Let me take you back to Saturday, March the 14th. Coronavirus was in the news here in Ireland however we were free to travel and see folks (oh I miss those days!). I went to the Camino Information Centre for the day and walked back to the centre of town to catch my train. At the time, there were a number of flights cancelled but there was no talk of lock-downs or restrictions. There were 90 cases of Covid-19 located in Ireland. The following day, I travelled to my parents house as I normally do for a Sunday. It was such a strange thing taking the train, it was actually empty for once. Sunday was fun but I had seen Italy and Spain had imposed restrictions to control the virus. I knew that I wouldn’t see my folks again for quite some time. And I was right.
Jump ahead to the next morning. I wake up with a thumping headache and a temperature of 37.5c. Ok, it’s not quite a fever but, considering the advice given from the HSE, I decided to call my GP and lay low. At that time, the HSE were looking to test anyone who displayed flu-like symptoms. It is quite an ambitious approach but it will have a huge waiting list. I called my GP and to my surprise, he asked me to self-isolate for 7 days and he would arrange a test for me. Now, the important thing to remember here was that I felt fine, I had no cough (yet) although I was aware that it is possible to be not have any symptoms to have this virus. I gave my GP the benefit of the doubt and looked forward for the test.
Four days passed and I heard nothing. I had been taking my temperature every day and it had remained normal. By the end of the 4th day, I had developed a dry cough, but I put this down to being indoors and having no fresh air. The cough is not persistent. I ring the GP to discuss this with him. Again, he said it was best to relax, and I should receive a call soon from the HSE.
And finally, on the 25th of March, the HSE changed their criteria. Now they were looking to test people with two symptoms. I immediately rang my GP and he said I didn’t need a test. I am now back at work, although working at home. Apparently, over 40,000 people were waiting for a test while 94% of those testing were negative. This is only a good move.
I took my first walk since the 15th of March on Thursday. We luckily have a large park beside my house where I can go to stretch my legs during lunch and during the weekend. A few weeks without seeing my family can be sacrificed. The party will only be huge when this is over.
I look forward to the day when I can hug my parents. I look forward to the day I can go for a walk through a packed Dublin city. Even walking through the hills of Galicia is a dream for me right now. But it is nice to dream. Keep hoping. It keeps a light on in the dark times.
But all I do right now is sit and wait. It is the best we can do to help. While I am not working, and while I am indoors, I will be good to #keepwriting. The Camino keeps me happy, naturally enough so I will post some of my favourite memories from years gone by every day.
I may as well give a little plug to my own YouTube channel that is in its infancy. I hope to record a few shots while walking and upload it for you to see. I’m comfortable with the Dji osmo pocket that I bought before Christmas. It is so tiny you can fit it in your pocket.
At the moment, I have two videos, one talking about my gear and another uploaded recently from the Waterford Greenway. In time I will upload more. It will not detract from this page however.
Yesterday was my 3rd walk of the year. I took a trip to Kilmeadan, Co. Waterford to walk some of the Waterford Greenway with Camino Society Ireland. The weather forecast wasn’t great but the skies were clear when we left Dublin and we had a pleasant walk. It was 11 km in total from Kilmeadan back to Waterford City, and to honest, it is a very easy walk. If you cycle, it is possible to hire a bike a cycle from Dungarvan to Waterford which is 46 kms in length. This greenway rests along the River Suir and is a former railway. It is a flat right walk into Waterford.
It is primarily a cycle route and can be used as a good starting point for Camino preparation. But if you are looking for something more challenging, you might need to look elsewhere. It was nice to be in that part of the world all the same and away from “the big smoke”. I brought along my Osmo Pocket and recorded a little video of the day, before the heavens opened.
I’m not one for countdowns (ok..I am!) but it is just under 3 months before I wander to the south of Ireland and start the Kerry Camino. This is a relatively short trail compared to the ones I am used to in Spain and Portugal but the thought of just walking with a pack is liberating. I write this while Storm Ciara does her worst outside but hopefully in May all this mad weather will have abated.
