I’m lucky my family appreciates that I enjoy wandering through Spain, Portugal and indeed Ireland with a backpack on my back. Santa (or my family, you decide) has been to the Smith household and he certainly is a pilgrim at heart. I have a number of walks planned for 2020 and these few gifts really hit the spot.
For preparation walks leading up to my Kerry Camino and my Portuguese Camino, I was surprised with an Osprey Daylite Plus pack. Not the first Osprey pack I own, this is the first Osprey 20 litre pack I own. I will still use my Lowe Alpine 35 litre for my Caminos, however this day pack is perfect for daily walks.
I was also surprised with replacement dry bags. These are essential if you are walking on a Camino, in my opinion. I was looking to buy these before I leave for Porto in September.
All in all, it was a good day with the family but I look forward to my first walk of the year. I hope you all had a good Christmas and were pleasantly surprised.
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.
So it’s that time of year. If you are a pilgrim or you have a friend or family member who is a long-distance walker or pilgrim, this video may be helpful. For me, a few small items or a voucher for an outdoor store means more than splashing out on anything I won’t use.
This great post from Nadine lists a number of other suggestions, including books, backpacks, or journals. But if you are closer to home, why not treat your favourite pilgrim to membership to his or her local Camino society or association, in my case Camino Society Ireland. It is just €20 for the year and you will be in touch with other pilgrims as you plan other Caminos.
Another year has passed. So much has happened in the past 12 months involving the Camino. It’s nice to have the last few weeks free to reflect on the past and think of the future. I’ve decided to do another post where I look back on 2018.
The end of the year saw the first ever Camino Society Ireland Photo Contest on the 16th of December 2017 at St. James Church in Dublin. A photo I took near Ledigos was included in that exhibition and also in an exhibition in the Cervantes Institute in Lincoln Place. I wrote about the first exhibition here and the second exhibition in March here. These same photos have travelled from Ireland to Spain and back again and are currently situated in the Information Centre in St. James Street.
Another way of being a pilgrim on the Camino is to Volunteer. I gladly “give back” to the Camino through Camino Society Ireland. As well as giving information in the centre in St. James Street in Dublin, I edit their quarterly newsletter “Shamrocks And Shells” and help with social media. The newsletter is now a little over a year old and 4 issues have been produced, with over 20 thousand views. Something I am quite proud of.
The first Celtic Camino Festival in Westport was a success. I was there from the 13th to the 15th of April 2018 and it was marked with talks, a showing of the Camino Voyage, and a Celtic Camino walk. I wrote an article here.
December 28th will mark my 1st year in Donabate. A great little town but with so much work planned for the future, I’m not sure if I am to call this home just yet. Over 700 homes have been approved, but without the right facilities and infrastructure, it will be chaos going to and from work. The Northern Commuter train line is fine but there are no bus services.
There are many things in my life I am happy with. I’m loving life in my new home, I have many good friends but I would be lying if I said I am 100% happy with my lot. I’m not. There are a few areas I want to better myself in and there is no time like the New Year to start. So here’s my list for 2018:
Focus on my blog. My blog has been slipping. I just need to allocate my time more evenly. I have upgraded the blog in the last few weeks so there is no excuse now for more content. With planned Caminos in May and September, I will hope to upload videos from my time in Spain.
Think of ways to walk a full 30+ day Camino, whilst still managing to pay a mortgage.
Plan a trip to Canada to visit peregrino friends (for 2019 or beyond).
Improve my writing, maybe find a writing skills course.
Make more of an effort to meet new people and be more social.
Dig out my guitar again: it has been so long since I played a tune. I guess confidence comes into it.
And there we have it. Another summary of my year. How was your 2018?
Over the last number of years, I have let my understanding of the Spanish language subside, mainly due to not using it. So I decided I would give it one more shot and see where it took me. I recently attended a conversational Spanish class in a busy Dublin city centre. The profesora gave us the challenge of talking about how we usually celebrate Christmas and what traditions we have, and we would present this to the class. All well and good.
