A Portuguese Retreat Part III - Out and About...

So here we are, the long overdue part III of the retreat in Portugal that I took part in back in May - and yes, it feels as long ago as it sounds. If you've missed part I and II, you can find them here and here packed full with photos from the beautiful house we stayed in as well as the makers we visited. Combined with this post, that's an awful lot of photos! Whilst I sometimes moan (at least in my head) about all the pictures I need to edit, I wouldn't really have it any other way and it's to Sarah's and Natasha's credit (find more workshops here) that I was able to take so many in the first place. Their organisational skills meant that we experienced so many different environments and visited so many places, it would have been impossible to not be inspired by all the beauty around us.

Looking through this post, you will notice that the images are ordered by location. It seemed to make the most sense not only geographically, but also aesthetically. Each part of the landscape has its own look, its own light and its own "colour scheme". Where, for example, Monsaraz was very much dominated by the white buildings and terracotta tiled roofs, Lisbon was overall a lot more colourful. Monsaraz was the dreamy little town (parish, to be more exact) we visited as part of our visit to the weaving factory. Whilst the factory does sell a few pieces, the main shop for all the wonderful woven rugs and blankets is located in this small hilltop town. With the bougainvillea in full bloom providing a bright pop of magenta, the whites seemed even whiter. This place was full of beautiful little houses, traditional shops and stunning views over the surrounding countryside. Admittedly, walking down the cobbled streets felt nothing short of a mediterranean holiday cliché, but sometimes we just have to embrace it all and go with the flow... 

Lisbon, like any other major city, is of course not really explorable within a few hours. We might get a small glimpse, grab a few impressions, and try to soak up some of the atmosphere in the hope that we will be able to retain some of that feeling for future reference. For example when writing about it. But what can I write about a few hours in such a vibrant city that will even begin to do it justice? We took the traditional tram up a hill, spent some time visiting a wonderful haberdashery full of treasures for anybody who likes to knit or crochet, had an amazing lunch and bought some traditional pastries. Time flies in big cities, far more so than in the countryside. Hours feel like snatched moments. Snapshots is all you're getting whilst hoping that they will capture some of the essence. So yes, maybe I have, maybe I haven't...

One place that felt just about perfect was A Vida Portuguesa, a shop that is part apothecary, part general household goods heaven and filled to the brim with oh-so covetable goodies. Old-fashioned glass cabinets and heavy shelves display everything from traditional soaps to regional eau de colognes, from olive oils to tinned sardines, and from baking moulds to brooms. It's one of those places that feel like they've been there for centuries and haven't changed much which makes them all the better for it. Yes, as shops go (and I had sworn off impulse purchases and mindless shopping in general), this is one is worth every minute spent in it... 

Back to the countryside and to a slower pace where the midday sun empties the streets and makes villages look deserted. The further south you head, the more burnt the colours start to look. Despite it being only May, the first signs of the scorched colours were already visible. The greens are different from the very deep and luscious greens in the UK, there's a gentler and more faded quality to them. They blend in with the dried part of the vegetation. We had one of the best lunches on the terrace of an amazing restaurant situated in a tiny village. Overlooking fields with goats and sheep, I could have sat there all day just listening to the birds and the wind, eating good food and drinking wine. 

From countryside and cities, arts and crafts, food and wine, Portugal has so much to offer and even just a few days have left me wanting to go back again and again. It had been such a long time since my last visit and there's always the risk of remembering things through rose-tinted glasses and with a little too much nostalgia, but it was just as beautiful, vibrant, interesting and captivating as I remembered it.