One of the best things about living longer in a city is the chance to discover it on a deeper level. It happened when I lived in Porto, I had the chance to discover its surroundings and also the north of Portugal and Spain.
Vila do Conde was, to be honest, one of my favorite discoveries during this period in the second biggest portuguese town. Located in the suburbs of Porto, I went there early in the morning by metro, in a ride that takes approximately 40 minutes.
I started to discover ‘Caxinas’, the typical fisherman neighborhood, widely known in Portugal for its traditional houses and companies dedicated to the fishing industry. Personally, also recognized as the birth place of Valter Hugo Mãe, one of my favorite writers and poets.
‘Caxinas’ smells of fish, smells of salty sea, but also of tragedy. As I wandered around this neighborhood, I noticed a lot of local women dressed all black. In fact, it happens because unfortunately every year there are fishermen dying during their activity.
To honour them, ‘Caxinas’ has a collection of heritage, from chapels to statues, but because the locals need to work, the movement in the sea is constant: the waves burst in the sand, from where the fishermen start another challenging day of work.
As I discovered the long beaches in ‘Caxinas’, I walked towards the center of Vila do Conde, following the marginal that leads to the local Fort of St John the Baptist and the chapel of Our Lady of Guia, patroness of the fishermen.
The walk is long yet appealing. The view, impactful: it is where the Ave river meets the Atlantic ocean, it is where the seagulls fly over the fishermen, inebriated in the treasures they bring in their boats.
Vila do Conde is right there, dedicated to the Ave river. On the top of a hill I recognize the huge Santa Clara monastery and the homonym aqueduct. I have to be honest, this is the image that I photographed in my memory. Nowadays, the first that comes to my mind.
I breath and walk slowly to the city centre, taking time to admire the local heritage: Our Lady of Socorro is one of the most peculiar and unique chapels I’ve ever seen, a mix of catholic church and a muslim mosque.
This chapel also has a panoramic viewpoint and it is the start of Vila do Conde’s old town: a collection of cobblestone streets spread in every direction. It is truly pleasant to walk these narrow streets, watching the locals and feel the local vibe.
I followed the steps of the local ‘via crucis’ and passed several chapels until another religious heritage example, the local mother church of St John. Located close to the city hall, it made me speechless once I got in.
José Régio is another local author, one of the best portuguese writers and in Vila do Conde I found his museum. Outside, the walls are covered with a giant mural to honour him. Inside, the house exhibits his books and history.
Vila do Conde is a city to visit and stay. There’s a lot to do and to see. It was a pleasure for me to discover this city and, honestly, I can´t wait to return and stay there more than just one day.
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