Now I need to mention that the profesora has lived in the Basque region of Bilbao for quite some time before moving to Dublin so when it was her time to talk about how she and her family celebrate Christmas, my eyes lit up! There are so many differences to how the Irish celebrate the few days, however, everything is centred around the family. Which is the right way, I suppose.
One of the biggest surprises for me is the Basque tradition of Olentzero – the equivalent of Santa Claus in the Basque Country. Olentzero lives or lived (depending on what you believe) in the mountains, is a coal miner and descends to town to give presents to the children on Christmas Eve. He smokes a pipe, is normally dressed in traditional costumes and wears a Basque beret. If you are bad, it is believed that you receive a piece of coal from Olentzero. Better than a Playstation 4 so! In modern celebrations during the Christmas season, children dress in traditional peasant garb and parade through the streets with an adult-sized representation of Olentzero while singing humorous songs written in the mythical figure’s honor. It’s also a fairly common practice to hand out candy and treats to the costumed children, similar to the manner in which Halloween is celebrated.
When you travel to Spain, you may encounter something that is known as tapas. This may be entirely new to you, if you haven’t been there before, so it’s best if I describe them to you. Tapas are a wide variety of snacks in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives or cheese) or hot (such as beef, squid, or pulpo). Tapas is all about sharing, and tapas are usually from between €1 – €2 each. Sometimes, you pay for a beer or for another drink and you get a complimentary dish for free. That’s why tapas are so popular in Spain. It is very common to see people moving from bar to bar ordering a drink and receiving a tapa.There are many Tapas trails in major cities in Spain, including Pamplona, Logrono and Madrid. The serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation, because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them.They are also often eaten standing up.
Some of the more common Spanish tapas include:
Aceitunas: olives, sometimes with a filling of anchovies
Albóndigas: meatballs with sauce
Calamares: rings of battered squid
Chopitos: battered and fried tiny squid
Chorizo al vino: chorizo sausage slowly cooked in wine
Croquetas: a common sight in bar counters and homes across Spain, served as a tapa, a light lunch, or a dinner along with a salad
Empanadillas: large or small turnovers filled with meats and vegetables
Gambas: prawns in salsa negra (peppercorn sauce)
Patatas bravas or papas bravas: fried potato dices (sometimes parboiled and then fried, or simply boiled) served with salsa brava a spicy tomato sauce.
Pimientos de Padrón: small green peppers originally from Padrón (a municipality in the province of A Coruña) that are fried in olive oil or served raw, most are mild, but a few in each batch are quite spicy.
Pulpo a la gallega (Galician-style octopus) or polbo á feira (octopus in the trade fair style) in Galicia, is cooked in boiling water, and served hot in olive or vegetable oil. The octopus pieces are seasoned with substantial amounts of paprika, giving it its recognisable red color, and sea salt for texture and flavour.
Tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette) or tortilla española: a type of omelet containing fried chunks of potatoes and sometimes onion
In select bars in Spain, it is common to order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal.
In Spain, dinner is usually served between 9 and 12pm, while Spaniards finish work between 5 and 6pm. Therefore, food is only available in the form of tapas in the time between finishing work and having dinner. This is one of the downfalls of being a pilgrim!
Sometimes, especially in northern Spain, they are also called pinchos (pintxos in Basque) because many of them have a pincho or toothpick through them. The toothpick is used to keep whatever the snack is made of from falling off the slice of bread and to keep track of the number of tapas the customer has eaten. Differently priced tapas have different shapes or have toothpicks of different sizes.
If you are walking the Camino Frances, I’d encourage you to seek out some Pulpo in Melide, Galicia. It is one of the most common tapa in Spain and was voted one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Spanish Gastronomy’ in 2016. You can read up more about Pulpo here.
As I write, we are just under two days shy of Christmas Day, and I suppose now is as good a time as ever to wish one and all a Happy Christmas. Whether you are a daily reader, or drop by occasionally, I get a great thrill knowing people read my blog.
I hope you all have a peaceful few days and that 2015 starts off just as you would like it to.
I finish up in the office tomorrow for the holidays, and have 6/7 days with the family. It’s going to be a good few days. I may even do some planning for my upcoming trip to Spain.
