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RONCESVALLES first floor accommodation

2020 Camino Guides

Atc

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP to Santiago 2020
Hi, I believe that pre booked beds at Roncesvalles are assigned to the first floor. Has this floor been updated please to the Pod bunks or is it the older style metal bunks?
 

David

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
Can't answer that but a couple of years back I was invited down into the basement sleeping accomodation to do first aid (on 5 South Koreans) and thought the whole space down there was a fire trap - worried me, a lot.
so would rather be on the first floor!
 

Atc

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP to Santiago 2020
Can't answer that but a couple of years back I was invited down into the basement sleeping accomodation to do first aid (on 5 South Koreans) and thought the whole space down there was a fire trap - worried me, a lot.
so would rather be on the first floor!
Looking at their website it looks like the basement area is now only used for laundry and a rest area....I hope that's right!
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
I believe that pre booked beds at Roncesvalles are assigned to the first floor. Has this floor been updated please to the Pod bunks or is it the older style metal bunks?
The short answer is: Yes, one of the modern bunkbeds will be assigned to you if you pre-book.

The long answer is: Yes, modern bunkbeds for pre-bookings. I presume your question is about the confirmation email that one gets after having made a booking. The albergue Roncesvalles explains on their booking page here: The beds assigned will be on the first floors of the building (floors cannot be chosen). Note that it says first floors, not first floor. The floor plan is shown here. Click on the bed icon on each of the three floors to see the beds - modern bunkbeds on the two lower floors and single beds on the last floor. Every bed that has been booked through their website will be one of these modern beds.

There are no beds in prefabricated cabins. There are no beds in an area called Sótano (basement). There are no beds in a huge dormitory of 100 metal beds. All this previously available accommodation is now closed for pilgrims and converted for other purposes. For safety reasons, they are only allowed 217 beds for pilgrims now: 183 modern beds on the three floors plus a few more beds in another area that they use mainly during the winter months and that they open during periods of great influx but only for pilgrims who have not booked. These may still be older beds.

Buen camino!
 
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Togabogie

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances
Yes me and my friends got put into the queue lateish around 5pm and got the sòtano which was overcrowded and very uncomfortable compared to other pilgrims who loved the whole monastery experience so pleased its changed
 

Ianinam

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2013 / CP 2018
Hospitalera at Roncesvalles:
2015/2016/2017/2018/2019/2020
In addition to Kathar1na's post: only 70 beds on the first floor can be reservated in advance. In total there are 217 beds, including the 34 beds in the 'Dependencia' which is in use as the 'winter albergue' as from mid November until the beginning of March and also as an overflow on busy days during the rest of the year. In the Dependencia the beds are old fashioned metal bunks, in the main building the beds are very comfortable wooden beds.
 

David

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
Looking at their website it looks like the basement area is now only used for laundry and a rest area....I hope that's right!

so glad - it really spooked me!!

Tell you what though, I really miss the 12th century hospital building across the road that used to be the main refugio (you see it in The Way), I slept there in 2005 ... was marvellous, with great - but very cold - segregated bathrooms downstairs .. I loved that place!!!!
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Aragones(2020)
Portuguese(2020)
Hi, I believe that pre booked beds at Roncesvalles are assigned to the first floor. Has this floor been updated please to the Pod bunks or is it the older style metal bunks?
I've never been on the first floor when I've pre-booked.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I have never booked ahead in Roncevalles. The two times I walked there (from Valcarlos) in 2015 and 2017, and arrived by 2pm I was always put in the newer pod section. I wasn't even aware there was an old section that still existed.
 

Ianinam

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2013 / CP 2018
Hospitalera at Roncesvalles:
2015/2016/2017/2018/2019/2020
Nycwalking, in 2001 the new albergue Aterpea did not exist yet, it was opened in 2011 after the huge renovation of this building and is since then open from March to mid November. You can't have a room there, but the beds are in a nice and comfortable cubicle.

The old albergue Itzandeguia where you slept in 2001 isn't in use as an albergue anymore since 2015. It was renovated then and nowadays it is in use for parties, seminars etc.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
I learn something every day. The last time I walked that way was before they started taking reservations. Need to remember that for the next time. Roncesvalles, and the next few town are not where one wants to be sans cama...
 

tpmchugh

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Camino Frances (2015)
Camino Frances (2016)
Camino Frances (2018}
Hi, I believe that pre booked beds at Roncesvalles are assigned to the first floor. Has this floor been updated please to the Pod bunks or is it the older style metal bunks?
Not sure what you mean by pods but it was not old style metal bunks when I was there last year
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
@Ianinam, I wonder whether there are any plans to provide more beds for pilgrims in Roncesvalles in the Holy Year 2021?

