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Our day fifteen on the Camino Portugués began our coastal journey from the Sé do Porto on the Senda Litoral. We used the riverfront and seashore route, or the Senda Litoral entirely for our day fifteen and not the separate and distinct Coastal Route, which eventually joins the Senda Litoral in Vila do Conde.
We decided that from Porto until Redondela, where the two Coastal Routes join the Central Route, that we would follow the seacoast via the Senda Litoral as much as was practical. We did this simply by keeping the sea to our left for most of the time!
However, there were quite a few places where indeed, it was not practical to follow the shoreline, or I was too tired to go the extra distance, so in those circumstances we used the separate Coastal Route.
The Portuguese Way beyond Porto was like starting the Camino anew, with many new faces, and the totally different terrain of the coast. It would take some adjusting from the solitary first half from Lisbon!
"Our task is to learn that if we can voyage to the ends of the earth and find ourselves in the aborigine who most differs from ourselves, we will have made a fruitful pilgrimage. That is why pilgrimage is necessary in some shape or other. Mere sitting at home and meditating on the divine presence is not enough for our time. We have to come to the end of a long journey and see that the stranger we meet there is no other than ourselves -- which is the same as saying that we find Christ in him." ~ Thomas Merton, From 'Mystics and Zen Masters'
I have no starting albergue/hotel for this leg, as we actually took a taxi from our hotel in Vila Nova de Gaia, a southern suburb, to the starting point at the Sé (cathedral) do Porto. It was to be a long day, and we did not want to add the extra 2 kilometers from our hotel. To book a hotel near the center of Porto, click here.
We did walk the actual distance, however, all the way to the cathedral, as you can see from our day fourteen. I was keeping to my promise of walking every single step of the way to Santiago, come hell or high water!
I placed our stopping points and albergues of interest along the way. For a complete list of accomodation, I recommend Christian's Accomodation File. He, I and other pilgrims are dedicated to keeping this as current as possible. Click on the file to download it to your device.
Interactive Google Map of Day Fifteen on the Camino Portugués
As you can see, the change in elevation for the day is minimal, 130 meters (428 feet) and most of it is the drop from the cathedral to the river, first thing. Then it is just mild upsy downsies, as you would expect when following a waterfront.
The Portuguese way from Porto to Matosinhos via the Senda Litoral is most certainly an untraveled route. We saw no other pilgrims. I have no idea why. We found this way to be most beautiful, peaceful and soul-nurturing.
There is something to me, about walking along a waterway and the ocean that is calming and extremely pleasurable.
Yes, this route is longer than the Caminho da Costa that walks through the northern part of Porto and its suburbs which have been reported to be less than desirable to walk through. Maybe this is why almost everyone takes the Metro to Matosinhos.
Pilgrims on the Metro ~ you don't know what you are missing! Future pilgrims on the Senda Litoral of the Camino Portugués, keep reading!
In the early morning light, our taxi dropped us off in front of the Statue of Vimara Peres, the knight on the horse by the Cathedral of Porto. All was still and quiet, a stark contrast to our prior visit at midday.
Here is a photo of the first yellow arrow across the main entrance to the cathedral, that I took in the bright light of day, the day before. Notice also the blue arrow to Fátima, pointing in the opposite direction.
Walking down the pictured ramp, above, our new day's adventure began! At the bottom of the ramp, we turned left and walked by the Pelican fountain (Chafariz do Pelicano), pictured in my article on Porto, and turned to the right to walk down a long set of stairs, below left. You can almost see the fountain at the top of the stairs in the photo.
Continue around and down even more stairs to the Largo (square) do Colégio. A church, the Igreja de Grilos is on your left in this square. Turn to your right to find the Rua de Santana, walk down it for about 50 meters then turn left onto the Rua da Bainharia at the yellow arrow, pictured below on the right.
After the yellow arrow above, we were unable to find any more arrows or waymarks! Our guide book showed a different way than the arrows led us, so it was apparent that all we needed to do was make our way to the waterfront. Easy enough, as all you have to do is walk downhill!
