Cloister in Los Arcos on the Camino de Santiago

Cloister in Los Arcos on the Camino de Santiago

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Irish and the Camino

My cousin Norman and I enjoyed a 'camino fest' on Sunday 25th of July - the feastday of St. James and a very big day in Santiago de Compostela when the Feast of St. Iago/St. James falls on a Sunday. Coincidentally being the last Sunday in July it is Reek Sunday when Croagh Patrick is climbed.

The excellent day was organised by the professional team at who are based in Ireland. We met at the Church of St James beside Guinness' brewery just as Mass was finishing for the Friends of St James. This coincidence gave rise to some confusion as the Friends battled their way into the Church Hall at the side and fought their way to the top table for a drink of tea in polystyrene cups. Bewildered Camino enthusiasts added to the crowd and to the confusion. I may subscribe to the society through their website

A remarkably dressed Robert Poynton got our attention with a megaphone that at times worked. He had his coamino gear, his shell/scallop, a staff, ruck sack, all-season hat. I caught him for a few words before we started our tour of Medieval Dublin. He recommended the Portuguese Route. He hopes to walk the Northern Route in September - so hopefully I can follow his travels on the excellent followthecamino website.

We must have numbered two hundred pilgrims as we swelled the footpaths of Dublin. Our trip took us to St James Church, St James Gate,St Catherine's Church and Park, St. Augustine's Church, St Johns Hospital (the first in Ireland), City Wall and Gate, St Audoen's Church, Christ Church, Fishamble St and Bank of Ireland College Green. There is so much of Dublin I have passed hundreds of time without stopping to look over the wall or though the door.

We made our way to the conference hall in Trinity College where tea and coffee and lots and lots of chocolate biscuits awaited the hungry pilgrims. The conference was introduced by the amiable French founder of followthecamino Jeremy Perrin.

The first speaker was a director of the Waterford Museum of Treasures. He spoke at length about the Crusades, about Waterford and managed to get a word in about the camino before heading off on his holidays. Bon voyage! Or should I say Buen Camino.

The second presenter was Colm Bradbury, self titled 'adventurer' who sailed on the Jeanie Johnson from Dingle to La/A Coruna in 2007. Up to about 400 years ago Dingle was an important departure point for pilgrims to Santiago. Colm and his fellow Pilgrims competed the journey in 5 days to A Coruna and made the 3 day (75km )walk to Santiago.

The final presenter was David Clark, a Scot who is living in A Coruna for 30 years and is a lecturer in the local university. He gave a very interesting perspective on Galician Identity, in its struggle for Independence, for its literature and language and its close parallel with the Irish Experience.

The conference closed with a reception in the marvellous dining hall of Trinity College where the sandwiches were plentiful and wine was dispensed in a miserly fashion as at a wine tasting evening. Not drinking alcohol, it did not really bother me.

Norman and I made our way the Yellow Pancake restaurant (?) on Dawson Street which was closing just as we ordered our coffees. I shared with him my thoughts on Richard Dawkins and the Quakers and he displayed his thoughtful and very broad and well researched ideas.

We are germinating an idea of attacking the camino next May. Onwards and upwards. Sursum Corda.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Always begin at the end

I am not sure when it all started or how I first tripped over the Camino de Santiago.

I began researching the Camino around 1995. I borrowed some books from Michael O'Reilly the genial founder of Windsor Motors. Michael had walked the Camino perhaps ten times.. I thought I might walk the camino in March 1996. With very little research I wandered into the Joe Walsh Travel shop on Baggot Street one lunchtime in early January with a view to booking my passage.

The attractive young woman behind the desk was knowledgeable and widely travelled. She pointed out that it could be snowing in the north of Spain in March. 'Where could I go in Europe that was sunny?' I wondered. She pointed out that the Canaries were the only part of Europe that had guaranteed sunshine - mainly because the Canaries were not in Europe. While politically they formed part of Spain and therefore Europe, geographically they were just off Morocco although not part of the African subcontinent.

'But where in the Canaries?' I asked. She recommended Tenerife - she had stayed the previous year in a lovely complex called Parque Santiago in the popular resort of Las Americas in the south of Tenerife. That evening after a game of squash with Ian I produced the brochure and we there and then decided we would travel to Parque Santiago for two weeks commencing around March 17th.

Our flight was delayed leaving Dublin so we stayed in the bar drinking Guinness and watching a boxing match - it may even have been Barry McGuigan. We arrived in Tenerife about 4.00 am in the morning and got to our hotel around 6.00 am just as the sun was rising. Too excited to go to bed we jumped straight into the swimming pool you see in the picture above. And so started a love affair with Tenerife that has grown more passionate with every year that passes.

Eight years after my first visit to Tenerife Lorraine and I bought a studio apartment in Parque Santiago IV next door to Parque Santiago III where Ian and I had spent two weeks in 1996 armed with squash rackets. Amazingly it was to take a further few years before the coincidence dawned on me.

The emblem for Parque Santiago is not unsurprisingly the scallop shell. The scallop adorns the walls and the promotional literature. Between Blocks III and IV there is a statue to St Iago - Santiago. The builder developer and majority owner of the two complexes is Don Emilio from Santiago de Compostela.

My attempt to travel to 'grande' Santiago in Spain resulted in my travelling to and buying an apartment in 'small' Santiago in Tenerife. I don't believe in coincidences anymore! In 2006 I travelled with a friend to Spain to attempt to walk for a week along the real Camino. We walked for a week from Pamplona towards Logrono and beyond. In 2008 I travelled to Santiago to Compostela and spent some time walking the Finisterre Route with my cousin who coincidentally had been doing the Camino around the same time abd loacation in 2006!

Next year I hope to do justice to the Northern Route which was the original route. It skirts the lovely Northern Coast of Spain. Hopefully this blog is the first step in my travelling there!