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Days 9 & 10 Oia to Baiona – The Paradors Conde de Gondomar

The Paradors Conde de Gondomar

I caught the first bus out leaving at 7.30am forgoing breakfast otherwise; I would have to wait until 3pm for the next bus. I was tired, having not slept well and I decided if I could not get an early check-in, Baiona was a larger city and there was more to do.

The Paradors Conde de Gondomar is situated on the Monterreal peninsula overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, It is an actual medieval fortress with battlements and lovely walks within its walls. Truly, an elegant hotel, I fell in love with this hotel. We had a large room with a sea view. I was able to check in early and as I had missed, breakfast took it here. I relaxed before going to take a long nap drifting off to the sounds of the waves. Up later, I met John in reception and he too was as surprised as I was with the location of this hotel.

There is a lot to do in Baiona, which has a lively atmosphere due to the many restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. You can enjoy a drink at the terrace cafés by the sea as well as many popular nightspots. We went out for drinks and then found a restaurant in the old part of town. The second day was the rest day for the walkers and we just enjoyed walking around after breakfast in town as well as the hotel grounds.

Baiona is famous as Villa de la Arribada (Port of Entry), as it was the first place in Europe to learn of the discovery of America, 3 days before Columbus’s La Nina sailed into Lisbon Portugal. There is a replica of the La Pinta ship in the harbour, that we visited.

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Day 8 A Guarda to Oia or Viladesousa

Oia

Just one very early morning bus or the one I took at 2.30pm. This bus route runs along the western slope of the Serra da Groba , which does have fantastic views and a section is called the Magic Route of Oia. As usual, I showed the bus driver the address of today’s destination – the Hotel Restaurante Costa Verde in Oia (on the map looks nearer to Viladesousa) but discovered it really does not matter as it is just one road so it is hard to get lost. As luck would have it, there is a bus stop right outside the hotel. As I had left later than usual the guys arrived shortly after so we all sat down together for afternoon coffee. Dinner was in the hotel restaurant and again was good. The hotel itself was pretty dated, and even with a sea view, I could not wait to leave and John reminded me that our next stop was two nights at the Parador in Baiona. Yes!  

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Day 7 Vila Praia de Âncora Portugal to A Guarda Spain

Leaving Portugal

Today was a little different; I had to take the train to Caminha, which takes just 10 minutes. You buy your ticket on the train, as there is no ticket office in Vila Praia de Âncora. As I waited I noted there was much fussing about what to do from the other travellers when the train did not arrive at the scheduled time. One traveller, Eduardo spoke English and said that this sometimes happened and as there was no one to ask, you just did not know. My only choice would have been to take a taxi, but after 15 minutes, the train rolled in. We exited in Caminha and Eduardo very kindly walked me to the ferry terminal; I think he wanted to practice his English as he is planning to study in London UK in the fall. At the ferry terminal, there is a bar where you can wait if you are early. We were to meet at around 11am to take the 11.30am ferry. We agreed if either one of us was delayed we would meet at the hotel.

The Ferry

Shortly after John and JB arrived, we bought our tickets and boarded the ferry which also takes vehicles and just 10 minutes to cross the Río Miño, almost as it meets the Atlantic from Caminha Portugal to Camposancos Spain, 2km south of A Guarda. Spain is one hour ahead of Portugal. Once we arrived the guys put me into a taxi to the Vila Da Guarda Hotel as there were no buses to A Guarda town and they took off walking. No English is spoken at the hotel but using google translator on the hotel computer we did just fine. The Vila Da Guarda is a very modern hotel and we had a lovely room.

A Guarda Harbour

A Guarda is a very pretty seaside town and fishing port with restaurants and bars overlooking a typical harbour setting, which is the oldest part of town near Praza do Reló.

Monte de Santa Trega

With the Atlantic behind you can look up to Monte de Santa Trega, rising up just outside of the town. We were on half board but we were taken down to Puerto Guardes, a harbourside restaurant where all the locals where eating and drinking, we had a fine meal of swordfish with local wine.

The Seaside Pathway

After dinner, we took the walking path that hugs the coastline and watched an incredible sunset. We walked back to the hotel getting a little lost on the way. The shopping district is quite large and although a lot was under construction, it will be very nice when it is finished.

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Day 6 Viana do Castelo to Vila Praia de Âncora

I choose the 2.30 train with RE – Comboios De Portugal to take me from Viana do Castelo to Vila Praia de Âncora so I was able to spend the first part of the day in Viana (and this was almost as good as another day). I knew that Vila Praia de Âncora was just a small town and I would be able to see the main spots in an afternoon. After breakfast and checking out of the Viana Axis I turned left and walked 15 minutes to the train station. I confirmed the times and purchased my ticket before wandering around Viana, again it was a really hot day.

The Center

The 2.30 pm train was an express taking only 17 minutes and upon arriving I left the station turning left for the Hotel Meira which was just a minute away. This was to be our last night in Portugal. Day 7, we would be in Spain.

