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You wouldn't be here if you weren't curious.*

Hi! I'm Elena! Welcome to my travel blog Creativelena.com.
For me, it is all about “life-seeing instead of sightseeing”: Join me as I create, eat & live my way around the world. Curious?

*Check out my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook”, for learning more about what we mean by creative travel. Travelling means the world to me, makes me fit for everday life and sometimes, I trust, also calmer on the inside. Read this blog with a smile, share what you love and remember to check back regularly: After all, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

Creative Travel in Portugal: Loulé as a Capital of Crafts in the Algarve

The sky is a brilliant blue, reflecting the sun-kissed, light-hearted atmosphere of the city of Loulé and its people. I time-travel back from autumn into summer. At least this is what it feels like for me as a Central European, taking a deep breath and immediately feeling wrapped up by the light-hearted atmosphere myself. At 10.00 in the morning, I have my first meeting with João Ministro, managing director of ProActiveTur, a company set up to develop sustainable tourism and regional culture initiatives in the Algarve. João is here to tell me more about the “TASA” project, including lots of different initiatives to encourage creative travel in Loulé and around. We speak in Portuguese. Of course. Since Portuguese is a language I learned over the summer, a most beautiful language of the heart speaking to me since my visit in Porto – the fifth foreign language I have decided to learn. Like that. Seriously. I love it! Such is the start of my creative visit to the Algarve. 😉

Starting my walk around Loulé in the very south of the Algarve region in Portugal, I feel as light-hearted and happy as can be – pretty much like the statue in the centre of this square here.

Starting my walk around Loulé in the very south of the Algarve region in Portugal, I feel as light-hearted and happy as can be – pretty much like the statue in the centre of this square here.

 

“TASA” means breathing new life into traditional forms of handicrafts and arts in the Algarve region of Portugal, for instance by encouraging young people to follow ancient trades and crafts in new, contemporary ways as well as by organising creative workshops for visitors.

“TASA” means breathing new life into traditional forms of handicrafts and arts in the Algarve region of Portugal, for instance by encouraging young people to follow ancient trades and crafts in new, contemporary ways as well as by organising creative workshops for visitors.

 

One of João’s colleagues at the ProActiveTur office explains how this beautiful pot using a cork holder has been designed – all hand-made, naturally. I would love to take one with me immediately!

One of João’s colleagues at the ProActiveTur office explains how this beautiful pot using a cork holder has been designed – all hand-made, naturally. I would love to take one with me immediately!

 

Recently, Loulé in the south of the beautiful Algarve region in Portugal has become a part of the international “Creative Tourism Network” – and thus appeared on my radar for creative travel, too.

Even though I am only travelling in the Algarve for a couple of days, I immediately get the gist of what this area is all about. Traditional art and craft forms practised by the local people over the course of many centuries have become threatened to disappear in times of global competition & economic crises. “When I was still a kid, I remember we all learned from the local artisans living and working here in Loulé”, Paula who owns a restaurant named Perdicão tells me, saddened. “Today, many people have already moved away looking for a different living elsewhere.” And yet, looking around as a first-time visitor, there is still so much left to discover in the area, starting with the city of Loulé itself. Loulé totals some 30.000 inhabitants and thus is no bigger than my own hometown Krems in Lower Austria. Fuelled by a spirit of curiosity and creativity, I have decided to set off exploring the creative trade routes of the Algarve. It is thanks to this wider international trend for creative culture travel that destinations such as Loulé may now benefit for taking a fresh look at their own assets for culture tourism.

Since the beginning of this year, the “TASA” project aims at encouraging a whole number of different creative workshops for visitors to experience local arts and crafts, such as basket weaving, felt-making, pottery or cooking classes.

Since the beginning of this year, the “TASA” project aims at encouraging a whole number of different creative workshops for visitors to experience local arts and crafts, such as basket weaving, felt-making, pottery or cooking classes.

 

We are visiting the workshop of the local glass artist Miguel ...

We are visiting the workshop of the local glass artist Miguel …

 

 ... who besides being a glass print artist also wants to offer different workshops focusing on printing techniques, such as printing your own T-Shirt.

… who besides being a glass print artist also wants to offer different workshops focusing on printing techniques, such as printing your own T-Shirt.

 

João Ministro and his colleague Graca take me on a walk round the city of Loulé ...

João Ministro and his colleague Graca take me on a walk round the city of Loulé …

 

... past cute little shops such as this one: "Sardinha - Fresh Souvenirs from Portugal" has focused entirely on retailing only first-class, hand-made products from Portugal ...

… past cute little shops such as this one: “Sardinha – Fresh Souvenirs from Portugal” has focused entirely on retailing only first-class, hand-made products from Portugal …

 

 ... all the way to the market square, an architectural testimony to more than 700 years of Arabic reign in this part of Portugal.

… all the way to the market square, an architectural testimony to more than 700 years of Arabic reign in this part of Portugal.

 

Creative Travel fosters international exchange of know-how and understanding: Through direct contact with the local people, for instance during a cooking or weaving workshop, you start speaking the language of the human heart.

