Paris to Irún by Train

¡Hola de España! Actually, that’s not exactly correct. If you were to ask anyone here in the village of Irún, he would be quick to inform you that this is Euskadi, or the Basque Country. 
Sure, the Ibérico hams hang from the ceiling …

and an oversized bowl of olives holds pride of place on every bar, but there is a fierce machismo air to the place that is undeniably Basque. Even Mikey’s lunch wasn’t for the faint-hearted:

Yup, that’s a baby squid, tomato, and baby river eel salad! (BTW, the squid was cooked to perfection.) 

As we now backtrack, the train from Paris to Irún was quite comfy and efficient. It was on a direct TGV line that seemed to fly along the rails. Step aside, Amtrak, SNCF (French Amtrak) has it going on!

The weird part, though, was arriving at a practically deserted station just over the border from France. Forgive Mikey, but when stepping into the most realistic looking zombie movie set, one tends to forget about taking photos and just gets the heck outta there! 

Oh, and then there was the heat! A balmy 28*C with absolutely no breeze when Mikey stepped off the train. (For those of you keeping score at home in Fahrenheit, that’s about 82.5*F.) So, perhaps it’s just white wine today! 

There were a couple of important errands to complete today:

Mikey stopped by the Orange cellphone store to swap out his SIM card, so navigation should be easier now that he has cell service. Oh, and if last year is any indicator, he hopes to have fun with all those Spanish telemarketers!
But, the more important part was registering for Camino credentials. The Pilgrim’s Credential or passport is a document one carries with him while traveling along the Way. It is stamped periodically (e.g. at albergues, churches, cultural sites) to prove that a pilgrim has actually made the journey. As you can see, Mikey received his first stamp in Irún at the Pilgrims’ Albergue. (FYI: Europeans format their dates dd/mm/yyyy.)

Also important is the scallop shell. As the Galician shore near Santiago was once littered with these, the shell became a symbol of the Saint James’ pilgrimage. Moreover, it is said that the physical lines which all converge at the base of the shell are symbolic of the many different paths pilgrims walk along in route to Santiago. Like both medieval and modern pilgrims, Mikey will display the shell on his backpack as an indicator of his pilgrimage. The shell has served the dual purpose of identifying its bearer as a peaceful traveler who can be trusted and encouaging others to aid him in his journey if needed. 

We’ll touch on the shell and some more Camino symbology in later posts. For now, it’s time for bed since the Camino starts tomorrow! 

Hasta pronto.