After a couple of days exploring Lisbon, our group traveled up north and stayed near the city of Porto (which is a gem of a city). We had two amazing days up there. One day we explored the Douro wine region and took a tour of a women-owned vineyard. The next day, Rosa took us to the town of Bucos to get a carding, spinning and weaving demonstration.
The Douro wine region runs along the Douro river and is characterized by terraced planting up the mountains along the river. This makes for a particularly beautiful landscape - one of the most beautiful wine regions I have ever seen - it has even been designated a Unesco World Heritage site. This is the oldest designated wine region in the world and is known for its own grape variates that produce both regular table wine and fortified wine that the region is known for (Port!). Our friend Alsn, who was traveling with us has connections in the wine world so she arranged a wonderful tour and tasting at Bulas Family Estate. This vineyard is unique in having a woman winemaker, Joana, who gave us a tasting of her wines. We were driven down the mountain via steep switchbacks to see the unique terraced planting of vineyards and we were able to see the Douro river up close. It was a such a great experience and I'd highly recommend a visit to this region.
The next day, Rosa took us to meet her friend, Teresa, a handspinner and weaver in the village of Bucos. Bucos is a picturesque village in the mountains of Portugal. It has a history of being a town where many wool blankets were produced by the village women who lived there. Today, there are very few people who live in Bucos and carry on the tradition. One of the women who does still card and spin wool is Teresa. Teresa scours, cards and spins wool in the old methods using hand carders and a type of drop spindle. She uses some of the yarn she produces for weaving and some is sold to Rosa so hand knitters can get their hands on it.
She demonstrated both carding and spinning for us outside her home. Teresa is obviously a master at her craft and has been perfecting it her whole life. Rosa was able to translate for us the lessons that Teresa was giving. Amber tried her hand at carding and I tried my hand at spinning. Despite being pretty good on a drop spindle, I felt like a beginner again trying to use Teresa's staff and spindle!
After our carding and spinning demonstration, we went down the street to Teresa's friend Ana's house. Ana is a weaver who uses Teresa's handspun for her blankets. These woven blankets would have been carried down to market at a neighboring larger town to be sold for money for the family. It is a beautiful, slow process of making that has remained largely unchanged. Teresa told us that she remembers one year when she and her mother worked diligently to make the most blankets they had made in a year, starting with raw wool, carding, then spinning and finally weaving each one. They then stacked them and carried the blankets on their heads for a 9-kilometer walk to sell them in town. We were grateful for the opportunity to see this process still at work in Portugal today. Teresa and Ana obviously took great pride int heir handicrafts and it showed in the quality of the work.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's post on the mountains of Serra da Estrela and the Burel Wool Factory!