PS for those who cannot see the information under an atavar because of the kind of device they use for access to the forum: @Ianinam was hospitalera at Roncesvalles in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. ☺
 

Ianinam

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2013 / CP 2018
Hospitalera at Roncesvalles:
2015/2016/2017/2018/2019/2020
@Kathar1na: and will be a hospitalera again next April 2020.

No, up till now we have not been informed bij the prior of the Monastey about extra accomodation during the Holy Year. The group of hospitaleros is certainly aware of this busy year, but of course we are not in a position to take any decisions.
 

steve 217

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino frances planning via del la plata
stayed in the old huge single room in 2010 with my new 120 new “friends” it was a intimidating first night on the Way .
Being awoken however with lovely choral music will always remain one of my favourite memories as was walking out into the dawn and shaking the hand of the Hospitallero who wished us on our way . Magical
 

David

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
I too didn't know that one could make reservations as an individual, perhaps this is new.

In busy periods there is a functional fault with Roncesvalles and this is that a large number of places are reserved for coach groups. The Dutch hospitalero organisation that actually runs the refugio is in contention with the owners, the diocese, about this.

A number of times I have seen the hospitelaros, late in the day, turning away late arriving pack wearing exhausted pilgrims because on paper they are full.

I have discussed this situation with the hospitelaros; they are not happy but they do the best they can. They keep a running list of spaces in the Roncesvalles hotels and refugios 'downstream' and organise taxis and a minubus taxi to take the pilgrims further on to where there is still room (at cost to the pilgrims of course - once I saw two who didn't have enough cash but before I could intervene pilgrims sitting outside gave them money - Acts of Good.)

I have seen this a few times when I have been there doing first aid ... fresh and clean and joyful 'first night' pilgrims getting out of coaches ... and weary pack wearing pilgrims who have just walked over a mountain arriving to be told that there is no room at the inn and being ferried further down Camino.
Those turned away look distraught .. if they were given some tea and cake that would at least raise their blood sugar and make it easier for them to cope.

So - in busy periods, whatever you do, don't arrive after 4pm if possible.

It is about money and income of course - it is always about money :(.
 
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Bonita

Member
Camino(s) past & future
September ( 2015)
I stayed there in 2015. I always referred to it as the dungeon, because that’s what it felt like. A great way to start because it got better every day 😇
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Aragones(2020)
Portuguese(2020)
I too didn't know that one could make reservations as an individual, perhaps this is new.
I don't know how far back it goes, but both in 2017 and 2018 I made reservations just for myself. Both times I was 2 floors above the ground floor.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
It is about money and income of course - it is always about money :(.
The owner of the Roncesvalles complex which includes the albergue is the Diocese of Pamplona, and a few years ago the prior said that they are still paying off the mortgage of the immense cost for the earlier restoration and renovation.

I don't understand why it is always about the money? Do the people who arrive by bus pay more for their albergue bed than those who arrive on foot? I don't think so. I have no insider knowledge but I somehow imagine that they may feel that those who arrive by bus from a parish somewhere in Spain to start a pilgrimage from Roncesvalles in Spain have as much right to get a bed as those who for some strange reason travel hundreds or thousands of miles from abroad to start on foot a day earlier just across the border in France 🙃 . Only a tiny tiny minority of them are "traditional" foot pilgrims who have walked hundreds of miles from home.
 
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David

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
The owner of the Roncesvalles complex which includes the albergue is the Diocese of Pamplona, and a few years ago the prior said that they are still paying off the mortgage of the immense cost for the earlier restoration and renovation.

I don't understand why it is always about the money? Do the people who arrive by bus pay more for their albergue bed than those who arrive on foot? I don't think so. I have no insider knowledge but I somehow imagine that they may feel that those who arrive by bus from a parish somewhere in Spain to start a pilgrimage from Roncesvalles in Spain have as much right to get a bed as those who for some strange reason travel hundreds or thousands of miles from abroad to start on foot a day earlier just across the border in France 🙃 . Only a tiny tiny minority of them are "traditional" foot pilgrims who have walked hundreds of miles from home.

