This month I received my official Credencial del Peregrino (Pilgrim Credential). I ordered it from the American Pilgrims on the Camino. The credential is free but I followed my order with a donation.
The credential is a seven page fanfold with my information, a pilgrims prayer, a small map of the European Caminos, and fifty-six boxes where you can get stamps along the way. The credential is required to get into albergues (pilgrim hostels). I may have to pick up another credential when I get to St Jean Pied de Port. I'm a little concerned that I will become stamp happy. You are supposed to receive a stamp for each stage of your walk and are required to get two stamps per day for the last 100 km (~62 miles). This would translate into a minimum of forty-five stamps, but, as I said, I can see myself becoming stamp happy.
Also this month I finalized my travel plans for getting there. I purchased train tickets from Madrid, Spain to Hendaye, France, Hendaye to Bayonne, and Bayonne to St Jean Pied de Port. I also made a reservation in a hotel less than 65 m (71 yards) from the pilgrims office. The hotel has been run by the same family for over a hundred years. The toughest thing to buy were the Madrid to Hendaye tickets. The site kept rejecting my credit cards. After trying multiple times on multiple days, the payment finally went through on day four. To make things a little more interesting, the next day the credit card I'd used stopped working.
I called the card company. Turns out the card had a fraud alert put on it because of the purchase in Spain. I found this out three days after the ticket purchase when I called them. Why didn't the credit card fraud department contact me? They had the wrong phone number and email address. The number they had was our old California number. The weird thing is that when I log onto my credit card account web page, the email and phone number listed there are correct and up to date. You would think that the fraud department would have the most up to date information and you would be wrong. A case of the left hand not even knowing that the right hand exists.
Talking money, I was talking to my Mom about my Camino preparations and the topic of ATM cards came up. I'd forgotten that my ATM was also a VISA card. I'd already opened a VISA account with a card that did not charge international transaction fees so I really didn't need a second VISA card. I was also leery about having a second credit card that could be stolen/lost. While I would only be libel for $50 if my ATM card were used as a credit card, I didn't want to be libel for anything. I fixed this by going to the bank, enduring the look of "Why would you want such a thing?" that I got from the teller, and getting a plain vanilla, non-debit, ATM card. Now if I lose it it will be useless without the PIN.
Back in February I wondered what to do with my spare time in Madrid. I think I've got it figured out. For around €17.50 (~ $24.50) you can buy a ticket on two open air buses that run two loop around Modern and Historic Madrid. You can get on and off as many times you want, the loops intersect so you can switch buses, each loop lasts about 80 minutes, and both loops combined hit 37 spots. A bus passes each stop every 20 minutes. I plan to take the metro from the airport to where I catch the historical bus and ride it around getting off at interesting places to take pictures. (I could have had my bus ticket mailed to me but the shipping charges, €21, more than doubles the price of the ticket.) I also made reservations at the Botin restaurant, the oldest restaurant in the world, which opened in 1725. They say it can be touristy but the food is good and ... I'm a tourist.
Finally I bought a few more things for the Camino including a neck wallet (not waterproof like a wanted but it will have to do), toiletries, a water proof journal, and other small items I will need. One thing I bought was a thumbdrive with a write protect switch. It will be loaded with copies of my documents and a portable version of the Chrome browser, an anti-virus scanner, and an image viewer. The write-protect switch should protect me from the viruses that will inevitable be found on public computers (my thumbdrive came home from Jordan with four viruses/trojans).