Being in Ireland, you just can’t predict what weather you are going to get, especially in May. So the best thing to do is prepare for all seasons. I really can’t see my kit changing that much. I suppose the only parts that will test me is where the trail goes “off-road” or where it is super-mucky after a rain shower! I’m so used to road-walking, or walking on flat trails on the Camino, that I get put off by any bit of descent or ascent. And this is where a good stick comes in. I always buy one before I walk a Camino. Not the metal or ultra-light type. A good wooden one. I will have some time in Tralee before I start out so I can look around for one. It is great for support, not just physical.
My brother is coming along and we have reserved some accommodation in advance. It was just an idea as Tralee and Dingle are usually very busy. I had planned on walking this route alone a few years back luckily the brother was really eager to come along this time. Below are the list of accommodation we have reserved. You might leave me a comment and let me know what you thought of them:
Tralee: Glenfort House
Camp: Finglas House
Annascaul: Dingle Gate Hostel (looking forward to the South Pole Inn)
Dingle: Rainbow Hostel
The days are pretty short, 15km to 20km each day, I don’t have a guidebook but www.kerrycamino.com has great information and maps. The traditional arrow you see on the Camino is replaced by a sign and a picture of a little man walking. There are many stamping stations dotted around the trail and when you arrive in Dingle you will be awarded with a certificate. The Kerry Camino is one of the Celtic Caminos and walking this plus walking from A Coruna to Santiago will earn you with a compostela.
But, I have three months to go. I have much to do. Follow me here as I prepare for this Camino in May. Buen Camino!
I will keep this short. I will write a longer post once the festivities are over. It’s kind of surreal that we are moving into a new decade, 2020. I remember the start of the millennium, so time is surely flying. I think that was one of the last times I truly rang in the New Year.
But we are not there yet. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and while many will still rush and worry about not “being ready”, in essence, the material things don’t matter at the end of the day.
Christmas is about family, friends and looking forward to good times ahead. I like to think of those who read this blog as my Camino family! So to all who read my posts and have supported me throughout the year, I wish you a Happy Christmas and the very best for 2020.
Onwards we go to the next letter in the ‘Towns Along The Way’ alphabet. There are 3 towns beginning with G; one in Castilla y Leon, another in La Rioja and the last in Galicia. Again, please comment if you have stayed in any of these towns.
Roughly 8 days into your Camino, you will meet Grañón. It is situated between Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Belorado in the La Rioja province of northern Spain. It has a population of just over 300 people. On entering the village, it seems like it doesn’t have much to offer but one of its highlights is Iglesia de San Juan Bautista. The church offers basic accommodation to pilgrims, and you can sleep in its bell tower and look at the stars if you wish (gronze.com). I have passed through Grañón on 2 occasions, preferring to walk to Belorado. In 2013, I passed through in minutes as the weather was poor; however, in May 2015, I stopped for over an hour for a few cervezas. So if you are passing through, my advice is to stop here and stay in San Juan Bautista.
Calling El Ganso a village is a stretch as it consists of a number of derelict buildings, a cowboy bar and is home to 36 people. Nevertheless, the Way passes through it and I will mention it. El Ganso is Spanish for “The Goose” and it is based in Castilla y Leon. On reaching this town, you will notice that the terrain starts to gradually ascend until you reach the highest point in Spain – the Cruz de Ferro. As mentioned above, the Cowboy Bar is one of the oddities of the Camino. I stopped by in May 2015 and again in 2017 for a second breakfast and was treated very well by the owner. There is an albergue here and I know of people who have stayed here (gronze.com). It is advisable to pit-stop either here or at the town previous (Santa Catalina) as you have a nice climb ahead of you.
Gonzar is one of many small hamlets in Galicia. It is 8 kms from Portmarin and you have approximately 90km to walk before reaching Santiago. I have little memory of this town since walking through Galicia in 2011. Some pilgrims choose to stay here instead of the usually busy Portomarin (gronze.com).
My next post in this series will move on up the alphabet and focus on Honto, Hornillos del Camino, Hontanas, Hospital de Órbigo, Hospital da Condesa, Hospital da Cruz and Las Herrerías. See you then!
Welcome back! I hope you are enjoying this series and your memory is being refreshed! It certainly is helpful for me and interesting to see the many different types of accommodation being provided since I started walking way back in 2011. Hopefully, this won’t be the last “TATW” post of 2019 as I am on a bit of a roll.
