May 9th_11th 2017 – Dublin to Roscoff – My Camino gets underway from St. James Church in Dublin

This week’s photo shows St. James Church in Dublin from where my Camino and the 2017 Tour de Travoy started. For at least 800 years, pilgrims have been making there way from St. James Church and St. James Gate in Dublin to Santiago de Compostela. St. James was one of Christ’s 12 Apostles and his bones are believed to be buried in Santiago. So any church named after St. James anywhere in Europe has been the traditional starting point for the Camino. Both St. James Church and St. James Gate are located on on Thomas Street in Dublin and are about 200m apart. I believe that St. James Church was built in the 18th Century while St. James Gate dates back to Viking times or around the 10th Century.  St. James Gate is synonymous nowadays with the Guinness brewery but in medieval times, it was the main western entrance to the old city of Dublin. However, so many pilgrims passed through this gate on their way to Santiago that the gate was later named St. James Gate. Pilgrims would make their way down to Arran Quay on the River Liffey, where they would board a boat which would take them to the Spanish port of A Coruna. From there, they would hike about 65 km to Santiago de Compostela. Just like pilgrims in years gone by, I too will be catching a boat on my Camino. There is no boats nowadays from Ireland to Spain and while there is a ferry from Dublin to France, it is mostly for lorry drivers. So, instead, I plan to cycle to Rosslare in Wexford and get the ferry to Roscoff in France before then cycling about 2,000 km to Santiago on my Camino, which I have christened the Camino del Travoy.

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Setting off on the 2017 Tour de Travoy. It was bright and sunny as I set off from Phibsboro on this year’s Tour de Travoy. It mightn’t look like there is a lot of gear on Travoy but believe me there is loads. I weighed Travoy before I left and it came to 30 kg. As Travoy weighs about 5 kg, that means there was about 25 kg on the trailer. I also had a backpack with me which weighed about 3 kg. All the accessories on the bike weighed about 5 kg including 2 full water bottles. So all in all, there was almost 40 kg plus my own weight of around 60 kg on the bike. But my new Giant Anyroad bike is well able to handle the weight as it is designed for up to 200 kg and each wheel can support 100 kg. The rocky roads in Dublin are full of potholes but the Giant Anyroad just glides over the bumps with it’s 32 mm tyres. It is the most comfortable bike I have ever owned and with a lowest gear of 32-34, it should be able to get up any hill anywhere even with the big load on Travoy.

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GPO and Dublin Spire on O’Connell St. In Ireland, all distances are measured from the GPO so where better to start recording the total distance on this year’s Tour de Travoy than from here in the centre of Dublin. It is approximately 2,200 km by road and about 400 km by sea from here to Santiago de Compostela. O’Connell Street was a hive of activity as construction crews were trying to finish work on a new LUAS tramline, which is due to open in September. I am hoping to make it back to Dublin around the start of September, so hopefully the LUAS works will have finished by then.

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Total cycled Tuesday May 09th – 60 km. You can see 2 hills that stand out from the Strava profile of my day’s cycling above. The first one is Killiney Hill in Dublin and the 2nd is Windgates near Bray in Wicklow. Of the 2 climbs, Killiney Hill was by far the toughest eventhough it is not as high as Windgates.

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St. James Gate in Dublin. In medieval times, St. James Gate was one of the fortified entrances into the old city of Dublin but as the city got bigger between the 15th-18th Centuries, it was no longer needed to access Dublin city. In 1759, Arthur Guinness bought a large site for his brewery and this site included the old St. James Gate. So for the last 260 years, St. James Gate has been associated with Guinness but it’s history is much older than that and a gate has existed here for at least a thousand years back to Viking times.

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Aviva Stadium in Ballsbridge. The Aviva Stadium is an unusual shape due to objections from local residents that a conventional bowl shaped stadium would have created considerable shadow. That is why the roof is transparent and the translucent roof creates a shimmering effect almost as if the stadium is floating in mid-air.

