Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Camino Portuguese by the coast - a most helpful itinerary

With thanks to Rosemary Hillard who set out on her birthday in October 2013

Porto Cathedral > Matosinhos

along the Duoro
always water on our left
the sound of sea gulls

A beautiful walk ... following the river until it meets the sea.
Senhor de Matosinhos Pensão-Residencial

Matosinhos > Vila do Conde
We made a few wrong turns on this stretch (markings are contradictory at a few points but helpful locals finally got us on the right path). It was raining hard when we arrived in Vila do Conde and we were pleased that our room had a nice big bath tub and a family run restaurant right downstairs. Facilities were somewhat dated and basic, but very clean and comfortable. Good food and plenty of it.
                        Pensão Patarata
                        Lavandeiras Pier 18, Vila do Conde  
                        252 631 894

Vila do Conde > Viana do Castelo
The weather was not much better the next morning so we took the bus to Viana do Castelo to rest and reevaluate our plans (at this point we were seriously considering ditching the caminho and taking a train from Viana to somewhere/anywhere it wasn’t raining).

Pensão o Laranjeira

Viana do Castelo is a lovely town and Laranjeira a wonderful place to stay. We had dinner in the restaurant downstairs from the Pensão (both run by the same family) and it was truly extraordinary. This was the only “breakfast included” place we stayed in that wasn’t just coffee, juice and toast or a buffet ... this was a beautiful breakfast, served at a table with a white linen cloth. Juice, cheese, pastries, eggs, fruit ... delicious. Thus fortified (and with our spirits renewed) we decided to continue on the caminho despite the continuing threat of rain.

Viana do Castelo > Vila Praia de Ãncora
Another beautiful walk over Roman roads, woodland paths and rural roads ... marred only by a couple of very scary snarling farmyard dogs just a few miles from our final destination. I used my smartphone and a local sim card to make most of our reservations through on day of arrival or night before. If you set up an account with them you can store your credit card info. and contact information making it very easy to book a room... and it also makes you privy to special deals. Hotel Meira popped up as a “secret deal” for 24.50€ (for a nice room for 2 and a huge buffet breakfast the next morning). Granted this is a beach town and it was very off season but it was still a fabulous deal ... generally we averaged about 35€ a night for a double.

Hotel Meira

Vila Praia de Ãncora > A Guarda
Good signage on the camino makes it easy to find Hotel Bruselas. The hotel is a bit dated but our room was clean and comfortable and the place is well located ... an easy walk down to the waterfront. Halfway down the hill to the harbor (as directed by the hotel clerk) I stopped in a vodaphone shop to pick up a Spanish sim card for my phone ... ready to go. Took a great walk around town and later had a fabulous (fried little fishes, garlic shrimp, padron peppers) and inexpensive meal at the Porto Guardés Restaurante ... a very low-key local place right on the harborfront (I highly recommend).

Hotel Bruselas

A Guarda > Santa Maria de Oia
A beautiful walk along the coast to our next stop (I believe Hotel A Raiña was recommended by JohnnieWalker). This is a family-run place, very friendly and helpful people and the restaurant downstairs serves excellent food. The family also operates a taxi service and since they were already contracted to take someone into Baiona the following morning, the proprietress insisted on taking our packs along and dropping them off at our next hotel (she would not accept payment  for this). In the morning, before she left, she directed us to a short-cut to pick up the path. The owner’s son and daughter-in-law work at the hotel and restaurant too and both are deaf. If you know even a few signs you’ll get an extra big smile (I thank my deaf friends for teaching me a bit of ASL).

Hotel A Raiña

Santa Maria de Oia > Baiona
A gorgeous walk but the last hour into Baiona the sky opened up and it poured ... our shoes were wet and our coats dripping when we arrived. The kind clerk at Pinzon put our boots and coats in the boiler room to dry out and gave us the choice of 2 rooms (we took the attic room which was fairly large and had a skylight ... not to mention a nice deep bathtub and lots of hot water!).  The streets of the old city were right around the corner ... many affordable bars and restaurants and a lively evening scene. We liked Baiona and the Pinzon so much we stayed another night and were treated to a fireworks display over the harbor (all visible through the skylight in our room).

Hotel R. Pinzon

Baiona > Vigo
From Baiona the way follows the ocean for miles on a shared bike/pedestrian way. It's gorgeous ... you can see the Cies islands in the distance all day. Surfers were out at Playa America which goes on for quite a distance. Once you leave town you walk the pedestrian path on the highway for some miles until the path turn off using secondary roads then a nature pathway on the outskirts of Vigo. The waymarks are sometimes easy to miss, so if you seem off course, just regularly ask ... we found everyone to be approachable and helpful (it will help if you speak some Spanish).
Hotel R. Ogalia

Vigo > Redondela
From Vigo to Redondela (10.7 miles) you spend most of the day going uphill but you're treated to incredible views of the city, the ocean, and the harbor dotted with rafts supporting oyster farms. It was raining hard when we did the last stretch into Redondela and we did make a few wrong turns but finally arrived at the Albergue where we spent the night.

In Redondela you join the main Portuguese camino route to Santiago ... very well marked and with ample lodging at all levels from municipal albergues to paradors. 

Redondela > Pontevedra
We completed the camino from Barcelos to Santiago in 2012 so we were familiar with this stage. In May of 2012 we stayed in the municipal albergue which is very nice but a bit of a walk into town. Pontevedra’s a wonderful little city and we wanted to be able to enjoy the night life a bit more so we stayed at the Hotel Comercio, inexpensive and well located. Staying in town will also save you a bit of walking the next morning!

Hotel  Comercio

Pontevedra > Caldas de Reis
We knew this would be a long day (and we felt like indulging ourselves) so we had our packs transported by taxi to our next stop, Hotel O’Cruceiro in Caldas de Reis. It rained off and on for most of the day but a generally pleasant walk. Nice woodland paths and some through grape arbors and farmland. A few slightly scary highway stretches, but easy to forget once they are done.

Hotel  O’Cruceiro

O’Cruceiro also operates an albergue in the same building as the hotel (different floor) and word is that it’s very nice, like the hotel, clean and well cared for. Another plus is the lively bar on the ground level and a very good supermarket right across the street.

Caldas de Reis > Padron
Unrelenting rain! I obviously hadn’t rinsed all the soap out of my socks on their last washing as I had soapsuds oozing out of my boot laces! Pension Jardin was well located (in a beautiful old house across from a park, just a short walk from the cathedral) and the downstairs was rather lavishly decorated with antiques (probably original to the house). Rooms, except for one, were less lavish but very comfortable and clean.

Pension Jardin

Padron > Santiago
Overlooking the Plaza Galicia. Great location and value. It is located right next to the old town, less than 10 mins from the cathedral and less than 15 mins from the train station. The rooms are well equipped, the WiFi signal is very good, and the staff is friendly and helpful.

Residencia Fornos

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