Vila do Conde ‘Bike Sunday’ … and more

A Sunday well spent! We planned to visit Vila do Conde to see the weekly gathering of motorcycles and then go for lunch in Ponte de Lima. But the day was extended when we found a classic car show taking place. We also decided to include a visit to the Sameiro Sanctuary in Braga.

Bike Sunday

They’ve been doing it for 25 years or so. Every Sunday morning, bikers converge on Vila do Conde to show off their own bikes and to look at everyone else’s. The action takes place on Avenida Manuel Barros, near to the Forte de São João Baptista (Fort of St. John the Baptist).

Vila do Conde is only a 35-minute ride from Porto, but the town is also served by the Metro from Porto, for those who don’t have transportation. Bev and I rode up on the Goldwing and met our friends, Marco and Patricia, a little after 11.00am. The avenue was buzzing with people on the road and the footpaths. Bikes were arriving and others were leaving. People were clearly enjoying the opportunity to promenade along the avenue, looking at all of the bikes and enjoying a beautiful spring day. It is still March but the sun was shining and the temperatures reached 26C (78F) in the afternoon.

This is not an organised bike display and bikes are not arranged in any particular order. Riders simply arrive, alone or in groups, and park wherever they find a spot. So you can find classic bikes next to the latest models; mopeds next to super-bikes; and cafe racers next to scooters. We parked our bike at one end of the line and began to explore.

There was a nice variety of bikes and you didn’t have to be a bike-nut to appreciate them. Here is a selection that made it into my camera.

 

 

Classic Car Show

Whilst the bikes were on display near to the fort, a classic car club had a large display in the centre of the town. I understand that the car show only happens a couple of times each year, so we certainly got lucky to see it on the day we visited.

When I was in my 20’s, I owned a 1966 Morris Minor, a 1970 Ford Escort and a 1975 Ford Cortina (as well as a best-forgotten Austin Allegro). I guess it’s a sign that I’m getting old, as these are now considered to be classics! Whilst there were no Morris Minors on display, I enjoyed seeing a Ford Cortina and some Ford Escorts that were similar to my old cars. The Cortina was even the same colour as mine!

 

British sports cars were represented by a nice E-Type Jaguar, a couple of MGs and a Triumph Spitfire.

 

A lovely Willy’s Jeep was drawing a crowd of admirers, as its owner had the hood up with the engine running. The jeep was fully kitted out with a radio transmitter/receiver and an assortment of Second World War period accessories.

 

There was only one Land Rover on display, but it was a nice one. I think it is a Series 2 from the 50’s or 60’s.

 

Whilst we were walking around the display, a stunning 1960’s Cadillac Coupe De Ville drove in. This gorgeous two-door model had the large tail-fins and white-wall tyres. And it was huge!

 

Bev found her clear favourite. A vintage Triumph two-seater that has two small ‘dickey-seats’ inside the rear boot (called ‘rumble seats’ in the US).

 

Alongside Bev’s Triumph were a sexy little red vintage MG roadster and a vintage Rolls Royce soft-top. If I had a choice between these three, I’d definitely take the little red MG – it oozes coolness!

 

A group of three soft-top Fords with wooden wheels were probably the oldest cars on display.

 

Moving back towards more modern history, there were small groups of Renaults, Citroens and Minis, a couple of Volkswagen Beetles and a cute little Isetta ‘Bubble Car’.

 

And here are some photos of other cars that caught my eye.

 

It was a lovely assortment of classic vehicles and made a wonderful addition to our Sunday outing. But it was time for some lunch, so we hopped back on the bikes and headed to Ponte de Lima.

 

Ponte de Lima

It is considered to be the oldest village/town in Portugal, having been founded in 1125. But the settlement dates back much farther. The Romans established the bridge over the River Lima, that gives the town its name. The bridge continued to be the primary safe crossing point for the Lima into the Middle Ages.

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Many others had flocked to the town for lunch and there were long queues outside a couple of the larger restaurants. Eels are one of the local specialties and are often in demand by visitors. We took a short walk around the narrow back-streets, looking for a small restaurant, and found one immediately behind the Torre da Cadeia Velha, a tower that was once part of the city walls and which served as a prison in the 16th century.

We were able to get an outdoor table at the Restaurante A Muralha where we enjoyed some delicious Portuguese food. The traditional dishes are served family-style, with each of the menu items serving two people. Realistically, there is so much food that the dishes would serve at least three people! Bev and I opted to share the Cabrito (stewed lamb) with rice and potatoes, whilst Marco and Patricia chose the Rojões à minhota, a classic dish of marinated pork and various sausages. Delicious and very filling!

 

With our stomachs full, we took a stroll around part of the town, including Igreja Matriz (Mother Church), built in 1425.

 

A market was taking place on a promenade along the riverside, with stalls selling an interesting mix of regional produce and local handicrafts. It was a nice change from the mass-produced junk that can often be seen in markets. I understand that a much larger market  is held in the town every second Monday, as well as a huge fair that takes place in September.

There is more to see in Ponte de Lima, so a return visit is likely. Perhaps for one of the Monday markets.

 

Sameiro Sanctuary, Braga

As it was along the route home, Marco suggested that we visit Sameiro Sanctuary, in Braga. Paul and I had visited the nearby Bom Jesus Sanctuary on a previous visit to Braga, but at the time were unaware that Sameiro was just a few more kilometres up the hill.

Construction of the Church of Our Lady of Sameiro began in 1863 and it has become one of the major Christian pilgrimage sites in Portugal. There are large open plazas around the church to cater to the large numbers of pilgrims that visit in June and August. Similarly to Bom Jesus, there are many steps that descend the mountain from the sanctuary, but they are fairly plain concrete steps, unlike the stunning architecture of the Bom Jesus steps. There was a mass taking place inside the crowded church, so I was only able to get one photo of the interior.

The sanctuary’s location on a mountain provides wide views over Braga and the surrounding countryside. Whilst the view can be admired from the steps in front of the church, the best views are from the balconies that encircle the dome of the church. The larger balcony circles the base of the dome whilst a smaller base can be found at the top of the dome. Access to the viewing balconies is gained through a door around the back of the church. A fee of €2 allows you to climb the steps and enjoy the view. I took the opportunity, whilst Bev, Marco and Patricia remained at ground level.

 

With our final stop completed, it was time for the ride home. Our route for the day covered a total of 87 miles (140km) and the time spent riding totalled 2 hours and 57 minutes. What a lovely way to spend the day!

 

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