When I say about the money I mean that but also about the income. It is a way of putting money, income, over people .. the fear that it may not be full that evening. As for huge mortgages ... the church is not poor, whatever it may say to the contrary .. and, you know, the 12th century building was rather wonderful, primitive, yes, hugger-mugger, yes, but wonderful - to sleep in a 12th C ex pilgrim hospital, to lie in bed just looking at the walls and the things they have seen ..... I am wary, very wary, of hugely expensive "improvements" - have you been there recently? The cold and prison-like stainless steel common areas with slot machines for junk food and drink? The soullessness of it? and these are considered improvements? Progress? Crikey!
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
On one level, it guarantees that all available beds, subscribed both by the group or individuals are full every night. This pleases the 'bean counters' in the diocesan office. But, I very well understand the volunteers' frustrations.

On another level, and knowing human nature as I do, this arrangement (with the groups) is generating a lot of additional revenue in the surrounding restaurants and bars. There is 'grey money' floating around somewhere....someone is benefiting from this group arrangement thing.

However, that is all irrelevant. Future, intending pilgrims must make a reservation in advance. This is the same as for Refuge Orisson for those walking from St. Jean Pied de Port.

It simply means that we NOW recommend that pilgrims walking from SJPdP, especially during the season from Easter to late October, make TWO advance reservations for their first two nights: one at Refuge Orisson, and the second at Roncesvalles.

If you do not like this, then consider starting at Roncesvalles, having taken the bus out from Pamplona in the early morning to drop you there to start walking west, in the morning. OR, just start as Pamplona in the first place. Huge numbers of Spanish pilgrims do just that.

There is no official or proper place to start your Camino.

Personally, I would opt to arrive in Pamplona, book one or two nights at a hotel, then start walking on the second "wake up" morning in Pamplona.

That gives me the arrival day and the full next day to play tourist, have a beer with Papa Hemingway at Cafe Iruna, provision myself as needed, buy last minute stuff, go the the big post office to mail stuff down the road to Santiago, and adjust to being in Spain. This way you start out rested and relaxed.

Hope this helps.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
and, you know, the 12th century building was rather wonderful, primitive, yes, hugger-mugger, yes, but wonderful - to sleep in a 12th C ex pilgrim hospital, to lie in bed just looking at the walls and the things they have seen
You mean the building with the 100+ beds? You were staying in a heavily renovated 12th century building. There's a site somewhere with photos of before and after the renovation works, quite detailed and done by the architects bureau. Enormous structural work. Without this work and the financing you would not have lied in a bed there looking at the walls. 😇

And before that building became a pilgrim accommodation, pilgrims stayed in another part but that was in danger of collapsing, hence the move to the renovated 12th century building.
 
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Ianinam

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2013 / CP 2018
Hospitalera at Roncesvalles:
2015/2016/2017/2018/2019/2020
Every day (except on a Sunday) in the early evening the daily bus from Pamplona arrives, and yes, in this bus there are mostly Spanish people who start their Camino at Roncesvalles and yes, they often have a reservation.

The hospitaleros do not have any influence on the reservations, so also for us it is often very, very sad when we have ro tell exhausted people who came 'over the mountain' that we have no beds available, while there are 30-40 beds empty on the first floor, waiting for people coming with the bus in the evening. In busy times we try to help everybody to get taxi's for those who have to find a bed in Burguete or Espinal.
Therefore, if you don't have a reservation, come in before 4 pm, as apart of the maximum of 70 reservated beds, every day we still have another 147 beds available first come, first go .....
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
so glad - it really spooked me!!

Tell you what though, I really miss the 12th century hospital building across the road that used to be the main refugio (you see it in The Way), I slept there in 2005 ... was marvellous, with great - but very cold - segregated bathrooms downstairs .. I loved that place!!!!
And so did I David as this post from my first camino in September 2004 describes.

"Roncesvalles monastery is documented from 1127 as a pilgrims’ hospice; it still is in use as such. Earlier in time the picturesque site may have been the battle scene for the defeat of Charlemagne’s army, immortalized in the medieval poem the Chanson de Roland. Today the many medieval structures are highly visited both by pilgrims and ordinary tourists.