 

 

Irish Ferries conventional and fast ferries. As I made my way through Booterstown along Dublin Bay, I spotted the Irish Ferries boat just after leaving Dublin Port heading towards Holyhead in Wales. As I watched, the slow ferry was overtaken by the fast ferry which is also operated by Irish Ferries and is called the Dublin Swift. It was also travelling to Holyhead and can complete the crossing in 100 minutes while the slow ferry takes 210 minutes. The 2 photos above are about 25 seconds apart but they show how much quicker the fast ferry is compared to the conventional ferry.

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View of Killiney beach from Vico road in Killiney. Killiney hill was the first of maybe 1000 hills on this year’s Tour de Travoy. The steep climb was a shock to the system and left me short of breath. I have no idea if Killiney’s most famous resident, Bono, the lead singer in U2, has ever cycled up Killiney hill though he is often photographed out cycling when on holiday in the south of France. He also famously broke his arm a few years when out for a spin in Central Park in New York. But I have never seen a photograph of Bono cycling in Dublin and he certainly would have a tough spin home up Killiney hill after a night on the town.

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Sign for Glenroe open farm in Kilcoole. Glenroe was an Irish TV soap, which ran once a week on Sunday evening for almost 20 years between 1983 and 2001 on RTE 1. In the 80’s and 90’s, it was probably the most watched program on Irish TV. My younger readers won’t have a clue as to the significance of Glenroe but to the older Irish generation, Glenroe at one time, it was Eastenders, Coronation Street and Fair City rolled into one. The outdoor shots for Glenroe were filmed in Kilcoole, a small village in Wicklow and the indoor scenes in the world famous Ardmore studios, which is located nearby in Bray. Gabriel Byrne, the Hollywood actor got his start in Glenroe and famous Irish mimic Mario Rosenstock also appeared in some episodes. But the TV show’s most famous resident was Miley Byrne who was played by Mick Lally. Miley’s most famous expresssion was “Well Holy God” and though it is faded, you can just about make out the expression on this sign for Glenroe open farm.

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First night in new tent at the Silver Strand campsite near Wicklow town. I have been to over 100 campsites all over Europe but I have never been to a campsite with as good a view as the Silver Strand. The campsite was quiet though the owner said they were so busy the previous weekend, that he had almost sold out of ice-cream. After a long day’s cycling in the hot sun, I so much wanted a Brunch but they were none available and I had to make do with an almond Magnum instead. I last had an almond Magnum ice-cream while climbing the Grand Saint Bernard on an even hotter day in the Swiss Alps last year. Only for that ice-cream, I may have collapsed from heat stroke as had happened in 2015 down in Agde in the south of France. I don’t normally cope with the heat very well but I managed OK today and the Magnum was nice way to end what had been a glorious first day on this year’s Tour.

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Total cycled Wednesday May 10th – 90 km. Total so far on 2017 Tour de Travoy – 150 km. A lovely day’s cycling though the sun made the going unbearable at times. I had forgot to apply suncream and the my bottle of Factor 50 was buried at the botom of Travoy. Normally, in Ireland, you don’t need suncream and my bike helmet also had a sun visor so I thought I would be OK. But the sun was that hot that my face was like crispy bacon by the time I made it to Wexford.

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All loaded up ready to go. It was very cold overnight at the Silver Strand campsite in Wicklow and I ended up with about 8 layers of clothes on just to keep warm. The next morning, the sun was shining brightly and the air soon warmed up. The day before I had to put my Camelbak backpack on my back as I couldn’t manage to find a way to secure it to Travoy. But this morning, I re-arranged some items and managed to strap it onto the trailer.

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Michael Collins Trail in Wicklow. Today was movie day on the Tour de Travoy. Not only did my route today follow the Michael Collins Trail, but I also visited the beach where Steven Spielberg shot the D-Day landing in Saving Private Ryan.

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Mural for Brady’s garage in Arklow. Murals are quite common in Northern Ireland but in the Republic of Ireland, they are quite rare. That is why this mural for a garage in Arklow really stands out. The garage was established in 1952 and the mural features a Route 66 and an Americana theme. Kudos to the painter and all those responsible for the painting as it really stands out.