The River meets Ocean & Beach

Vila Praia de Âncora is another very pretty seaside sojourn on the Costa Verdi. Located at the end of the Âncora River, Vila Praia de Âncora means “Beach City of the Anchor”. After checking in the usual routine followed, a walk down to the beach and river with a stroll around town was another pleasant way to spend the afternoon followed by coffee and some reading. We had dinner at the hotel that night as we were on half board.

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Day 4 Povoa de Varzim to Esposende – Actually Ofir Beach near Fão

Ofir Beach Portugal

Today I took the A.V.Minho bus line,* to Esposende. It was a 25- minute walk to the PdeV bus station, which in May 2019 has a new station in the process of being built. You pay for your ticket on the bus. They do have change and most fares are by distance, about 2-3 Euros. The bus station is in the town center near Almada Square. The buses do not run on time but it is best to be there for the scheduled stop time. I found using the rometorio app gave me the information that I needed and then I could look at other sites to make sure that I had selected the best route.

Ofir Beach Portugal

The Axis Ofir Beach Resort hotel address is registered, as being situated in Esposende but is in reality located just outside the town of Fão, 3km away from the town center of Esposende, and Ofir beach is an additional 1km walk! A 30 minutes bus ride plus my additional 4km walk and it was hot! That taught me to read the walking notes; even though I was not walking the Camino route, it would have been helpful. Sensible packing of a sunhat and a lightweight shawl protected me from sunburn. I walked to Ofir from Esposende over the Ponte de Fão bridge of the Cávado River, which is part of the Litoral Esposende protected landscapes. I then turned right to walk down to the Axis Ofir Beach Hotel, passing homes, hotels, and apartments, some derelict but ripe for redevelopment.

Ofir Beach Portugal

The area is stunningly beautiful with large sand dunes, pine trees and the wonderful beach for surfers, sunbathers, and swimmers. Fishing in the river as well as forested areas for hiking and biking. At low tide, many rocks become visible; the locals here call them “The Horses of Fão”. Although this was an Axis hotel, the look was, very different. A good walk along the beach and some paddling made for a nice afternoon followed with coffee and my reading time. We had a wonderful meal with wine and a good breakfast the next day so we were very pleased. 

*The Minho Bus Line starts in Porto and goes all the way to Viano do Castelo.

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Day 3 Leaving Porto & starting the Camino Portugués

Povoa de Varzim Portugal
Povoa de Varzim Portugal

You can start walking the Camino from the Cathedral Se in Porto or from Matosinhos, which shaves off 8 km and is easily reached by metro or bus, Matosinhos is a fishing port and beach that the people of Porto visit in droves during the summer for some R&R. The first stop on our route was Povoa de Varzim, (PdeV) and I was delighted to discover that I could take the Porto Metro all the way there. After checking out of the hotel I walked up to São Bento station and took the metro to Trindade on route D – yellow line, where I changed platforms and a moment later bordered route B – red line, taking just over an hour to reach PdeV. The cost was E2.80. It is the last stop on the red line.

Atlantic Ocean

PdeV is a modern resort town with lots of shopping, but it is the magnificent beach, that you will entice you. With golden sands, seashells, and clear waters that extend along the entire length of Povoa de Varzim, I know because I walked it. We were booked in at the Axis Vermar, which was close to the beach and had a pool although too cold to swim. I took another long walk on the beach and collected seashells and took some photos. Back to the hotel for coffee and a sandwich and I relaxed with my book. This hotel is geared to conventions, and conferences and the evening meal here reflected that. This was not a hotel for Camino walkers.

Strong Surf
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My Camino Portugués (Portuguese Camino) by Train and Bus from Porto

Porto Portugal

My husband is an avid hiker who has now walked the Camino Francés (French Way) from St Jean-Pied-du-Port to Santiago de Compostela twice. It is the most popular route of all and there are approximately 38 different Caminos according to the Museum of Pilgrimage and Santiago in Santiago de Compostela. The second most popular route is Camino Portugués, which begins in either Lisbon or Porto. John wanted me to come along to take in the sights but I am not a walker so although I could have cycled, I chose to take public transport, check in to the hotel and tour the daily destination. We would usually meet up at the hotel in the late afternoon or early evening. All our accommodation was pre-booked with bed & breakfast and we had daily luggage transfers hotel to hotel with Camino Ways.

Day 1-2 Porto.

After an overnight flight from Canada with a connection in Lisbon that was unfortunately delayed, we arrived in Porto late afternoon at the beginning of May 2019. We were booked into the Hotel Carris Porto Ribeira, which is located on Rua do Infante D. Henrique in the city center just one block from the River Douro. John had also booked taxis for airport transfer arriving and departing, although if you want to save some money, the Porto Metro service is easy and very efficient and the least expensive way into Porto’s city center. It takes about 30 minutes on the purple line and is less than E2.

