Porto – Vila do Conde
11 April 2018
The following information is found 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.
If you are comfortable with ‘finding your way’ switching routes remains a viable option …”
The phrase “finding your way” sounded really exciting! We therefore decided to take the Senda Litoral 😄. We both love the sea and could not wait to walk alongside the coast of Portugal.
The good news: The sun was shining! There might be some rain later, but we were hoping to walk in dry weather today.
We’ve 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’ve had to take the longest street in Porto, Boavista Avenue, to the sea side. This street is 5.5km long and is quite busy in the early morning with people leaving for work and parents dropping off their children at school … we’ve had to carefully negotiate our way through the traffic, but at least there was the prospect of walking next to the ocean for the rest of the day!
When we’ve 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 get to 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 officially left Porto. The wooden boardwalk was a relief to walk on after the hard pavement out of Porto. It was also great for the blisters under my feet!
No doubt, we are on the Camino and what a way to welcome us!
The view from the coastal route, was just splendid! I could take photo’s of the sea all day long – it always looks different.
The views were amazing
In Capela we found a small café on the beach where we’ve stopped for coffee. There were two pilgrims in the café – it was great to see other people on the Camino. Because there are different routes from Porto, we were not sure if and how many pilgrims we’ll see.
From here it was good to consult our Brierley guide book every now and then to ensure we were on the right pathway
The boardwalks was such a pleasure to walk on! The Portuguese government probably spent quite some money on this, but 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’ve continued on the lovely boardwalks!
In Obelisco we’ve walked pass replica Roman salt tanks (“tanques romanos salga”) which were used for salt collection and salting fish.
Roman salt tanks at Obelisco
We’ve also walked through 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 be at.
The fisherman’s houses “Casas do Mar de Angeiras”
The sun was now shining and it became a lovely day alongside the sea. We were fortunate to have this weather while walking the Coastal route. We’ve taken the wooden bridge over 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’ve decided to have lunch next to the ocean. We’ve found wooden benches and rest for a 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!
And then, either due to our full stomachs or inattentiveness to the Camino signs, we’ve lost our pathway. As we were trying to establish where to go, a couple of pilgrims came from the front. They’ve told us that the road we were on, were leading into a mud swamp and that we should turn around.
A German pilgrim (unfortunately we cannot remember his name), walked with us for the last 7km to Vila do Conde. He was such a friendly guy and between him, his GPS application and our map, we could establish the correct route again.
Berto and our fellow pilgrim from Germany chatting the last 7km away
I did struggle a bit during the last few kilometres, but realised I just had to walk through the pain that are caused by my blisters. There was no way that I would stop now! I was also concerned about the dark clouds that were gathering in the sky and were beyond excited when we’ve reached Vila do Conde without getting wet!
We cross 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 had limited time to complete his Camino and decided to walk further to the next town. We’ve greeted him as he turned right and we’ve turned left after the bridge to our hostel, Bellamar Hostel.
A view over the rio Ave from our room at Bellamar Hostel
And as expected, it started to rain. We were really glad to have reached Vila do Conde before the rain came down. We’ve walked to the café next to our hostel where we had a well-deserved beer.
A beer in a bar with the locals are always a bonus after a long day’s walk!
It was a long day on my feet, but I’m glad I’ve managed to walk all the way. This is hopefully an indication that I will be able to continue all the way to Santiago.
I must say, the beautiful views alongside the ocean, 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, definitely took my thoughts away from my blistered feet.
I can’t wait to walk on more of these beautiful roads!