An Exciting Few Months…

It may as well be April. The clocks have gone forward and already the first sign of summer is in the air. Friends have reached Santiago already (Buen Camino L!) which only increases my urgency to return to Spain and search for the yellow arrows. But the next few months are busy. You could say I have started my Camino…but I have not yet left my home.

As mentioned previously, the first annual Celtic Camino Festival kicks off in Westport in Co. Mayo from April 13th. I will be attending for the weekend. I have the train booked, the hotel arranged and all events booked. April 13th sees the screening of excellent “The Camino Voyage” directed by Donal O Ceallachair – A crew including a Writer, two Musicians, an Artist and a Stonemason embark on the Camino not on land, but by sea, in a traditional boat that they built themselves on an inspiring, and often time’s dangerous, 2,500 km modern-day Celtic Odyssey. April 14th will see presentations, discussions & workshops by internationally renowned Camino experts. A Gala Dinner will follow with Spanish music and dance. And April 15th, there will be a Celtic Camino Pilgrim Walk of up to 25km along the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail & Tochar Padraig, including Mass in Ballintubber Abbey. It promises to be a fantastic weekend and we hope to see you there!

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If this interests you and you wish to attend, Camino Society Ireland along with Irish Rail are offering you the chance to win free travel and tickets to all events for two. Just go to this link to enter http://www.irishrail.ie/fare-and-tickets/camino-festival.

Following the weekend, it is just a matter of weeks until I set off to A Guarda in Southern Galicia on the Portuguese Camino. From there I walk to Santiago with my brother and it will be his first time on any Camino. What a trip for him?! Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog if you want to be kept updated while I am on my Camino in Spain as I will be updating the blog.

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The Cold Snap Ends and the Countdown Continues…

The majority of Europe has been feeling the effects of the so-called “Beast from the East” and Storm Emma since early last week. In Ireland, the country has been hit with 10-30cm of snow with drifting in many places. Added to that, blizzard conditions. Transport has been affected and many shops and offices have decided to close their doors early. I have been off work since Wednesday and return tomorrow morning.

In conditions like these, I like to look forward to a return to the Camino.  For this year, I travel to Spain on two occasions: one in May on the Camino Portugues and another in September, walking from Estella for a week. I also have the first annual Celtic Camino Festival (link: https://www.caminosociety.com/celtic-camino-festival-2018) to look forward to in Westport in April. If you going along, please let me know.

 

Writing Elsewhere….and a piece of Camino History.

As I have mentioned in the past, I have been involved with Camino Society Ireland since April last. Until recently, I had been helping out in their information centre on St. James’s Street, on one Saturday per month. It is also open on Thursday and Friday! So I still do that and the centre re-opens for the new season at the start of March. I’m looking forward to getting back into the action again.

I’ve also lent my hand, so to speak, to writing articles for their website and I edit their quarterly ezine entitled Shamrocks and Shells for members. Much of my writing has been directly with the Camino Society rather than here, and that’s fine by me. If you want to get a taste of what I write about, why not drop over to their website on:

www.caminosociety.com/newsandevents

The last few months have been a hive of activity for the Camino Society. We have had a very successful photography contest, two very interesting events and a newly launched ezine. There is the first information day on February 17th in Dublin and the much anticipated Celtic Camino Festival in Westport, Co. Mayo in April (details on the website).

The Dublin Camino

One of the events that I have mentioned, and I have written about, that struck a chord for me was a talk given by Historian in Residence at Dublin City Council, Cathy Scuffil. The talk was about St. James, the Camino and the Dublin Connection. I’m going to post below what is on the Camino Society website.

To learn about this connection, we were told that we need to focus on one part of Dublin – from St. James’s Street to Trinity College. Not only is this part of Dublin popular for tourists, but if you look closely enough, you will see plenty of evidence of the Camino within this short distance. We were told that this route was taken by pilgrims as they assembled at St. James’s Gate, walked through the city, before embarking on their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

Lazar’s Hill – St James’s Hospital

800 years ago, Henry de Loundres, Archbishop of Dublin, founded the Hospital of Saint James, a hostel for pilgrims and the poor of Dublin, on present day Townsend Street, then known as Lazar’s Hill or Lazy Hill. It stood roughly where Hawkins House stands today, right beside the All Hallows Monastery, which later became Trinity College.

In medieval times, pilgrim ships destined for Santiago apparently docked alongside this Hospital, then sailed directly to the coast of Galicia, at Ferrol or A Coruña, from where the pilgrims made their way to Santiago overland. By the mid-13th century, some of these ships were carrying people with leprosy who were desperate for a miraculous cure.

