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The biggest cork tree [by Picota]

One, two, tree, four, five, six, seven

Seven years it takes to ripe

Cork trees grow their light and buoyant coat

Protects them of the fire scare

and gives reason to visit the mountains

The picture above is of course NOT the biggest cork tree Europe’s and the poem somewhat sucks, but the real location of the magnificent tree is below and it should be worth the visit. It is on the east side of Picota and you will need to cross a private land to reach it. I’ve not been there myself but sought this to be potentially useful to stumble over. Let’s hope the Feldspata quarry will not be build – Quarry endangers biggest cork tree.

Longevity – just on the outside

Longevity is a 5 star wellness resort just outside Caldas de Monchique. During our stay we had a ‘free’ trial day to use their spa – sauna and steam room, indoor and outdoor swimming pool and attend a class in yoga. (We had the pleasure to be treated to this experience because one of our partnering organisations was relationship mingling with one of the managers of the hotel and they needed that day a few more faces to make the hotel feel more lively.) This somewhat stopped me to write about Longevity before, as I don’t really have much positive to say. Simultaneously, I also do not feel like ‘ranting’ about it as now the hotel is there and planted, providing some local employment possibilities and the best needs to be made from it in collaboration with Caldas and Monchique residents to drive tourists and people to it to use the resources on offer. My main points of criticism are: The superficial treatment of ‘wellbeing’ – apply some creams, messages, throw tablets and do more sports thinking that this would create long term change; and the alienated bubble to the surrounding of the Serra de Monchique. Furthermore, design-wise: ‘time less design’ as referred to in Longevity equals: ‘dead and meaningless’ objects as decoration, there is not even a single relevance to ‘locally made’ and there is an obvious imbalance of how little money must have been spend on the information design – seeing the program leaflet just makes me chowder let alone the building layout. It’s the impersonation of the three P: ‘planet’, ‘people’, ‘profit’, can’t you tell?!

The Medronho experience

There is something quite beautiful about mold covered Medronho berries.

On Friday afternoon we were taken by the Medronho producer Pedro Tapais to the place where he makes his Medronho called Tapais. The Medronho is destilled in a little house North of Monchique, about half an hours drive, in a narrow valley.  He helped us out with the Medronho bottles which we had in our exhibition with new labels and has quite a few new business ideas – he took five of us (Nic, Julia, Janki, Frank and me) on his Medronho experience  to receive feedback on how he can organise the experience better. Below – Pedro is preparing the first shot of Medronho after having showed us the barrels filled with berries to the rim and we listened to their gurgling. Unfortunately it wasn’t the season for distillation. The berries were picked last month, now they need to sit for 3 month more to start fermenting.

The best Medronho is made from red berries. The special batch for the owner and his friends. One barrel makes about 100-150 litres of Medronho.

The corner of the over 100 year old house where over generations Medronho has been distilled.

The house, in a wonderful location, surrounded by houses that belong to the wider family.

There is a terrace on which dried corn for the chickens and bunches of onion are stored. The near by river and the Medronho fields are in walking distance and thus the possibility to create a whole day filled with food, nature, learning and drink to show a small group of people the Medronho experience. [Specific ideas with specifics on how to shape the experience exactly will follow]

Geocaching in the Algarve


Almost having done it myself once as an excuse to explore the surrounding area of London, the feature article in the Algarve 123 in which we were mentioned too, was about Geocaching and how big it was in the Algarve with 527* caches alone. For the ones who don’t know yet what geocaching is: it’s basically a treasure hunt to find a cache, a container with something to exchange inside, by following GPS coordinates. Often these locations are culturally or geographically interesting and I really like the idea to tie them into local myths and legends.

A group of Portuguese friends is interested in organising a treasure hunt for our events week (which could be a great example for an activitiy for the kid’s, something that would really be great if Monchique had it, as lots of families visit throughout the year.) Anyhow, when I mentioned this to our Portuguese teacher, she got exciting and told me that her husband is well into geocaching. So here, the the useful links she send across, helping people of Monchique select their next geo-hunt.

This is a list of caches locations in Monchique. GPSies website helps with fnding tracks to reach the location and this is a leaflet about a cache in Portuguese.

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*Algarve 123 24th -30th November 2011

Local business marketing

Small, attractive flyers to display in local restaurants and shops.

Opportunities for simplicity

  • reduce amount of language versions (at the moment 5 diffferent flyers for languages are printed – German, English, Spanish, French & Portuguese)
  • reduce paper and size through less content and less pictures, one or two (of one traditional and one contemporary piece) and despite the fact it’s for sure lovely to see the ceramist’s CV on his current flyer, me as a customer, I will like the piece of pottery I’m eyeing up regardless of experience and awards. The prize and some of the decorative details also do not reflect the years of experience.

What’s next for Monchique?

This is just a ‘top of my head’ list of opportunities. There are so many more, especially in terms of service offers and products. So excited about the entrepreneurial workshop which we are planning to run as part of the ‘Novas Direcoes’ week in collaboration with the Council of Monchique.

How unique is Monchique?

Whilst my boyfriend was visiting, we drove to other nearby towns/cities in the Algarve to see how they promote themselves in comparison to Monchique. All places were inland about 20 minute drive from one another. We visited Salir, Alte and Silves (view map). The first impression worth sharing is that the tourist offices not run by the ‘Allgarve Tourism Board’ have much more informative materials about walks and things to do, including leaflets and mapped out town walks (as shown above). They even contain more information about Monchique than Monchique tourist’s office has itself.

The tour of Salir’s and Alte’s tourist offices (PDF) from the previous post show greater charm and emphasis on local handicrafts and tradition (Cork in Salir and traditional life in Alte, despite not being actually all that local specific to the town). However the aspect of story and variety of information for such small towns, Monchique should really consider how they are promoting themselves. Having a closer look at the leaflets I picked up, it becomes quite obvious of what touristic information could be provided easily (to catch up with the smaller neighbours). In terms of USP, a real uniqueness in less than a 50km radius is quite unlikely, but it’s all about the story and different perspective to create character. Not even Medronho is particularly specific to Monchique, in other regions it’s called ‘Medronho brandy’.