Portugal part 4: What I wore

Portugal part 4: What I wore

I know a lot of you are like “yeah yeah yarn store spinner blessing blah blah WHATEVER — how did the packing work out??” Well, let me just tell you right off the bat: I did not pack right for this trip. I would have nailed it, had we only been there a week sooner. I’d been watching the forecast for weeks, and you may remember I was packing for this trip and for Squam at the same time because they were so close together as to necessitate two separate piles of clothing. I’d also researched weather norms in Portugal for June. And all indications were that it would be in the 60s to low 70s. (Ok, like SF, was how I was thinking of it.) I’d planned to take a bunch of sleeveless stuff, and threw in my usual silk Eliz Suzann top (with its sort-of sleeves) and my Archer button-up, worried I wasn’t going to be warm enough. By the time I actually zipped up the suitcase the night before, the predicted temps had climbed up into the mid-70s with one day in the low 90s. But by the time we hit the ground, a bonafide heat wave had sent in. It was in the mid-90s every day (and stayed hot all night), and I was both mentally and sartorially unprepared for it.

The one saving grace was that I had thrown in my black linen pants at the last second, wanting them for lounging around and for just-in-case. They wound up being the only thing I could really stand to have on, but I was forced to wear my heavy canvas pants and jeans for at least part of the time. The shirts with sleeves stayed in my suitcase the whole time (the sweatshirt was worn only on the plane, but I was happy to have it for that), and all I wore were my few sleeveless tees over and over, with a rotation of pants. I was a giant sweat ball the whole time.

I did look cute that one evening in Porto, up top, when it was just barely cool enough to wear my beloved denim vest. And I also wore the vest with my pajamas — i.e., the linen pants and a tank top — the day we spent knitting in the breezy living room at the mountaintop hotel (and on my flights to and from). By that point — after the dusty vineyard tour and the running of the sheep and so on — all of my pants felt filthy except for my jeans, which were brutal to wear back in the cobblestone oven of Lisbon, but it was unfortunately unavoidable.

My companions were much smarter and had each brought a dress or two, which they wore on repeat. The star of the trip was definitely Jaime’s red Brome maxi-dress, which you can read all about here. And I was also super envious of Keli‘s two breezy tencel Merchant & Mills Dress Shirt dresses, the black one of which she’s wearing in the group shot above — exactly the sort of loose garb you want at a time like that, and she looked great in them. Amber’s linen Fen dress and my linen pants made me vow to only travel with linen base garments from now on — additional layers to be determined by the weather on a per-trip basis.

So not my best packing outcome — but hey, I lived through it and you can’t tell in the pics how sweaty I am! Or why I’m wearing my pajamas on that drive down from the mountaintop. Below is the full blow-by-blow of what got worn when and how. (Some of these outfits make me sad just looking at them!) For garment details, see the packing list:

Portugal travel guide: What I wore

And there ends my tale. If you missed any of it, you can scroll through the complete set of Portugal posts here, and see the trip in motion in my Instagram Portugal Story. And you can see lots more photos from everyone else’s perspectives on the #portewegal feed. Thank you for indulging me in this voluminous travelogue!

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PREVIOUSLY in Portugal: Part 3: Mountains, wool and the sheep blessing

All photos © Anna Dianich

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Portugal part 3: Mountains, wool and the sheep blessing

Portugal travel guide: Serra da Estrela wool factory, sheep blessing

With our too-brief Porto visit behind us, we loaded up the cars again the next morning and drove a few hours southeast — up, up, up into the Serra da Estrela, the highest peaks in Portugal, and down, down into the village of Manteigas, nestled into the center of the range. As you may have noticed by now, pretty much every inch of Portugal is astonishingly beautiful, which explains why — despite spending hours in the car each day — I got almost no knitting done; I didn’t want to take my eyes off the scenery. Climbing up the winding roads through these rocky vistas, I was reminded of California (again), and as soon as we headed down into the valley between the peaks, I suddenly felt like we were in the Alps! We did stop for a few photo ops along the way, but that morning we were on a schedule: We had an appointment for a tour of the Burel wool factory.

Portugal guide: Burel wool factory tour, blankets

We’d pressed our noses against the glass of the Burel stores in Lisbon and Porto, and had petted some of Burel’s goods at A Vida Portuguesa, but we were holding out for the factory/mill experience, which didn’t disappoint. Burel mills their own wool yarn and makes two categories of goods, basically: exceptionally beautiful woven blankets, scarves and shawls in intricate and colorful patterns; and “burel” (burr-EL) a wool cloth comparable to boiled wool, only even more dense and refined, so much so that it’s waterproof. They make finished goods from the burel — ranging from throw pillows to rain boots to my aforementioned vest. And they also cut and fold and pleat and stitch it in all sorts of wonderful ways for a wide variety of unexpected uses. The women in the photo below are smocking a large piece that’s to become a restaurant ceiling. The blue surface under the Field Bag below is a rug at the hotel (more on that in a second).

After the tour, we browsed the little factory store and then found out there’s a seconds area back in the sewing room (which we had seen without knowing that’s what it was — namely the mixed shelves of blankets above) so we got to go back in and paw through all of that. Honestly, it was overwhelming — too much beauty! — and I’m the only one who left empty-handed. (I acquired the vest at the Lisbon store when were back in the big city on our final afternoon.) Saying goodbye to our guide, we — and Rosa and family — drove back up up up to our moutain lodging: Casa das Penhas Douradas, which has the same owner as Burel. It’s a plywood wonderland — which, if you know anything about me, you can imagine my delight — full of Danish-modern funiture upholstered in burel, with burel throw pillows and rugs, and Burel’s gorgeous woven blankets stacked behind the reception desk and draped over every lounge chair. It was incredible.

Portugal guide: Burel wool factory tour

It was also the “fanciest” place we stayed. Being at the tippy-top of a mountain, the hotel restaurant is really your only food option, which is fine because it’s amazing: elaborate breakfast spreads, lunch made to order, cocktail hour before the three-course dinners. (And again, because we were sharing rooms and because Portugal is so affordable, it was a mere fraction of what a comparable experience in the US would have been.) The evening we arrived, after our Burel tour, we were  a bit done in from all the driving and made a pact to stay out of the cars the following day. So the next morning after breakfast, we split into two groups: the hikers and knitters. I was super torn (I love a good long hike) but also super tired (I think I had a sort of cumulative heat exhaustion at that point) and opted to stay behind.

Portugal travel guide: Casa das Penhas Douradas

Let me tell you, I felt most pleased with that decision as soon as Amber and Malia realized the giant window-walls of the common room were actually sliding glass doors. Five of us (including Rosa) spent the entire day sitting in this exquisite indoor-outdoor room, knitting in the brisk mountain breeze, just barely chilly enough that Allison actually used one of the Burel blankets at one point. It was the perfect kind of down day, followed by another lovely dinner in the hotel dining room.

AND THEN CAME THE MAIN EVENT—

That Sunday evening, we all piled back in the cars for the biggest draw of the entire trip. Now, let’s go back for a second to last September, when I was sitting in Amber’s backyard one night and she and Jaime and Allison started talking about how they were planning a trip to Portugal. All I heard were the words “Portugal” and “Rosa” and “sheep blessing in the mountains” and without having any idea what that even meant, I was like I’M IN. And now here we were, driving through those mountains to a tiny village, with Rosa as our guide, none of us really knowing what to expect, and about to witness something we couldn’t have prepared ourselves for.