We did follow the signs to the Igreja de Sao Francisco on the Rua de Mouzinho da Silveira, past the Infante Dom Henrique Park with its statue, where we turned right on the Rua do Infante Dom Henrique to walk past San Francisco Church (See map above).
After the church of San Francisco the street bends to the right on the Rua Nova da Alfândega. This is where we joined the waterfront.
It is a good five kilometers (three miles) along the River Douro from when you hit the waterfront to harbor entrance at the Atlantic Ocean.
There are absolutely no signs or arrows designating the Camino along this river route. There is absolutely nothing to worry about as you just continue along the Douro River, keeping it to your left. It is impossible to get lost.
Alfândega in Portuguese means customs, and sure enough, we encountered this building, below, the Customs area and museum.
True to Portuguese fashion, a street changes names frequently, and here, by these interesting houses the street becomes the Rua de Monchique.
Just shy of halfway to the Atlantic Ocean is the bridge, the Ponte da Arrábida.
The reflections of the bridge on the river mirrored my own mood. It was so quiet and undisturbed as we walked along, before most of the city had even begun to move. The sky itself cast a subdued light on this misty and moody morning.
I reflected on why no pilgrims choose to walk this most glorious Way! I think someone, somewhere makes the determination that it is best to take the Metro to Matosinhos, and others follow, and the sentiment grows until it becomes the standard way!
I was very happy to be on this road less traveled. So lovely, so peaceful and so nurturing! There was not even cobblestone to rattle my feet along this river walk!
The small boats lined the shoreline along the now Rua do Ouro or "Street of Gold." Indeed!
The waterfront area has a lovely park here, called the Jardim do Cálem, with this footbridge and displays of old anchors and cannons. An interesting diversion.
On day fifteen on the Camino Portugués, the Way becomes the Rua do Passeio Alegre with wide open walkways that follow attractive wavy white granite setts. The name of the street essentially means the "Joyful Passageway!" I loved it! I was truly filled with joy as I walked along it.
Yet another park, called the Jardim do Passeio Alegre has wonderful palm trees that line the street as you get closer to the mouth of the harbor. The Joyful Passageway continues!
At the mouth of the sea, a fort called the Fortaleza de São João da Foz guards the harbor entrance. At this point we had now logged in about 6.0 kilometers from the Cathedral, which took us just over an hour. Smooth sailing, indeed.
When the riverfront ended, beyond the jetties, we turned northward to join the seacoast at the Praia (beach) do Ourigo along the Rua Cel. Raúl Peres, below.
Again, you cannot get lost here, as you just keep on walking north, keeping the sea on your left. There are lovely promenades along the sea from the town of Foz do Douro (Mouth of the Douro) all the way to Matosinhos.
In another 2.5 kilometers or so, after meeting the Atlantic Ocean, we came once again to the now familiar Castelo do Queijo, on the left side of this large roundabout with the Equestrian Statue of John VI in the center, pictured below. This castle is on the Hop On Hop Off Tourist bus route out of Porto (click to see photos of it) and we had a lovely visit here the day before.
Staying close to the seacoast, walk to left of the roundabout, past the Castelo on the Via do Castelo do Queijo. The Camino arrives next at another roundabout with a large, red, saucer-shaped sculpture that looks like a giant fishnet, but is called the She Changes ~ Anémona. You can see the weird-shape in the middle of the photo below:
We walked past this roundabout to join the Praia de Matosinhos (Beach of Matosinhos) and came upon the very first yellow arrow since the center of Porto. It was a welcome sight!
Matosinhos is a large town, and the Camino leaves the waterfront to walk inland a bit, following the Avenida Norton de Matos toward town. Along the Avenida we came to this building, the Matosinhos Tourist Office. The office was closed when we arrived at 8:30. It opens at 9:30, so if you are here then, use the opportunity to use the available restrooms and get a stamp.
Continue on the Avenida Norton de Matos, then turn left, after a small park, to walk on the Rua Heróis de França. This street is charming, just by the waterfront, and it is lined with seafood restaurants and a seafood market. I wished we could have stayed to enjoy it. But nothing was happening at 9:00 o'clock in the morning!
