Camino 2018 – Day 2 – Oia to Nigrán

May 8th, 2018 – Day 2
Oia to Nigrán

Our 2nd day on the trail and it was almost a shame to be leaving Oia. I would love to go back there again, there is such a sense of community about it. But we are on Camino!

Today, we walked to Nigrán, just over 22kms north of Oia and a little bit closer to Santiago. We would walk along the coast for the first hour or so, but we would be faced with a decision later on – either walk up and over a hill to reach Baiona or walk along the coast, the Senda Litoral. You can make the choice to continue on the PO-552 to create your own Way. It is much longer than shortcutting over the mountain, but you won’t have to climb the hill.

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At Pedra Rubia, there is a chance to get a sello from a chap at the side of the road, so we didn’t hesitate there. You are faced with that choice at As Marinas – either move up and over the hill or stick to the coast. It was still early morning and bright and we were in no hurry so we followed the ocean until we arrived into Baiona. We would be following green arrows, if any. It was so strange to be off the Camino, and even watching pilgrims walk up the hill made me want to change my mind. But I think I made the right choice.

We were in Baiona in an hour and we stopped off for a stamp in the tourist office. Fun fact for the day: the coastal route was made official in 2016. We chilled out by a cafe and had some tapas, watching life go by. I love the castle in Baiona and I suppose if I had time I would go visit it. It reminded me of Ponferrada.

We wouldn’t be finishing here however as Nigrán would be our destination – another 2 hours. It was worth noting we had been walking on pavement all day and there was no hint of a trail away from a road. I suppose that’s one of the criticisms of the Portuguese Way. We had no injuries anyway so far. We kept ourselves amused by looking for arrows and while there was a distinct lack of them up to Baiona, they became more prominent from now on.

We manage to find the puente romanico in A Ramalloso, which was built in the 13th century. We ventured back on the PO-552 to walk into Nigrán and found our room for the night. Tomorrow we would be walking to Vigo and getting to know the sea a little bit more.

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Camino 2018 – Day 1 – A Guarda to Oia

May 7th, 2018 – Day 1
A Guarda to Oia

Our first day would be a short day. 14km to be precise. And you would be right in saying that we didn’t wake too early either. We left the hotel just after 7am. It was a bright, clear, sunny Monday morning. Pilgrims were leaving the solitary albergue located in the town. but there were not too many of them. The Portuguese Coastal route is a quiet route. We noticed that on our first day. It was just the two of us for the first few hours until we reached Oia.

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For the first hour after leaving A Guarda, we walked along the coast. The sea guided us. There was no need for arrows. The ocean was our soundtrack for the morning. I remember saying to myself it is better than the constant chatter of eager pilgrims and clacking of walking poles. Solidarity! We pass one or two fishermen on our way. That would be it. Occasionally, the trail takes you away from the sea and towards the main road. The PO-552 is a busy road and we watch ourselves as cars pass at speed. So when the Camino veers back to the coast, I am glad.

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We arrive in Oia at the very early time of 11am. Crazy, right? Just in time for second breakfast! Oia is a fantastic little town right on the Atlantic Ocean. It has a golden beach below it and overlooking the own is the Monastery de Santa Maria. We see there is a tourist office here also and ask where we can find a pilgrim menu. Thank you to Ana in the tourist office in Oia. She was a great help. So first, we checked in at Casa Puertas, a smashing place in the village. Then headed off for second breakfast. Next, we must have walked a further 5km to track down a store and a pharmacy for the next day’s walking.

The evening was spent chilling by the sea, having a pilgrim menu and meeting fellow pilgrims, before packing up before the next day. Tomorrow would be longer, but not by much.

 

Camino 2018 – Day 0 – Dublin to A Guarda

May 6th, 2018 – Day 0
Dublin to A Guarda via Vigo

A beautiful day in which myself and my brother would walk a Camino together for the first time. We had been looking forward to this day since I returned from Spain in September 2017 and although this was to be a short trip, the whole point was to get to Santiago. Our flight was to leave at 6.30am. Yawning, I woke at 3am with an eagerness. We had our packs packed light and we were ready to go after our last cup of tea.