A rather more downtrodden colony is said to have existed in what is today, Misery Hill. Sufferers lived in these monastic-type establishments not simply for the good of their health, but also as a form of perpetual quarantine. The only acceptable way to check out of the hospice was to perish. Another word for these quarantine stations was ‘Lazaretto’ (linked to Saint Lazarus) and it is from this that Townsend Street took its former name of Lazar Hill, sometimes shortened to ‘Lazy Hill’.

The scallop shell and water

The two things you associate with St James are the scallop shell and water, so even in the current tradition, those two things are replicated in ways that seem to commemorate the pilgrim.

For example, have you seen the street fountain on Lord Edward Street? It was installed in the 19th century and if you look closely, you will see the scallop shell motif at the top. Another example of something similar – the two holy water founts at the front of St Audoen’s Church on High Street. Both founts are large shell-like features and were brought back from South America in the 19th century.

Other examples include

– A baptismal font in St Audoen’s Church of Ireland church which contains the scallop shell on each side of its font.

– The Tailor’s Hall, Merchant Quay – Its fireplace contains no ornamentation except for a single shell.

– Hawkins House, Poolbeg Street – The Department for Health is located on the exact spot where the original St. James’s Hospital was located.

– The Fountain at James’s Street – It was a custom that funeral processions passing the fountain would circle it three times before carrying on to the cemetery at St James’s Church where Pearse Lyons Distillery is now. There are also two scallop shells on the Fountain, but we are not sure if the water is for drinking!

– St. James’s Gate – Perhaps, for many people, visiting St. James’s Gate is like a pilgrimage. With over 1.7 million people visiting in 2017, it is a great attraction and adds to the area.

– Pearse Lyons Distillery – The newest visitors’ attraction in the area which was the original Church of St. James.

– St. James’s Hospital – The Hospital’s logo contains a scallop shell.

These are all areas along our route that have an image of the scallop shell included.

Cathy has requested that if anyone sees an image of a scallop shell, whether it be on the end of a church pew, on an altar, in the Dublin area, particularly in the Liberties area, could you please contact her. You can contact Cathy on Twitter @DubHistorians or by email commemorations@dublicity.ie.

 

First post of 2018..

I haven’t left you, you’ll be glad to hear.

I can’t believe it’s nearly a month since I last wrote here. Time flies so fast. I keep thinking of writing however. I hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year.

I think about my upcoming Camino everyday. Some days I have concerns, some days I feel everything will be ok. I leave for Vigo in just over 100 days with my brother and we make our way to Santiago. That is May, however, and so much has happened in the meantime.

I have been busy assisting with the brand new online e-zine for Camino Society Ireland members. Members should have received instructions on how to view the e-zine yesterday. It is packed with articles and I must thank the contributors for their work. April 2018 and the Celtic Camino Festival is next on the radar. If you wish to subscribe to this new e-zine, you can become a member at www.caminosociety.ie. You get so much more other than the e-zine, just to let you know.

So that explains my short term absence. I will be posting a lot more as the time draws closer to my departure to Spain.

One other thing, I am hoping to meeting the author of The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain on Thursday, the 25th. Victor Prince has written an excellent book, and while I have not completed it yet, it is different to your average book on the Camino.  It is a combination of a travel guide and an invaluable set of lessons for success in life at home and at work. I’m looking forward to meeting him for a chat.

 

Etapa 1 of the Celtic Camino (por segunda vez) – Bray, Co. Wicklow to St. James Church, Dublin

I had previously walked this route with my good friend, Oihana, back in June. However, the opportunity arose to walk it again and I couldn’t refuse as it is a smashing trail along the coast of Dublin…. 28km in total, although a few would argue that it is a little more in distance.

The Camino Society organises monthly walks and this month they had decided to take members and friends on one of the many recognised routes of the Celtic Camino. It is also the most accessible for those in Dublin. Those who walk any of the recognised routes will gain an Irish compostela provided they receive at least two sellos. When complete, pilgrims can continue their Celtic Camino in the city of A Coruna in northern Spain to Santiago. Today’s walk was well advertised and this morning close to 50 future pilgrims turned up to take on this challenging but beautiful walk. We all met at the Bandstand in Bray at 9am. The weather was just perfect, not too cold, not too hot and the forecast was good. I suppose I should have left the raingear at home, eh?

My brother came along with his Camino Society pilgrim passport bought for the occasion. He had received his first sello in St. James’ Church last week and was eager to get started. We have agreed to walk from A Coruna in either April or May next year, over 4 days – 75km. I’ve been entrusted with looking for accommodation and I will leave the decision to him whether he wishes to carry his baggage..not an important decision to make. However, it needs to be mentioned that he is a pilgrim now..everyone who has completed the walk today to St. James Church has started their journey to Santiago on the Celtic Camino. Many turned up to walk part of the route, with the intention of continuing another day…which is acceptable.

