Accueil (St Jean Pied de Port) : récit (Reynolds)  

 

                                                                       Notes from St. Jean Pied de Port

                                                                     Nancy Reynolds - San Francisco CA

 

  (American Pilgrims Hospitalero News - Dec.2009)

 

  It's the end of my third full day at the pilgrim's office in Saint Jean Pied de Port, and the end of my 44th birthday. I am the happiest person around.

 

  A few months ago I was thinking of what I wanted to do to celebrate my birthday this year. I knew I wanted it to involve Europe and the Camino, but I couldn't picture myself wandering around Spain alone for that day. Then I remembered the offer I received in April 2007 to go back to France to volunteer at the pilgrim's office.

 

  So here I am. The pilgrim's office provides credentials and stamps for people who are on or beginning their pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela. My job is to issue credentials, stamp them, collect euros, sell beds in the pilgrim's hostel, and dispense information about the town and the hike over the hill into Spain. I am one of five people volunteering here this week. Three of us speak English, four speak French, one speaks Spanish (me !!!), and one speaks both German and Dutch.

 

  The train arrives four times a day and each time it is madness. Twenty to 40 people arrive to become pilgrims and the queue stretches down the street. Usually the five of us are serving two to three people at a time and speaking four different languages as we do. The craziest time is when the 7:35 p.m. train arrives - the last one of the day when there are very few beds left in the town. Most people have not reserved ahead - because they can't. At 9:30 p.m. we are still finding beds for the last few people.

 

  On Monday when I arrived (with a trainload of 30+ people), neither I nor the train were expected. I immediately plopped down next to Chantelle from Quebec, went through the see-it-two-times-and-then-do-it training, and voila!, I was turning people into pilgrims.

 

  We have welcomed more than 200 people each day since I arrived. That means the towns along the Camino will be bursting at the seams with pilgrims. This far exceeds the capacity of the accommodations I know about. I plan to start walking into Spain in just over a week...I hope things slow down a bit by then.

 

  I am having a blast. Every time I point to the spot on the credential where the stamp in Santiago goes, I almost start crying. Just to think about what is to come for these people, I am so happy. They are about to start the most amazing journey of their lives, and anything can happen from here.

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delhommeb at wanadoo.fr - 23/11/2013