Portugal part 3: Mountains, wool and the sheep blessing

As I understand it, the blessing of the flocks is a longstanding Portuguese tradition, an annual ceremony that varies from village to village and has changed over time. In some villages, the local priest will still come out and bless the sheep, but in the village we went to it was not that literal. What happens is shepherds from miles around walk their flocks of sheep and/or goats into town on the appointed afternoon, and flock by flock they take their turn. There’s a sort of staging area, a few blocks away from the church, and the church essentially is the town square: it’s right in the middle of town with a cobblestone path all around it. When it’s their turn, each group proceeds through the crowded streets to the church, and they run circles around it, their bells clanging wildly — three times one direction, then three times the other. The goal is to form an unbroken circle — to get going fast enough, and have the flock stretched out enough, that the shepherd in front runs into the last sheep or goat. Three times around, then everyone stops, gets turned around the other direction, and starts again. Rosa said it’s very embarrassing if you aren’t able to close up the circle, or if your animals misbehave at any point. The streets are full — the whole village is there — and all along the front row are men with staffs, just like the shepherds’, which they use to help keep the animals in line — or to sabotage, in some cases! And of course, it’s harder for some shepherds than others. If your flock is small, you have to work a lot harder and run a lot faster to get everyone into a continuous loop, whereas some of the flocks were so large that they formed a closed loop before they even began to run.

Portugal guide: The sheep blessing

To try to describe it makes it sound a bit rote, but it was pure magic. What we didn’t realize, as it got started and we marveled and took a million pictures, is that they would keep coming! Flock after flock after flock. At one point, I was standing on a little curb pressed up against the church, with a sea of white sheep racing past me at top speed, inches from my toes. I knelt down often to get a different angle, once almost being gored in the face when a flock starting getting a little unruly, but it was all I could do not to reach out and pet them all as they ran by. We were the only outsiders there, and we were conspicuous as such, but everyone seemed perfectly content to have us, if a bit curious about how on earth we got there. And then came Rosa’s friends’ flock, the grand finale: The huge flock of dark brown goats, among which were a handful of large castrated males with their horns wrapped entirely in ribbon and laden with colorful pompoms as big as my fist. (Go watch it in action in my Instagram Portugal Story, please!)

We were there when they entered the staging area, followed them down the lane by which they got to the church (taking photos all the way), and watched as they came around and around its walls, feeling completely transported. Writing about it now, I feel bereft, honestly, but I am so eternally grateful to Rosa for trusting us with that experience, for taking us there with her. I’ll never forget that evening.

Portugal travel guide: Serra da Estrela

So that was the crescendo, after which, of course, the denouement. We packed up the following morning and wistfully headed back for Lisbon (with the aforementioned overnight in Nazaré) and one last twirl through the city.

. . .

I’ve been home for two weeks today, and I’m still not over it. I’m indebted to the amazing women who put this trip together, let me tag along, and made it such a blast. It was the most amazing experience of my life, and after having put off international travel for too many decades, I’m hungry for more. It was while we were in the mountains that the news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide broke (I knew him only a tiny bit, having met him at the book trade show and hosted him for a week in Readerville back when he first started publishing) and on my first day back at work, I went to pick up lunch from a neighborhood place. On the scroll of kraft paper behind the bar, they had written this quote in tribute:

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody.”
—Anthony Bourdain

On my honor, I will.

. . .

S E R R A   D A   E S T R E L A   T R A V E L   D E T A I L S

Lodging / Dining

Casa das Penhas Douradas
Danish-modern furnishings in a sleek modern hotel with all the amenities. Their Instagram does it more justice than the website.

Sites / Shopping

Burel Mountain Originals
If you can’t make it to Manteigas to visit the factory, make sure you get to one of their stores, either in Lisbon or Porto. Barring that, there’s always the website.

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PREVIOUSLY in Portugal guide: Part 2, Douro, Porto and Teresa the spinner

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Portugal part 2: Douro, Porto and Teresa the spinner

Portugal part 2: Douro, Porto and Teresa the spinner

We left Lisbon that Tuesday morning — the eight of us and our luggage (and shopping bags) divided between two rental cars — and headed north. One of us, Allison, is a wine importer with connections, and others of us are avid wine drinkers. Allison had one vineyard in particular she wanted to take us to; we all wanted to visit the city of Porto; and there was someone very special Rosa wanted us to meet. So Jaime and Amber, in their trademark way, had found this ridiculously amazing Airbnb in quite the remote spot, which was roughly an hour or two’s drive to each of our intended destinations over the next few days.

