I know it's been a few weeks since I last shared any of my latest experiences and discoveries with Barn & Willow but I recently got back from a long trip to Portugal, Germany and India and wanted to share my experience from the trip with you all.
I decided to take a trip to Portugal to meet Portuguese textile makers, weavers and designers and to understand the home textiles market of Portugal. One of the main reasons I chose Portugal is because Portugal is known as one of the manufacturing hubs of cotton and some wool based home decor products.
Here are a few of my highlights from the trip..Hope you all enjoy it.
The city of 7 hills, narrow alleys, hundreds of steps, red brick roofs, church bells and of course Fado.
Alfama: I stayed at an Airbnb apartment in Alfama, which is one of the oldest neighborhoods right next to the water. It is a neighborhood in one of the hills and has a very distinct old charm due to its medieval alleys, earthquake stricken buildings and breathtaking view of the water and churches from most parts of the neighborhood.
Since I reached on a Sunday I got a chance to explore Lisbon on foot. Walked up to one of the top most points in Miradouro de Santa Luzia to check out the beautiful views of the city during sunset and the small church on the hill top. Explored a bit of Chiado (local shopping and some non-touristy spots) and of course made a quick trip to Bellem to check out our very own Golden Gate's twin.
Most of the evenings in Lisbon and the other cities I went to were spent enjoying authentic Portuguese food, Fado and good talks with other travelers and locals. More about these later.....
Wool Factory visit:
I had a meeting set up with one of the wool factory owners and so my Monday started with meeting Isabel (the owner) and learning about her wool based products - Burel. Burel is a specific fabric made of wool that gets a felted look due to a specific process of wash.
HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF A BUREL PRODUCT - MOTHER SHEEP AND BABY SHEET POUFS (I just fell in love with these)
Don't want to bore you all with the details of the 4 hour meeting but basically it covered everything to do with understanding the anatomy of wool to their business model. After a few hours of meeting in her office in Lisbon, she drove me to her factory up in the mountains in a village called Manteigas - it was about 4.5 hours drive from Lisbon.
Ready to drive up to the Mountains (4.5 hour drive).
The factory was located in a very picturesque mountain top location, sat on a 20,0000 meter square land of which only 4000 was being used for the wool production and rest was lying vacant. The building had long glass windows with views of the cloud covered mountains and beautiful creeks running through the mountains.
Great work environment leads to great products - this factory had everything it needed for it's wool workers and weavers to be happy about their work - The location, views, infrastructure, facilities for the weavers, cleanliness and most importantly the creative character that was infused in every corner of the factory was truly inspiring.
This is where the wool weaving and spinning happens
That's the owner of the factory - She and her husband who are natives of Lisbon wanted to do something different from their regular corporate jobs and felt an urge to help revive the economy of the small mountain villages. Hence, they bought this shut down wool factory a few years back and completely restored it to start wool production in that factory again and provide employment opportunities to the mountaineers who were unemployed since the closing down of the factory. So Fascinating!
So glad I could spend the entire day with Isabel and the weavers in the factory and could see the entire process of wool making - starting from the raw wool that just came out of the sheep to the finished wool throws and blankets.
And.....That's me trying to take a very close look at the art of spinning
Bus to Guimaraes:
From one mountain town to another - Guimaraes where I had few more meetings scheduled with some of the best Portuguese fabric mills/factories. Went through plenty of beautiful designs for bed linen, bed covers etc
Meeting with some of the skilled craftsmen behind these products and understanding cotton, sateen and jacquard weaving techniques
Exploring the rainy Porto and some more meetings:
What's the cheapest you ever traveled from one city to the other (in Europe)? Well, for me it was the train from Guimaraes to Porto. 3 euros - Yup I asked the ticket counter guy twice if it was actually what I heard it to be. And yes it was just 3 euros.
Don't miss out on the salted cod in some of the authentic restaurants in Porto.
2 more interesting meetings with textile owners the next morning in Porto, after which I headed back to Lisbon and stayed for another day in Lisbon.
Portuguese people, food and Fado music: can't decide which one is better!
One of the most friendly countries I have been to recently. All the people I met for work were super helpful and amicable and even the local people are super friendly and respectful.
Food and Fado: It felt like every one was trained to be great cooks, host a lot of guests and be extremely well singers. I could not understand where would they get so much passion and depth in their voices from. I am not talking about the professional but even the old ladies cooking in small restaurants would come out of the kitchen every 30 minutes and sing a fado song to entertain her guests. If I could sing that well I would not cook for sure.
Definitely try these:
Tasca Bela - Very nice Portuguese tapas restaurant (not too touristy and lovely Fado singers)
A Baiuca: Lots of Fado singers, food is good.
Abadia: Their Salted cod is to die for.
Here is a list of higher end restaurants that serve authentic Portuguese food
Trip to Portugal was extremely productive for Barn & Willow and very fulfilling for me personally. Obrigada! Portugal
Next stop was India: the ultimate hub of fabrics, colors and hand loom products - stay tuned for the next post!
Here is a sneak peak into it: