It seemed perhaps a bad day to travel. What with the emergency landing at Heathrow, a plane being diverted to Stansted and the most appalling traffic to the airport (one of our party only just made it to the airport having been in a coach on the M25 for hours) we all got on the plane and very quickly it seemed were in northern Spain.
What was very nice was that in Terminal 3 we bumped into members of the walking pilgrimage. They were all dressed ready for whatever the weather would throw at them. They’ve all really enjoyed the preparation, going on long walks in order to get in shape for walking the 100km to the shrine.
As people arrived who were members of our group they were excited and ready for the adventure. That is one of the things I have always noticed about pilgrimage, people are so enthusiastic. Within a very short time people get to know each other and you begin to form a real community. It was lovely to see people mixing, talking, renewing friendships, moaning about the rain, talking about their journey so far but all really ready to make the pilgrimage, to travel the Way.
The travel company always give us particular coloured badges to help identify the group. For this group the colour is purple. So I was looking out in the airport for purple badges and luggage labels. It was an appropriate colour really given that this morning the Church of England published the report from the House of Bishops on the next stage of debate on women in the episcopate. I began reading it before I set off for the airport. Perhaps the coincidence of that and the purple badges will be a stimulus for prayer about what the next stage will be as we make the journey.
The flight to Bilbao was great. It seemed to be over very quickly and because it is such a small airport we were through and out in no time. And there, waiting for us, was Emma, our guide and Mingo our driver. We will be getting to know them over the days ahead.
It was a short drive from the airport to the hotel which is in the centre of the city and not far from the Guggenheim. We will be visiting there in the morning. It seems a strange place to begin the Way but our guide told us that this is the ancient route, the old beginning and that in so many ways the Camino represents something of the very nature of Europe – a path on which the nations converge.
So it was off the coach, getting our room keys and then to dinner – ham and cheese, soup, salmon and a cake. All very nice. But it is now time to go to bed.
Lighten our darkness,
Lord, we pray;
and in your mercy defend us
from all perils and dangers of this night;
for the love of your only Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.