Further down the West coast of Portugal with yet another river blocking our route.

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Europe » Portugal » Northern » Vila do Conde
June 20th 2014
Published: June 21st 2014
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Today a really easy drive. Bob asked, as we were packing up, if I wanted to hang around for a while as it was a bit early given it would take us less than an hour to get to the next site.

Ha ha ha.

The campsite we were aiming for was just on the other side of the river mouth across from Viano do Castelo. The idea being that we would spend a couple of nights here and visit the town. Best laid plans and all that.

We arrived in Viano do Castelo and all was well. Looked to be a very nice place for our visit the next day. All we had to do was find the bridge to get us across the river to our campsite.

That was easier said than done. Clarissa Tomtom was being her usual unhelpful self. We drove past a rather interesting looking market and I got all excited at the thought of the lovely things I would buy the next day, all fresh fruit and veggies and the like. Then we noted there were a few signs indicating a diversion and Darque but no idea of where the diversion was. Three times round and under the bridge we wanted to be driving across and we realised what the signs meant. We finally got to the entrance to the bridge to find it was closed for road works. Darque is a town on the other side of the closed bridge but as we were not going to Darque we had no idea that was what the signs meant.

We headed instead for the only other bridge over the river, a mile upstream and a motorway. Not only that but a tolled motorway. We accidentally missed the turn we should have taken to register for payment of the electronic toll (numberplate recognition) as it was also the turn into the services. So we drove through the toll anyway as we had no other option and can expect a bill or even a fine at home sometime in the future !

We took the first exit off the motorway after the bridge (at this point before the tolls), started to follow the signs to get to our campsite and realised we couldn’t. The road along the river was just not big enough for Tandy.

One U-turn later and we were heading further down the motorway, now tolled, for the next campsite down. The reason for first campsite choice was to visit Viano do Castelo and we couldn’t as we could only get there along the tolled motorway, so we moved to plan C.

At least this campsite was directly accessible to the sand-duned beach whereas first choice was again on a river mouth and I preferred the idea of sand dunes.

We had lots of time so we looked out for a turn down to the beach from the coast road we were following. All looked far too narrow for us. We spotted a more major turn and 5 metres down the road the tarmac stopped and so did we. U-Turn again and carry on down the coast road and through a few small towns.

The road to the campsite was a Surprise. Cobbled. All the way for about 2 kms, with crops growing under cover on either side. Not quite the approach to a seaside campsite we had expected.

The campsite is in fact in the middle of nowhere, except there is a golf course between it and the beach.

It is enormous and bounded on all sides by a chain linked fence. No idea who or what they are trying to keep out or maybe in but the impression is of a large prison camp. Not appealing. Not helped by the netting behind the fence on the sea side of the camp to keep the golf balls out.

The man on reception told me to go anywhere as long as it was on a hard standing area (they have a grass, of sorts area between each). There were surprisingly few to choose from. We struck lucky in selecting the one at the very end as (a) it is nearest to the pool and (b) it is within reach of the wifi signal.

We were once again not impressed by our Portuguese campsite. We think we have been severely spoiled by our French experiences and even by the Spanish sites we’ve just visited. The site is clean, the sanitaires absolutely ok, it has a pool, bar, shop and restaurant but…. It still looks like a prison camp and the restaurant like a motorway services cafeteria.

We decided to take a walk along the beach. I am including some photographs to show you the way to the beach which goes under the golf course which is built on the sand dunes between the campsite and the beach.

First of all a gate through the fence. Then through 30m long x 2m high pipes. Next a 100 metre walkway under a green, golf ball catching net , passageway. Then a second 20m long x 2m high pipe but with an exit only 1m high - as the sand dune has half blocked the beach end. We crawled out of there then climbed the sand-dune which was blocking it and at last arrived at the beach.

Have to say this is not the best beach entrance I have ever used. In fact can’t think I’ve ever used a worse but there you go. Sure that 1m entrance will miraculously become unblocked before the full season starts.

We had a lovely walk. The beach is fantastic. Soft soft sand backed by sand-dunes and we walked south for about a mile and then back again. This is the best way I know to get an even tan ! Decided not to swim in the sea as there was a warning sign about very strong currents and the waves did in places look quite vicious, though the sea was calm and it was a beautiful day.

Then unfortunately we had to crawl back through the Chu Chi tunnels as the only way back into the campsite.

The swimming pool was a welcome sight but even that is poorly located, a 200 metre walk on the other side of the campsite approach road and of course fenced in like everything else. I did my minimum 10 lengths (but it is a very big pool) and then we had dinner until driven inside by a swarm of enormous humming striped beetles (later identified as Anoxia australis.)

As another excellent sunny day forecast for next day we decided to stay a second night as from here we head away from the beach.

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