This was the first official day of my Camino de Santiago and a long one at 31km.
I stayed in central Porto and took the first metro just after 6 am back out to Matasinhos, as I walked there along the coast the previous day. Exit at Mercado station (about 40 mins from Trindade station, central Porto) and cross the Ponte Móvel de Leça bridge immediately.
I saw a pilgrim miss this turning the previous day and head off to the interior, headphones in, oblivious to the turn. The way markings are harder to spot in urban environments.
Walk with the ocean on your left.
Soon the path turns to a boardwalk, which makes up a lot of today’s walk. The boardwalks protect the ecology of the dunes and you can see succulents and other plants, and lots of birdlife as you walk.
Waymarkers are easy to spot, and no navigation is needed as the ocean keeps you focused.
Fishing villages haven’t changed much! These are Roman fish salting tanks from the 3-4th century at Lavra.
Many pilgrims stay at Labruges, so it can get busy at that point depending on how you manage the route. By the time I got to Labruges, most pilgrims had already moved on. As a solo traveler, I enjoy walking alone.
A signpost at Labruges shows the way ahead, and also the route to the Shrine of Fatima, which is basically the Camino in reverse.
The boardwalk continues protecting the dunes and the wildlife and plants as part of the Paisagem Protegida Regional do Litoral de Vila do Conde e Reserva Ornitológica de Mindelo.
In places, dunes overtake the path, but mostly the boardwalk is easy, flat walking.
Eventually, the path enters the suburbs again. I passed a graveyard, the first of many. It’s always good to reflect on mortality on these pilgrimages. Memento mori.
Póvoa de Varzim is a busy tourist town, which I walked through as fast as possible, as my hotel was north of the center along the seafront. After the peace of the dunes, it was a bit of a shock to arrive somewhere so commercial.
Continue the Camino journey: Póvoa de Varzim to Esposende
Accommodation: I stayed at the Hotel Axis Vermar, as part of my Macs Adventure tour. A large tourist hotel. The room was nothing special, but I had views of the sea and kept my doors open so I could hear the waves all night. The breakfast buffet was good as long as you arrived early as the hotel had some coach tourists who flocked to the buffet early! All my accommodation included breakfast, and it was my main meal of the day. Portuguese restaurants are usually open 12 until around 4 pm for lunch, then close until 8 pm when they open again for dinner.
Facilities: Portuguese cafes don’t usually open until 10 am, so if you start early, it will be a while until you can find places that are open. Google Maps was useful for finding places off the path as there was nothing on the Camino itself in the first few hours. I did find espresso for 70c (less than a EUR) off the path. Bonus! There are plenty of public toilets along the beachfronts and then more cafes towards the end of this walk.
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