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.

A New Camino, and a return to Galicia

I thoroughly enjoyed my ramble through Navarra and La Rioja in September. The weather was fine, many people were met but the days spent there trickled away all too quickly. I hope to keep in touch with my new found friends electronically, and maybe we will meet in the months and years to come. On arriving in Burgos, I sat in the municipal albergue and had a few moments to myself. I thought about the next one, the next footstep to Santiago, or even if there was to be one!

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The majority of my Caminos since 2011 have been on the French Way, and I don’t see that changing as my main Camino in the near future. My feet are safe there. I will dip in and out and walk a week here and there. I’ve grown to like the people of La Rioja and Castilla y Leon and made friends in Burgos and Belorado. I get great joy from meeting people, staying in different villages, wandering through the meseta especially. But I have unfinished business.

On the 18th of June 2017, I walked from Bray to St. James Church (32km), the first part of the Celtic Camino and on the 19th of May this year,  I walked St Kevin’s way to Glendalough. So I have a Celtic Camino Compostela for the short distance walked in Ireland. The next stage is to walk the remainder (75km) to Santiago from A Coruña – hopefully, May 2019. This should take 3-4 days. This is a little too short for my liking so I will extend it by walking to Finisterre, another 3-4 days.

I hope I can bring my brother with me. It would mean a lot if he is available for the trip. He has the Celtic Camino Compostela also, having walked from Bray to St. James Church on two occasions.

For more information about the Celtic Camino and the Camino Ingles in general, check out the below links:

Information on the Celtic Camino on Camino Society Ireland
Guidebook to the Celtic Camino
Camino Ingles on Eroski

La-Coruña-arriba-Izqda-Galicia
Breogán and the Tower of Hercules / Source: Wikipedia

Towns Along the Way – Navarra #1

You have left St Jean and make the climb up and over the Pyrenees. You have met your first pilgrim friends and experienced albergues for the first time. All part of pilgrim life. A simple life.

Now to briefly talk about some small towns in Navarra, that I have not talked about before. Some are so small that you and your companions will have passed them without looking back. Others not so.

Viscarret (map) – 759 kms to Santiago

Viscarret

Viscarret, or to give it it’s full name Viscarret-Guerendiain is situated in northern eastern Navarra and has a population of just under 100 people. It is 31km from Pamplona. For a town so small and not being a traditional end of stage town, there are a number of options for places to stay (Gronze). The always popular Corazon Puro has unfortunately closed since March 2017. Next stop is Zubiri – where many rest for the night.

Zubiri (map) – 750 kms to Santiago

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For a town of just over 400 residents, during peak Camino season, the population nearly doubles. It is an important stop on your road to Santiago. Most guidebooks list Zubiri as an end stage. In 2014, there were 3 known albergues here, however with increased demand, a number of new albergues and pensions have opened since I have been here last (Gronze). I really enjoyed my stay in Albergue Zaldiko, especially after the difficult descent from the Alto de Erro. Zubiri is Basque for “by the bridge” and one of the town’s features is the Puente de la Rabia over the River Arga. Walking under the bridge was meant to have healing qualities in medieval times. The next day brings you to Pamplona, your first major city on the French Way.

Zabaldika (map) – 735 kms to Santiago

Before you reach Pamplona, however, you will reach a signpost pointing you in the direction of Zabaldika. Not a town, but a parochial albergue in Iglesia San Estaban.

 

Zariquiegui (map) – 716 kms to Santiago

Zariquiegui

Zariquiegui not only wins you 200 points in Scrabble, but it is the last town before you make the ascent to Alto de Perdón. You can read a post I wrote dedicated to this particular Alto here. A sleepy village of less than 50 residents, Zariquiegui has the one albergue (Gronze). In 2014, I had stayed in Pamplona and found this town as a perfect place for a second breakfast. Walking to Puente la Reina can be tough as not only are you gradually climb from Pamplona, you also have the demanding descent from the Alto de Perdón.

Next town, Uterga…

Towns Along The Way – St Jean Pied de Port

I have left this series unattended for quite a while. In fact, the last post from this series was in January when I briefly spoke about towns beginning with the letter R. I have decided to jig things up with the remainder of towns from the Camino Frances. And there are many. I will start with the town furthest from Santiago and walk towards the Cathedral. One day I will get there. Maybe I should have done this from the off 🙂

So..we begin…

StJean

St Jean Pied de Port (map), or “Saint John at the Foot of the Pass” is in the Pyrénées department in Southwestern France close in the Pyrenean foothills. The town is also the old capital of the traditional Basque province of Lower Navarre. It is also the traditional starting point for the Camino Francés. If you start your Camino here, you are 8km from the Spanish border, however those 8km may as well be doubled if you factor the ascent. The town is made up of one long main street, crossing over the River Nive as you exit the town.