Portugal travel guide: Bulas winery

The winery was Bulas (the s is a sh; Bulas rhymes with goulash), in the Douro river region (aka “the Douro”), and while Allison had tried to describe the uniqueness of the Douro to us — and though we took a thousand pictures — there are no words or images that can begin to adequately convey the landscape. (A UNESCO-designated World Heritage landscape.) Six of us did the periodically nail-biting drive across skyscraper-tall bridges, through sprawling ranges of steeply sloped mountains, up and around and down into the spot where Bulas sits, surrounded on all sides with grapevines planted in perilously narrow terraces carved all the way up every slope of land, as far as the eye can see — and then some. Think of the rice terraces of Southeast Asia and now mentally plant each narrow ledge of soil with a single row of grapevines, and you still can’t begin to imagine it. It’s breathtaking.

We had a fantastic time at the winery. (Four of us dressed all in handmade — that’s Keli, me, Jaime and Amber above, looking hilariously glamorous for how sweaty we were. Pattern details here.) We were given the farm tour by Isabel, of the Bulas family, Joana the winemaker, and the nicest farm manager whose name I regret I’ve forgotten, who wished in Portuguese that our French were good enough that we could all converse that way instead of English, so he could understand. The wines (white, rosé and port) were fantastic, and we acquired a fair share of bottles before making the twisty drive back down to restaurant DOC for a posh late lunch on the river (indoors, though — it had begun storming furiously outside), arriving back to the house at twilight for makeshift light dinner of tinned fish and olives and wine and whatnot, and a late swim in a light rain. Seriously: idyllic.

Teresa spinning Bucos Portuguese yarn

But what you really want to hear about is Teresa, who Rosa took us to meet the following day. Teresa hand-spins Rosa’s Bucos yarn (bucosh), and had agreed to give us a demonstration of her technique, with Rosa there to translate. It was hot — although one of the less suffocating days of the week — and so Rosa brought Teresa and her stool out into the shaded fern patch across the lane from her house. Step by step, she demonstrated — teasing out the fleece, carding it between her two giant brushes, then spinning on her large bobbin, talking rapidly the whole way — and invited us to give it a try. Amber and Jaime being the spinners among us, they stepped up. Amber held her own at the carding, and Jaime gave the spinning a go, even though Teresa’s rig is not much like the drop-spindle Jaime teaches. Teresa has a disstaff that goes under her arm and into her waist tie, and she parks a wad of fleece on its tip. From there, she draws it out and onto the top of her bobbin/spindle/whatsit, winding it artfully around and up, and catching it just under a notch in the tip. She’s fast and skilled, and was very proud to show us and to stand for photos. She was striking such poses I fell completely in love with her and her spirit, even though I couldn’t understand a word she said. And she spoke to me persistently and at length, seeming to have faith that if she just kept it up long enough I’d eventually start to understand her. And maybe I would have — I hope so — if we’d had more than an afternoon.

Teresa also knits from her handspun, and I was the only one with big enough feet to justify buying a pair of her socks. She knits traditional Portuguese men’s socks, which are generally lace and interesting to knit, as compared to the traditional women’s socks, which are plain. She’s also a weaver, and told us (through Rosa) about weaving blankets as a girl, with her mother, and then they would pile them folded onto their heads and walk them into the village to sell them. A cousin had borrowed her loom (how long ago I don’t know), but she was eager to introduce us to her friend Ana, who weaves with Teresa’s handspun as well. So off we went to Ana’s house, where Teresa wound bobbins for Ana to weave with, and Ana proudly showed us her 100-year-old handmade loom, built and passed down by her father. Ana also asked us to speak French with her, and we managed. And eventually the two of them broke into song! They were amazing, and we hated to say goodbye, and they couldn’t believe we weren’t staying to eat and drink, but we hadn’t realized that was an option and so hadn’t planned accordingly.

To really appreciate them — especially seeing Teresa spinning and chatting away — go find them somewhere toward the middle of my Instagram Portugal Story, where you can see them in motion and hear them sing. In that photo at the top of this post, Teresa is (very briefly) modeling a heavy wool cape that’s traditional for the region, which Rosa had brought out to show us.

