We're spending a couple of days in Pamplona, San Sebastián, and Bilbao, before flying over to Ireland for a new adventure. The Irish part was facilitated by our finding fairly cheap flights that took us through Dublin. We had hoped to walk a few more days in Spain, but temperatures in the 90's helped us to change our minds--not that a few moe days in Basque Country can be considered a hardship.
1- The French countryside between Moissac and St. Jean Pied du Port was beautiful, and we got wonderful food. A complaint is the relative scarcity of accommodations, and an apparent unwillingness to get into the "spirit" of the Camino (but see below).
2- St. Jean, and particularly Roncesvalles were crawling with would-be pilgrims. Accommodating hundreds in a newly renovated albergue, overflow guests were forced to sleep in boxes--the kind of containers carried on flatbed trucks and sometimes used for construction offices. At dinner we were shuffled out early to make room for the second shift. With notable exceptions, the remainder of our time of walking on the Camino in Spain was characterized by crowding and impersonal service. We were reminded of the term "industrial tourism" coined by Edward Abbey. We wished we were back in France, despite its shortcomings.
3- What to do? Despite its abundant services and incomparable spiritual touchstones, the Camino Frances may be being spoiled by success. Though we've enjoyed the Via de La Plata, the Ruta Portuguesa, and the Voie de La Puy, none is quite lik the Via Frances--the way it used to be.