Getting to St Jean is not as easy as you think. You can either fly to Biarritz and catch a train from nearby Bayonne. It is the nearest city to St Jean and Ryanair offer regular flights. For those of you who live outside of Europe, you many have to fly to Barcelona or Paris. You can travel to St Jean directly from those places also. There are plenty of places to stay in St Jean once you arrive (Gronze). If you are planning to walk during peak season, it is advisable to book a room in advance as you are not guaranteed a bed on arrival. I have stayed in Gite Ultreia and highly recommend it, however Gite Beilari is well known and well liked. Many of the people you meet here will walk with you for much of your Camino.

stjeanpdp-pilgrimofficeThe old town of St Jean Pied de Port is really one old cobbled street, the rue de la Citadelle which runs down hill from the 15th century Porte St-Jacques to the Porte d’Espagne. The street crosses the River Nive on a old stone bridge and there are many pictures of these views strewn across the internet. Up above the town is the citadel which once held great importance in Saint-Jean-Pied-du-Port. St Jean Pied de Port is very geared up for the pilgrims with restaurants offering pilgrim menus and shops selling anything you might have forgotten. A top tip is to visit the local Lidl to buy some snacks for the arduous walk the next day. The pilgrim office will either give you a credencial or stamp your own one, which you need in order to stay in the albergues along the way and also have maps and useful advice. Heed any advice the volunteers there give you, especially if you should cross the Napoleon pass or if you should walk via Val Carlos. The weather plays an important part in this decision.

Your next stop after leaving St Jean is Orisson after 8kms of uphill. But remember to enjoy the views 🙂

Camino Frances 2017 – Day 11 & 12 – Astorga to Santiago de Compostela and home

Camino 2017 – Day 11 & 12 – Astorga to Santiago de Compostela and home – September 15th & 16th
A bus trip to my 2nd home…and then back to Dublin.

My final two days in Spain contain little to no walking unfortunately. A quick caveat. September 15th: my Camino this year is over and alls that is left is to return home. My blisters were fading, I had caught up on sleep and I had finished checking into albergues for one more year. Bittersweet was the word. That said, I have a good sleep in Maria de Siervas albergue and I have much to look forward to. I get up early and stroll over to Astorga’s bus station. My bus arrives at 7.30am for the trip to Santiago de Compostela. An early morning, but not Camino early!

The bus station is located behind the Cathedral in Astorga. Everything is sleeping as I make my way there. The station is just opening but I have a super breakfast in the cafe right beside it. Cafe with toast…now we are slowing making our way back to normality! The trip to Santiago is over 5 hours by bus as we take a detour to A Coruna and south to our destination. I spent most of the trip looking out the window and thinking of next year’s Camino. Where will I go? Will I go alone? At what time of the year? Will this be the last time I wander on the Camino Frances? Arriving at A Coruna was a highlight also. I hope to walk from here in the next few years. From what I saw, it’s a beautiful town. Next stop, Santiago.

The weather had deteriorated on arriving in Galicia. You’re always going to get rain once you reach this part of the world. Just like in Ireland, their Celtic cousin. The clouds rolled in and arriving in Santiago, I wore my rain jacket for the first time since arriving in Spain. I was glad to bring it. I arrived into the Estación de Autobuses around 2pm and took the local bus to Praza Galicia. A quick 10 minute walk brought me to Hospederia San Martin Pinario and to my pilgrim room. Luxury for €23. It wasn’t long before I was walking the streets of Santiago. I seem to know this town so well. I paid a visit to the Terra Nova Pilgrim House on Rúa Nova and had a chat with the volunteers. Unfortunately, I missed Faith and Nate, who look after the Pilgrim House so brilliantly. Maybe next year. Café Casino is still well intact, I paid a visit and had a quick café con leche. I made my way to Praza do Obradoiro and just sit. I sit and stare. There are many doing the same, lost in their thoughts. I look at the Cathedral, covered in scaffolding but with a heart beating away inside. I listen to the music while pilgrims enter the Praza. It’s a busy square with many tourist groups. It’s hard to think so I head back to the Hospederia and write my journal for the day. Later that evening, I had some food in O Gato Negro and return to have an early night.

While in Astorga, I received a text from author and veteran pilgrim JohnnieWalker, asking if I would meet him while in Santiago. We agreed to do so on the Saturday, the day I leave. I awake at 8am and make way for breakfast in the Hospederia. I love the breakfast they put on here…you receive a mixture of everything, fruits, cereals, breads, toast, juices. I had a healthy breakfast, let’s just say. Afterward I had packed and checked out, I made my way to Iglesia de San Agustin, a Jesuit church, where Johnnie would be on organ duty for Mass at 12 o clock. I sat at the back and listened on. “Palchabel’s Canon in D Major” rang throughout the iglesia as the congregation grew larger. The Mass was entirely in Spanish and I was lost in places but the music quickly brought me home. I hear “Down by the Sally Gardens” and as the Mass ended, the music took a more Irish feel. Johnny played Amhran na bhFiann, the Irish national anthem, as bemused Mass-goers left the church. We shook hands afterwards. It was great to finally meet after being in Santiago so often over the years. I could barely hold my laughter in, after hearing the final piece of music.

We went for a cafe and some tapas before I collected my bag and headed for the airport. The Aer Lingus flight was full, mostly with returning pilgrims, and the journey was quick. I was home within 2 hours. The many questions I had before I left were mostly answered. It’s good to return to simplicity for a few weeks, and I enjoyed my time walking the meseta. I had many memories and my friends were in my mind as they continued their Caminos to Santiago.

However, I had one question left on arriving back in Dublin….”Where will my next Camino be?”

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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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