Portugal, Porto to Vila Do Conde

Vila do Conde Santa Clara

The following day we were leaving Porto and taking the metro to Vila do Conde.  We thought it might be a good idea to hire a car so I used the Internet and booked a vehicle through Europcar , who in my experience are usually quite reliable and efficient and arranged to collect it from Porto Airport on our way north.

We had a final couple of hours in the city so we took a walk around the local area near to the hotel, a park, a convent and a church, quite different to the busy centre and then approaching midday we made our way to Trindade metro station.

It took about thirty minutes to travel to the airport on the Bombardier Flexity Outlook low-floor dual-carriage ‘Eurotram’ and it stopped every few minutes to pick up and drop off more passengers and it stopped fifteen times before we reached our destination.

I thought using Europcar with an office in the airport arrivals hall would be easy but I was about to be disappointed.  There was no office, just a reception desk and after waiting around for an eternity while the desk clerk dealt with a difficult customer we were directed to a shuttle bus to drive us a mile or so off site.

When we got there the office was ram-jam full and there was a forty-minute wait to get to the front of the line and during this time my patience tank was completely drained dry.  Eventually it was my turn to sign documents and pick up keys but I became uneasy about this simple process when the clerk began to shake his head and sigh.

It turned out that I had reserved a car using Europcar.com when I should have used Europcar.co.uk so I had made a reservation that is only for people from North America.  OK, so what, I suggested that he just amend the booking and we could take the keys and be away.  So he tapped away at his keyboard and scratched his head and told me the price would be higher, almost 50% higher and he was unable to explain to me to my satisfaction why citizens from the USA and Canada could get a better rate for hiring a car in Portugal than those from Europe.

I was so angry that I told him to poke it, reported the news to Kim who was unhappy about this unilateral decision and then we made our way back to the metro station where we queued for thirty minutes to get a ticket to get to Vila do Conde.  Kim was beginning to overheat.  It was like waiting for Vesuvius to erupt!

Cathedral Vila do Conde

Another thirteen stations later we arrived in Santa Clara and negotiated a steep climb up a pot-holed cobbled street to our hotel, the Santana Hotel and Spa. We had been here before so we knew all about it and we especially liked the restaurant but bad luck hadn’t finished with us today and the fine à la carte that we were looking forward to had been replaced by a tourist buffet menu and I began to sense another disappointment coming our way.

As I didn’t have a bucket of cold water to hand it was probably best that we spent some time apart right now so while Kim stayed in the room and went to the spa I took a walk down into the town.

My plan was to climb the hill on the other side of the river to the Santa Clara Convent which was once the largest in all of Portugal but is now no longer used for its original purpose and after spending some time as a prison is now rumoured to be being converted into a Pousada hotel, which is the Portuguese equivalent of the Spanish Paradors.

Next to the convent and snaking north away from the town are the extensive remains of the Aqueduto do Convento, a sixteenth century structure that was built to supply water to the Convent.  At four kilometres long it is claimed to be the second largest in Portugal after Lisbon but I have been to Tomar and their aqueduct is measured at six kilometres.

I am not taking sides, I am just saying!

Vila do Conde Aqueduct shadows

To put things into perspective the longest Roman Aqueduct served the city of Constantinople and was two hundred and fifty kilometres long.  The largest existing aqueduct in the world is the Thirlmere Aqueduct in North West England built between 1890 and 1925 and running one hundred and forty kilometres over and through hill and dale of the English countryside in pipes, streams, tunnels, dams and aqueducts.

The United States has the largest ‘water tunnel’ with a storage capacity of five hundred and fifty billion gallons and providing fresh water to the New York City’s eight million residents. Also in the US, the Central Arizona Project allows passage of water from the Colorado River to central and southern Arizona and at five hundred and forty kilometres it is the largest aqueduct ever constructed in the United States.

I admired the views from the Convent, walked a section of the aqueduct, found a mini-market for supplies and when I judged it safe to return to the hotel I walked a weary walk back up the hill to the Santana.  Oh how I wished that I had got a car!

