We’re in Portugal!!

We’re off again!  We left Seville Spain around 7am by bus and travelled through rolling farmland and low hills to the Portuguese border. Border Control officers boarded the bus and did a quick passport check and then the bus carried on alongside the southern coast towards Lagos, our first destination, and we arrived about 12:30 pm. 

Lagos is quite small with a population of around 16,000 and is one of the most visited cities in Portugal and I can see why. It has wonderful Atlantic beaches set amongst amazing rock cliff formations, a walking trail along the coast, historic city walls, a fort over the shore, a few other historical sites, and lots of shops, souvenir stands, restaurants and bars.

Some of the sites we took in included the Municipal Museum which had a jumble of displays showcasing the local and regional history of Lagos.  They had prehistoric and historic artefacts to religious artworks, to modern art and photographic exhibitions, to antique firearms and model ships. Also attached to the museum is the small ornate Church of Santa Antonio.  This church is considered one of the best Baroque churches in Portugal and is dedicated to the patron saint of the military, Antonio. The church contains a gilded altar and paintings of Antonio’s life.

A little more interesting to me was the Slave Market Museum.  Lagos established a slave market for Europe.  During the 15th century, slaves were captured and transported from Africa, brought here and sold.  The museum is situated in the very building that housed the slave market and deals with the history of the slave trade from the 15th to 19th centuries.

Of all the sites we visited,  the one I liked the best was a small fort built overlooking the ocean in the 17th century called Fortress Lagos. I was expecting it to be the usual prison cell, armory, sleeping quarters, etc. but instead, they used it to showcase artwork. Totally enjoyed it, especially the weather vanes on top.

With all the site seeing done, we spent a couple of hours on the beach.

Shopping was interesting. A popular item here is cork veneer handbags, purses, wallets, hats, etc. It is odd seeing cork used as a “fabric”.  They look neat but I wondered how they could make a fabric out of tree bark, so I did a little research on it and this is what I found out:

  • Cork fabric is harvested from the Cork Oak tree, a tree that grows primarily in Spain, Portugal and France. When the Cork Oak has reached 20 years of age, the bark is stripped from the tree with a machete. That tree is then marked with a number so that it will not be harvested again for ten years.
  • Unlike other trees, the Cork Oak is the only tree in the world that can be stripped of its bark and not die — thus making the harvesting of cork 100% sustainable. In fact, the same tree can be harvested every 10 years for over 200 years!
  • Once the cork bark arrives in the factory, it is boiled in water to make the cork cells expand and make it easier to work with.
  • Then, it is shaved down into very thin sheets — about the same thickness as tissue paper. To make the cork durable, the sheets are then glued to a cotton/polyester or polyurethane backing.  The pieces of cork are sometimes glued onto the backing like patchwork, sometimes in thin lines — it all depends on the design.
  • And while cork is naturally water- and dust-resistant, a coating of sealant is applied to the cork in the final step of production to keep it from getting dirty.
  • Once the cork fabric is complete, it is stain-resistant, water-resistant, scratch-proof and incredibly soft. It can be used in the same applications as leather and upholstery-grade fabric.
Cork Wallet
I bought a cork change purse for my sister.

While here, I decided to get my hair cut again. The fellow in Morocco really did a poor job on my hair. I had just wanted a trim and the first thing he did was cut away all the hair around my ears (I’ve never had “naked” ears before and it has been weird) and then he hardly cut the rest of my hair. So I have been feeling like a mop lately with a thick patch of hair up top. When I went to the hairdresser here, she just kind of looked quizzically at my hair as one side around my ears was much shorter than the other side and my hair was uneven all over. With a language barrier, I couldn’t really say too much other than I wanted my hair shorter. Well, it’s really short now. I don’t hate my hair, I just don’t think I’ll keep it this way, but it’s okay for now. I also had some waxing done to remove the hair on my lip and chin, something I have done regularly for years. The waxing was funny because the esthetician asked if I wanted the rest of my face done, and since I know I have a lot of fine hairs where sideburns would be, I said yes. Well she worked on my face for a whole half hour! She did my cheeks, my forehead, my neck, partly inside my nose; it was amazing. I wondered just how hairy I was!

That pretty much sums up Lagos, next stop is Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.


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