Day one of the Camino Frances, St. Jean to Orisson
One way to hike the Camino is to stay in albergues, which run 12-16 Eu per person. That is sometimes considered the customary way. I thought we’d be doing that, but we chose another way. The Camino Frances has been around for 1000+ years, and along the route every town along the way has benefited from pilgrim traffic. Little tiny towns had multiple cafes and albergues, and hotel. It is customary to not reserved a bed in advance, and many albergues didn’t take reservations. It was first come, first served. I knew that many people chose to walk from Saint Jean Pied de Port all the way to Roncesvalle on the first day, which is one tough day. I made reservations in Orisson, halfway there, because I knew there was limited bed availability there, and I didn’t want to risk having to do the whole trek to Roncesvalle the first day. Plus I thought a few easy days would help us acclimate. We didn’t get started until noon, and didn’t get too far, so it was good we had a place to stay at Orisson. . It was cloudy, spotily raining, and cold.
Our packs were too heavy as we ascended the hills of the Pyrennes, and we were glad when we got to Orisson. Orisson is not a town, just a refuge/albergue. We got our first taste of albergue life in a daylight basement room in Orisson. The room was concrete, had 5 bunk beds, and no windows. There was a bathroom with two shower stalls with curtains. You put a token in the shower timer, and you got 5 minutes of hot water while the timer screeched. Since the lights were on a motion sensor, when they went out you had to flap you hands around to get the lights back on, otherwise it was pitch black.
The food at Orisson was also an initiation into “pilgrim cuisine.” Pilgrim cuisine is simple, not fancy, but cheap. Also boring. Orisson was a great incentive to consider hotels or pensiones as a place to spend the night, and to eat out most meals. In future accommodations, we generally opted for the luxury route, cheaper hotels that cost 35-65 Eu per night. Worth it. We thus got clean showers, towels, blankets, privacy, no snorers, no early (4:30 AM) risers, no stinky hiker smells, Worth it. For some reason some hikers feel that suffering and stinking is part of the experience, and don’t bath for their whole Camino. Each to his own.