After attending evening mass and participating in the traditional pilgrims’ blessing I went to eat. Other diners at my table were 8 extremely well dressed and coiffed Italian TV men and one young fellow from Brazil. We all shared the pilgrims’ menu and talked in French about our plans.

All of us stayed in the one room 80 bunk albergue. Recently installed in a buttressed barn without windows, it boasted a new ventilation system and superb tiled hot-water showers and toilets in the newly excavated basement – a great example of architectural adaptive reuse! To my surprise the Italians who were bedded near me all went to shower wearing thick terry robes. It was hard to imagine these carried in any knapsack since they would be bulky and heavy.

Next morning all were awakened at 6:30 to pack in the flickering light of 80 flashlights. Outside I discovered the Italians’ secret. At a luggage van parked nearby they stowed their night packs and picked up others for the day! What a way to cut a bella figura!
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
There's a site somewhere with photos of before and after the renovation works, quite detailed and done by the architects bureau. Enormous structural work. Without this work and the financing you would not have lied in a bed there looking at the walls.
Itzandegia - the famous Roncesvalles building with the former 100+ beds dormitory before the restoration. Restoration in Roncesvalles was more than installing shiny drinks machines.

Itzandegia.jpg
Source: http://leache.com/
 
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Togabogie

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances
I think the camino is going to grow rapidly in numbers in the coming years for many different reasons i.e growing information about the camino as in online global information, cheaper flights, trends in walking holidays, more pilgrims, more sight seeing pilgrims, more globalism and the ease in which someone can do it!! I dont see it as a bad thing its just is what it is!! Eventually the numbers might overwell well known stops such as roncesavalles and pilgrims will have to adapt to alternative arrangements as many of these places will simply not be able to cope with the mumbers in high season through no fault of theyre own
 

David

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
Itzandegia - the famous Roncesvalles building with the 100+ beds dormitory before the restoration. Restoration in Roncesvalles was more than installing shiny drinks machines.

View attachment 67538
Source: http://leache.com/
Different building - that was the sympathetic renovation of the old building - I was writing about the new refugio - the soulless one.
 

alhartman

346 joyful days in Spain and France since 2005
Camino(s) past & future
Hope so!
Was only in a bed there once--first Camino in May 2005. My hiking companion and I got the last two beds (top rickety bunks) at 630pm as we arrived after a bus full of Spanish. As I remember it was about 100 bunk beds in a vaulted old room and 3 toilets in the basement of which only two worked (probably for males only but memory fails). We walked for almost 12 hours and were exhausted--there was about a meter of packed snow in Lepoeder, companion blacked out at dinner--and again the next night in Zubiri. Then in Larrasoana his knee fully failed--old bicycle meniscus tear needed 100cc fluid drained off. Companion did a in a shadow camino by hitch and until Astorga when he could walk short days again and we finished together.
All I remember from my top bunk, snoring in chorus with 80 others, is 'I don't think I can do this for another 35 days!!" It got better and was a marvelous experience.
BTW, we had both done sections of the PCT.
Nearly everywhere was 'first come first served'; and there was a bed race!!--got overflow 3 more times. Bunks went to the fast, the young, and those that left at 5am. Seemed a bit like life competition off the camino!!
My future caminos started in Pamplona or later!!
 

David

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
Was only in a bed there once--first Camino in May 2005. My hiking companion and I got the last two beds (top rickety bunks) at 630pm as we arrived after a bus full of Spanish. As I remember it was about 100 bunk beds in a vaulted old room and 3 toilets in the basement of which only two worked (probably for males only but memory fails). We walked for almost 12 hours and were exhausted--there was about a meter of packed snow in Lepoeder, companion blacked out at dinner--and again the next night in Zubiri. Then in Larrasoana his knee fully failed--old bicycle meniscus tear needed 100cc fluid drained off. Companion did a in a shadow camino by hitch and until Astorga when he could walk short days again and we finished together.
All I remember from my top bunk, snoring in chorus with 80 others, is 'I don't think I can do this for another 35 days!!" It got better and was a marvelous experience.
BTW, we had both done sections of the PCT.
Nearly everywhere was 'first come first served'; and there was a bed race!!--got overflow 3 more times. Bunks went to the fast, the young, and those that left at 5am. Seemed a bit like life competition off the camino!!
My future caminos started in Pamplona or later!!