Portugal travel guide: Porto

We had a dinner reservation in Porto and only about an hour to roam around ahead of that, by the time we made the hour-ish drive from wherever Teresa’s house was, but we all fell instantly head-over-heels for this city and swore we’d go back when we can. We had just enough time to take more tile photos and selfies, peer into the bookstore that inspired Harry Potter from the sidewalk (such a tourist draw it requires an entrance fee), and visit our third A Vida Portuguesa — the biggest of them — before winding our way through the streets to our teensy restaurant, where we sat in the window and ate so much of everything on the menu that we had enough bacalhau left over to make a big “bacal’omelet” the next morning before heading higher into the mountains for the most epic phase of our adventure, which I’ll tell you about tomorrow.

PIT STOP NAZARÉ

Portugal travel guide: Nazaré

On our way from Lisbon to the Porto region, we stopped for lunch in the sun-drenched little beach town of Nazaré, which is apparently quite a tourist scene at peak season but we hit it about 10 minutes before that, so it felt local and charming. We had lunch (lots of bacalhau and other seafood, of course), put our feet in the ocean, and stopped into a little fabric shop Rosa recommended, called Casa dos Escoceses, where they sell Portuguese wools and traditional plaid fishermen’s shirts and rustic handmade clogs and loads of colorful scarves. I bought a big, bright blue, paisley cotton scarf because I was so smitten with all the little old ladies of Nazaré, who have a very distinct sartorial way about them: layered knee-length skirts, patterned elbow-sleeved blouses tucked in, and scarves simply draped over their heads, not tied under their chins as you’d expect. I adored those ladies, and treasure my Nazaré scarf. (We also stopped there for a night — at the Hotel Magic! — on our way back to Lisbon at the end of the trip, which is when the twilight images here were taken.)

DRIVING IN PORTUGAL

Several people on Instagram asked about this. They drive on the right side of the road, and while the road signs are obviously different, they’re easy enough to get the hang of — and with GPS, it’s really no big deal in that regard. The only challenging thing is how narrow the roads are in so many places; learn to beep your horn a lot on your way around narrow blind curves. We had designated drivers and navigators in each car (I was a navigator, and my hat’s off to the drivers), and as long as someone was monitoring the GPS and the signs and talking the driver through it, it was all fine. However, to drive in Lisbon is not a thing I would ever want to do. (And I say that as someone who drove in San Francisco for years without ever thinking a thing about it.)

(Jen Hewett x Fringe Field Bag, notebook and tool pouch from Fringe Supply Co.)

. . .

D O U R O  +  P O R T O   T R A V E L   D E T A I L S

Lodging

• Calçada do Souto Farm
Stunning Airbnb that’s like a tile-roofed stone fortress that opens up to a backyard pool with amazing views out over a valley of vineyards. Quite remote (I believe it was about an hour or hour-and-a-half drive from Porto), but if the location works for you, the house can’t be beat.

Wine and Dining

Bulas Wines
Traditional Vinho Verde region wines, including white, red, rosé and a variety of ports. Jaw-droppingly beautiful place and lovely people.

DOC
By far the poshest place we ate in Portugal: chic minimalist interior, impeccable service (of the invisible sort), world-class food — from the amuses bouches to the entreés — and the most picturesque setting, right on the river Douro.

Taberna dos Mercadores
Teeny tiny and authentic, on a steep Porto street just up from the river. Casual vibe and fantastic service — we really enjoyed these guys. Be aware that the portions are huge: 5 of us ordered bacalhau and that alone was enough fish to feed the whole table plus the people waiting on the sidewalk. Big portions are apparently typical in the north of Portugal.

Shopping

• A Vida Portuguesa
If we could only have gone to one location of this made-in-Portugal emporium, I’d pick the Porto one — it’s large and stunning and has some of everything that the other two stores had, plus more in the way of books, pantry foods (tinned fish, olive oil, salt, tea, etc), Burel blankets, baskets and lots more.

