The Camino Information Centre – Starting Out

I had such a fun day yesterday at the Camino Information Centre. Based at St. James’ Church in Dublin, the Centre is open from Thursday to Saturday from 10.30 to 3.30 and is run by volunteers for prospective pilgrims. After walking the Camino for a number of years, I felt that the next step was to pass this knowledge on to those who were to take their first steps in the coming months.

I arrived at St. James’ Church after 10am and was greeted by Joe and Aileen, who were to “show me the ropes”, so to speak. This was my training day and although I feel passionate about the Camino and talking about it, I had many questions. My experiences revolved around the French Way out to Finistere but I have very little knowledge of any other routes. Luckily, Joe and Aileen had good knowledge of the Portuguese Way and could give hints and tips regarding great towns to stop at and accommodation.

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We had many visitors and it had to be one busiest days of the year, so I was glad to experience that rather than have the opposite. Many came to buy pilgrim passports, while others came to tell us how they got on after returning from the Camino. We also have a visit from a couple who were hoping to walk from Villafranca del Bierzo to Santiago in 7 days! We planned out an itinerary for them and recommended accommodation for them. I can’t wait to hear how they get on! I had a visit from 2 friends from the Camino Prep Meetup group, so that was a surprise. One is walking this Thursday from Sarria so I wish her a Buen Camino! I picked up a pilgrim passport myself for my walk on St. Kevin’s Way and then from A Coruna to Santiago in March or April of next year.

The day had a downside however as we heard the news of the drowning of Danny Sheehy after his currach Naomhog overturned on the River Mino in Galicia as he and his team made way for Porto. It was Danny’s idea to row to A Coruna from Ireland over the course of the last four years.

I make my return to the Camino Information Centre in July and after my time yesterday, I am looking forward to it.

Giving Something Back

Ever since I took my first steps on the French Way back in 2011, the Camino has ever so slowly become part of my life. My returning each year gives me great food for thought and when I return to Ireland, I plan for my next time in Spain. Everyday, I seem to remember a moment or an experience I have had from the last 7 years. This blog is evidence of how much the Camino has become part of my life. At home, I think of the past and I long for the future, but on the Camino I am in the moment. The complexities of daily life don’t matter after you arrive and take your first steps. You wake and you walk until you reach a certain point. That’s it. It’s pretty simple.

However, I have reached a point where I am researching other routes away from the French Way. A number of years ago, I became a member of Camino Society Ireland to meet other people who have walked these routes. The society’s motto is to “give something back” and they do this in a number of ways. Like this blog, they, as volunteers, help prospective pilgrims by providing advice while they plan for a Camino. Their website is a great source of information, however, the society also run an Information Centre in Dublin between March and October. Here, pilgrims can receive information, buy pilgrim passports and guidebooks. So I decided to take a leap and volunteer. Hopefully I can be of assistance, maybe give something back, and hopefully I can learn a thing or two also.

Indecision…

My 2017 Camino has come in many different shapes and sizes. First, I was to walk from Porto to Santiago. Then, I decided on the Camino Ingles from Ferrol. And finally I returned to familiarity and the Camino Frances. I suppose I have a special friendship with the French Way, but in time, I will dip my toes in other routes.

After deciding on a start from Astorga, I longed for the meseta and moved my starting position to Logrono. Yes!..Logrono was to be my final starting place. No more changes. I’ll stick to my guns. Weeeelll, that didn’t last long as I have pushed forward my first steps to Burgos. With the 11-12 days I have, I should see Astorga, or even further depending on the weather. Once I made my mind up, I cancelled my bus to Logrono from Barajas T4 and booked a bus to Burgos. I’ve reserved a litera in Albergue Hostel Burgos, on Calle Miranda, literally less than a minute away from the estación de autobuses. Day One will begin early the following day as I make way for Hontanas, another favourite stop of mine.

The countdown continues in earnest, but I just hope I don’t change my mind again!

126 days…

It is May 1st – “Lá Bealtaine” in Irish.  May Day officially heralds the beginning of the summer and the powers that be have granted us a day off from work. Gracias a ellos! “Lá Bealtaine” derives from the Old Irish words “Bel taine” meaning ‘bright fire’. Many people say summer doesn’t start until June but the good weather has kicked off here in earnest with temperatures in the high teens for the remainder of the week. It will be hotter than Ibiza, I have heard!

Today also marks 126 days before I fly to Madrid. Yes, I too have downloaded one of countdown apps for my smartphone. It can be exciting and frustrating at the same time!! Until that day, I will be taking as many walks as possible with the “Camino prep / training” meet-up group. We have a great walk this Saturday lined up along the Grand Canal Way in Kildare. I also am weeks away from receiving the keys to my new apartment, and I will have much work to do when the time to decorate comes around. Unfortunately, I have forgotten how to paint and will need re-training. 🙂

I also have the Camino Celta very much on my mind of late. I hope to walk St. Kevin’s Way in Wicklow before the summer is out. This pilgrim path will serve as the Irish leg of the Celtic Camino. The remainder will start in A Coruna and end, of course, in Santiago. I will be entitled to a compostela at that stage. There is plenty of time for the Spanish leg however – I have 2019 in mind.

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Don’t Stop Walking – Season Two

I’m a big fan of Andrew Suzuki’s work on the Camino de Santiago. His two series – Don’t Stop Walking and Beyond The Way have been massive hits over on Facebook. We have already been treated to Season One of Don’t Stop Walking, which is a pilgrim’s guide to the Camino de Santiago. A handy digest of do’s and don’t’s which will surely point you in the right direction during your planning. If you haven’t seen Season One – go do so now!! I’ll wait until you finish….