While I think of it, I want to wish “Feliz Navidad y Feliz ano nuevo” to those who are walking the Camino de Santiago at this moment in time and who plan to reach Santiago over the Christmas period. That’s one for the future in my books!
Nollaig Shona agus Bhliain nua sasta daoibh (Happy Christmas and New Year to you all….in Irish!)
So this is my first post since Christmas, and no better time to write since I am back to work tomorrow. I am expecting a busy day tomorrow after the high winds over the Christmas period. I hope you all had a happy and peaceful holiday and are looking forward to 2014. I managed to get through 2013 without breaking anything, or being convicted of anything (joking, of course).
I am looking forward to 2014 as I do with every year, but I have chosen not to make goals or resolutions. Over the last number of years, I have made two or three loose resolutions with the hope that I achieve any of them. I never do. I’m not a goal driven person, but I can understand why people make them.
The one idea I have, and this is a challenge, is to reduce my reliance on social media. I know a lot of people on twitter, and facebook, but very few I have met in person. I’m not trying to withdraw myself from them, but I want to go about meeting people in another way. I could tweet and post all day, 7 days a week, and it wouldn’t be fair on myself. So that is a resolution I have made for myself. I wonder how it will go..I shall keep you updated.
It is also close to 5 months before I pick up my backpack and head back to Spain for another few days. I had originally planned on leaving it for a year or two, but I think about Spain every day, it is close to an addiction. So I fly to Biarritz on May 28th, and start on May 29th from St Jean Pied de Port. I will walk for 10 days, so I reckon I will get to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. I have no idea. I will get a bus back to Bilbao and fly back to Dublin after that. I just need to buy new shoes as the ones I own are coming close to the end of their lives.
So tomorrow I am back to work, and I am expecting it to be busy. I have had a very long break so I can’t complain. Oh, and I bought myself a new laptop..well I was forced to do so. The one I own crashed on me and I was unable to recover any of my files. Not happy with that. But this one is pretty sleek, and I kind of went over my means, but there is no harm in spoiling myself once in a while.
Now that the festivities are over, I hope that you all had a peaceful and happy Christmas and you have recovered from it! I had a quiet Christmas, and sure as long as you can spend it with the family, that is the main thing. Many drinks were had, a lot of food was eaten and plenty of wrapping paper was thrown out to be recycled for another day’s use.
On the 24th, the family met up for customary Midnight Mass at 9pm (I’m still not sure why it is called midnight!). After an hour and many a chat with friends later, we ventured over to the local GAA club for one drink and to pass on Christmas wishes. I think myself, my Dad and sister were the only sober souls when we entered the club..and we were still were after leaving too. After a few more drinks at home, we all hit the hay, waiting for the “big man with the beard” to enter the building!
After a very long sleep in on Christmas morning, we eventually struggled out of bed around 11ish..one of the joys of not having children around on Christmas. We were in no great hurry to open gifts. there was no great urgency about it..something that I am very happy with 🙂 After midday, and numerous cups of tea later, the first of the presents were opened. You could say we were all delighted with what we received, some of the items were unexpected or un-needed!
I was given a LCD TV, something I was not expecting but am beginning to love every day I look at it. The sound is amazing, the size of the screen is pretty big too, perfect for dvd’s or tv flicks! It was definitely useful with all the essential TV viewing later on that day. It is the one time of the year where all 5 of us scramble for the RTE Guide to stake our claim on certain televisual delights. Fun indeed! We were treated to Doctor Who, Wallace and Gromit, Top Gear (although it was a repeat) and Blackadder rides again! Unfortunately, I was squeezed out of watching Blackadder..thank God for torrents 🙂 After a delicious dinner and more drinks (!), there was nothing more to do than fall asleep 🙂 I’m not a fan of the whole drama before Christmas and the way, consumerism and materialism has creeped in, pushing away the real meaning of Christmas. I’ll never be an advocate of starting “shopping” in September or October, but It is very hard to knock the Christmas season, no matter how you spend it!
All that was missing was the singing into the early hours..but my guitar is broke 😉 Pity!
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.