Today, I will talk about F. Again, let me know if you have stayed in any of these towns.
Yet another village I haven’t stayed in but keep meaning to, La Faba means The Beans in Spanish. It is a small mountain town between Villafranca del Bierzo and El Cebreiro. It has a population of just over 30 people. While the name of the village doesn’t stand out, there is quite a lot of love for it from the pilgrim community and it has one of the best albergues on the Camino Frances; Albergue de la Faba. I have not stayed here myself, preferring to walk on to O Cebreiro, another 5km on. Once you reach La Faba, and it’s a long climb, you won’t have far before arriving at the Galician border.
One of many many small Galician hamlets that you will pass through while on the Camino. This particular town has 50 or so inhabitants and is approximately 14 km from Sarria. There is nothing very eye-catching in this town, however, keep an eye out for the Iglesia de Santa María de Ferreiros which has an unusual cemetery. The scenery is very shire-esque and when passing through, make sure you stop at Casa Cruceiro for a cafe con leche and sello. There are a number of places to stay there also (gronze.com). Just another 104km to go to Santiago.
Another Galician town and one so small I almost considered leaving it out from the list. Fillobal is situated some 4 km before Triacastela and has a population of just 9. The town does hold a cafe and an albergue for pilgrims however at Albergue Fillobal. On walking through here in 2012, I was so focused on arriving at Triacastela and the albergue. I passed Fillobal in the blink of an eye.
From Galicia, we move to Castilla and the Leon hills. Like Fillobal, it has a small population. It is situated between Rabanal del Camino and Molinaseca. More and more people are choosing Foncebadon to finish walking for the day. It is very close to the Cruz de Ferro and watching the sunrise from there is pretty special. The climb up to Foncebadón can be challenging but the views are worth it. When you walk in to Foncebadon, it looks like a town in ruins, but the Camino is bringing growth to the area. During the summer months, it can be busy and there are accommodation, albergues, and bars (gronze.com). I haven’t stayed there myself, choosing to stay in the town beforehand, Rabanal del Camino. Maybe next time.
From Leon, we return swiftly to Galicia and not too far from Fillobal. Fonfria is some 9 km from Triacastela. Again, it is a typical Galician town with green the predominant colour and many of the buildings are made of stone slabs. This is rural Spain at it’s finest. The town does have a selection of albergues and pensions also (gronze.com). On leaving Fonfria, you have a steep climb to Alto do Poio and then a further 150 km to Santiago! Enjoy your final few weeks!
The final town beginning with F and close to 450 km to Santiago is Frómista. It is situated in the province of Palencia and has a population of just under 1000 people. It has everything that a large town would have so many people choose here to lay their heads for the night (gronze.com). One of the main attractions of the town is the Iglesia de San Martin (pictured). I prefer to stay in Boadilla del Camino. You will be close to the halfway point at this stage on reaching Fromista, although the official halfway point is just before Sahagun.
The next instalment will feature towns beginning with H including favourites of mine Hospital de Orbigo and Hontanas. If you have stayed in or have any comments about the above towns, please comment below.
Espinal is a typical Basque village and one of the first you will encounter after leaving Roncesvalles. At this point, you have 871km left before Santiago. Its name in Basque is Aurizberri and on leaving the town you are faced with a climb to Alto Mezkiritz. While not many stop here, there are many accommodation options (www.gronze.com). I don’t remember much of this town as I had stopped in Burguette (the town previous), and was deep in conversation with newfound Camino friends!.
We meet Estella (or to give it it’s full name Estella-Lizarra) 115km from St Jean Pied de Port. Estella is also part of Navarra and has a population of over 13,000 people. On entering the town, you cross the Picudo Bridge and are greeted with the Church of San Pedro de la Rúa, a large Romanesque church. There are plenty of places to stay (www.gronze.com). I have good memories of my time here and of the Agora Hostel, a great place to stay.
And finally, Espinosa del Camino is located about 40km (or 2 days walk) from Burgos. It is in Castille y Leon and has a population of just over 30 people. It makes a living from the Camino with a number of cafes and albergues (www.gronze.com). It was in this town that I met a good Camino friend and had a cafe con leche, only to be told I walk too fast. And that was my first day!! Above we have Albergue La Campana, a great place to stop for a rest!
