busy with hikers setting out for the Camino and with ordinary tourists. It is fun watching the buzz; six years ago I was one of those novice hikers carrying a pack that didn’t fit well and weighed too much. But I made it to Santiago, had a great experience, and most of the excited hikers walking the streets this evening will get there too. The town has too many tacky souvenir stores, but the energy is great.
Tonight I’m staying in a dormitory in a gîte and will be in gîtes for quite a few of the remaining nights on this hike. Some of the towns closer to the coast, more expensive and touristy, had only hotels, but now that I’m away from the coast and moving into real hiking country gîtes are more common and sometimes they will be the only option.