Thursday, November 5, 2009

St James Gate Dublin to Saint Jean Pied de Port

I kept an old fashioned journal on my journey so this blog was a transfer of that and some other notes and jottings. Due to a corrupted chip we lost all of the photos and it was only thanks to the technical wizardry of a National trust photographer that we ended up salvaging about 50% of the wonderful pictures Frances took. The 'saved shots' are an eclectic bunch and we have lost some images from some days and places.
Frances took practically all the of the photographs, but those from Santiago to Fisterra are courtesy of Catherine- thank you both.
I think Frances' pictures are the real heart of the blog, and they seem to act as a catalyst for memories- the very best kind of 'Souvenirs'


April 5th 2009 - Palm Sunday Guinness Brewery St James Gate Dublin April 5th 2009. We got the first stamp in our pilgrim passports in the reception area just through this gate. The stamp features the carved head on the archway. The 'Black stuff' launched 1759, Frances and Nell born 1959 and half a century later set off on our journey in the year that we become, amoungst other things, 50 years old. Leaving families and work behind for 5 weeks we keep a teenage promise that we would walk the Camino "when we are old' -well its official if not old we're no longer young and off we set!

Frances and Nell at location of the old St James Gate (opp brewery gate), departure point for Irish medieval pilgrims.
Stephen drops us off at the airport found its strange to wave him off knowing I won't see him for over a month. Frances tells me Alma (her mother) said we'd be able to 'catch mass' at the airport chapel......somehow it feels right and we go to the Palm Sunday service -I've been flying out of this airport for years and yet this is a first for me. The congregation is an interesting mix of locals, airport workers and travellers- with our bulky backpacks and boots we certainly look as if we belong in the 'transient' group but I don't think I've made that transition yet, maybe it will happen on the plane? I take my piece of 'palm' (actually a twig of Irish yew) and tie it onto my pack-my 'camino bouquet'.

Once beyond security 'potential pilgrims' are easy to spot and some of our 'candidates' do eventually make their way to our gate. Considering how bloody obvious we are in our gear, we pilgrims seem a little shy of striking up conversation, but do covertly check out each others kit-like kids on their first day of school.I think we fall into the middle ranking here-but just wait till they see our 'twisty no pegs needed cloths line'!
On the plane we sit across from a couple Pat, a quiet Kerryman, and his wife Roisin. She is super fit, thin and walks for miles everyday-they are going as far as Pamplona. Immediately my doubt gremlin appears whispering "Shes only going to Pamplona... and you think you can reach Santiago".
During the flight Frances' toothache starts to really play up and shes fretting about it impacting tomorrow-but we'll play it by ear and see if it settles down .
Share a taxi from the airport to SJPP with Pat, Roisin and two other pilgrims and it works out very cheaply and gets us in a little bit earlier than we had thought which is useful. We orientate ourselves, get our stamp at the Pilgrim office, and they tell us that they have never seen so many Irish pilgrims and ask us why that is-we don't know maybe the recession?
The town is gorgeous and atmospheric though walking down the Rue de Citadelle feels a bit like a dress rehearsal -scary but not as scary as getting up there and doing your stuff-that comes tomorrow.
Stoical as she is France admits she will have to go to a dentist tomorrow-better to get treatment here as she's fluent in french than trying to make do with 'baby spanish' in a day or so. Its not hard to re-jig our plan as we have the time; in the morning she will go to the dentist I will get up early and go for a walk in a 'certain direction' and we can set off properly maybe after lunch and see how far we get.
Strolling around that evening I spot a woman I think I recognise - and as shes looking 'quare at me' I say "is that Laura Cuddihy from DIT?' Of course it is, despite us both living in Dublin we haven't seen each other for 10 years, and we bump into each other here of all places!
Laura walked from SJPP to Pamplona last year and this time has brought her friend Madge, they are going to do the whole thing over a year or two. Madge, an 'all or nothing kind' of gal, insisted she wanted to "do it from the start" and Laura doesn't mind as she loved the walk last year. They set off tomorrow and the weather report is great.

Later over dinner we interrogate Laura hanging on every word of our very own 'old timer'. Its amazing how calming it is to talk to a 'survivor' especially one who came back to do it again. They are a gas pair and we have grand, but I'm afraid not very pilgrim like, evening.
Laura shared the best Camino advise she got with us it went like this:- Having waited patiently in line for a shower for well over an hour she inquired of the person vacating the shower as to how to get the best out of the 'facilities' he paused and then philosophically advised "Laura... suspend memory!" She said it worked a treat and if one went into the scruffy cubicle and looked at the little dribble of cold water with the eyes of someone who had never seen a shower before it didn't seem at all bad.We both take this very much to heart. I think we may be using the "Suspend Memory" technique quite a bit.

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