I need to buy a new pair of shoes soon as my current pair are a little run down. I embark on the Kerry Camino in May. And there is no better place for hiking shoes/boots than the Great Outdoors on Dublin’s George’s Street. I usually buy shoes at the start of the year and they last me 12-18 months.
My preferred brand is Salomon. I have worn shoes from North Face, Colombia, Meindl, and Merrell, but Salomon X Ultra GTX is the most comfortable for me so far. There are people that can walk a full Camino with a pair of €20 tennis shoes or even sandals(!) however I would prefer not to take my chances having experienced blisters and sore muscles on previous Caminos.
Here are just a few tips before you consider buying a pair of new shoes/boots:
Be sure what you need. What is the type of terrain of the route you are taking? Is it flat or rocky with ascents and descents or a mixture? Are boots really needed?
What season will you be walking in? If you are walking in March or April, you may need to choose boots instead of shoes. If you are walking in Summer, boots might be too heavy.
Practice, practice, practice. When you buy your shoes/boots, wear them as much as possible, break them in, get used to them. They will be your best friends on the Camino.
Buy a 1/2 a size extra. On the Camino when you walk, your feet will expand due to heat so the extra space is helpful.
Talk to an assistant in the store and have your feet fitted. Listen to the advice. Try on as many shoes/boots as you can. It’s probably a good idea to buy insoles with them too. Superfeet is a good brand.
So have you any stories or advice you want to share about buying footwear? Let me know in the comments!
And with B over, we are on to the 3rd chapter…. There are loads of towns beginning with C, it must be a Spanish thing! I have only stayed in two of these towns myself, so this may be the perfect chance for me to learn something about them, as well as pass on some information to you! And as always, if you have any feedback about these places, please feel free to share it in the comments below.
The first town you encounter on leaving Pamplona is Cizur Menor (or Zizur Menor locally). It is approximately 5km away from Pamplona and is also located beside its sister town, Cizur Mayor, which is just off the Camino Frances. It holds a population of roughly 2400 people. It has a number of albergues (www.gronze.com) and should you wish to avoid Pamplona altogether, staying there would be wise. I haven’t stayed here myself but passed through early one morning on the way to Puente la Reina. While on my way through, there was a fiesta ongoing however, it is a quiet town with all the amenities you will need.
The town of Ciruena is unique. Not only does it lie slightly off the Camino but before reaching the town itself, you are greeted by hundreds of empty houses, so it is eerie to say the least. These houses were built to accommodate members of the local golf club. Ciruena itself has a population of 131 people and strangely enough has two albergues (www.gronze.com), both of which have received positive reviews. I have previously chosen not to stay here, opting to stay in the town previous to it (Azofra in 2015) and the town following it (Santo Domingo de la Calzada in 2013 and 2018). I have met some people who have enjoyed their time here, however.
Another blink and you’ll miss it town on the Camino. It is located 20 km from Ciruena and in the province of Burgos. At this point, you are 560 km from Santiago and just becoming used to being a pilgrim. Castildelgado offers little to the pilgrim but should you wish to call it a day, there is a pension (www.gronze.com). I must say that Albergue Bideluze is very active on social media during the high season!
Castildelgado is located between Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Belorado and lies beside the busy N-120 motorway.
Cardeñuela Riopico is a town located in the province of Burgos. It is actually 13km from the city itself and has a population of just over 100 people. You will encounter this little town as you leave either San Juan de Ortega, Ages or Atapuerca making your way to Burgos. I have previously chosen to stay in Atapuera and had breakfast in the either of the albergues here, whichever was open! There are three albergues here (www.gronze.com). A further 2km on down the road from Cardenuela is it’s sister town Orbaneja Riopico.
The ruins of San Anton is not so much a town but rather a place. They are located on the outskirts of Castrojeriz. The Convento de San Anton was built in in the 14th Century, and was originally the King’s Palace. It was later turned into a hospital for passing pilgrims on their way to Santiago. Since 2002, the tradition of offering shelter to pilgrims holds as volunteers maintain a donotivo / refugio in the ruins (www.gronze.com).
I haven’t stopped by during my previous Caminos as it has not been open, unfortunately, but one day I would like to stay here.
