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

When your Mind is on the Camino but your Feet aren’t..

40 days and counting…

Do you ever have a countdown to your next Camino ticking away? I bet you have. I use an application on my phone telling me the number of days I have left before I leave. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not but each morning I get a little bit giddy knowing that I’m a little closer to my return date. And when I return back to Dublin, the whole process starts again.

So what do you do to bide the time before your next Camino?

Get walking..

It is quite possible to walk the Camino with very little preparation. Provided you are in normal good health, are prepared to take your time and listen to your body, you are half way there. However, here in Ireland, we are lucky enough to have numerous walking trails and pilgrim paths on our doorstep. It is a shame not to use them. Throughout the year, there are various walking festivals in Ireland which provide perfect opportunity to get you ready for a trip to Spain. Or why not walk by yourself with your pack? You can find details of these trails on irishtrails.ie or pilgrimpath.ie. It might be the case in other countries.

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Are you comfortable with your Pack?

If you are considering carrying your pack on your Camino, you will need to be comfortable with it and it’s contents. Check it’s weight and if there is anything you don’t need, leave it behind. Try to walk with your pack a few times before you leave so you are sure it is the right size and all the settings are correct.

Join a Camino / Pilgrim Society

Are you talking about your experience on the Camino with a family member and they just don’t get it? Does it feel like you are talking to a brick wall? Well, by joining a Camino Society in your country, you get the chance to meet like-minded people (just like you!), share your story and give back to the Camino. Being a volunteer with Camino Society Ireland is a huge plus for me as I am able to pass on my experience to people preparing for their own Caminos and I can learn about new and exciting developments. And I don’t drive my family crazy!

YouTube / Movie

YouTube contains countless videos of peoples experiences along the different Caminos. From the very professional to videos made by pilgrims just like you and me. Watching them brings me back to the Camino and some offer helpful tips. Or you could watch a Camino related movie. The Camino Voyage springs to mind and I may give that a watch shortly.

And when you come home…

..Organise another Camino! Ah yes, the old doozie! For those of us fortunate enough to get away for another Camino, the 2nd best thing to being on the Camino is putting one together. Booking your flights and/or your first night accommodation (if needed) is a joy-inducing formula. Then there is Gronze.com, Rome2rio.com and plenty of other Camino planning tools to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Join 488 other followers

My Conversation with Maria from SpanishforCamino.com

I was delighted to be contacted by Maria regarding a possible post on her excellent website SpanishforCamino.com.

Her website is full of hints and tips for those looking to improve their Spanish. As she lives on the Camino, she sees pilgrims passing by every day. So her website is a great place to start if you are planning a few days on the Camino. Not on does she talk about Spanish words, but there are great tips on food and health in Spain.

Anyway, my conversation with Maria can be found here. It was fun looking back at my first Camino. I also talk about this website and my involvement with Camino Society Ireland.

More practice required..

When was the last time I walked more than 20k? It was probably in September before Burgos, watching the sunrise over the cathedral while the sun sets on my Camino. It was a good time and 20k was a breeze. I had good company and many good conversations.

Burgos cathedral

Since the New Year, I have barely walked more than 5k a day. Work has put a halt to that. Even the organised walks I join are far lower in distance to what I cover in Spain. I am so Camino unfit it’s not funny.

Anyhow, I have 4 months before myself and the brother travel to Ferrol and start off again. Luckily enough our days are not as long as they were back in September. Bring it on!

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.

May 2019: Walking in Medieval Pilgrims footsteps

I attended a talk given by Dr. Bernadette Cunningham last night at Lismullen Conference Centre, near Tara. It was such an appropriate place to hold the talk as the area is steeped in history..the hill of Tara, and not too far from Newgrange. The talk was on medieval pilgrimage from Ireland to Santiago de Compostela. Bernadette is due to have her book published shortly on the same subject, one that she has been researching since 2014.

 The book launch will be on December 6th in Kevin Street Library in Dublin and there is great excitement leading up to it. 

The book, along with the release of the Camino Voyage documentary in Irish cinemas today, highlights the evidence of how Irish pilgrims made their way to Santiago during the 14th and 15th centuries. I guess we will know more when the book comes out. 

I will be attending the cinema release of the Camino Voyage this evening (my third viewing). It’s been great watching it grow to what it is now. In 2019, it is hoped that it will be released on DVD worldwide.

And back to my plans and the Camino. I have booked flights for the 7th of May to Santiago de Compostela. I travel with my brother, not on a merchant ship but on Aer Lingus economy class. I then travel to Ferrol and walk for a few days to Betanzos. From there, we will catch a bus to A Coruna and walk to Santiago. If there is time, we will walk to the coast and watch the sunset at Finisterre. It will be magic!

