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Getting To St. Jean And Finding Places To Stay In The Summer

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by Nancy Bannon, Jan 2, 2018.

  1. Nancy Bannon

    Nancy Bannon New Member

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    Hello, This is my first forum. I am planning on walking the Camino end of June in July 2018. I am at the beginning stages of planning. I have read blogs and a simple guide by Bryon Guptill. I would like to start from St. Jean Pied de Port, I plan on walking the whole way. I am walking alone. My biggest concerns is getting the St. Jean I have read people fly into Paris, or some people fly into Madrid. What is the best? Second concern is having a place to sleep each night. I have read that the hostels/Albergues fill up fast. I know you can make reservations, but the whole way? I have so many questions and came across this forum. I will read through too, but if anyone has any suggestions that would be great. I think once I get started I will be okay.. just getting there.. Thank you
     
  2. UnkleHammy

    UnkleHammy Well-Known Member

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    Both times I went I flew into Madrid and then on to Barietz/Bayonne. From there I got the train to Saint Jean. The first year I stayed at Orisson. Then I stayed in Rochavells. Up to this point I had reservations each night because I would be getting off the airplane and didn't want to have to think about anything else. After that I tried to play it by ear, sometimes a reservation and sometimes not. In the end it kind of worked out.
     
  3. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Hi again Nancy

    I aren’t sure where you are flying from, but as UnkleHammy has already mentioned, Madrid is one good option as you can get from there to Saint Jean Pied de Port quite simply by a train/bus combo + at the end of your Camino, it is easy to get back to Madrid by Train / Bus / Domestic Flight from Santiago de Compostela

    Another popular option is to fly into Paris and go by either train or a domestic flight / train combo to Saint Jean Pied de Port – But it is a bit more long winded getting back there at the end of your Camino !!

    With your accommodation – My own recommendations are that

    1. Definitely reserve your bed / room at Saint Jean Pied de Port – Sites like booking.com have both beds in private Albergue’s and rooms in hotels, but book ASAP as the cheaper / better options get booked up early
    2. If you are considering staying at Orisson then it’s essential to book your bed there http://www.refuge-orisson.com/en/ – Many pilgrims walk from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles in a single day (I did so myself, but at that time there wasn’t the option of staying at Orisson) – However, I now recommend that unless you are a hardened experienced trekker then staying at Orisson is a good idea and has the advantage that this allows you to do some sightseeing in Saint Jean Pied de Port before you start your walk (Many Pilgrims miss doing this and Saint Jean Pied de Port is a really beautiful; place and far too nice to miss) – So, apart from the obvious of it easing you into your pilgrimage by splitting the first and usually considered as the hardest day of the walk into two. You needn’t set off until you have taken an early lunch and can then walk the 8k uphill to Orisson and have a leisurely start to your pilgrimage.
    If Orisson is already full up when you try to reserve your bed, ask if they had any beds available at the nearby Kayola gîte ?? - And if Kayola gîte is also full then there was a recent thread on here where someone also wanted to break the Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles section into two stages and couldn’t find accommodation to enable them to do this, so, they walked up to Orisson one afternoon, returned to Saint Jean Pied de Port by taxi, then spent the night at Saint Jean Pied de Port, caught a taxi back to Orisson the next morning and continued their walk to Roncesvalles. - Now this may sound somewhat convoluted, but, especially if you aren’t an experienced walker, better than burning out on your first day.

    Just one thing to be aware of when making your booking and that is Not to use the contact from on the above website, but to reserve your beds using the email address next to the contact form, then, as there have been a few reports of people who haven’t had confirmation emails sent, if it were me, I would telephone them just so that I was 100% sure that I had a bed waiting for me when I arrive :)

    1. It is now also possible to book a bed in the municipal Refugio at Roncesvalles on their website at http://www.alberguederoncesvalles.com/
    2. Then after Roncesvalles, you should be OK and not have to book beds until you get closer to Santiago de Compostela – The closer you get to Santiago de Compostela, the busier the “Way” will get – You will see this slowly happen and be able to judge for yourself when there is a need to book a bed in advance, but I would certainly expect that, IF you are intending walking well into the afternoon then you will have to book in advance after Sarria and probably even before – But if you are stopping walking soon after mid-day then it might well be possible to walk all the way from Orisson without reserving a bed
    My own recommendation is that you should reserve your beds in the above places ASAP and preferably it should done as soon as you have all the details of your flights.

    Usually (Apart from Roncesvalles) if you need to reserve a bed, you can only do so in private Albergue’s and hotels, Municipal Refugio’s operate on a first come, first served basis – But If you need to reserve a bed, you will be able to do this on a day to day basis, so will still be able to maintain most of your flexibility.

    I hope the above info helps

    Best Regards

    Rob
     
  4. Crepes4Suzette

    Crepes4Suzette Well-Known Member

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    Hi Nancy, and welcome here! Great information above. I've gone in both ways, and would only add that unless you want to spend time in Paris, it seemed a bit easier to me to go via Madrid. From Madrid, you can get an ALSA bus direct from Terminal 4 to Pamplona (there may be a short stop with change of bus, but the workers are present and direct you well at the station). It takes about 3.5 hours T4 to Pamplona (which is a bit faster than via Paris). Not every bus has a bathroom on board (the "Normal" buses supposedly have them on most, but not every bus). I love train travel, and next time I'd just take the Cercanias 1 (from Barajas in Madrid) a few stops to Chamartin and take the train if starting anywhere in Spain. From Pamplona, take the Conda.es bus (I think you can now book them through ALSA) to St. Jean, or even one the same day if it works out. I like Pamplona very much, so never mind spending extra time there. See the sights, eat at the Belle Epoch Cafe Iruna, walk in the parks, enjoy how they do after-work strolls in old town, and have some tapas.

    If you need more detail or have more questions, just ask. Many nice people here who can help.
     
  5. BROWNCOUNTYBOB

    BROWNCOUNTYBOB Well-Known Member

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    Nancy - great advice already from Rob and Uncle Hammy. For our two caminos, we flew to Madrid from the US, spent a night there to adjust to jetlag. Then took a train from Madrid to Pamplona and spent a night there. Then a bus from Pamplona to St Jean and spent a night there and began our camino the following morning. I suppose this schedule could be compressed by one day. For example, the flight to Madrid arrives early morning. You could go directly to the Atocha train station and take a train to Pamplona. Also if you spend the night in Pamplona and take a bus to St Jean, it arrives around 11:30 so you could begin your camino that same afternoon if you plan to stay in Orisson. We took it easy getting to St Jean, so we'd be well rested when we began our camino. We walked the Napoleon route from St Jean to Roncesvalles in 2015 and the Valcarlos route in 2017.

    There are many good threads on the Camino Forum regarding the pros and cons of making advance reservations. For our 2015 camino, we only made reservations getting to St Jean, and the tail end with a reservation in Santiago and Madrid. The rest of the way we managed day by day. For our recent camino, we made advance reservations for 35 of 38 stages. The volume of pilgrims was high in September, so we were glad to have confirmed places. There are lots of good books (Brierley, Wise Pilgrim) and websites (Gronze.com, Booking.com) to plan your hike and places to stay. Now that we are in calendar year 2018, most albergues will accept reservations for this summer or fall. Buen Camino! Bob
     
  6. Greg Canning

    Greg Canning Well-Known Member

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    Hi Nancy and welcome to the forum

    You have already gotten lots of great advice so I will try not to confuse matters.

    For transfers from Biarritz to St Jean try Express Bourricot (they also offer a mountain shuttle for those who want to break the climb over the Route Napoleon into two days but haven't a reservation in Orisson and a direct transfer to Roncesvalles):-

    http://www.expressbourricot.com/

    Godesalco.com is a great site for planning your walking distances per day. The site is mainly in Spanish but is very easy to follow:-

    http://www.godesalco.com/plan/frances

    Have fun planning, it's all part of the experience, and keep coming back to ask questions as they occur to you.

    Buen Camino

    Greg
     
  7. Terry Wilson

    Terry Wilson Active Member

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    H
    i I agree with Unkle about booking your first two places to stay after that you just rock on in to somewhere and get a bed.
    I fly from New Zealand and am going back with others in April. (thats another story):). Hi Unkle. I fly into Paris and then onto Monparneas rail center and catch one of two trains to st Jean. One leaves 10am the other about 12am.
    Good luck God bless.
     
