St Jean. The Starting Point

Saint Jean Pied de Port. Saint John at Foot of the Passes. The route through the mountains here has been used by many and varied a traveller. The Romans, Charlemagne the Great (more of whom later) and of course for more than 1000 years by pilgrims.
Also used as a convenient passage for invading generals like Napoleon. Now it’s lined by invading pilgrims Almost 40000 of them started the Camino from here last year. The vast majority were French only just over 1000 were Brits. And we mustn’t forget the one man from Tanzania and one from Nepal. Bet they didn’t have too many conversations round the Sangria bucket.
St Jean is not the original town The first was burned to the ground by another invading Brit-our Good King Richard the Lionheart. A man who spoke French and lived most his life outside his realm. He was joined in his battles by a Navarre king called Sancho the Wise who we are told “agreed” to share the country with the old Lionheart.
Given that Richard was not averse to decapitating his prisoners en masse Sancho’s soubriquet was well deserved. He clearly knew which side his baguette was buttered – unlike his cousin Alfonso the Incredibly Stupid who strangely disappears from history after vowing to oppose the English mass murderer…
Tonight I stay in a hotel. My last taste of luxury before I strike out tomorrow morning. My back hurts…