I see your memories - that mountain - I am a lowlander Englishman but this was a Real mountain! - bad times! I walked over in early April 2005, from Moissac, in France, just a few weeks before you - I was unaware but it had been a bad long winter - I didn't know, no one told me, that they had only opened it two days before, was all very pleasant the first half from St Jean but it turned bad up there, out of nowhere - Man - I nearly died up there! stomping through snow on the high ground, so high, eagles below me in the white swirl, (thankfully become rain on later much lower ground last few miles before Roncesvalles) but up there almost losing the red and white poles - I got sooo cold, at one point I hid myself behind some boulders to avoid the freezing snow wind to put more clothes on, all that I had, but my hands had become so cold I couldn't move my fingers to open my pack - took me ages with my fingers down in my groin to warm them ... SO stupid!! - coming down into Roncesavalles, into the 12th C refugio ... so pleased, so happy, so grateful. Stupid, utterly stupid, though no one told me not to go over.

Is why I now Really advocate caution going over that moutain - caution!
 
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CWBuff

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
in Planning stage: Frances (SJPdP --> SdC) & Finisterre "2021"
….. I got sooo cold, I should have died, at one point I struggled on and hid myself behind some boulders to avoid the freezing snow storming wind to put more clothes on, all that I had, but my hands had become so cold I couldn't move my fingers to open my pack - I became a little frightened at that point! - took me ages with my fingers down in my groin to warm them .... - I was SO stupid!! ...
Totally off topic but this reminded me;
December 1974; Moscow, USSR, Red Square, Lenin's Mausoleum..... and 2 "stupid" 14-yo kids (yes one of them - YT :oops:)
close to 11 hours in temps below freezing waiting in line for perhaps no more than 2 mins in the chamber proper to see... well... some say it is a wax figure and some insist that it is indeed a mummified real body of the man... I dont know...
All i know is that i could not open the door to my hotel room for 15 mins, then it was a struggle with bathroom door and finally with my pants (no zipper in them - buttons). I still don't know how i didnt have "an incident"....:eek:

This was FROZEN long before the movie became popular

Yup - cold and stupid ;)
 

alhartman

346 joyful days in Spain and France since 2005
Camino(s) past & future
Hope so!
So my curiosity got triggered and I found this 2008 video
which, even with the poor photography, let me revisit my very first night on the Camino. In hindsight, I wonder why I didn't quit!
This one from 2017 gives a better flavor of the chaos I remember.
 

alhartman

346 joyful days in Spain and France since 2005
Camino(s) past & future
Hope so!
@David : Weather was great when we passed, just lots of packed snow in the pass--we weren't really prepared for. And I was raised mostly in the Sierra Nevada, so I arrogantly thought the first days climb was pretty tame. But the 20 hour trip with 7 times zones plus a 12 hour walk was too much after years of mostly working at a desk with weekend walking only.
When I went thru in late May 2013, a group of Koreans had just been rescued. So I fully agree "Really advocate caution going over that moutain - caution! " Changes in mountain weather can create a real disaster. Don't mess with Mother Nature!!
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
Different building - that was the sympathetic renovation of the old building - I was writing about the new refugio - the soulless one.
Many people are not aware of the immense restoration work that went on in Roncesvalles during a forty years period from about 1980 onwards and the immense cost of restoration, and how dilapidated or unsafe and not fit for purpose buildings were. That was my point.

BTW, the medieval hospital and pilgrim albergue is totally gone. It was closer to where the hotel is now. The original purpose of the 12th or 13th century Itzandegia building that served as the main accommodation for modern pilgrims for about ten years from about 2000 until 2011 has been difficult to assess so far. Its description in numerous Camino guidebooks as the original medieval albergue is not accurate in this respect.
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
It's no wonder that new pilgrims get confused by the stories and photos on the internet. I think this was the reason for @Atc's question?

In recent times (1980s to now), the pilgrim accommodation at Roncesvalles moved around quite a bit. Pilgrim accommodation was initially in one of the long buildings next to the Church where there was also a youth hostel and an old people's home, both gone now.

Then, around the year 2000, due to necessary repair and restoration work, pilgrim accommodation moved to the isolated barn-like building across the road (seen from the Church) that had been reconstructed and modernised by then and served as an improvised and temporary albergue with a single enormous dormitory with over one hundred beds.

Eventually, in 2011, the main pilgrim accommodation moved back into one of the long buildings next to the Church and that's where pilgrims are currently housed.

