Porto – Vila do Conde
11 April 2018
The following information is in our Brierley guide book:
“There are 2 different options, as well as an alternative route that can be taken from Porto:
- Caminho Central (252.4km to Santiago). This route is chosen by around 60% of pilgrims. It is well waymarked with excellent facilities and is a mix of quiet country lanes and forest paths.
- Caminho da Costa (273.8km to Santiago). Around 35% pilgrims choose this route. It is generally well waymarked, but there are stretches (first stage out of Porto) with no signposts. The Coastal way is a mix of small country lanes and forest paths with some sandy paths and boardwalks by the sea.
- Senda Litoral (alternative route). According to Brierley, this makes a good alternative for the first stage out of Porto, depending on prevailing weather as strong winds make walking difficult with sea-spray and wind-blown sand. Some of the waymarks have been removed in order to discourage this option with local organisations encouraging pilgrims to commit to one or other route before leaving Porto.
Brierley further states that “if you are comfortable with finding your way, switching routes remains a viable option …”
We are walking the Senda Litoral (mostly):
The phrase “finding your way” sounded really exciting! We therefore decided to take the Senda Litoral 😄. We both love the views that the ocean provides and could not wait to walk next to the coast of Portugal.
Here’s good news: The sun is shining! There might be a little bit of rain later on, but we were hoping to walk the full stage in dry weather today.
A long walk on Boavista Avenue to the coast:
We decided not to take the metro back to the Cathedral (where most pilgrims start their journey when walking from Porto), but instead start walking directly from our hostel. This meant we had to walk on the longest street in Porto, Boavista Avenue, to the sea side. This street is 5.5km long and is very busy in the early morning with people leaving for work and parents dropping off their children at schools … we had to carefully negotiate our way through the traffic – at least there was the prospect of walking next to the ocean for the rest of the day!
Already in Matosinhos:
When we reached the ocean, we were almost at Matosinhos. It became a bit overcast and was cold, but it was not raining (yet). The pavement was quite hard under our feet and we could not wait to reach the promised boardwalks.
On our way to Matosinhos – the lighthouse in the background (farol da Boa Nova) was built to alleviate the shipwrecks along the sea
We have now left Porto officially. The wooden boardwalk was a relief after the hard pavement out of Porto … and it was also much better for the blisters under my feet!
We are welcomed again on the Camino
The view from the coastal route was amazing! I could take photo’s of the sea all day long – it never looks the same.
Coffee break in Capela:
In Capela we found a small café on the beach where we stopped for coffee. There were two other pilgrims in the café – it was great to see other people walking the Camino as well. Because there are different routes from Porto, we were not sure if, and how many pilgrims we’ll see on our way to Santiago.
From here it was good to consult our Brierley guide book every now and then to ensure we were on the right pathway
Love the boardwalk:
The boardwalks were such a pleasure to walk! The Portuguese government must have spent a hefty amount of money on this, but I would say it was definitely a great investment!
“Under the boardwalk, down by the sea” … this song from The Drifters got stuck in my head as we continued our walk on the lovely boardwalks!
Sights to see in Obelisco:
In Obelisco we walked past replica Roman salt tanks (“tanques romanos salga”) which were used for salt collection and the salting of fish.
Roman salt tanks at Obelisco
We also walked past the traditional stone fisherman’s houses (“Casas do Mar de Angeiras”). Fishermen were busy working on their nets and it felt like such a peaceful place to stroll through.
The fishermen’s houses “Casas do Mar de Angeiras”
Walking into Labruge:
The sun was now shining and it became a lovely day along the ocean. We were fortunate to have this weather while walking the Coastal route. It was nice to walk over the wooden bridge at the rio Onda, which separates the town parishes of Lavra from Labruge.
The wooden bridge over the rio Onda
On our way to Labruge – a favourite overnight stop for pilgrims
At the entrance of the town Labruge, we decided to have lunch next to the ocean. We found a couple of wooden benches and rested while overlooking the ocean.
Lunch time – hard boiled eggs and cheese. As a pilgrim, you are always happy with whatever food is coming from your backpack
Is this the right pathway?
And then, either due to our full tummies or inattentiveness to the Camino signs, we lost our pathway. As we were trying to establish where to go, a couple of pilgrims came from the front. They told us that the road we were on, were leading into a mud swamp and that we should rather turn around … we could also see the evidence of mud on their shoes.
A new pilgrim friend:
A German pilgrim (unfortunately, we can’t remember his name), walked with us for the last 7km to Vila do Conde. He was such a friendly guy and between his GPS application and our map, we could establish the correct route again.
Berto and our fellow German pilgrim chatting during the last 7km of the day
I must admit, I struggled a bit towards the end of today’s stage, but I have realised I just had to walk through the pain that were caused by my blisters … there was no way that I would stop now!
We made it to Vila do Conde in dry weather (just):
I was also concerned about the dark clouds that formed in the sky and were very excited when we have reached Vila do Conde without getting wet!
We crossed the bridge over the estuary of the Rio Ave into Vila do Conde. The Igreja e Mosteiro de Santa Clara is at the end of the bridge
Accommodation – Vila do Conde:
Our German pilgrim friend had limited time to complete his Camino and decided to walk further to the next town. We greeted him at the end of the bridge where he turned right. We then turned left here to find our way to our hostel, Bellamar Hostel.
A view over the rio Ave from our room at Bellamar Hostel
Celebrating the (dry) day with a beer:
As expected, it started to rain as we entered our hostel. We were really glad to have reached Vila do Conde before the rain came down. We walked to the café next to our hostel where we enjoyed a well-deserved beer … ah, don’t you just love a beer at the end of a long day on your feet ☺️.
A beer in a bar with the locals
It was a long day on my feet (especially after I enjoyed a few rest days) and I’m glad I managed to walk all the way. This is hopefully an indication that I will be able to continue all the way to Santiago.
The beautiful views along the ocean, definitely made a difference to my frame of mind today. The sea always has a calming effect on me and watching all the beauty around me, took my mind away from my blistered feet.
In actual fact, I can’t wait to walk on more of these beautiful roads in the coming days!
Click here for Day 17 …