The marshy levels around Aveiro, south of Porto, are great fun to explore by bike. Partly because of the birdlife – flamingoes, storks – but also because of the boardwalks you can ride along: kilometre after kilometre of clanky wooden planks. It’s like cycling to the accompaniment of Taiko drummers.
We were there because we’d finished the Portugal End to End and had a few days to spare before heading back home from Porto, so spent a few days in Aveiro.
The city’s canals and elegant architecture have lumbered it with the tag ‘the Venice of Portugal’, which is like saying Hull is the San Francisco of England because of its famous suspension bridge.
However, we very much enjoyed our time there, and only slightly because there’s a branch of cheap-beer’n’sandwiches place 100 Montaditos.
Mostly it was the grand tile decorations, the pedestrian precincts with lively restaurants and bars, the canals yes, but mainly the cycling.
Circular routes (there’s a bike map available from the friendly Tourist Info) go to the north around marshes, and to the south around a lagoon.
Those wooden paths feature heavily in that northern loop (which includes a ferry), but the southern loop boasts Portugal’s tallest lighthouse, indeed the twentieth tallest lighthouse in the world.
(It’s at the beach at a place called Barra, so obviously I was looking out for planes landing.)
After Aveiro we rode up the coastal cycle route to Porto – more boardwalks here, some cool woods, and plenty of ice-cream-rich promenade paths through beach resorts.
A grand way to arrive in the grand city, cycling along the banks of the Douro past busy pedestrian pleasure districts and on to the famous bridge that came from the same flat-pack supplier as the Eiffel Tower.
Porto is where we are now. Tomorrow is a train up and down the Douro valley, and then we’re heading back home.