Done?

Ok 🙂

Now you are ready to start watching Season Two. Episode One contains a top ten list of essential foods you need to try while in Spain and Portugal (No, pulpo though!!), while episode Two breaks down the top ten extremely small items that you must bring with you on your Camino. What I like about his videos is his sense of humour, you are guaranteed to have a smile on your face at the end. Plus, you will be eager to watch the next episode!!

More information can be found on his website: www.beyondtheway.net.

Thinking ahead…

September will see me on the Camino Frances for a seventh time. Eek! If you told me back in 2011 I would return to Spain for the following six years, I would look at you with wild disbelief! But yet, here I am and my mind is set on a return; this time walking from the Gaudi town of Astorga to Compostela.

With every year and every upcoming Camino, I spend a little time thinking of how I’d like to approach this trip and how I can make it a little different or unique to the last. Sometimes, these ideas just fade away once I find the first yellow arrow (and cerveza!), but other times I end up sticking to what I had planned. Each of my times on the Camino have been different in some shape or form, which is a good thing I suppose.

 

So, for September, here’s how I hope my time will go:

  • Sarria – There are many books written about the amount of pilgrims on the trail on reaching Sarria, which is the last point where you can start your Camino in order to obtain a compostela. Due to the increased numbers, there is always a strain on accommodation. So, I have decided to pre-book albergues in a number of towns before Santiago. I have never been one to pre-book and if I was walking from, let’s say, St. Jean to Burgos, I wouldn’t do so. But I feel that if I am to enjoy my walk this time around, I may as well reserve. I now will have a little bit of weight taken off my shoulders and I can take my time. Booking.com is a great website to make these reservations. I haven’t made any bookings from Astorga to Sarria as there is no need!
  • Less is more – In September 2016, while walking to Finistere, my pack weighed 7 kg. I reckon I can bring that down a little more. I have bought an Osprey 30 litre pack and am pretty happy with it. The less I bring, the less I have to worry about and my back won’t have any niggling pains! Now if only I could leave the smartphone at home!
  • Brierley’s end stages – So many people religiously follow Brierley’s guidebook, thereby missing the great towns in between. Towns like Cacabelos, El Acebo, Las Herrerias, and Ribadiso are all passed daily by legions of pilgrims. I aim to stay in these towns. It will be a welcome change as I haven’t stayed there before, save for stopping for a cerveza. Oh, and I’m leaving a guidebook at home 🙂 The arrows can guide me.
  • Pacerpoles – For the last few years I’ve walked with either a wooden stick bought before I start, or with a single carbon pole. I’ve always found them a hinderance however as I like to have my hands free to take photos, and reach for water etc. However, this year I will be making the climb to O Cebreiro so I’ve decided to bring along a set of pacerpoles that I bought before Christmas. It will make things a little easier and I won’t have those niggling back pains that I usually have (I hope!).  I have tried them a few times here in Ireland and they are pretty easy to get used to. I reckon they will be a help. Plus, I have been recommended them by a number of camigos! That said, I am usually the one who complains about the click-clacking of poles!
  • Take my time – In years gone by, I have been told by a number of people that I am a “speedster”..whatever that is!? My typical day starts at 6am and I like to check into an albergue before 1pm. That leaves me with the majority of the day to wash, rest, have some food in the evening and get to meet my fellow pilgrims! Sometimes, I don’t realise how fast I walk. In September, I hope to stretch the day out, slow down, start a little later, stop a little more, have numerous coffee breaks. Who knows, this may be the last time I walk the Camino Frances for some time! I’m in no hurry.
  • Visit local churches – It’s very easy to forget that the Camino is a pilgrimage. I’m not particularly religious but I’ve always wanted to set aside 20 minutes a day while on the Camino to drop into a church and say a quick prayer. However, after walking 25kms each day, it is difficult to find the time.
  • Use my knowledge of Spanish a little more – Creo que tengo buen español. Me gustaría hablar más a la gente local, sólo un poco! I guess this comes with confidence. Ordering a cafe con leche is second nature; speaking to someone from Spain is a challenge, but I’m up for it.

So, there is my wish-list for my September Camino. I may stick with the above, but then again, I may choose to do what I have done all along….let the Camino tell me what to do!

So what’s been going on..?

The last few weeks I haven’t really been motivated to post. I have been waiting for a moment to pick me up and put a pen in my hand, so to speak! I think today I had that moment! Last week I found a Camino group on Meetup.com and instantly joined. The first meetup was today – “Have you ALREADY been on the Camino? Let’s have coffee”. So today I ventured into a cold damp Dublin city – quite the opposite of a typical day in September on the Camino. I met some great Camino veterans from around the Dublin region. I get a real buzz talking to others who have walked different “ways”. It was great to learn about the different routes. A half hour turned quickly into two hours. Everyone I met have planned, or are in the various planning stages of a return to Spain this year. We bounced ideas and hints off each other – what’s the best guide book (or is there a need for one?) – where to get the best gear? – what’s the best and worst experience we have had? At present, there are 150 in the group and most haven’t walked the Camino yet. Hopefully it is successful and more and more join in the future. If you are reading this and are looking to meet some folks from around Dublin, click on the link above and hit that join button!

In other news, I am meeting J and C; my Camino friends from 2013, on Friday. Since breaking my wrist, I haven’t walked any great distance and hopefully these few days will get the ball rolling for September. They are returning to Spain in September also to walk the full Camino. This will be a perfect opportunity to try out my Pacerpoles.