Porto & Environs
I enjoyed two full days in Porto, Portugal. On the first day, I explored the main city and also took the opportunity in the afternoon to go visit the ocean by riding the delightful old trolley car that shakes and rattles along the riverside. Read that post for ideas of possible first day activities in and around Porto.
On the second day Karen (a French woman I had met in my hostel) and I left early to watch the sunrise from the Maria Pia Bridge, designed by Gustave Eiffel. I’ve been so blessed; once again, despite a forecast for rain, it is instead dramatically cloudy. Porto from the vantage point of the bridge’s upper deck at dawn is remarkably beautiful.
We returned to the big cathedral later after having some breakfast at 10:00 am to tour the attached cloister (3€). I even got a Camino stamp from the cathedral in the Pilgrim’s passport I carried all through Spain, and I noted with interest the Camino Pilgrim directional markings in the cobbled walkways outside, a reminder of the remarkable journey I had only recently finished (one can also walk the Camino Portuguese route starting from here, as well). Now I’ve walked a tiny bit (a few hundred meters!) of the Camino in Portugal!
The cloister at the cathedral is similar to the typical look of church cloisters I have seen many times along the Camino in Spain, with the addition of the classic Portuguese blue tiles that are used for decoration.
A trip to the outdoor Mercado do Bolhão near the Bolhão Metro station provides some interesting entertainment in the busy morning hours. A gypsy sort of guy greets visitors at the entry with some fun traditional music:
I enjoyed seeing all the traditional ware stalls (cheeses, bread, meats, fresh fish, tourist items; and the upstairs is lined with fresh produce). Certainly you will find something to spend some euros on here! (I did.)
(Outdoor market. It had rained only once this morning, and how did I “coincidentally” manage to be undercover for it?)
For Karen and I, we planned our afternoon adventure today to visit the impressive Atlantic ocean south of Porto, and as the simple expression goes: it was epic. This easy outing is very much worth including in an itinerary for those who visit more than one day in Porto. A word of advice: we had stopped into three tourist offices for information, and received different information for visiting this coastline at each office. Check around! Ask a lot of questions! Also, realize that if a sign says tourist information it might be a private company giving information with the purpose of selling their tours. The large information office just down the hill below the big cathedral was very helpful, as well as a large office on the (south side of the river) waterfront near the beginning of the gondola.
To get to the best ocean beaches we decided to take the train from the central Porto train station, going south. It’s a local train, stopping at each little city as it goes. For a 2€ ticket, we rode for 30 minutes to the seaside town of Granja.
Why leave Porto for a visit to the ocean? Simple: because you will find unbelievable beauty relatively close to the city to recharge your tourist circuits. I often find myself enjoying the city bustle in the morning, and then seeking nature in the afternoon when the city crowds get thicker.
Disembark the train at Granja and walk the short distance to the sea. Immediately you will find a boardwalk that, except for a few short sections, continues up the entire coast for hours of beautiful, easy, scenic walking.
Here’s a list of the villages along this stunning boardwalk coast. Karen and I walked for perhaps 20-30 minutes before coming to the jetty at Aguda. (You could also get off the train one stop earlier than Granja, at Aguda, but the approaching view of this magnificent jetty as you walk north towards it on the boardwalk is stunning and much worth the effort.) Perhaps the waves crashing on the jetty have different characteristics depending on the tide, but on this day the ocean was exploding into the jetty, the waves rolling down the length of it. A short video which doesn’t do it justice:
Mesmerized by the ocean crashing into the jetty, we stopped at Chez Mariz restaurant (with no sign out front), that had tables right next to the sandy beach. We ordered salads and fresh shrimp (for which this coastline of Portugal is famous). I couldn’t keep my eyes off the exploding waves! This is a manifestation of Divine Mother as vastness in the ocean, limitless beauty, and power. Finally, we tore ourselves away from this fabulous place to continue our intended walk to the north.
Continuing past a couple more villages, always walking on the pleasant boardwalk, suddenly we came to the Capela do Senhor da Pedra, a really beautiful little white chapel built on some rocks out in the surf.
The Capela (chapel) was really tiny and intimate. We had to time the coming and going of the tidal waves, waiting for the foamy water to rush back to the sea so we could dash out to the chapel steps.
The Capela was built on an old pagan site similar to other sites I had visited in Spain, which is how ancient pagan beliefs were converted to Catholicism (and not entirely successfully). Yet the original inspiration of this location remains, making this little chapel quiet, introspective, special. As before, we timed the waves to run back to the shore and the boardwalk.
Continuing up the coast we eventually came to (I believe) the town of Madalena; we had walked too far north to catch bus 906 back to Porto so we backtracked about 10 minutes south. This bus that returns you to Porto has only a couple stops along the ocean road. Be sure to ask when you arrive in this area where to stand to catch bus 906.
What a fantastic bus ride, while also costing less than 2€! (Pay on board.) The bus goes through some tiny villages, through which it is hard to believe this huge city bus would attempt to navigate. In some places the driver had to inch along, keeping the mirrors on each side only inches/cm away from scraping along the buildings. An inspiration struck me to record two videos of the bus ride as we got closer to Porto, both videos are really a fun look on Portuguese life, streets, and the scenery as we approached the big Maria Pia Bridge once again:
Such fun! I highly recommend taking the train down the coast, walking the boardwalk, lunching at Aguda, visiting the Capela, walking the boardwalk again (stop for some afternoon ice cream!), and then taking bus 906 back to Porto. We got off just before the big bridge, walked up the steep hill, and watched the sun setting on Porto and the river. Perfect timing! Excellent afternoon!
After preparing dinner in the hostel we went out one last time after dark to enjoy the city lights at night. Porto bursts forth in the best postcard images! The old buildings, towers, port warehouses, bridges, walkways along the river, old quarters – are all stunning in the night lighting. What a satisfying finish to a perfect day.
I walked the Camino de Santiago from 30 August to 10 October 2017, as a fundraiser to build a new Ananda Temple of Light. Having walked over 500 miles (800km) and 1,250,000 steps in this effort, I very much welcome your generous gift to help with the Temple construction. We hope to open the doors in July 2019, Ananda’s 50th birthday. All donations are tax-deductible, no amount is too small. Just like my walk of the Camino one step and one day at a time, each gift to the Temple represents additional blessings and energy added to the whole. Many blessings!
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