Cheese drizzled with oregano and olive oil, prawns covered in garlic, the heat of the sun on our skin as the water lapped against the shore. This was the life!
With our bags packed, boots on, and Google Maps firmly by our side our goal was to head across the border into Spain but not before we took a bit of a detour to the coast!
It was from Sao Bento train station in Porto that we arrived in Viana do Castelo, a municipality in the Norte Region of Portugal.
While many will skip past Viana do Castelo, it’s a place that’s worth taking a gander around if you have a day to spare. It’s described as a “city” even though it has a population of around 36,000 with the surrounding area housing the remaining 50,000.
While it might not be the most exciting place to visit, it still holds its own charm with a Hollywood-esque promenade down to the waterfront and an old town full of character.
I plan on doing a full piece on the accommodation we rested in at a later date, but the hotel we stayed in called Hotel Jardim certainly had its charm. Located at the bottom of the main promenade it had prime access to old town and the water.
One thing that we quickly learned on our trip was that it was good to take recommendations from locals because most of the time, they were right!
From the outside, Restaurante O Garfo didn’t look like much. A simple white exterior with nothing major to talk about, it was the inside that brought it to life. The tiny restaurant managed to fit 20 people and it almost felt like you were in someone’s house waiting for the feast.
The cheese starter was covered in olive oil and oregano and we savoured each bite. The prawns were coated in garlic and the fish we ate was fresh from the sea. It was simple, cheap, homely food and we loved it.
The next day we hopped back on the train headed to Vigo (which turned out to be a bit daunting as they don’t make train announcements in English!)
Crossing the border into Spain, our tickets were checked twice and we made the conscious switch from practicing our Portuguese to Spanish. Vigo was where we were officially to start walking from and we arrived to a band playing music in one of the squares; perfect to ease us into Sunday morning.
The city, like many we found on our Camino journey, also had an old town area that was lined with cobbled streets but because it was a Sunday, we found it almost deserted. It was a strange feeling, too quiet and lacked the buzz of Porto.
We planned to stay two days there to prepare for the first 22km to Redondela and also to meet up with my friend Diana who I met in India!
Vigo has the third biggest port in the world which also provides a lot of the city’s employment, but it seemed also to be dominated by an industrial vibe.
As the sun set on Vigo for the first night, we admittedly missed the busy sounds of Portugal with our fingers crossed that the next day would be better.
General tips for Viana and Vigo:
- In Viana do Castelo make sure that you confirm that things are open or not. We spent ages looking for the very poorly signposted Funicular de Santa Luzia to discover that it was broken down. Unfortunately, no one told us this and we wasted an hour.
- Take recommendations and do look at Trip Advisor. We had an unpleasant experience in Vigo for dinner at Rias Gallegas because we didn’t do enough research and everywhere we wanted to go was closed on a Sunday.
- Looking for places to eat? As recommended by my friend Diana, try places like A Regueifa, Lume de Carozo, or Rias baixas 2.
- If we were to arrive in Vigo or any place in Spain we would try and visit during the week or Saturday. Apart from the band who played for an hour, the city was incredibly dead.
- We stayed at the Hotel Puerta del Sol. More on that in a later piece but if you are staying in Vigo we’d highly recommend it. Great location next to the main shopping areas and old town.
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