The road to creative travel is a windy one. At least out here in the beautiful Serra da Lousã mountains of Portugal, about an hour away from the well-known university town of Coimbra. Winding our way up to this Portuguese ‘Aldeia’ called “Cerdeira Village Art & Craft“, my eyes gently run over the lush, forest-clad hillsides sun-kissed by the first rays of spring. A feeling of peace floods through me, much as cellphone reception drops only to vanish completely at the last turn. Catarina next to me in the car laughs, explaining: “Just two years ago, we got this tar-sealed road leading all the way up to our village Cerdeira. In times where many mountain ‘aldeias’ are simply abandoned, creative travel has provided us with a valuable source of income, fostering village rejuvenation and lending opportunities to local residents.”
Cerdeira Village Art & Craft, at only about a dozen houses huddled together and perched high atop a hillside, lies calm to a point of abandon if it weren’t for the buzz of creativity and actual (re)construction going on. Catarina and I meet Kerstin, a permanent resident and wood art teacher in Cerdeira for almost thirty years originally hailing from Germany. “I remember having met Catarina and her family when she was only four years old”, Kerstin smiles warmly at Catarina. “Meeting her mother in Coimbra has been one of the reasons I am living here now, with both of our families owning houses in Cerdeira and working to share this unique space with our national & international (art) visitors.”
Some day visitors to Cerdeira Village Art & Craft mill about only to disappear at sunset. It is around this hour that the magic of Cerdeira truly unfolds. Do make a point of staying, therefore: The local accommodation is nothing short of a genuine sense of luxury.
What a warm welcome for a creative traveller like myself, always on the lookout for unique local stories that woo you with their charm. Cerdeira Village Art & Craft provides state-of-the-art, modern accommodation facilities across all of its carefully renovated schist houses, distinguished for their local architectural features and ecological building standards. “You will be staying in our ‘Casa da Árvore’, the ‘Tree House’ – my favourite among all.” This is Catarina welcoming me to her home of Cerdeira with a wink. “Later tonight, come up to meet me at my house and we’ll share a few drinks. You’ll be delighted to hear more about the actual stories in & around Cerdeira.!”
Cerdeira Village Art & Craft really has come a long way. From a state of abandon, its most recent adherence to the ‘Creative Tourism Network’ has shed an international light on its activities – and rightly so.
“I am glad that so much interest & support from creative travel has helped both to preserve and develop Cerdeira Village Art & Craft. Honestly, I can’t think of any better place to come to in order to let yourself be inspired. Seclusion. Peace. And time, so much time, with days only dictated by the rhythm of the sunlight, eating & resting between periods of creativity or simple wandering around nature. Wow. What a perfect spot – a luxury to most travellers looking for exclusivity, authenticity, and peace of mind.”
And heart, I shall add, talking happily to Catarina. Because yes, you should be warned dear readers: Cerdeira has a quality that will make you fall in love with it …
So what can you expect from a typical, creative retreat out here in Cerdeira Village Art & Craft?
“In time, we still want to add a local café, provide even more art & tasting workshops for visitors to stay and enjoy our unique local flavours“, Catarina tells me full of vision and determination. A graduate in management at only 23 years old, I do believe she has both the skill set as well as the sensitivity to keep momentum going in a place whose transition from past to present is in full swing. “Creative travel now means inviting you to join a typical wood carving workshop run by Kerstin, who is here to connect you with what we call, the ‘sense of place’.” After working many hours on my wood carvings with a zeal that surprises even me (mind you, arms and hands will in due time remind you of their intense use!), I have come to understand what she means by that.
“I see and I forget, I hear and I remember, I do and I understand.”
Soon, I’ll tell you all about it in my book publication called “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook“: Watch out for the further inspiration that Cerdeira Village Art & Craft has been able to provide. 😀
Forging new friendships … developing a connection … embracing your own creativity … feeling pride and achievement … many are the virtues of this thing called creative travel. And more so here in Cerdeira.
Other places to inspire you for creative travel in Portugal are the city of Loulé in the Algarve as well as learning more about the unique and personal side of Porto’s & Lisbon’s local food scene: Taste Porto Food Tours & Taste of Lisboa Food Tours are my first-hand tips for you here.
Now sit back, relax & enjoy some more travel photos from Cerdeira …! I hope you will come to love this place as much as I do.!
Disclaimer: I have been invited by Cerdeira Village Art & Craft to come and stay for their creative art retreat in the Serra da Lousã. All opinions are my own.