The street makes a bend inland and along the Rio Leça becoming the Avenida Eng. Duarte Pacheco. You are now at the dock area, where large ships are seen. I did not find this area ugly either, but very interesting, though quite full of traffic, so be aware!
Below is where we turned right, off the Avenida Pacheco at the famous Matosinhos Metro station, pictured here. The station is the building with the rounded façade.
We entered the Largo José dos Santos Lessa, below, and crossed the tracks to walk by the station. This is where most pilgrims start their Camino Costa. It is standard to begin their walk here, by taking the Metro from Porto to Matosinhos. It is ubiquitous advice that I believe needs to be re-evaluated!
Because the Metro station is where most coastal pilgrimage travelers start, we knew that from this point forward, the face of our own Camino was going to change dramatically. Our solitary walk was coming to a close.
The pilgrimage traveler needs to walk past the station on the Rua Álvaro Castelões and look for the blue, spiral pedestrian stairway up to the bridge. It is very easy to spot. I saw no waymarks, nor any yellow arrows directing the pilgrimage traveler across this bridge!
This bridge is actually a drawbridge, so hopefully you will not have to wait to cross!
After crossing the bridge, we came to a roundabout, where the Camino turns to the left on the Rua Hintze Ribeiro, to walk through town. This is where we saw our first yellow arrow after the Metro station.
At the end of the street through Matosinhos, where the Camino joins the seacoast once again, we spied a café on our left. We stopped for our first coffee break, after walking a total of about 13 kilometers to the Armazem do Caffe (see Google map, above).
And sure enough, as we were putting down our packs on the outside cafe table, pilgrims starting wandering by. Here are two, in orange, below.
Walking along the Avenida Liberdade was a joy. A lighthouse up ahead could be see for a long time.
After walking by the lighthouse, on walkways that parallel the Avenida Liberdade, we came to the Praia Azul (Blue Beach). Let the boardwalks begin!
Have I stated yet, that I love the seacoast?? For the rest of the day fifteen on the Caminho Portugués da Costa, it is mostly on lovely, feet, legs and hip-forgiving boardwalks!
The first treasure we walked by was this little chapel, below, and the look-out behind it.
I was happy to be down on the boardwalk level, by the beach, rather than up on the road that goes by the oil refinery, below. I just looked left!
After this stretch of boardwalk, above, that walks on the Praia do Cabo do Mundo, the Camino joins the Rua de Almeiriaga Norte, only briefly, then turns left off the street at this juncture, by the Restaurante Marize, below.
Back on the boardwalk on the Praia da Memória with the Obelisk Memorial the next landmark ahead.
This obelisk commemorates July 8th, 1832 when King Pedro and his men disembarked here to march into Porto and lay it under siege, thereby overthrowing the Absolutionist regiment. This monument was completed in 1864.
After walking on the Praia da Agudela boardwalk, the Camino Costa joins the Tv. do Areal street briefly, then leaves it to connect the next boardwalk system on the long, wide Praia das Pedras do Corgo.
After walking across the Praia das Pedras do Corgo, suddenly, a lovely café presented itself, with tables right along the beach, at the Bar Pedras do Corgo. Rich and I looked at one another and said, "heck yeah!" and went in to sit at this table with the best view, below. Our first oficial meal by the ocean! It was almost another 10 kilometers we had walked since our last break.
While having our break, we noticed two pilgrims entering the cafe shortly after us. They noticed us as well and we struck up a conversation. Rob from Australia and Steve from England.
We all set off together to walk the final 12 km or so to Vila do Conde. Here is the three gents, Steve, Rob and Rich which I followed most of the rest of the way. The gents were on more of a mission than I.
We walked to the Praia da Funtão in Lavra, below...
...and through Angeiras and its beaches of the same name, the Praia Angeiras Sul (South) and Praia Angeiras Norte (North).