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PREVIOUSLY in Portugal guide: Part 1, Lisbon and Portuguese knitting

Photo of me and my Teresa socks © Anna Dianich; remaining photos © Karen Templer

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Portugal part 1: Lisbon and Portuguese knitting

Portugal travel guide: Lisbon and Portuguese knitting

So seriously, where do I even begin? Our epic Portugal adventure breaks down into four parts, sort of, and while there’s a lot of yarny/sheepy stuff I want to tell you about, I know a lot of you are also quite eager for Portugal travel tips and specifics, so I’m going to do my best to cover it all by breaking this narrative into those four parts, with linked footnotes on each for specific restaurants, lodging, shops and such. I suppose the best place to start is at the beginning, so let’s talk about Lisbon!

Lisbon Tile Museum

I flew from Nashville to Atlanta on June 16th, where I met up with my pal Anna Dianich (of Tolt), and together we flew overnight to Lisbon, landing at 6:40am local time — that’s 12:40 in the morning my time, and 10:40 at night in Seattle, where Anna had started out. As you know, I am not a seasoned international traveler — my trip to Paris with Bob last year was our first time in Europe, and we never left the city. By contrast, this was a trip planned by my most intrepid globetrotting friends, but the group part wasn’t initially officially starting until we were meeting up to leave Lisbon on the 19th, so Anna and I were on our own the first two nights. I had read about Baixa House on sfgirlbybay last summer and knew that’s where I wanted us to stay, but they have a 3-night minimum, which turned out to be a blessing (and my new favorite travel rule). We went ahead and booked the room for the night of our flight, which meant when we landed we had a room to check into, rather than being at loose ends until 3pm with luggage and exhaustion and all. So we took a cab straight to the hotel, got our key and the full tour of our apartment, dropped our bags and washed our faces, and got to experience the best thing about Baixa House immediately: the breakfast. BH is an old apartment building — 13 units that are now rented as hotel rooms — and it’s the best of both worlds: a full apartment and kitchen and whatnot like an Airbnb, but staffed. Every day they leave little jars and trays in the fridge: fresh yogurt and cheese, butter, maybe some ham, definitely marmalade. And each morning, they leave a bag of freshly baked bread hanging on your door. So because we had rented the room for that night before (er, it was still night to us), our breakfast was waiting for us.

Lisbon travel guide: Baixa House hotel

Sitting in our beautiful sunny living room, savoring these treats, tired as could be (trying not to think how pretty and peaceful my bedroom was), it was tempting to never leave. But we were determined to stay awake until Portugal bedtime, and it turned out one of our fearless leaders, Fancy Jaime, was staying at Baixa with her boyfriend. (They had come for a week or so together ahead of the girls’ trip.) So Anna and I spent our first morning wandering aimlessly through the narrow, twisty, hilly streets of the Alfama district trying to find them at the super cool Copenhagen Coffee, after which the four of us did some major ogling at the tile museum, a little shopping at A Vida Portuguesa (the littlest one and our first of three, but we didn’t know any of that yet), and then went to an outdoor market back near BH. We parted ways for dinner — Anna and I desperately wanted something light and salad-y and found it at Eight — and finally climbed into our beds after however many hours of being awake!

Lisbon tile museum, Copenhagen Coffee, Eight - the Health Lounge

By the next morning, 7 of the 8 of us had arrived in Lisbon, and Rosa Pomar, who we had traveled to Portugal to meet, had generously offered to let us into the shop (Retrosaria is normally closed on Mondays) and give us all a Portuguese knitting lesson. When we arrived that morning, three of her colleagues were also there — one of whom, Anabela, was knitting my Anna Vest! — and they treated us to the best example of the famous local pastry, pastéis de nata aka pastel de nata (pronounced pashTEL de nada). Rosa’s shop is small but stunning, and it was incredible — as in, worth flying all the way to Portugal — to get to see all of her Rosa Pomar yarns, in all of their colors, together in one place. Rosa is doing amazing work, working with an assortment of Portuguese shepherds and mills to make a wide variety of local yarns, almost single-handedly reviving the wool industry in her country. I’ve been smitten with her Beiroa, in particular, and not only was I swooning over the big basket holding the full rainbow of it, but she had a little granny square sampler that was so beautiful I bought 10 skeins to try to replicate it on my own. She also sells a variety of shoes and boots, handmade by an elderly Portuguese man, and nearly all of us bought sandals. (They were actually out of my size, so I’m waiting for mine to be made, at which point they’ll send me both my shoes and my yarn. It’s that WHOLE ROW of skeins pictured next to her granny square quad up top!)

