Hotel Roncesvalles (145€, dp)*
Parting clouds and a welcome sunrise at Orisson…with no problem continuing on up the high route, the Route Napoleon (chosen by the little guy because the way is generally treeless, with no place for marauders to lay in wait). We are off at 8:15 AM… Up, Up, Up… beautiful and energizing, amazingly energizing! We cross into Spain (no customs, no paperwork), and at 12:45 PM are over the Col de Lepoeder pass – 1450 meters/4756 feet high – and head steeply down. Muy steeply! More than ever, we appreciate our walking sticks, and their aid in keeping a firm footing. A pleasant forest path then takes us into Ronscesvalles, arriving at this legendary pilgrim stop at 2:30. Forever, it’s been a small, charming town totally geared to pilgrims. Many hikers are here at the end of their first day out. For the vast majority, the walk from St. Jean to Santiago is the most popular.
The crowd is international now, no longer French with some Belgians and Germans thrown in, the case in France. Yes, we are in a new country as well, with different customs, different menus, different accommodations. We have a lot to learn. We find our hotel and are delighted with the room, actually a small apartment. We clean up and go out to explore. Amidst a throng of pilgrims/peregrinos, we get our credenciales stamped by a rude, sour ecclesiastic bureaucrat. Dinner is at 7:00 PM and it is OK, but this place is no France. We have potato soup, trout and French fries, with yogurt for dessert. We purchase additional wine and whoop it up… we have made it over the Big Hill and we are proud of it!