Castrojeriz is a town located in the province of Burgos and is a popular stop along the Camino. The town is based at the foot of a hill and your first view will be the ruins of a castle, which was a lookout in times of battle. The town was built along one main road which circles the hill. There are more than 1,000 people there. As it is a popular stop along the Way, there is plenty of accommodation (www.gronze.com). I haven’t stayed here myself, choosing to stay in Hontanas. I have however stopped here for breakfast. I would recommend Hostel El Manzano. You should stock up with refreshments before leaving this town as you have the difficult Alto de Mostalares to climb. Enjoy it – you have arrived at the meseta!
Cacabelos is a village in the El Bierzo region of Leon. You will pass it as you walk to Villafranca del Bierzo, usually within your last 10 days. It is a moderate size town with good facilities and a good selection of accommodation (www.gronze.com). There are over 5000 people living in Cacabelos. Many choose to by-pass here and stay in Villafranca, including me, this is one for the future. The refugio (pictured) has been renovated from an old church and is a bit special, I hear.
Quite a few people may not know the name of this town. Rather than placing a name on it, they will be able to describe how they feel about arriving there!! I say this as Calzadilla de la Cueza is the first stop after a grueling 17 km walk from Carrion de los Condes. It may well be the best thing you will see all day, depending on the weather.
This little town may not be much but after walking 17km, it has everything you need. I have walked road three times and have always stopped here for refreshments. There is also accommodation also should you choose to stay (www.gronze.com) .
On leaving Sahagun, there are 2 options to take; the tradational French route or the old Roman way. The French route leads you to El Burgo Ranero and to Mansilla de las Mulas, while on the Roman road you may be alone. The only town on this route is Calzadilla de los Hermanillos before you reach Mansilla de las Mulas. Quite a lot of people choose the first option. Calzadilla is a small town, and it has a population of just over 80. Being a town on the Camino, there are albergues (www.gronze.com). The advantage of walking this route is you can divert back to the other if you find it too solitary.
Carrion de los Condes (or Carrion as many peregrinos prefer to call it) is a large town prior to Calzadilla, mentioned above. It is a little over halfway to Santiago (410km) and by all means, is one of the major Camino towns. It has a population of over 2,000 people and has a wealth of accommodation (www.gronze.com). I have stayed in Carrion a number of times including during the feast of Corpus Christi (start of June). It is a tradition on this day throughout Spain to layer their roads with flower petals of all different colours and make a great design. All the albergues are run by religious orders, so there can be a tendency to get swept away by their routine which is not a bad thing. I chose to stay in Villalcazar de Sirga, the town preceeding Carrion, in May 2015, but there is no doubt I will return to Carrion in the future.
Not quite the highest point on the Camino, but it is not far off. O Cebreiro is the first village in Galicia and a welcome relief after a 1300m high climb from Villafranca. I just about made it in 2012. Seeing it for the first time reminded me of home…the music, the food, the buildings, it had a real Celtic feel to it and it just didn’t look like anything else on the Camino. The views are amazing. There is plenty of accommodation (www.gronze.com) with the main albergue holding up over 100 beds. I stayed in the fabulous Hotel Celta Venta back in 2012. On leaving this village you have 165 km left and are on the homeward stretch. Enjoy the descent!
Our next post will be on Towns beginning with D, can you think of any?
Clearskies Camino was born on returning from my second Camino de Santiago in June 2012. I had been writing a journal and had taken the odd photo while on the Camino Frances that it just made sense to write my thoughts online. 2012 became 2013 and my hobby became something more. Writing had never been part of my life but I guess the Camino gave me the inspiration to put finger to keyboard. The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage but in my eyes, it is also a challenge. It is a great way of meeting people and a great way of getting away from the hustle and bustle of modern-day life. There are many Caminos to Santiago from all across Europe, but my experiences have mainly been on Camino Frances; an ancient trail covering 800 kilometres across Spain starting in St Jean Pied de Port in the foothills of France and ending in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Clearskies Camino is everything Camino – I love writing and talking about the various Caminos to Santiago and if you are one of the many people who have walked these routes, you may well feel the same. I hope my talking about my times on the Camino helps you as you plan for yours. Feel free to browse and “like” any of my posts and if you have any questions, please feel free to comment.