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Loulé, Cork and Learning Portuguese
You may recall taking your SATs and being asked to identify the word that did not “fit” in the string of other words. Or perhaps you recall the song, “One of these things is not like the others”. Well today, Loulé, Cork, and Learning Portuguese all have something in common. The common factor is “Field Trips”!
We are in the final month of our free Portuguese classes. If you read that post you may recall that we began our classes in late November. To get your “certificate” you must complete 150 hours of instruction. Due to teachers’ strikes, Portuguese holidays, and occasional sick days completing all 150 hours before the school year ends is a challenge. In fact, this month we will be attending class 3 times a week so we can complete the required hours by the end of June.
However, in addition to the normal classes, the school offers other activities in hopes of teaching you more about Portuguese culture and integrating you into its society. This year we have been offered two field trips. Participating in field trips increases your hours as all of the commentaries are provided in Portuguese.1 It turned out they were educational and a lot of fun!
In March, we went to Loulé. I shared with you our initial impressions of Loulé last year. (You may recall, we swapped apartments with a reader in the summer of 2021.) However, during the field trip, we were exposed to Loule’s rich creative arts community.2
We began the trip at the Palácio Gama Lobo which is the home of Loulé Criativo. This building was begun in the late 18th century, but architectural disagreements delayed its completion by nearly 100 years. In the 1930’s the building was home to Spanish Jesuits fleeing the Civil War. They returned to Spain in 1939 and the manor house was at times a music school, home to the Carnival balls, and other cultural activities. Loulé Criativo has provided a complete “refresh” of the building…merging its rich architectural history with a new modern addition.
After a brief introduction, we followed a cultural trail that covered approximately 6 square blocks. Along the way, we stopped at the Palm Weaving Shop, The Clay Studio, The Cooper Shop, The Textile Studio, The Luther Studio, and a Watchmaker’s Shop. At each stop, we observed local artists and students at work. If you are planning on visiting Loulé I can recommend taking the tour…it is as easy as picking up the map at the palace or checking out their events schedule online.
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In April we were offered a second field trip…this time to São Bras de Alportel to visit the Eco-Cork Factory. Eco-cork is a family-owned small business that dates back to the 19th century. The process begins by harvesting the cork from their own fields. We learned that it takes 25 years before the first bark can be removed from the trees. Two subsequent harvests which are 8 years apart must be completed before the cork is of the quality required to make wine and champagne corks. Cork oak trees continue to provide this natural resource for 250 years.
During our tour, we met one gentleman that has been preparing the cork for over 40 years. By eye, he can calculate the thickness of the cork within 1mm.
We learned about the processes used to prepare the cork…each of which is sensitive to the environment. We also learned about the many products that can be produced from the cork which included a visit to their on-site gift shop.
If you are in Algarve and interested in cork production you can visit the factory or schedule a tour. You see there is much more to Algarve than a sunny beach.
First graders (A1/A2) as well as more advanced students (B2+) participated in the field trips. While the presenters kindly spoke more slowly than normal, I must admit that as my mind deciphered the first few words of a sentence they were finishing the next sentence. That said, I got the general gist of the presentation and Denise (who studies much more than I did) was able to fill in the blanks. It was also encouraging to listen to the more advanced students converse with the presenters. No more excuses…adults really can learn another language!
If you are looking for a town to support your artsy side Loulé is an excellent choice in Algarve.