From Tom [Saturday, June 14th]:
Now we have arrived in Valcarlos and moved into the Municipal Albergue [pronounced al-BAIR-gay; like a hostel]. There were notes left telling us how to check in and that the receptionist will be back at 7pm.
Hey guys! This is the first email sent from my Kindle, so if there are random typos, that is probably why (because the keyboard is pretty small). Last that all of you heard was that we arrived in Barcelona. Since then, we explored the streets/other tourist attractions in Barcelona, went to Lourdes, explored Lourdes, went to Saint-Jean Pied de Port, spent the night and started the Camino! Today was our first day on the trail and we are currently in Valcarlos, Spain in an albergue (for those of you who don’t know, an albergue is essentially a hostel) which is really nice. It has wifi (obviously or I wouldn’t be sending this email), a washing machine, a range, a refrigerator, a microwave oven, a shower, and an airy bed space (all if which you learn not to take for granted). This hostel is about halfway through the valley between the Pyrenees, as we decided to take the valley route instead of the mountain route because of two reasons: weather and money.
The weather is unpredictable and has been snowing lately and the albergues along the mountain route are much more (32€ per person compared to tonight’s 10€ per person) expensive.
Now back to Barcelona; when we were there, we saw a cathedral and a church. Tour books stated they were both cathedrals but we all don’t think it is possible for there to be more than one cathedral in a city unless they have more than one bishop. We saw the exterior of both the Cathedral and Sagrada Familia [Holy Family] (which is still under construction; look it up), but not the interiors as they cost 6 and 30 euros respectively per person to enter. We also saw a castle in a park in Barcelona which was really cool. We didn’t go into the interior of the castle, because it cost money, but we were allowed inside the interior walls which we did explore.
Getting to Lourdes from Barcelona was semi- difficult. We had a combination of 3 trains that would take us to Lourdes. The first two went fine with no problem, but the third train couldn’t take us to Lourdes because in France, a train strike is taking place. So the third train took us partway to Lourdes and we had to bus the last part (which took 3 hours). We met up with Becca’s dad [Tom] and spent the day there lighting candles, washing ourselves and drinking the water, went to English Mass, visited the three basilicas, walked through the grotto and cried when we saw the spring [the healing waters of Lourdes]. Some of us went to confession, we saw the house where Bernadette lived (the docent was her great-great niece who complimented Garin on his French pronunciation), then returned to the grotto for the Eucharistic adoration procession and later the Marian procession and rosary.
Our original plan to get to St. Jean failed due to the train strike, but we met a friendly French taximan who took us there [in a mini-van taxi] for less than the cost of our train tickets and we got a refund on the tickets. We spent yesterday resting. This morning we set out on a beautiful day to hike. It was sunny and not too hot with some cloud cover and a nice breeze. Everyone except Garin (who speaks some French) is happy to be back in Spain where they actually know the language. Some highlights were when we got complimented on our English by a Spaniard at the open air market in Barcelona and when we arrived at the albergue today and the only other pilgrim here is from Cupertino, [California …], is planning on walking to Finisterre y Muxia like us and is also going to visit Fatima afterwards like us.
We have been praying a group rosary every day for all the intentions people gave us. We will walk to Roncesvalles tomorrow.
Los siete peregrinos,
Gail, Rosa, Tom, Rebecca, Jill, Kelsey, Garin
Jill and friends bought food at the supermarket and cooked dinner at the albergue. We all chipped in for the cost. The other three guests also contributed some food so we all ate together. Here is a photo after dinner was almost over.