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Dublin Airport Terminal 1 was bustling, even for this time of the morning. We made the decision not to check our packs in so we carried our packs on the flight. The flight took off and within 2 hours we had arrived at Vigo Airport. A quick taxi ride later we were at the Estacion de Autobuses in Vigo for our bus to A Guarda.

A couple of hours of waiting and the ATSA bus to A Guarda pulled up in the station.  The sun was shining, it was Sunday and the bus was pretty much empty. That didn’t mean a quick ride, however, as the bus took the long route veering inland to Tui before turning back to the coast again. It’s only 30 minutes, so not to worry.

We arrived in A Guarda just before 1pm Spanish time and aim for our room for the night – Hotel EliMar. A fine place for two pilgrims. Within two shakes of a lamb’s tail, we were hunting yellow arrows and more importantly, tapas. All along the coast of A Guarda, you will find restaurants and shops.

It’s a fascinating town only kilometres away from Portugal, however, we headed back to the hotel, packed up and got ready for an easy enough first day to Oia. It would be a day of firsts. My first day walking on the Portuguese Camino and my brother’s first day on any Camino. We would cherish it.

 

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An Exciting Few Months…

It may as well be April. The clocks have gone forward and already the first sign of summer is in the air. Friends have reached Santiago already (Buen Camino L!) which only increases my urgency to return to Spain and search for the yellow arrows. But the next few months are busy. You could say I have started my Camino…but I have not yet left my home.

As mentioned previously, the first annual Celtic Camino Festival kicks off in Westport in Co. Mayo from April 13th. I will be attending for the weekend. I have the train booked, the hotel arranged and all events booked. April 13th sees the screening of excellent “The Camino Voyage” directed by Donal O Ceallachair – A crew including a Writer, two Musicians, an Artist and a Stonemason embark on the Camino not on land, but by sea, in a traditional boat that they built themselves on an inspiring, and often time’s dangerous, 2,500 km modern-day Celtic Odyssey. April 14th will see presentations, discussions & workshops by internationally renowned Camino experts. A Gala Dinner will follow with Spanish music and dance. And April 15th, there will be a Celtic Camino Pilgrim Walk of up to 25km along the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail & Tochar Padraig, including Mass in Ballintubber Abbey. It promises to be a fantastic weekend and we hope to see you there!

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If this interests you and you wish to attend, Camino Society Ireland along with Irish Rail are offering you the chance to win free travel and tickets to all events for two. Just go to this link to enter http://www.irishrail.ie/fare-and-tickets/camino-festival.

Following the weekend, it is just a matter of weeks until I set off to A Guarda in Southern Galicia on the Portuguese Camino. From there I walk to Santiago with my brother and it will be his first time on any Camino. What a trip for him?! Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog if you want to be kept updated while I am on my Camino in Spain as I will be updating the blog.

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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’.

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.

 

2018

As 2017 draws to a close, it’s only natural to think of the future. 2017 has been good but it’s a year I’d like to park to one side. 2018 has so much potential as it will be a year of firsts for me. As I have recently posted, I have bought a new apartment and will be moving in shortly. All renovations have been carried out and it’s just a matter of gathering up my stuff and moving it. Not an easy task.

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I am also due to walk the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route from A Guarda. An 8 day 159 km wander to Santiago will result in my first Compostela since 2011. I walk with my brother and this will be the first time I travel with another person to the Camino. I have no idea how it will turn out but if he gets bored of my very being-there, he can stroll ahead with some new found peregrino friends. That’s the beauty of the Camino. There are no rules. You just walk….

However, I somehow felt that I had another Camino in me for 2018. A short 150 kms isn’t enough. So I will go back in September and walk from A Coruna to complete the Celtic Camino. A short 4 day 75 km trek to Santiago will provide me with a second Compostela for the year. But it’s not about Compostelas at the end of the day. It’s about the meeting of lifelong friends and the sharing of stories, it’s about getting away from the stresses and strains of daily life and away to simplicity, and it’s about Spanish culture and meeting locals. I cherish that.

I will return in 2019 also, unless I am physically unable to go. I want to walk a longer route, possibly 3-4 weeks of walking. But I will see how 2018 plays out. Buen Camino!