Camino Francés 2018 – So Where Did I Stay?

There is one final post I want to write about before I move on to something new, and it is the issue of accommodation.

There is a wealth of accommodation on the Camino Francés. Every couple of kilometres you will find a town with a number of albergues, hostals, and hotels. The greatest distance between two towns is 17 kilometres but most pilgrims plan for this days in advance. For me, I had no issues with accommodation.  I mostly stayed in albergues, but there was the odd hostal I booked before leaving Dublin for the start and end of my Camino.

Puente la Reina – Hostal la Plaza
I booked a single room here shortly before leaving home as my flight would be arriving into Bilbao late. Hostal la Plaza is on the Camino and has a restaurant beside it. The price is reasonable and the staff are very friendly. A handy tip: if you think you are going to be late – call the hostal and let them know. You may not have a room to go to when you arrive.

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Estella – Agora Hostal 
The standard of albergues on the Camino Frances is getting better and better and those providing their time are giving something extra special back. The Agora Hostal is something special. The outside of the hostel looks less than remarkable but inside is clean, and welcoming. In the hands of Adrianna and Alphonso, I am told that this is my home for the night. Breakfast is included. The beds are comfortable. It isn’t far from the Camino. Recommended.

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Los Arcos – Albergue Casa de la Abuela
I got into Los Arcos quite early so I was before the throngs of pilgrims. I was quite lucky as there was no room in any of the albergues in this town later in the day. That is the Camino Frances for you. I was the first in the door, only to be greeted by a sprawling pile of mochilas left from Jacotrans. Again, this is the nature of the beast. Casa de la Abuela is a fine albergue and had all I needed. The hospitalera offered to wash my clothes for a tiny fee and I accepted. I could have walked on to the next town, Torres del Rio, a further 12km. But I was in no hurry. I met my friends for a meal and drinks in the plaza later that evening.

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Viana – Albergue Izar
A short day from Los Arcos I decided on stopping in Viana. Mainly because I had not stayed here before but I would see my friends for the last time before they embarked on their Camino. The first albergue you encounter once you reach Viana is brightly coloured Albergue Izar. While not opened until 12 midday, I decided to walk up the grueling hill into the town for a cafe and snack and see who else I would find. While the albergue is away from all the action (ie the church, the main plaza), the owners are friendly and the facilities are great. I met a bunch of new pilgrims here before I decided on walking a long day to Ventosa.

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Ventosa – Albergue San Saturnino
A long day. And I was glad to arrive here. Ventosa used to be on the Camino Frances but over time, the powers that be have moved the arrows so now it is kind of left out in the cold. But it is not too far away. Just 1 km away from the trail is Albergue San Saturnino. There are two cafes in this town also. Stay long enough in your bed and you will be woken by classical music. It has all the facilities and I was glad to meet more pilgrim friends here.

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Santo Domingo de la Calzada – Albergue de la Cofradía del Santo
Super organised, well run and a great place in general. My second time there. The only thing I didn’t like was the walk up the stairs to the 2nd floor on arrival! But, with over 200 beds and 3 floors, you can be sure to find a bed in Santo Domingo. And then you can visit the chickens in the Cathedral afterward. Shout out to the hospitaleros also for doing a super job!

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Belorado – Albergue Cuatro Cantones
Nothing but good things to say about the albergue here in Belorado. There are more than one albergue in this small town but this one stands out. I have stayed here more than once and enjoyed my stay. Jana and her family have been looking after pilgrims for 15 years now. There is a restaurant attached to the albergue and there is no harm trying the food. Also, if the sun is out, the pool in the back is perfect. There is a yoga session also for those interested. Recommended.

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Atapuerca – Albergue El Peregrino
Chosen purely for convenience rather than comfort. Having stayed in this albergue 3 times before, I know a fair bit about it, including its weaknesses. That said, it is handy to stay there as it is just a mere 18 km to Burgos. Top tip: try El Palomar for the Pilgrim Menu.

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Burgos – Albergue de peregrinos Casa del Cubo y de los Lerma (municipal) – night one / Hostal Manjon – night two.
My Camino ended with a stay in the municipal in Burgos, with its 180 beds. While I have always enjoyed my stays here, I didn’t this time. I had a bad case of a head cold going home to Ireland and had little sleep here.

I had an extra day to hand before I made my way to Bilbao and back to Ireland. I checked into Hostal Manjon, a budget hostal about 5 minutes from the Cathedral. It was just ok but I managed to claw back some of the sleep I was owed.

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