Tuesday, 25 June 2019

A Trip to Rosa's Retrosaria. . .

I don't set out deliberately planning my holidays around wool acquisition, but such is the global scope of wool and knitting (and that's one of the reasons I love it!),  it's inevitable that most of my trips will include a stop at a local yarn shop. The Liverpudlian has come to accept this.

Even on the train to Porto, I never saw an actual Portuguese sheep. The closest I came was spying this section of tiled mural in the National Tile Museum.

But the minute I knew we were going to Lisbon, I was looking up the address of Rosa Pomar's Retrosaria (the Portuguese word for haberdashery).  I had previously read about her store and the beautiful wool that she creates from Portuguese sheep here and in an interview here but a stop to her store is a must, if only to fondle and squish the actual wool itself. 

The store is on the second floor, but I couldn't resist snapping a shot of the colourful mailboxes in the foyer of the building.

The stairway is a little dark, but when you emerge into the shop, it's a beautiful light-filled room, full of woolly goodness.


All of her own yarn is non-superwash and comes from free-range sheep.  When we visited, it was nearly 30 degrees and the staff were quite amused at the three customers all exclaiming over the wool. Turns out we were all from northern England - Manchester and Newcastle too!  And we all nodded knowingly as we discussed how one can pretty much wear wool every month in the UK.

There's also a selection of many other yarn brands but to be honest, I was there for Rosa's wool and only gave the rest a brief glance.  But it's a really lovely, well-stocked store that also sells Portuguese fabric.

Of course, I had to bring back some souvenirs.  I bought a sweater quantity of her lovely Brusca worsted weight - that shade of coppery brown just glows.  The light blue is some tweedy laceweight with bits of orange and darker blue running through it, and above it is some 4ply, again with lovely nubbs of colour.  Finally, I fell in love with the purple wool/cotton blend on the far right - I am thinking it'll make a beautiful summer shawl. 

The wool is lying on some cork sheets that I also bought in Lisbon; I am planning on sewing them into some project bags. And the grey bag at the top?  Well, another must-visit store in Lisbon is the Burel Mountain Originals store - there's one just a few streets away from the Retrosaria.  Again, using Portuguese wool, this company makes the most beautiful bags, fabric and soft furnishings.  Fringe Association also blogged about a visit to their factory here.   And just look at their front window homage to Tram 28 in cushion form!

I had a hard time choosing which bag to buy and actually had to go away for several hours to think about it, but am really pleased with my decision and have been using it ever since we returned - it's nice and roomy, has two front pockets for coffee mugs and water bottles, a strong shoulder strap, and  an expandable feature for the body, which was probably its main selling point.  It is so beautifully and impeccably made; I am sure it will last me for years. As for the gorgeous yarn - I am just waiting for the right patterns to come along and then I'll be casting on. I definitely want a sweater in that Brusca in time for autumn.

Friday, 21 June 2019

A Sidetrip to Porto. . .

During our vacation, we allocated a day to make the trip to Porto.  The train takes about three hours each way but if you go early, that still allows a good number of hours for exploring. However, the first thing to say about the city is that you definitely need more than one day to do it justice!

We started as usual, by climbing the highest point we could find - in this case the bell tower attached to the Clérigos Church, built in the 18th century.  While there are 200 steps, the path meanders through the building, taking you to several good spots to view the beautiful church as well.

And here is the view from the top of the tower.

Porto has a tile culture all its own.  I don't know when these were installed, but there definitely seemed to be a 1970s vibe on many of the buildings lining the main road leading from the train station into the more historic districts. 

Once in the city center, there are some magnificently tiled buildings.

A major must-see spot in town is the São Bento train station (not the one that you come into from Lisbon). The tiles here are just fantastic.

Like Lisbon, Porto is also a town of trams and pedestrian shopping streets.

With a lot of churches and a cathedral.

The sun came out in the late afternoon as we explored the Ribeira district, one of the oldest parts of the city, and walked along the river Douro which is spanned by six bridges.  If we'd had an extra day, no doubt we would have followed the river right out to the Atlantic coast.

My only disappointment of the day was not being able to visit this famous bookshop:

Unfortunately, due to its associations with Harry Potter, there was a huge queue to buy tickets (they have had to charge 5 euros, refundable with a book purchase) and then another one to actually enter the building (they can only let so many people in at one time).  With only a few hours before our train and so much still to see, I couldn't really justify spending that much time just waiting in line.

It just means that I'll have to go back some day.  Ironically, after we had booked our trip - many months ago -  I discovered that Porto was holding its first knitting festival, just three days after we left!  If they hold another, that will definitely be motivation to return.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Postcards from Portugal. . .

June has decidedly NOT been summery at all in the UK so it seems a fitting time to reminisce on our recent holiday to Portugal where it was very hot and sunny.

We went for a few days at the beginning of the month, spending most of our time in Lisbon, and as is our habit in a new city, we walked everywhere and climbed up to every viewpoint we could. We explored narrow side streets filled with small cafes and tiny shops, popped into every church we passed, marvelling at the ornate craftsmanship, and ate a lot of Portuguese custard tarts and ice cream.

This photo is taken from the gardens outside the Lisbon castle walls. It's impossible to sum up such a vibrant and historical city from a few photos and some touristy meandering, but here are some of the main visual impressions that stuck and inspired, starting with the terracotta tiled roofs that cover almost every building.

Tiles are ubiquitous of course in this city,  adorning everything from the pavements to the facades of buildings and underpasses too.  So much colour and pattern inspiration.

There are big public squares.

And vibrant jacaranda trees everywhere.

One day we walked to Belém,  to visit the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, the monument to Portuguese explorers/colonizers.  You can take an elevator up to the top.

It offers a good view of the  Hieronymites Monastery which was our next stop. We had to queue for quite some time to get into the cloisters but it was worth it - stunning stonework.

The area is a mixture of the old as in this early 16th century tower:

And the new.  We also popped into MAAT: Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology which was hosting a fascinating exhibit of how digital photography has played with and manipulated images of architecture.

Another highlight, at the other end of town, was the Museu Nacional do Azulejo housed in a former convent; the building is as unique as the historical and modern tiles displayed within. It also has a lovely cafe in the courtyard.

This is the church attached to the convent and tiled all along the bottom walls. 

While there were many murals, it was the repetitive tiled patterns that I was drawn to, both historical. . .

. . . and modern.

We walked through parks.

And along aqueducts.

And only on the last day did we buy an all-day pass for public transport, riding the famous Tram 28 route in its entirety all through the city.

We also used the underground metro, which is very efficient (it's definitely the best way to get to the airport), and also beautifully tiled.  I loved these giant rabbits.

We ate very well too - Portuguese pastries are pretty amazing, not just their traditional tarts but their cakes and other baked goods too, particularly if you like almonds (I do!).  A great place to sample a lot of different types of food is the Time Out Market, which was packed every time we visited.

But we did get to try the national dish of Bacalhau which was absolutely delicious and something I'm definitely going to try to replicate at home.  It looks like pasta, but it's codfish with fried matchstick potatoes (which gives it a lovely texture and crunch) onions and garlic, all held together with beaten egg which has to be stirred in quickly to avoid scrambling, and then topped with parsley and olive dust.  We loved it so much we had it twice.

We made a day trip to Porto as well, but I'll save that for a post of its own.  A woolly pilgrimage is also coming up.