Ribeira Square Porto

The weather had been calling for rain but as it was dry upon arrived, we decided to explore the area. Ribeira’s historic area is narrow; with cobblestoned streets that have an abundance of small bars and restaurants. (Do make sure you have flat footwear to protect yourself from falling or worse). From the main entrance of the hotel, we turned right and right again walking down to the Douro River, through Praça da Ribeira square, which still has the colorful 18th-century townhouses. We had a much- needed coffee at a local café, a walk by the river before we set out to find a restaurant with tapas and new wines (to us) at Porto 4.

Ponte de D. Luís Bridge

Day 2 The Twin Cities

It may be Portugal but practically everyone speaks English in Porto, so much so that it felt like a suburb of Britain! We had an excellent breakfast at Hotel Carris Porto Ribeira, complete with a glass of sparkling wine, we walked over the Ponte de D. Luís Bridge, which is an impressive two hinged double deck arched bridge from Porto to Gaia to stroll along the riverside on the Avenue de Diogo Leite and visit some of the Port wine cellars, some of which I had never heard of before, known here as caves. These are major tourist attractions offering tours and tastings. Most of the bars and restaurants will offer flights of port usually around 5 different ones too. Here down a side street,  you will find the “Half-Rabbit” This large piece of street art has been created entirely out of garbage complete with a municipal road sign.  Everyone takes a photo!

Half Rabbit Gaia

Another way to view the Port wine area in Vila Nova de Gaia is to take the cable car from the top located in The Jardim do Morro Park. It is near to the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar that offers great views of Porto and is at the top of the cliffs on the southern side of the Douro River. Take the cable car down to Cais de Gaia, on the river bank or vice versa. You can also use the funicular to save walking up or down the hill before crossing over the Ponte de Dom Luis Bridge to Gaia or on your return. These both have fees although it may be worth it for anyone with mobility issues. You can also take a jaunt on the Douro on a Rabelo boat; these were the charming cargo boats traditionally used to transport Port wine from the vineyards to Vila Nova de Gaia. Today, they offer cruises for tourists.

Rabelo on River Douro
Cable Car Gaia

Still, in Gaia, we visited the Monastery of St. Domingos das Donas, there was no charge to tour. There is the church itself entered through a long courtyard, with a well-lit alter, and seating which contrasts with the darker upper floor of choir-high seating set on two levels, in a “U” shape. The ceiling, decorated by 49 oil paintings, represents church themes.

Strolling back, we stopped at the Pink Market for lunch, so called for the reddish pink brick, which is like a big food court with many local specialties to indulge in. For beer drinkers, Super Bock is the Portuguese brand and it is good, also sold in flights, especially on a hot day. We also had the best pink sparkling wine by Mateus, not the original distinctive pink bottle sold everywhere, this Mateus, came in a champagne style bottle, kept in the Sandeman bar and patio. Sandeman appropriately serves a large selection of Port wine cocktails for lighter drinking. On a side note, many of the wines served in the bars, restaurants, and café are Vino Verdi or younger wines, which I do not see in Canada, they are light, refreshing, and very easy to drink. Surprisingly, they are less expensive, even in Euros.

São Bento Railway Station

Back in Porto, we walked up to towards ‘Estação de São Bento’ the railway station where our friend was staying, literally at the station at Passengers hostel. The station entrance hall is well worth a visit as it features over 20,000 tiles commemorating historical events. Another way to see Porto is by Tram, at this time, there are roughly a dozen vintage trams that track the last three tram lines. This is a fun way to see Porto’s cobbled streets in the city center.

Tram in Porto

In search of dinner, we found a restaurant populated by locals. JB was hungry and had the “Francesiha”, an enormous toasted sandwich made with an assortment of ham, veal, steak, sausage, chorizo, cheese, and an egg. It was set in a bowl of a rich sauce made with beer and peri-peri and came with chips/French fries. He ate it all and pronounced it very good. We had lighter, but tasty fare. The pastries are delicious and there is an abundance of them in all the bakeries. Pastel de Nata is Porto’s version of the Pastel de Belem from Lisbon.

Pastel de Nata & coffee

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Tour Guide – A walk in London – London Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge

London, (UK) is my hometown and on a recent visit we took this walk, starting at London Bridge Station, passing the Shard which is an impressive triangular shaped skyscraper and then hitting Borough High Street, we stopped at The George a really old coaching Inn (I am talking stagecoach, not motor coach) for a drink. Then on to Borough and Jubilee Markets, which are super trendy with lots of character.

 Here is The Clink, London’s first jail and now a tourist attraction.
Past this lovely pub opposite
Sir Francis Drake’s The Golden Hind
On past Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
To the Millenium Bridge
A view of St Paul’s Cathedral on the Millenium Bridge
And Tate Modern
Down Carter Lane passing Wardrobe Place – great sign for a walk in closet
And it is so pretty and quiet!
Last stop. The Black Friar pub at Blackfriars, more drinks this is another old ale house.This one would be great in a Dan Brown novel with all the words and symbols.