After a lengthy lunch break, I was always a bit happier. I was so thrilled to be walking more on the "spongy" boardwalk, that my heart was singing out loud!
In Angeiras, there is a point of interest that the Camino walks right by, right along the boardwalk, the Roman Tanks (Tanques Romanos) for salting their fish. See here for more info. I do not have a photo of it.
This area has clearly been in the fishing industry for centuries, and just north of the Tanques is a quaint fisherman's beach. From the boardwalk we joined the beachfront road in Angeiras, lined with fishing boats and fisherman's pots right along the streets. A great diversion along the way.
After the beachfront, we joined the long Avenida da Praia de Angeiras and its boardwalks to walk into the town of Labruge, where we walked on the Rua da Marginal for a few hundred meters.
In Praia de Labruge at the end of the Rua da Marginal, where the boardwalk begins again, you will see a restaurant, O Banheiro Labruge, with a sign in front for the Albergue in Labruge, barely 1 km off the Camino. We did not stay here, but carried on. If Labruge is your destination, look out for this sign. If you prefer other accommodation or the albergue is full, click here.
Leaving Labruge, the boardwalk's next destination is the high point ahead at São Paio. Walking along and chatting with Rob, I learned he was battling a chronic illness, and was walking his Camino, while he still could. He was a brave soul and his spirit was most admirable. It was his first day ever on the Camino.
The boardwalk is fun here as we approached the high point, walking up and around the rocks to the Geological marker of São Paio.
There are three Iron Age engravings on the rocks, here at São Paio. In the photo below, we are reading the placard that describes the history of perhaps a Nordic Viking camp that was here and left the marks.
Despite searching around a bit we were unable to find the engravings.
The rocky outcropping created a lovely place for a rest and an apple.
From the high rocks of São Paio, the small chapel can be seen, below.
I also had the opportunity to chat with Steve and hear his story. This was his second Camino and he had walked with Rob's wife on the Francés. The Camino Family that he had formed on the Francés, was his priority and he was committed to assisting Rob along the way.
Once again on day fifteen on the Camino Portugués, it joins the road with continuing boardwalks along the coast and the Praia do Moreiró Norte. The beach is wild here, and in about 1/2 km the road ends, but the boardwalk continues, and shortly once again joins the waterfront road on a sidewalk to walk into Vila Chá along the Avenida dos Banhos.
The Avenida dos Banhos becomes the Rua da Praia with this colorful home.
The Rua da Praia becomes the Rua do Facho as the Camino turns farther inland to walk through town. The Way is well waymarked.
In the center of town along the Rua do Facho we saw a signpost to the Albergue São Mamede de Vila Chá, another 700 meters up the hill. If you were wondering, it is another 7 kilometers yet to Vila do Conde from here, so assess your energy levels before you continue onward. If the albergue is full or if you dislike albergues, click here to find accomodation.
Don't even ask me what the gents were discussing in this photo. Rich is up to his usual animation, I guess!
The Senda Litoral walks the pilgrimage traveler through town on the Rua do Facho, missing the long beaches of Praia da Terra Nova and Praia de Laderça, but if you were staying here in Vila Chá for the night you could get out there on them!
We continued walking on the Rua do Facho until it became the Avenida Marginal until it ended and the boardwalk began again. Here it rejoined the beach front at the Praia do Pinhal dos Eléctricos.
After the "Electric" boardwalk, the Camino joins the Rua da Gafa in the town of Gafa only briefly before it heads back on the boardwalk by the Praia da Areia in Areia.
Next it was through the dunes of the Litoral de Vila do Conde e Reserva Ornitológica. You can see Vila do Conde ahead.
We joined the road briefly, the Rua Dr. Pinto Ferreira, with Praia de Árvore on our left, below. Vila do Conde is getting closer!
We left the street again to walk on delicious boardwalks toward the final beach of the day, the Praia de Azurara. Vila do Conde is just ahead.
The boardwalk turns inland, and almost immediately you see a yellow arrow on a post, on the Rua das Salinas, shown below, directing you right and onto a small side street that crosses a flat plain and into the town of Azurara, just south of Vila do Conde.