In addition, there were other spaces that were sometimes used as overflow accommodation.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances October 2018, March 2020
Hi, I believe that pre booked beds at Roncesvalles are assigned to the first floor. Has this floor been updated please to the Pod bunks or is it the older style metal bunks?

Not sure if you're American, but, the first floor in Europe is the 2nd floor to Americans. What we consider the first floor is the reception/checking in area. When I checked I was told my bunk was on the 1st floor and she pointed up. I looked at her like she had 3 heads and she explained the difference. Hope this helps!
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
I see your memories - that mountain - I am a lowlander Englishman but this was a Real mountain! - bad times! I walked over in early April 2005, from Moissac, in France, just a few weeks before you - I was unaware but it had been a bad long winter - I didn't know, no one told me, that they had only opened it two days before, was all very pleasant the first half from St Jean but it turned bad up there, out of nowhere - Man - I nearly died up there! stomping through snow on the high ground, so high, eagles below me in the white swirl, (thankfully become rain on later much lower ground last few miles before Roncesvalles) but up there almost losing the red and white poles - I got sooo cold, at one point I hid myself behind some boulders to avoid the freezing snow wind to put more clothes on, all that I had, but my hands had become so cold I couldn't move my fingers to open my pack - took me ages with my fingers down in my groin to warm them ... SO stupid!! - coming down into Roncesavalles, into the 12th C refugio ... so pleased, so happy, so grateful. Stupid, utterly stupid, though no one told me not to go over.

Is why I now Really advocate caution going over that moutain - caution!
I walked over the Napoleon Pass twice, in 2013, and 2014, both at the end of April, when there was still a hint of snow on the ground. It was a huge struggle for me just to get to Orisson. That is why I stayed overnight there on both years. Although I had practiced for months before my first Camino, there are hills and then there are HILLS. That firs day out out St Jean Pied de Port is a doozie.

By the time I got to the big round concrete cistern on the right, shortly before Refuge Orisson, I was having problems breathing. This was not because I have any illness, other than being overweight. However, the net effect was trying to breathe so hard that I was certain that my lungs were going to burst from my throat...yuck!

A couple of much younger, well-intentioned, pilgrims came up to me, one placed a hand on one shoulder and asked: "...how are you doing old man...can we help you..." WELL, that did it!

As I sucked in air, I started to straighten up. I managed to blurt out: "...as soon as I get my breath back ... when my lungs finally make it up this hill behind me...I am going to beat you about the head with these sticks (lifts two hiking poles). I AM NOT OLD!..." I was 59 at the time.

I later bought them drinks on the deck at Refugio Orisson around the bend. All was well. They became part of my Camino family for he next month.

In 2018, my wife flew over to join me after my month's volunteer service at the Pilgrim Office. We rented a car and drove about northern Spain. From our multi-day stay at Pamplona, I drove over the mountains, backwards via the Valcarlos route to show her the terrain and the beauty of it all. We spent much of the day playing tourist in St. Jean Pied de Port.

We had lunch on the deck at Orisson and drove backwards down the hill, with pilgrims huffing and puffing walking up that hill. It was then, as my wife was hanging forward in her shoulder seat belt in the car, that she exclaimed to me... "... there is no f(*&^%$# way you are EVER doing this route again...EVER! Start in Roncesvalles or Pamplona if you want, but you are NEVER to walk this hill up there again...do I make myself understood?"

So, I ask you, what is a fellow to do? Mind you, my cardiologist said in April 2019 that I inexplicably have the heart and arteries of a 20-year old woman who does not smoke. I took that to be good news at nearly 67 and rather overweight.

I could get another wife. But after nearly 43 years together, 41 married, I am rather fond of her. So, that is a non-starter... ;)

So, the next time I want to do the "Full Frances,"I think my plan will be to stay in SJPdP and have a vehicle transport me to the top of the climb at Cruz de Cize, where the path leaves the paved road heading for the border into Spain. I suppose that honors the spirit of the wifely order...

I did ask for her approval of this plan. That is what being married so long does to you... I did receive grudging approval... There, I have a plan...
 
Last edited:

Tony Walsh

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Once in 2014
First floor is the newer style pods - 4 bunks per pod with a locker for each person
 

Tony Walsh

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Once in 2014
First floor is the newer style pods - 4 bunks per pod with a locker for each person
 

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