“When we go out into the Serra, we always harvest a big amount and then dry our herbs over a long period of time … Our salt, local sea salt, is good, but we always take care of using only a little – it is our herbs that really lend our cuisine its typical Mediterranean flavours: Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender. Local cuisine here in the Algarve is much more focused on fish & vegetables than further up north in Portugal, and thus lighter and healthier, too.” Paula speaks with determination in her voice, drawing everyone’s attention at the restaurant Perdicão. Today, she and her mum are preparing “small snacks”, as the Portuguese like to call their “tea time” at five in the afternoon: There is white bread covered with a cream of sweet potato, nuts and baked with cheese, small pastries filled with fish and vegetables as well as home-made veggie sticks – and of course cake for dessert, using a special type of sweet “Alfarroba” flour for baking. Yum! For me, all of this amounts more to dinnertime, rather … They just cannot help but be focused on food and mealtime stories, those sweet Portuguese people.! 😉

Paula shows me what we are going to cook in her kitchen today ...

Paula shows me what we are going to cook in her kitchen today …

 

... I enjoy dipping those slices of bread in healthy olive oil, adding – yes! – sugar on top! What a delight. Forget your diets when you are travelling in Portugal!

… I enjoy dipping those slices of bread in healthy olive oil, adding – yes! – sugar on top! What a delight. Forget your diets when you are travelling in Portugal!

 

Home-made little sticks fresh out of the oven …

Home-made little sticks fresh out of the oven …

 

... as well as taking a deep breath over these dried herbs from the Algarve, such as this lavender here ...

… as well as taking a deep breath over these dried herbs from the Algarve, such as this lavender here …

 

... and we are ready to serve the team of ProActiveTur for this “afternoon snack”: “Today, you are going to cook for us!”, João tells me just before leaving me in Paula’s good care. Clever, I must say!

… and we are ready to serve the team of ProActiveTur for this “afternoon snack”: “Today, you are going to cook for us!”, João tells me just before leaving me in Paula’s good care. Clever, I must say!

 

 

I have also really connected with this sweet lady here, who thanks to her many years of experience has proven the perfect candidate to introduce me to the ancient art of plant weaving. “I started when I was only nine years old”, she tells me and her face lights up, having dedicated her entire life to living her passion. Touching the delicate palm fibres she has brought with her, I feel reminded of my first creative workshops in New Zealand weaving with Harakeke flax. “It took me three months to weave this palm dress”, she tells me with pride in her voice. “The dress scored second in the national competition!” Odete is such a happy person, and together nothing can stop us: On this day, we become one, united by both our passion for creative travel in the Algarve.

Setting off by choosing the right kind of plant fibres to work with is an important part of the process of weaving.

Setting off by choosing the right kind of plant fibres to work with is an important part of the process of weaving.

 

After about a week’s time, the dried leaves start to turn yellow: Odete quickly sets off weaving a first pattern ...

After about a week’s time, the dried leaves start to turn yellow: Odete quickly sets off weaving a first pattern …

 

... teaching me to include fresh green palm fibres for creating a pattern with colours.

… teaching me to include fresh green palm fibres for creating a pattern with colours.

 

Thanks to her patience, I manage to create about half a metre of this braided pattern in less than one hour’s time.

Thanks to her patience, I manage to create about half a metre of this braided pattern in less than one hour’s time.

 

My first results contained in this little basket Odete offers me truly deserve to be shown ...!

My first results contained in this little basket Odete offers me truly deserve to be shown …!

 

Thank you so much for all those first creative encounters with the talented local people of Loulé!

Thank you so much for all those first creative encounters with the talented local people of Loulé!

 

Disclaimer: I have been invited by João Ministro and his team to discover and explore creative travel in the Algarve region of Portugal. All opinions are my own.

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Written by Elena

Elena writes about creative destinations, shares her personal travel stories and brings inspiring photography & interesting news updates home to you. Her mission is: "Continue to be amazed at this world, one creative travel experience at a time."

Ready for learning even more about creative travel?

Elena has recently published "The Creative Traveler's Handbook". Chock full of inspiratinal stories, travel tips and advice, it offers everything you need for planning and managing your next creative escape, addressing beginners and experienced travelers alike. Here's how to get your hands on it now!
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4 Comments

  1. Julie Dawn Fox

    Hi Elena, I really enjoyed this post. I read about Loule being part of the Creative tourism network a few months ago and have been meaning to take a closer look. Your photos and descriptions make me want that even more.

    Reply
    • Elena

      Dear Julie,

      Thank you so much for your reply! I really appreciate your feedback and will forward it on to my colleagues, busy and really committed to develop sustainable creative tourism in the Algarve. When you go, please let me know as I will be happy in joining you to go there once more. 🙂

      We should definitely be looking at organizing a travel writers / bloggers festival gathering in Loulé Criativo. What do you think? Let’s stay in touch!

      Yours sincerely and creatively,

      Elena!

      Reply
  2. Lilly

    Where can I get lessons in basket/ palm weaving , canning chairs in the algarve ? 

    Reply
    • Elena

      Dear Lilly,

      Thank you so much for contacting me here, and for finding out about my (creative travel) blog ! I advise you to best contact the team of “Loulé Criativo” in Southern Portugal directly: On their homepage http://loulecriativo.pt/en/home I can even read about a “palm weaving workshop” right now, and you’d be best advised to write to them about your interest, potential travel/ workshop dates, etc.!

      Hope this helps!

      All the best and enjoy your trip,

      Elena

      Reply

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