Cork or costume, in São Brás de Alportel?

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The Museu do Traje, or Costume Museum, in São Brás de Alportel is quite a fascinating place. Housed in a beautiful nineteenth century palace, I was aware of it’s existence but had never before managed to be in the right place at exactly the right time.  A cool, but sunny, Sunday afternoon proved just perfect.  At 2.15pm a cheerful gentleman wielding a huge metal key unlocked the graceful gates and the voyage of discovery began.

Elaborate high ceilings and chandeliers stop me in my tracks.  I’m not sure what I was expecting but the style and shape of the doorways pins an instant smile to my face.  In the first small foyer an exhibition, ‘The Wheels of Time’, sets the scene.  Beyond this I step into the fashion plates of an old world magazine.  I know that my daughter would be in her element here, and try to capture some of the details for her.

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In a darkened alcove I find two stunning Art Nouveau pieces.  A corridor leads from here to a kitchen, laid out with local produce for sale.

But for me the detail that I most enjoy is the way that the shutters fold open over the delicate glass panels above the doors.  The sunlight through the windows makes those shadows sing. And don’t miss the keyhole, will you?

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Just when I think that I’ve seen all the delights available and am about to step outside, the curator beckons me in some agitation.  I have missed something crucial.  You see, this isn’t only a costume museum.  It is also the home of cork.

I’m led out of a side door and across to a large barn.  A screen is suspended in the centre and at the push of a button a film begins.  It demonstrates the whole process of cork production, from the growth of the oaks, the periodic cutting of the bark, the boiling to kill tanins and the pressing and cutting into the final products.  It is an incredible tribute to man’s ingenuity. Within the barn are a variety of displays.  A huge press presides over a selection of harnesses and carriages.  Outside, a pleasant garden offers more.

A modern auditorium has been added to the grounds and Sunday evenings host a programme of concerts.  A jazz musician is setting up as I depart. In addition there are lessons in everything from making bobbin lace to bridge classes and choir throughout the week.  It’s good to see the local community getting behind the upkeep of this lovely property.  I hope you’ve enjoyed looking around with me and, for those who might be interested, I’ve enclosed a video telling a little more about the life of cork.

P.S If you’d like to know a little more about the history of the building take a look at Becky’s post.  She managed some great research.

90 comments

  1. uno speciale amore per cogliere i particolari! alcune immagini sono così spettacolari da togliere il fiato!
    grande Giovanna
    ti mando un grande bacio
    Annalisa, ringraziandoti per i bei momenti che ho passato in compagnia della tua arte fotografica 🙂

  2. I’m happy to see that you have overcome the terrible flu, Jo. And thank you for taking us along to this marvelous place with its superb collections.
    A terific photostory – you should send a link to the museum. 😉
    Best regards from Norwy, too warm, please send the cold weather up North where it belongs! 🙂
    Dina x

  3. Goodness, what an interesting museum and video. I feel like I have gone from a cork nobody to an instant cork specialist! Thanks Jo. I’ll never look at my coffee coaster in the same way again!

  4. So many unexpected things in this world, and you keep winkling out more. I read this ages ago, but I’m a bit time poor with the mob here. If only they didn’t eat!!! Still time to send a few hugs your way.

    1. It is a bit of an odd combination. Sometimes you see it named as the Ethnographic Museum- folk costume and such, but it’s a lovely old building and I don’t really mind what’s inside so long as it’s preserved. 🙂

    1. I love it when I see them being used originally, Ann, because the corks in bottles era has rather gone. I saw some cork postcards the other day and I was positively skipping! How are you, anyway? 🙂

      1. All good, Jo. Just pre-occupied with de-cluttering. Seem to spend half my life doing that task. It’s only till the end of this month though and then I will give it a break.

  5. Ha! My wife and I began collecting corks several years ago as souvenirs to remember great occasions. We have an enormous vase and several drawers littered with these little guys. Think you just gave me an idea to put them to use!

      1. hehehe you’re too modest. And I’m having too much fun causing trouble in the blogosphere to slow down on my blogging (too much). But sure, I’ll be sure to share any corky creations worthy of public consumption.

  6. It blows my mind that so much wealth was created from cork! And ‘cork speculation’?!? Who would have thunk. Once again I was attracted to every image with that endless Algarve blue sky. And with regard to the dresses, I thought to myself, thank goodness I don’t have to sport one of those about on Amandla!

      1. I will tell you that when I was a kid, I LOVED 1800s wear …I was in my ‘Little House on the Prairie phase. But once I found my final frontier, sportswear just seemed more practical 😊. I think it’s cool that your daughter dresses in that fashion!

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