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Ballinesker beach in Wexford. I said earlier that today was movie day on the Tour de Travoy and it was on this beach that Steven Spielberg filmed the D-Day landing scenes in Saving Private Ryan. Having been to the real Omaha Beach in Normandy, I can see why Spielberg chose this beach as a stand in location. The beach is the spitting image of the beach at Villiers-sur-Mer and the headland in the distance looks just like Pointe de Hoc.

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Ferrybank bridge across the River Slaney in Wexford. The campsite in Wexford is located right beside the Ferrybank bridge. Interestingly, anyone with a tent is charged €9 whereas anyone with a campervan or caravan is charged €20 in the low season and almost €30 in July and August. In France, most campsites charge the same whether you have a bike, car, campervan or caravan whereas an Ireland, anyone with a just a tent gets a considerable discount.

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Total cycled Thursday May 11th – 25 km. Total so far on the 2017 Tour de Travoy – 175 km. Just a short spin today to catch the ferry to Brittany from Rosslare.

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The last pub in Ireland. The Kilrane Inn near Rosslare famously advertises itself as the last pub in Ireland and I am sure in the summer it gets many a tourist stopping off to have a last taste of Ireland before catching the boat to the Continent.

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Arrival at Rosslare. Compared to Dublin and Dover ports, Rosslare is tiny and as I was one of the first to arrive for this afternoon’s sailing, it was very quiet. I rolled into Rosslare at the same time as the Oscar Wilde was arriving from France. So I was able to watch as the vehicles dis-embarked. The traffic was one third campervans, one third cars and one third normal vans. There didn’t seem to be any HGV’s disembarking but most of them probably travel via Dublin.

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Boarding the Oscar Wilde. It was around 11.30 when I arrived in Rosslare for the 4 o’clock sailing. I don’t think I was ever as early for a ferry in my life and had 3 hours to kill so used the time to update WhatsApp and Twitter. Boarding started around 2 o’clock and I was one of the first to get waved on board behind 2 cars. There were also a few motorbikes waiting to get on board but at the time, I was the only cyclist though later a few other cyclists did board the boat.

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4 berth cabin inside the Oscar Wilde. I had only booked a 2 berth cabin so was surprised to get upgraded to a 4 berth. The cabin cost €60 extra but I considered it worth it as I needed a good night’s sleep as I planned to cycle 90 km on Friday after the boat docked in Roscoff. A good night’s sleep is essential if you are cycling long distance’s and booking the cabin was well worth it. I am hoping to get Irish Ferries on the way back from France but a similar cabin at the end of August costs almost €150 so I will just slum it that night in a chair.

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Only 1 of the 2 plugs in the cabin worked. The cabin was really clean and comfortable but was far from luxury. Only 1 of the 2 plugs worked and the the wash-hand basin tap in the en-suite didn’t work at all. There were also no instructions as to how to operate the shower and by the time, I figured out how to work it we had almost arrived in Roscoff.

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Port of Roscoff. Irish Ferries and Brittany Ferries share the same roll on roll off ramp at Roscoff. The ferry arrived more or less on time at around 10.30 local time after a 17 hour crossing. The sky was murky but at least it was dry.

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Looking back at the Oscar Wilde after disembarking. I have been on other ferries where bikes are kept back until all the cars have dis-embarked but on the Oscar Wilde, cars and bikes were let off at the same time.

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Passport checkpoint at Roscoff harbour. You can see from this photo that it was the camper-vans and vans that were let off first but there were also a considerable number of cars on the upper decks on the Oscar Wilde, which weren’t allowed off the ferry until all the bigger vehicles had dis-embarked.

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Marina in Roscoff. The one thing that surprised me most about the French is the amount of boats and yachts you see in every small port. They are really big into sailing in France and every marina you go past is stuffed full of yachts and boats of every shape and size.

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Roscoff is the French name and Rosko the Breton name. Brittany has it’s own language which is an ancient Celtic language but it is more like Welsh than Gaelige. The region is so green and but for the signs and the traffic on the opposite side of the road, you would think you were still in Ireland.

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