Lisbon travel guide: Retrosaria Rosa Pomar yarn and shoes

You may recall the time I knitted one of Rosa’s hat patterns in the Portuguese way (in short: working from the wrong side of the fabric, tensioning the yarn around your neck, and throwing it around the needle with your thumb — it’s brilliant), but relearning in Portugal, from Rosa, in a classroom I’ve seen on her Instagram so many times, was a wormhole experience, and one to cherish. And Rosa herself is even lovelier than I could have imagined. After having been Instagram friends for several years now, to get to know her and hear her voice was the best thing about the whole trip. But there’s lots more to be said about that.

When we left Rosa’s, we had lunch at a tiny, local, authentic place called Taberna da Rua das Flores — the start of what would become a daily bacalhau tradition — followed by Livraria Bertrand, the world’s oldest bookstore; our second A Vida Portuguesa experience, the larger shop on Rua Anchieta (below); and then a wander around LX Factory, a giant old warehouse compound now filled with little shops and eateries and bakeries and coffee shops and gelatarias and bookstore Ler Devagar. After which we all split up for dinner (some went to Belém) and a good night’s sleep before the real adventure was to begin the next day.

Lisbon travel guide: A Vida Portuguesa, sidewalks

. . .

While we’re talking about Lisbon, I’ll skip ahead for a second, because we spent a final afternoon and night in Lisbon at the end of our trip. After returning our rental cars (I’ll get to that), we paid Rosa one last visit at the shop, went to the nearby Burel wool store (lots more about Burel to come) where I bought the most amazing winter coat-vest imaginable, picked up dinner provisions at Prado Mercearia, and 7 of us spent the evening in our amazing apartment eating all the things (including some of my tinned fish I wouldn’t have room for) and striving to cram all of our purchases into our luggage before we took turns leaving the next morning. Keli Faw (of Drygoods) had found this place on Airbnb that was sprawling and had Lisbon-style tile in nearly every room, with a fully tiled kitchen, and balconies all the way around. It was splendid.

Lisbon guide: Prado Mercearia, Luminous Cibele

Regarding travel in Portugal, there are two main things I want to tell you. 1) Except in the tinier, more remote villages, nearly everyone speaks excellent English, so language is really not an issue. Even when we stopped for lunch one day in a little village in the mountains where the only person on duty at the restaurant (we’re pretty sure he was the cook as well as the server) spoke no English, we worked it out. 2) It’s quite affordable to travel there, apart from the airfare. We were not roughing it — as you’ll see. We ate very well (ranging from groceries at “home” to little hole in the wall places, to one very fancy meal), stayed in nice places (a mix of hotels and Airbnbs, although we shared rooms everywhere, which helped), and had two rental cars, and my share of all of that was about $85/day. Same with shopping: I bought a beautiful locally made cotton blanket at A Vida Portuguesa for 30 euros (you can see it in the shopping bag photo up top); handmade shoes from Rosa for 84 euros (far left in the shoe photo above, as well as on Anna’s feet in the cobblestone flower sidewalk shot). You can get perfectly good Portuguese wine for about 5 euros a bottle. We were pretty stunned at how affordable it all was. And as you’ll see, the country is truly beautiful and the people are lovely. I highly recommend it!

One other note about Lisbon in particular, though: Wear sensible shoes. It is very, very hilly (comparable to the hilliest parts of San Francisco, but all over) and the sidewalks are all ancient cobblestone, well smoothed by years upon years of foot traffic. They are beautiful, but not to be taken lightly.

. . .

T R A V E L   D E T A I L S

Guidebook

The Monocle Travel Guide to Lisbon
Baixa House had a copy in the apartment for us to use, and it was so good I’ve ordered a commemorative copy for myself and will be sure to use more Monocle guides in the future.