In a few hundred meters we came to a T intersection and turned left on the Rua Francisco Gonçalves Monteiro to walk through Azurara. The way is well signed with arrows. Then where the Ave River comes into sight, the side road ends in this stairway, below.
All of a sudden you are back in "civilization," as you turn left onto the N13 and walk across the bridge into Vila do Conde. The Mosteiro de Santa Clara looms above you as you cross the bridge.
Just beyond the river a few hundred meters is the municipal Albergue de Peregrinos Santa Clara. This is a very nice, modern facility, built in 2016, and was essentially filled up on our day fifteen on the Portuguese Camino. It was the very first time on our journey that we stayed in an albergue that was full. Welcome to the Porto to SDC version of the Portuguese Way!
For advanced reservations in Vila do Conde and peace of mind, click here.
After checking in at the albergue, we met for beers with our new friends in the plaza, the Praça de São João in the Café Saura. The Vila do Conde municipal market is here in the plaza as well.
At the end of the plaza, is a lovely fountain with blue azulejo murals that I noticed while sitting in the café.
Beside the fountain is a set of stairs leading up and to the right, just calling my name to go explore! This stairway leads to the church, the Igreja de São João Baptista and its grand terrace.
The three gents wanted to have their second beer and I wanted to explore the town. I couldn't convince any of them to join me.
So I went to the church myself and beheld the most beautiful Fátima altar I had seen yet. And as it turns out, it would continue to be my favorite of all.
And from the church's terrace, one can behold the Monastery of Santa Clara, built in the 14th century, and the 17th century aqueduct system. How I longed to go see this sight, but after 32 kilometers and no one to go with me, I acquiesced.
The four of us had dinner later, at the Casa Ramon, mere steps from the Albergue. The restaurant was lovely and we had a wonderful meal.
Unfortunately, the stupid line from the movie, "The Way," kept entering my head, "El Ramón!" (the name of the albergue) from the scene where the pilgrims enter a bizarre albergue with a crazy man and no toilets! The crazy man keeps saying, "El Ramón!" as he stamps each and every credential.
We retired early, with bellies full on a funky double-size lower bunk, happy and content to be on the Sendal Litoral with new friends.
There are plenty of services, restaurants and cafés on the Senda Litoral of the Camino Portugués on day fifteen. Keep snacks in your pack for convenience, but there will be no need to carry lots of food and water unless you prefer it.
I thought the boardwalk system after Matosinhos on the Senda Litoral was absolutely fantastic. The forgiving boards were so easy on the feet, legs and hips after all that walking on cobblestone for the first 400 kilometers!
Walking along the waterfronts were so alluring for me. There is something about the sea! And the waterways! Maybe I would have been a good Portuguese sailor!
I welcomed new pilgrimage traveler friends on day fifteen on the Portuguese Camino, but it still felt different. There was a different pace and a new kind of bustle with many more pilgrims on the road. Plus the routes we walked were more metropolitan and the seacoast boardwalks brought lots of walkers, pilgrims and non-pilgrims alike. I can only imagine what summertime brings to this Camino.
Walking behind the three gents, I also felt the need to keep their pace. The pace was doable, yet with the lengthy day, I had to breathe deeply and be grateful for the frequent rest stops.
Rob and Steve's stories were inspiring, and I did try to put myself in their position. It was relatively easy, yet hard in some circumstances. I love to meet new pilgrims, yet this change in pace halfway through our Camino, felt like an intrusion.
I was jealous when Rich wanted to sit, have a beer and chat with our new friends. I wanted to continue to see all that I could see, even if by myself, as it turned out. My husband has incredible social skills and I would now have to share him with others.
I needed to adjust. I knew I would, but I also knew that it would take me some time. Interesting, how I felt the exact reverse at the start of the lonely roads out of Lisbon! But I had adjusted to that and I would adjust to this as well.
May your own day fifteen on the Camino Portugués be filled with newness, a change in direction and perception. May you see yourself and Christ in others that you may understand that we are all more alike than we are different!
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