The Easter Break..a chance to renew..

It’s a little over two weeks before I return to Spain, on what will be my first Camino this year. As you know I start my walking from Ferrol but truth be told I started this Camino back in 2017, when I walked to St James Church in Dublin and gained a celtic compostela. Everyone should try their hand at the Celtic Camino.

So now I take this compostela with me to Spain, walk a few days from Ferrol, zip back to A Coruna and walk down to Santiago. And for good measure, I will enjoy the coastal scenes of the Camino Finisterre, all 90km of it. So that is 10 days of walking on this stretch. 10 days of Galicia with my brother and a high chance of meeting a few good people when I arrive in Santiago. What more could I want. It will tide me over until September when I arrive in Lisbon to do it all over again. I’m starting to like Galicia again!

Easter pilgrims to Santiago

I’m writing this on Holy Thursday and the numbers of pilgrims in Santiago have been increasing over the Easter period. To get an idea of the numbers, all you need to do is look at the Pilgrim Office website to see how many pilgrims received compostelas on any given day.

And if you want to peek at the stream of pilgrims on their way to Santiago, why not check out the webcam at San Marcos? I was looking at it on and off today. It can be addictive, however 🙂

Brand new Clearskies Camino patches

You may have noticed a new logo, I hope you like it. I have made an order for some patches. Hopefully, I will receive them before I leave for Spain. When I receive them, I will post a photo of them. Ideally, I’d like to sell them at a small price through Etsy. Let me know if you are interested.

Edit: I have received an image copy of the design of the patch, below. It will now be sent for production and I hope to receive them before I go to Spain.

Camino Society Ireland Information Event @ Cotswold Outdoor Dublin

For folks in Dublin, I want to let you know of an Information event given by Camino Society Ireland at Cotswold Outdoor, Trinity Street, Dublin. I will be there with other volunteers to provide information about the different ways, accommodation and gear. Any questions will be answered. This is on Wednesday, April 24th at 6pm and it is Free.

A few days off work

Now, I am off work until Tuesday. I haven’t had more than 5 hours sleep in 2 months so this is a perfect chance to catch some extra zzzz. Saturday, I may attempt a practice walk and following that, I will break into the left over chocolate. Happy Easter! Felices Pascuas!

A few recent walks

I’ve had a few walks under my belt in the last few weeks so I may as well post a few photos from them. They have been great practice for my trip back to Spain but I’m one or two walks short of being ready for May 7th.

Aware Harbour 2 Harbour Walk – St. Patrick’s Day

The day of the walk marked 50 days before my return to Spain and it was a perfect day to get a long practice walk under my belt. This walk would be like no other however. The Aware Harbour 2 Harbour has been a staple of St Patrick’s Day for years. It is a festive day, everyone is decked out in their green and they celebrate the occasion. Generally. the walk starts in the port of Dun Laoghaire and ends in Howth, 24km later, and people from across the country turn up to walk. So basically, it is something different than standing in a parade or drinking. All monies raised go to support mental health in Ireland.
A good time was had by all and I got a few kms under my belt plus I had great company!

Slieve Gullion Forest Park with Camino Society Ireland

A short walk but a challenging one. Slieve Gullion Forest Park is one hour drive north of Dublin and across the border into Northern Ireland. It was a fantastic day and I looked forward to meeting new people and hearing new stories. Being a volunteer with Camino Society Ireland takes you far and wide but I am comfortable with Dublin and the eastern coast. How and ever, after a brief information talk about the Camino de Santiago to a local audience, we took on one of the forest trails, close to 10kms. And it was mostly uphill from the off. A really enjoyable day and I really did learn alot about area with regard to history and mythology. The park has many trails and caters for all ages.

Find out more at shamrocksandshells.wordpress.com/recent-events

Since Friday..

Let me apologise! The intention was to keep you updated a little bit more than this but I was busy over the weekend. Here goes…

The Camino Society held their first monthly walk of 2019 in Glencullen. There are tonnes of trails there and the Dublin Mountains Way runs through it. I won’t go into it in too much detail as I wrote a piece about it on their newsletter here. Go check it out, the photos are excellent.

Anyway, the day started well with the sun shining in Donabate. I had a good feeling about the day. I brought the rain gear ‘just in case’. However the further south I went, the darker the sky got and the first drops could be felt at Johnnie Fox’s pub, our meeting point. Not to worry. We marched on regardless.

With a full pack and thirty-something other pilgrims, it was close enough to being on Camino. It was just what I needed with my May Camino quickly approaching. After the walk, we returned to base (Johnnie Fox’s) for some food and music.

Kilmashogue megalithic wedge tomb – 4000 years old

The following day, Sunday, marked 100 days before my brother and I travel to Ferrol to start our Camino Ingles / Celtic Camino. From now on, it’s all double-digits and even though I have done this many times before, it feels new this time. Maybe because it is a new route? May 7th we leave for Ferrol and we hope to be in Santiago by May 14th. We have flights booked for May 19th which gives us room to decide to walk to Finisterre or stay in Santiago.

2018 becomes 2019…

So here we are..2019! Happy New Year! The celebrations are over, the good cutlery has been put away and we have settled down to another year. I hope you had a good few weeks. Christmas has been good in the Smith household. Strangely enough, the last time I felt this way was January 2018 and I was preparing for a Camino #1 with the brother. As we all know, those few weeks went very well and we enjoyed our time walking into Santiago de Compostela. So much so, that we are going back this May.

Celtic Camino & Camino Finisterre

May 7th – we both fly to Santiago and aim for Ferrol. From there we walk to Betanzos, on the Ferrol leg of the Camino Ingles. The following day, we take a bus to A Coruna where we will walk to Santiago. I’m looking forward to these few days between A Coruna and Bruma as it is pretty quiet. Once in Santiago, we walk to Finisterre and the end of the world. I was here last in 2016 when I witnessed the sunset. It is the true end of one’s Camino. Just 122 days to go at the time of writing.