Lodging

Baixa House
Gorgeous, sunny 18th-century apartment building that is now run as a hotel, with housekeeping. There’s no restaurant but they leave breakfast foods (yogurt, cheeses, marmalade) in your fridge and fresh bread on your door each morning. We were in Eduardo VII and Jaime was in Belem. This is my favorite place I have ever stayed and I would go back in a heartbeat.

Luminous Cibele
Our Airbnb for our last night in Lisbon. We would have been very comfortable there for much longer, as it was beautiful and sprawling, with amazing views of the city from its many balconies.

Dining

Copenhagen Coffee
Pictured above (bottom left under the tile museum photos), the Alfama location is a super chic little oasis of a space with both food and drinks and a pretty courtyard (unlike the other one we also went to, which was a fairly ordinary coffee shop). Get the cardamom bun.

Eight — The Health Lounge
Good clean food — salads and grain bowls and such — in a beautiful hipster-style space. Also good for shopping. (My dinner pictured above, bottom right under the tile museum photos)

Taberna da Rua das Flores
Rosa had told us this is her favorite, but it’s teeny tiny and hard to get a table — especially for 8. So we went for a late lunch and loved it. Super local and authentic Portuguese dining.

Manteigaria
Rosa and her staff say this place — just down the block from her shop — makes the best pastel de nata in Lisbon. I can tell you we had a few, and none were anywhere near as good as these.

Prado Mercearia
We never got to eat at the restaurant Prado (in town on the wrong nights) but did get to load up on local cheeses, hams, olives, crackers, etc, at their adjacent beautiful little market, the Mercearia.

Sites / Shopping

Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum)
The National Tile Museum is a very manageable size but does a great job showing and telling the history of Portugal and its famous tile.

A Vida Portuguesa
Specializing in Portuguese-made goods, AVP has some of the most beautiful shops I’ve ever been in. There’s enough that’s different about the smaller Rua Ivens and larger Rua Anchieta locations that we went to both (and a third in Porto), and I recommend you do too! Blankets (including a wide assortment from Burel, see below), ceramics, home goods, soaps, pencils and notebooks …

Retrosaria Rosa Pomar
In addition to her full line of Portuguese artisan yarns, she also stocks a few other choice yarn brands and a small selection of fabric, as well as shoes and boots handmade by an elderly Portuguese gent, which are not to be missed.

• Livraria Bertrand
The world’s oldest operating bookstore is also quite beautiful, and when you buy something, they ask if you’d like a rubber stamp saying you bought it at the world’s oldest operating bookstore: in English or Portuguese.

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Also specializing in locally made goods, but more along the lines of jewelry, bags, a few clothes, and decorative objets.

Burel Mountain Originals
The shop of the Burel wool factory which I’ll be telling you about in another installment. A wide variety of goods made from their “burel” cloth, which is sort of like an even denser boiled wool, as well as their jaw-droppingly beautiful woven blankets, scarves and shawls.

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Photo of Anna and me outside the tile museum © Jaime Jennings; photo of Rosa Pomar and me © Anna Dianich; all other photos © Karen Templer

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Meeting my Blog Crush: Rosa Pomar

Meeting my Blog Crush: Rosa Pomar

Actually, I can tell you one thing we’re doing — right off the bat — is going to Retrosaria Rosa Pomar in Lisbon, a shop I’ve longed to visit for years and am proud to count as a Fringe Supply Co. stockist. I “met” Rosa on Instagram shortly after learning to knit, and wrote about her blog awhile back — a post a few of you cited when I asked for your favorites. The hat pattern of hers that I knitted in 2014 is still one of my all-time favorite knits. I knitted it Portuguese style, as taught to me by Brooke, and as much as I LOVED that, I somehow haven’t done it since — so I’m excited to relearn from Rosa and to finally get to see her beautiful shop and yarns and get to spend some quality time with her. Definitely check out these links and especially her Instagram feed @rosapomar.

*Which has probably already happened by the time this posts! 

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