  8. Nancy Bannon

    Nancy Bannon New Member

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    Rob,
    Thank you SO MUCH for all that information. I sent an e-mail to the contact info. at the top of the page on the Refuge Orisson website requesting a reservation. Not sure how to pay for it in advance, I asked them. They don't take CC. I haven't made my flight yet, but have the dates. I think I will fly into Madrid and stay the night. I am coming in from New Hampshire, USA. So that will be a long day. I like the suggestion BrownCountry Bob made and stay one night in Pamplona, then head to St. Jean Pied De Port to get rested up. Your idea to enjoy St. Jean Pied De Port too and walk to Orisson first night of walk. I will look into your other suggestions about booking places. Thanks again, I am learning something new each day. I am excited to celebrate my 60th year of life on the walk. Nancy
     
  9. Nancy Bannon

    Nancy Bannon New Member

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    Greg,
    Thank you for all the suggestions. I will explore the websites, I do want to be planned somewhat at least at the beginning and the end. I will be back with more questions as I keep planning. Nancy
     
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  10. Nancy Bannon

    Nancy Bannon New Member

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    UncleHammy,
    Thank you for your post. What time of the year did you walk? I will plan on flying in to Madrid, staying one night and going to Pamplona and staying a night there too. I am flying . in from New Hampshire USA and want to be ready for the walk.I do plan on staying in Orisson first night of . my walk. I am glad all worked out at the end of you! Thanks again Nancy
     
  11. Nancy Bannon

    Nancy Bannon New Member

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    Crepes4Suzette, Thank you for your suggestions. I think I will fly into Madrid, stay one night and head to Pamplona early in the AM and spend one night there, then head off to St. Jean. Good Idea. What time of the year did you walk. I am a teacher and have the summer off, so the only time I can do it. I am flying in from New Hampshire USA so I will have some jet lag. I doing this walk to celebrate my 60th year of life. Going on my own, not too worried seems like there are plenty of people to meet. Thank you again for your response. Nancy
     
  12. Nancy Bannon

    Nancy Bannon New Member

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    Hi Greg again, I looked up Godesalco.com, yes all in Spanish, and didn't understand much of it. I have a friend who is fluent in Spanish and I will have her help me. Looked like different routes. thank you
     
  13. Crepes4Suzette

    Crepes4Suzette Well-Known Member

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    Nancy, I walked the first time in September/October, the second time in May/June and the third time in September. I'd walk in summer anytime, as it can get very cold and wet in May and October. It sounds like you'll be going into the city for an overnight in Madrid rather than staying out by the airport, so if you need a hostel recommendation, Far Home Hostel (Gran Via) is highly recommended by others and they were very kind to me when I was stuck in Madrid one time. In Madrid in summer, the hostel part is likely to be full of very young people, but they have private rooms also, bookable either directly or on Booking.com. They do have a female dorm there also. They're a short metro ride from Puerta de Atocha train station, where you'll likely depart for Pamplona. There are good hotels near both Chamartin and Puerta de Atocha stations. What a wonderful way to celebrate your 60th and a lifetime of teaching. I was an RN (age 62 now) and have made hiking a retirement hobby - it's very rewarding. Hope you have lots of fun planning, and best wishes for a very good upcoming Camino!!
     
  14. Greg Canning

    Greg Canning Well-Known Member

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    Hi Nancy

    If you use this link the page should be in English, if not there are three little flags at the top of the page on the right which allow you select your language.

    http://www.godesalco.com/plan

    Happy planning

    Greg
     
  15. keithlundy1

    keithlundy1 Active Member

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    Hi Nancy
    I've just completed my second Camino during August which was quite different to the first. To find an Albergue in SJPP just search online Albergues in SJPP and it will come up with list of websites for the3 different Albergues, try and book a place on the Rue Citadel, there are many and this is where the registration office is where you will get your travel Camino Passport and the first stamp of your journey. With regard to booking Albergues ahead of your stages, you will find during the past 4 years more and more Albergues have opened along the route and they are of very good quality and finding somewhere to stay is quite easy and even in August when the Camino is swamped with literally thousands of Italians there ere no difficulties finding a selection of Albergues to choose from, so rest assured you wont have a problem.
    if there any areas you are concerned about as I was facing my first Camino regardless of how silly you may think your questions are just ask, no question is silly and I had a great mentor who helped me and I asked so many questions I thought he was going to tell me not to do it but he was a great help and his reassurance was pivotal in a fantastic journey which I have walked it a second time and going again in 2019. It's a very special journey Nancy, one that will live withy you for the rest of your life.
    Buen Camino, Keith, Norfolk
     
  16. UnkleHammy

    UnkleHammy Well-Known Member

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    In 2016 I left Saint Jean on May 5th. It worked out to be a holiday of some sort but since all I wanted to do was walk, I had no problems. The walk to Orisson is not easy, there is a lot of up there, and being able to get to Orisson, have a couple of beers with fellow hikers. Then a shower, dinner and a sleep was great.