Hercules Tower and the statue of King Breogan
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Dabbling in Photography

Ok, to say this is a bit of a whim is an understatement. I have been thinking of taking up photography for quite some time and I have just purchased a DSLR camera (with thanks to some friends). I am waiting for it to arrive in the post but in the meantime, I have been watching “how-to” and “what-not-to-do” videos on YouTube. I chose Canon and didn’t buy too high-end. So, if I do enjoy it, I can upgrade the body or lens in the future. I will take it out on walks and see if it catches on. More from this in the near future.

One year in Donabate

Time flies when you are having fun eh? Well, I’m not sure about fun, but time is flying. I can’t believe it’s over a year since I moved into this new place. I’ve tried to make the place as homely as possible. I’ve got my compostelas hanging in my bedroom. There is a large Wise Pilgrim map hanging in my dining room and these large posters are hanging on the wall in front of the couch. I mean, I get to look at these every day! It’s great. I also have a large collection of fridge magnets with a Camino theme. So I’m quite happy with how it’s going. Just for the time being, that is.

Possible 2nd Camino for 2019?

I’m keeping my options open for a 2nd return to Spain in September. It will either be the Portuguese Coastal Route or the short snippet of the Via de la Plata. Nothing is set in stone yet. Updates will follow.

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’.

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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.

 

Camino Frances 2017 – Day 8 – León to Villavante

Camino 2017 – Day 8 – León to Villavante – September 12th
One last long day..and walking by myself again.

I had a good sleep in Hostal Madriguera. It’s somewhere I recommend if you want a good rest, and I did. The owner, Alba, who has walked the Camino, is very helpful and the hostel is situated pretty close to the main square. Give it a look-up. However, that said, I should have stopped by the albergue. The previous day would be the last time I would see the majority of those I had met. I would walk alone the next day. But that’s not a bad thing sometimes. I know most of whom I had met were aiming for Hospital de Orbigo, a 30+km day. If I could manage it, well and good – I would see my pilgrim buddies again. If not, so be it. There were plenty of pilgrims on the trail…even in mid-September.

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In 2015, I stayed in Albergue Santa Lucia in Villavante and fell in love with it. The hospitality, the owner going out of her way for you, but I need to mention Coco the parrot! She would put a smile on your face if she squawked while you washed your dirty clothes. I remember not being allowed to take photos so that was a little disappointing. So..I would aim for Orbigo but if all else fails, Villavante was there to welcome me. This means taking the less travelled alternative route on leaving León. You have two options: walk along the road passing through small towns en route to Orbigo, or walk on a meseta-type trail through two towns. This was my meseta-Camino, so I’d do what I could to draw it out. Not many walk the alternative route, but I encourage it. It’s quiet, there is a town to stop after 21km – Vilar de Mazarife with it’s 3 albergues and if you feel up to it, there is Villavante after 30km. I felt up to it today. Being alone, I wanted to record some video, and I did (below)

I left León after 5.30am. The darkness engulfed the city, just the way I like it. I stood in front of the cathedral saying my goodbyes knowing that it would be some time before I saw it again. I walked on..alone. It was cold this morning and predictions of rain abounded, but it was dry for the time being. I felt good but thoughts of an ending Camino weren’t too far away. It would be 2 further days before I arrived in Astorga, only hop-skip and jump down the road. I was going to stretch these two final days out – records will be broken. But first, one last long day.

There is nothing interesting to see as you leave León however you climb for a bit and reach a number of bodegas at Trobajo del Camino. Make sure you turn back here and watch the sun rise over the city behind you. I said my goodbyes and moved on into the new morning. The locals were waking up and going to work, I wished each a Buenos Días as I passed. There was no music today, just me and my thoughts. Thinking – it can be bad, but it can be good. Too much of it is a bad thing – I’d argue against that if you are on the Camino. Promises can be made and there were a few promises I made to myself since I left Burgos. I won’t go into them now. I reached Virgen del Camino and stopped for a breakfast coffee and tostado – a regular occurrence at this stage. The cafe was just opening and I chatted in broken Spanish to the owner. A few metres down the main road is the church – Santuario De La Virgen Del Camino. I spent a few minutes here to enjoy its design before I crossed the road and found the start of the alternative route.

It was still dark by 7am. My phone’s torch was brought to the rescue as I worked out where was where. Once I saw an arrow I was where I needed to be. I made my way across a main road and I was on meseta-like trail again. Perfect walking ground. I seemed to pass Chozas de Abajo and Oncina in no time. I arrived at Vilar de Mazarife at 9.30am. There was nothing open, as I expected. I didn’t seem to mind. I took off my pack and found a seat to lie back on. Fruit, a yoghurt and a drink – heaven! Simple pleasures. I had two choices – stay here for an hour or so until the albergue opened or walk 8km to Villavante. The answer was plain to me. Villavante it was.

The 8km walk was slow but not arduous. There was a deliberate lack of pace. I mean, I could aim for Orbigo, but what’s the point? It would make my next two days even more difficult 🙂 I kept looking behind me for pilgrims, but I didn’t see one. This is a great alternative to the busy road after Virgen del Camino. I enjoyed it. Many wouldn’t. I arrived at Villavante at 11am. I took a bottom bunk beside the window and waited for company. It wasn’t long before I was joined by Ian, from New Zealand. He was closely followed by two girls from the US and South Africa. We had dinner at 7pm and a drink after. The parrot got the last laugh however as my request for a photograph was again denied. Hmmph!

I had no idea what I would do the following day. Orbigo maybe? 5km? Records will again be broken.

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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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