We have had few early mornings walking this time. But this last morning, the weather forecast was for rain, starting around 11 am, and we wanted to walk in as little rain as possible. So we were pretty much on the road at 7.15 am this morning, still a little in the dark as cars rushed past us, walking on the main road out of Larceveaux. The colors were magnificent though as the sun rose, and it was pretty warm, almost balmy.
We were walking on air today, and the kms just slipped away as we neared Saint Jean. Every time we checked the weather channel app on our iPhone, the rain kept getting pushed off by an hour or so, and we took advantage of this for a lunch stop about 4 km from our destination.
Then we rose up the hill into Saint Jean, approaching Porte Saint Jacques — the main entry point for pilgrims approaching St Jean from the north. The entrance into this old town, “Saint John at the foot of the pass,” which has greeted pilgrims for many centuries, was familiar. We had stood outside the very same gate a year or so ago, after having picked up our credencials from the pilgrim office for Camino Frances to Santiago.
There on the right was the place we had a forgettable dinner last year, then on the left the old Church of Notre Dame du Bout du Pont. Passing by the tourist office, we ran into a family of four we had met a few days ago in Sauvelaude, who also arrived here this morning.
We stopped at the pilgrim office and had our credencials stamped to show that we arrived, then headed off for a celebratory coffee/tea and sweet pastries. It was well deserved as we had just completed 600 kms of the Chemin, climbed 16,500 meters and descended 17,000 meters. We had also visited close to hundred churches on the way.
The rain which had been holding off all day finally showed signs of impatience, and we rang our Chambre d’Hotes to see if our host, Jean Francois at Maison Donamaria, was ready to receive us before we got caught in a downpour. We stayed at his place last year, and booked again this year. He has been very kind, receiving mail on our behalf and accommodating our changing schedule, so we stopped to pick up a bottle of bubbly for him in appreciation. And he was there again, just as before, with a friendly welcome just as the rain started coming down in torrents.
After a shower and a rest, we went to mass at the church, to bring this Chemin to a close. Pilgrims leaving for Camino Santiago were called for the blessing at the end of mass. We remembered well joining two other pilgrims last year, as the priest gave his blessing to us before we departed for Santiago.
Arrivals and departures. Beginning and endings. They are all wrapped up and tied together for us here in Saint Jean, and we are truly grateful for the wonderful five weeks we have had on the Chemin. The French have been most welcoming to us every day and everywhere.