Back to today…

After a quick briefing, those who did not have pilgrim passports were offered one. There were three sellos to receive today to prove that we had walked the route. The first sello can be received in Sea Life Aquarium in Bray. The great thing about this stamp is it was made especially with this route in mind. I just love the large shell.

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Onwards we walked northbound, in the direction of Bray village and Shankill. We were away from the coast during this time but on arriving at Killiney, we saw the coast again, like a chink of light.

It wasn’t long before the group had split up with the faster walkers leading the pack and the more relaxed and easy-going further behind. I suppose I took on my natural pace and was at the front of the group for most of the day, and there was a large number of people I hadn’t met that I wish I did. Ah well, I will leave that until next time.

We walked through the beautiful town of Dalkey before reaching Sandycove and the James Joyce museum at the Martello tower. Sello number 2 (below) was waiting for us and we took a breather before saying our goodbyes.

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Myself and the brother took a rest stop at the port town of Dun Laoghaire, saying a temporary goodbye to those who we had been walking to. The benches looking out to the sea were perfect and we waited for a few other unfamiliar faces to pass us by so we could chat to them. Dun Laoghaire is the start of the annual Aware Harbour 2 Harbour walk and we are both familiar of what’s ahead of us…until Ringsend that is, but we will reach that point later on.

We keep close to the coast passing the towns of Monkstown, Blackrock, Booterstown and Sandymount, before we reached Ringsend. We were nearly home and dry, as this is the point we make inroads to Dublin city and James Street. I am a native of this great city all my life and I still don’t know Ringsend all that well. Shame on me! However, we made it to the docklands and crossed Samuel Beckett Bridge, one of the tallest bridges in Ireland. We were both accompanied by a woman, whose name escapes me, and she kept us entertained until we reached St. James’ Church. My back was causing me problems so she was great at distracting me. So nameless pilgrim – thank you!

We eventually reached St. James’ Church just after 3pm after leaving Bray just after 9am. The final sello was provided to us and we said our goodbyes.

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This is a tremendous walk and today was well organised. I look forward to the next walk. But first I must look forward to my wander across the meseta on the 4th of September. Rest is in order to ensure my back doesn’t cause me any problems while away. I hope to end this Camino in Rabanal del Camino before I set my focus on Etapa 2 of the Celtic Camino.

After walking this route twice, I would do it again at the drop of a hat. I would encourage you, dear reader, to do the same. Not drop your hat, but check out the below links and find out how to receive your Irish compostela and then your Celtic Camino compostela.

 

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Thoughts on 2018….and a departure.

Heh…I haven’t laid a step on the Camino this year but I’ve already been quietly putting plans together for 2018. It’s constantly on my mind.

Three things are for certain, one other, not so much.

I move into my new humble abode “Casa Herrero” on returning from my meseta Camino in mid-September. With the added responsibility of bills, mortgage etc, from living there, I can’t see walking for more than a week being the right thing to do. I have spent quite a bit on decoration and refurbishment there, so a 2-3 week Camino is not viable. I “could” do it, but it would be far far from wise. So a short few days, no more than a week, is on the cards. Also, after hearing so much about the excellent new Celtic Camino, walking from A Coruna is ideal. So that’s the number one certainty.

Another certainty is I won’t be alone. My brother has been talking about walking a few days on the Camino with me and I’ve been putting him off for quite a while. I suppose because I like to walk alone. But he is persistent 🙂 and rather than introducing him to the Camino at Sarria, starting in A Coruna fits the bill. Short and sweet, and I just know he would be put off from returning if he was to walk from Sarria. He has been gathering all the gear slowly and walks quite a bit…nearly as much as me! Now I wonder if he will carry his pack..hmm…even if he prefers not to, jacotrans is there.

I would love to see the coast again..so I haven’t decided if I will spend a few extra days and walk to Muxia. I need to run that question by my brother also.

Another certainty is, after my meseta Camino in September, I will say goodbye to the Camino Frances for the unforeseen. There is so much of Spain I haven’t seen and so many routes left unwalked. Now is the time to gather information about them. The Celtic Camino is a great start and I will gain my first compostela since 2011, however this one will mean much more! The Camino Frances is a beautiful trail and I have great love for it but it no longer offers surprises, I know what is around each corner.

So I suppose that is 2018…more thoughts later.

Buen Camino amigos y amigas!