Pepi walked the part of the Camino Portugués with three friends last summer and has taken the time to tell us about their experience.
Our group of four middle aged (but reasonably fit) folk from Glasgow set out to do another part of the Camino in mid September. I say “another” because a group of 5 girls (ok, middle aged but reasonably fit ladies) did the walk from Lugo to Santiago in 2019. It was such a resounding success that two of us returned home and very quickly talked our husbands in to joining us to do another part this year.
Our plan had been to walk from Vigo to Santiago but Covid-19 made that impossible so, at very short notice, we walked instead from Porto to Caminha. That route had us staying within Portugal and pretty much hugged the coast all the way.
Before we started walking, we did spend a day in Porto which I would definitely encourage others to do. It’s a stunning city with plenty to occupy us. The most obvious activity was a port tasting which was one of three highlights of the holiday for me. We went to Ferreira which was largely because the size of the place meant they were able to accommodate socially distanced tours and booking through the Internet was perfectly easy. The tour was fascinating and the tasting at the end went down a treat. None of us had really been port drinkers before the tour yet we found ourselves enthusiastically licking our lips. We all agreed that our favourite was the white port and the whole experience literally flavoured the rest of our trip as we ordered port numerous times throughout the holiday.
Day 1 of the actual walk was a bit of a palaver. The directions suggested we take a train out of town and start the walk from Matsosinhos. That was quite the right idea, as you would otherwise walk for a long time through uninspiring suburbs. However, we managed to make a meal out of getting out of Porto, then went a bit too far on the metro and finally the bridge across the river was closed. All that meant we got walking much later than we planned and it was a long, hot walk to Povoa da Varzim. Our spirits were improved by some excellent Sangria at the Dona Maria Pregaria, just as you come into Vila do Conde, and that spurred us on for the final leg for the day.
Day 2 saw us settling into walking on these exposed coastal paths which was easy walking but unshaded so pretty relentless in the sun. My friend had brought an umbrella with her which she walked with for much of the day to give herself some shade. We finished the day at Esposende.
The destination for day 3 was the historic town of Viana de Costelo. I thoroughly enjoyed our morning walk which took us a little bit away from the coast for a while. We had lunch at the Taberna da Laurinda in Ladeiras. The good news was that we weren’t at a tourist lunch venue but our language skills were so bad that we didn’t really understand the menu format and found ourselves having gluttonously overordered. My advice to others is just to order whatever their dish of the day is and take your chance on it. Everything we had was delicious but it was too much and was too slow working through the menu and waiting for them to cook special things for us.
By day 4, we had come to recognise some other walkers and enjoyed talking to them for part of the day as we headed towards Praia de Ancora. I loved that day. It was quieter than the earlier part of the route and the beaches kept drawing me in. I adore swimming in the sea and had already been swimming twice after we had finished walking for the day. There was going to be no holding me back that day and I had my swimmies ready in my back pack. When the town of Praia de Ancora was in sight, I dropped down from the path to the beach and hit the water. It was absolutely fabulous. I giggled with every wave. It was so refreshing and a great natural massage for my feet and legs with the sand and bracing water. People on the beach were amused as I then walked the final part of the route on the sand dripping in my swimsuit and carrying my walking poles and boots.
There is one highlight which featured for all four of us and that was the late morning coffee stop which we enjoyed so much, we stayed on for a round of drinks and then another round of drinks and finally lunch. It was day 5 of the walk for us, when we didn't have so far to walk but the route was lighter on for coffee choices than on other days. We came into Moledo, saw somewhere that had an upstairs bar area and headed straight there. It was called Paredao. The custard donuts they had at the bar were divine and the coffee was very good. The place had a great vibe and we loved the decor. The toilets were quite special, as was the Camino stamp they had, and we found ourselves going from coffee to a round of wine and beers and then more wine and beers with some more food to send us on our way. From our upstairs position, we watched the world go by from high stools and had a great time.
Our accommodation at the end of that day in Caminha was the Hotel Porta do Sol and I would pick that out as my favourite of the trip. We could see Spain from our hotel room and we pretty much had the pool area to ourselves. I also managed to get a massage which was very welcome at the end of the 5 days of walking.
My overall observations from this trip were of being so thrilled to have been able to take the holiday at all given the world pandemic. The weather was hot throughout which was welcome, even though we did complain at points about being too warm. There was no shortage of places to eat and drink, given that the route largely joined up busy coastal towns and the standard of accommodation along the way was much better than we expected. The coastal paths were easy to walk on - albeit there was very little shade across the 5 days - and the terrain was all but flat
Having done another section of the Camino previously, what the walking Camino Portugues lacks was that sense of being on a path with other people both physically and metaphorically. Whilst I am not religious, we had found ourselves affected by that sense of coming together with others both in the moment and with the many, many thousands of others who have tackled the journey over hundreds of years.
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