Evening meal didn’t turn out to be too desperately disappointing and over an overflowing plate and a jug of cheap wine we made plans to go to the beach in the morning.

Vila do Conde Portugal

45 responses to “Portugal, Porto to Vila Do Conde

  1. That makes a nice change. No doors, no washing on the line
    I trust you checked those aqueduct lengths out personally and not taken them from Google or Wikipedia.:twisted:
    I see you wished you’d got a car, I thought in places like this everyone buzzed about on motor scooters? Or is that just Italians who do that?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the aqueduct lesson. As for the car, I’d be curious to know why the difference. Sure, we’re better, but 50%? I’d have put it at 27.5%, tops.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Grrrrr how annoying. So glad the day turned out ok eventually.

    Fabulous shot of the aqueduct shadows. Just love it. Also good to know about its length! Do you know it never occurred to me to think about how long the one in Lisboa is, I was just obsessed at checking out its height and whether it was the tallest stone arch!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The car hire shambles cost us a couple of hours I suppose but we still had a good finish to the afternoon and I was there at the right time for the shadows.
      Have you been to Vila do Conde?
      That Lisbon aqueduct certainly takes some beating.

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  4. Was shadow fate!!

    No another place we’ve yet to visit. Thinking we might plan a northern and centro Portugal exploration after we’ve finished our Algarvian winter sojourn. So late April/early May.

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  5. Thanks for the acqueduct facts. You reminded me of Neil Page in Trains, Planes & Automobiles with your car rental story! Europcar did a partner deal with easyJet and since then I find them best avoided due to queues.

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    • That is probably the reason, I hadn’t thought of that. What a dreadful queue it was and then I could see that even after paying up there was another long wait for a car to be brought up and then I have never seen any car hire place be so meticulous about checking for and agreeing damage. Except for Iceland that is!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lovely picture of the stairs, expertly set off by just the one person on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Aaargh….what a story! Anyway, at least the day improved by the end

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  8. Interesting, as was your problems with Eurostar. Like all transport companies (airlines in particular) they seem to delight in making things difficult for their paying passengers. I wish we could do without them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. An almost happy ending, then 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Aargh, i’m not surprised tempers were frayed! That all sounds amazingly incompetent on the part of Europcar.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Obviously, we drive 50% better! 🙂

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    • Ha Ha, could well be but I just found this – more than 30,000 people are killed on America’s roads each year, compared with less than 2,000 in Britain. Even allowing for population difference that makes USA a lot more dangerous.
      We should be getting the discounted rate!

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      • If you go by numbers of people who die per mile of road . . .

        US – 30,000 deaths / 4,000,000 miles of road = 0.0075 deaths/mile of road

        Britain – 2,000 deaths / 21,145 miles of road = 0.095 deaths/mile of road

        Much safer driving on US roads.

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      • Great statistics – I am impressed!

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      • I’m always unsure what to make of statements that sound like someone is paying me a compliment but seem surprised that they are.

        . . . it’s bad enough that they’re obviously not impressed by me as a matter of course, but more so that they never expected to be impressed by me to begin with.

        Still, thanks . . . I think.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. That picture of the shadows from the arches is marvelous. Very well captured indeed! Good thing I read previous comments since I thought it was stairs at first, too… and kept wondering what it had to do with the aqueduct.
    What a bummer about the car rental. Good move to let Kim cool off. Though I imagine you were a bit hot under the collar as well!

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  13. There are times when travel could have the Buddha swearing, I think, Andrew, and you certainly had one. The cost difference is unfair, to say the least. It almost sounds like the agency knew it had you by the shorthairs and was seeing a handsome commission by sticking it to you. At least with your blog, you have a means of striking back
    On another note, California is big on aqueducts for shipping Northern California’s water to Los Angeles. And water politics are nasty. I once naively stepped into the fray and found myself on the front page of every newspaper in the state. –Curt

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  14. Portugal is on my bucket list…gotta get there someday.

    Like

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