Planes, Trains, Automobiles
The only rational effort on this trip was buying the plane tickets, otherwise airfare would have cost a fortune. I shopped months in advance looking for the right combination of dollars spent, time in the air, and dollars spent…yeah, saving money on the flight was a big deal.
Day 0 is actually three days, using the logic that pilgrimage doesn’t really begin until you reach your official starting point, in our case, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the French Pyrenees. Others argue that pilgrimage begins when you leave the front door of your normal. Still others say your pilgrimage begins in your distant past, probably true for me as I’ve been on a collision course with this for a few decades…
We’ll keep it clean though, Day 0 is actually three days. My traveling companion and I left the front doors of our respective “normals” early on a Wednesday morning, day 0-1, bound for Atlanta for some quality time with my brother before heading across the Atlantic.
Thursday afternoon, day 0-2, the traveling begins in earnest. MARTA from Alpharetta to Hartsfeld Airport. A long walk through this massive airport to the International terminal. Then on the 5:00pm KLM flight bound for Barcelona.
I watched a couple of movies, then slept like a baby on the flight – woke up and cried every 30 minutes. Eight hours and a few time zones later we arrived at the El Prat Airport in Barcelona. ¡Bienvenidos a Barcelona and day 0-3!
The rational, planned part of the trip ended at El Prat. Now the fun begins as we try to figure out to get to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port by the end of the day.
Step 1 was the airport shuttle to the public train station.
Step 2 was the public train station to Barcelona Sants train station. We had to catch a train leaving at 10:00am for Pamplona. We arrived at the Sants station with 5 minutes to spare.
Step 3 was the Renfe High-Speed rail to Zaragoza, the perfect opportunity for a high-quality nap. The coach we rode in was plush. I did crack one eye open at a point in the journey and noted that we were traveling at 318 km/H.
Step 4 was a Renfe Commuter Train from Zaragoza to Pamplona, not nearly as plush and this train stopped about every 10 minutes to let people off and on. We arrived in Pamplona at 4:00pm. That left us with thirty minutes to get across the city and catch the 4:30pm Alsa Bus for France.
Step 5 was Pamplona Public Transportation. The bus we rode got us to the Alsa Station at 4:31pm, we watched our bus pull out of the tunnel and off to the northeast. Undeterred, we found there was another bus leaving for St. Jean at 6:00pm AND a cerveceria right across the street from the Station! We enjoyed a moment of relaxation and thoughts of Hemingway in this place and bulls and throngs of people roaming the streets during the San Fermines, just a few short weeks away. We watched peregrinos wander by on the sidewalks, we would find ourselves back in this place in a few days. Reality was sinking in, thus far we have been tourists, traveling by plane, trains, and autobus. Tomorrow we will be pilgrims moving at a pilgrims pace, a welcome change of pace.
Step 6, on the Alsa Bus bound for St. Jean, our travels winding the narrow highways through to Pyrenees towards conclusion! We made it to St. Jean at 7:30pm, beautiful!
We found beds in an albergue for the night and then walked to the Pilgrim Office for our Credential. It was here that we met a most irrational man, Will from Holland. He had walked out of his front door in Amsterdam on the first of April and had been walking towards Santiago ever since.
His advice for such an irrational adventure, “put one foot in front of the other.”