Today we met our 24 new travelling companions who will be with us for the next 16 days. There are 21 people on our tour of the Camino, besides us, and 3 tour leaders, Garry, Deb and Pedro. The bus collected us from our hotel in Bilbao at 3:30pm and we set off for Roncesvalles near the French border arriving at 7:30. There is not much to Roncesvalles and Maree and I took a quick walk around the village in about 10 minutes. There is a museum and a few other things to look into but we will leave that till tomorrow, meanwhile it is time for a shower and laundry before dinner. Most, if not all, of our fellow travellers are Canadian. I did hear a foreign accent and I'll investigate and let you know later.
Earlier in the day Maree and I took ourselves off to the old town and joined a walking tour for 90 minutes or so. Our guide was quite softly spoken and had some trouble competing with the traffic but she was quite knowledgeable, though I did catch her referring to some 'cheat' notes. We saw some of the key buildings in the old town, the 'new square', the basilica and the restored market. As it happens we had already taken a walk through the market where great looking fresh fish was for sale. There were of course vegetables, meat (with pig heads lovingly displayed) and small-goods as well. Everything looked fresh and clean and wholesome. At one of the butchers I noticed not just pig trotters but what looked suspiciously like pig noses laid out for sale. During one part of the tour someone looked up and exclaimed... there was a naked man on one of the balconies who looked as though he was tending his balcony garden... in the altogether. After the tour we rushed back to the hotel to check-out and to put our bags in storage until 3:30.
With time to kill it was back to the old town to find the 'new square' for some lunch. I noticed at one establishment that the price for their savoury sandwiches was 1.60 euro if eaten at the bar and 1.90 euro if eaten outside on the terrace so we chose to do the Spanish thing and eat at the bar. As we had no idea what the sandwiches were like we selected 6 different ones, ordered a lemonade each and enjoyed the experience. To walk off this minimal lunch we then hiked up 300 or so steps to the top of a hill overlooking the river expecting to find a basilica on the top but we didn't. Apparently it is even further up the hill so we walked back down again and did a bit more exploring of the old town. I was hungry again so. spotting a handy cafe, we stopped in for a couple of decadent pastries and some coffee.
At the Posada in Roncesvalles we were a bit too slow and ended up with a twin room rather than a double room. I guess we will be able to cope for the two nights that we stay here. Dinner, at 8:30, was all of us on a big long table affair. We sat opposite Simon and Marie France and next to Yvonne and Garry. Yvonne is the only American in the group and is from Chicago, travelling alone, Simon and Marie France are from Toronto. For dinner we had a warm green soup which was tasty but salty followed by roast lamb with chips and vegetables. It was all quite tasty but sort of boarding school style. After some fine chat we all hit the sack. Most of the Canadians are still jet lagged.