    Hiking up to Orisson it was very nice and sunny. The next day it was overcast and very windy I used my poles mostly to help keeping upright. On the 7th of May there was some kind of religious (festival?) going on in Rochevalles and the town was crowed. On the hike into Rochavalles I was constantly being passed by locals going to the festival. I don't speak useful Spanish and I didn't try to talk to them so I don't know what I was, but the local hotels were full.

    In California I normally hike in the Sierras and I was surprised to find that in France/Spain when you hike up hill you just go straight up the hill. In the Sierras there are usually switch backs so the incline is less as you go up. On the way to Orisson there was a woman from Australia that was zig-zaging on the road. She said that it was to reduce the incline somewhat.
     
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  17. Greg Canning

    Greg Canning Well-Known Member

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    Hi Unklehammy

    with regard to going "straight up the hills" I think the Basques and Galicians must be made of sterner stuff than we :) . I have to admit that in the early stage of the Camino I too used the zigzag method and at one stage when my shins were aching actually walked up backwards for a bit.

    I work in an 11 storey building and the best advice I got for preparing for the Route Napoleon was to walk up the stairs as much as possible each day. It was great advice and I also did some climbs locally around my home but nothing really prepares you for that first climb to Orisson :).

    Buen Camino

    Greg
     
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  18. keithlundy1

    keithlundy1 Active Member

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    Hi Nancy
    There are some great suggestions being offered by the guys and they all work. I was a bit of a worrier the first time I walked in 2015 and I was recommended to use the Express Bourricot, they pick you at Biarritz and drop you right in the middle of Rue Citadel in SJPP, but I chose to get a taxi from the airport which cost 20Euros then the hassle of finding where to buy a ticket for the bus as there were no trains, thankfully a French lady helped me with the ticket machine and I just made it to the bus then the long bumpy ride to SJPP, I swore I would never get that stressed out again so last year I used Express Bourricot and as it says on the tin there they were waiting for me and I had such a lovely relaxing journey without all the bus stops on route right to Rue Citadel. Yes it was 89 Euros but money well spent and almost half the journey time than by bus, please consider it if you can stretch your funds that far, I will be using it again next year.
    One of the guys mentioned about getting up the big climbs, there are two what I would call steep challenging climbs where it's more about climbing than walking and they are the first day to Orisson and the climb up O'Cebrerio. The first day is long but you should still make Orisson within 3hours, it's only 8kms that leaves you 5-6hrs to make it to Roncesvalles, the climb continues after Orisson and it's not as painful on the other hand when you make the climb up O'Cebrerio the hard part is only 4-5kms but it is so vertical you can't help but traverse left and right, it's hard and tiring but doable within 2-3hrs and there a couple of rest points where you can get a coffee and Danish (my favourites) to rehydrate and replenish so not to worry Nancy I know you will be ok.
    When it comes to preparing yourself physically you don't need to spend months and months walking the roads, I'm 61 and reasonably fit, I ramble on Sunday's about 10-15 miles and cycle when I can but for the last 3 weeks it's imperative you get out with your pack on and look for the most challenging hills to walk up to get some steel into your legs believe me you will thank me when you start walking the first day especially if the weather is poor as it was on the 25th July last year, it started with mist then thick fog and by Orisson it was lashing down with heavy rains with visibility down to less than 30m all the way to Roncesvalles, it took me nearly 12 hrs as I took a few hours sitting under my poncho for some respite from the drenching rain. I don't mean to put you off or scare you but your legs are what get you through, get your legs firm and in shape and I promise you, you can make Roncesvalles in one day.
    Good luck on your journey and may it bring you all the surprises and excitement you are hoping for.
    Buen Camino Keith, Norfolk England
     
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