SAINT JAMES WAY. PORTUGUESE COASTAL WAY 1
Portuguese Coastal Way to Santiago de Compostela
Portuguese Coastal Way to Santiago de Compostela : Part 1 from Porto to Baiona
The Camino starts in Porto, with its amazing Old Town, its scenic river front and home to Port wine. Porto is close to the Atlantic Ocean and overlooks the River Douro. Its Old Town along the northern bank of the river has existed since the Middle Ages. Porto today is a cultural centre, a creative and contemporary city full of museums, monuments, restaurants, bars and thriving shopping areas. The Music House, National Theatre, Palace of Bolsa, D.Luis Bridge, Medieval tower and the Cathedral should all be seen. It is also famous for its Port wines and a visit to one of the cellars is recommended, many of which are clustered close to the River Douro.
The Camino starts
At the top of D.Luis Bridge and then passes the Cathedral before dropping down to follow the River Douro towards the sea. However, you can take the Metro to Matosinhos if you want to avoid the outskirts of Porto where you get off at the ‘Mercado’ stop. Then cross the Iron Bridge and head left where the Yellow Arrow indicates and before long you reach the coastline and the start of nearly 100km of continuous,golden sandy beaches ! The Camino is flat and easy walking as it continues north close to the sea and beaches sometimes on the cycle-track or wooden walkways. There are only a few pilgrims along the way as it passes a small pretty, chapel Capela de Boa Nova then an obelisk sculpture and many,pristine Blue Flag beaches. At Angeiras you can watch the fisherman repairing their nets and boats and talk about the catch.
There is also a row of old cottages where there is a Sea House Museum with interpretation board in English. Then a bit later after crossing a small wooden,bridge over the River Onda there is a yellow arrow painted on large granite rock pointing ahead to the Castro of Sampaio. Climb up to a lookout point as the views are incredible then it’s back onto a wooden walkway passing a small beach with funny, rock formations carved out by the sea. Then the next feature is passing through Mindelo Bird Reserve with it large expanse of sand dunes and beaches interspersed with woodland. Eventually the camino crosses a bridge over the River Axe,the entrance to the beautiful town of Vila do Conde with the majestic, Monastery of Santa Clara to the right.
Vila do Conde is an ancient medieval Port dating back to 953. The Monastery of Santa Clara (1318), Matriz Church (16th century), the Roman Aqueduct and the Fort are some of its highlights. Follow the river out to sea passing the fortress pausing to admire the views before heading towards Pozoa de Varzim which almost merges with Vila do Conde. It’s a popular resort for the Portuguese and slightly cheaper place to stay.
As well as resting on the long stretches of beaches, the fort close to the casino is worth a visit.
By Mark Auchincloss for Pplaza