Monchique Pop up Shop

In the last week of Monchique, Julia prompted the idea of a pop up shop – the more I play with the patterns and photos I took whilst out there, the more I think it would be great fun and an opportunity to learn to do a crafty, shop and workshop space. I also stumbled over this very beautiful flat interior picture above in my photo collection –  unfortunately the shop which we could possibly get along the main staircase alleyway in Monchique will most certainly not offer such picturesque interior opportunities. Let me label the idea as a-bit-far-fetched for now, but be assured to be updated if anything more specific comes of it.


The personality of the Quinta

A few weeks ago, Nic ran a workshop getting small groups of people and the owners of the Quinta to extract the brand of Quinta das Relvinhas. For this Nic used a card game based on archetypes, differentiating between Vision, Sound, Taste and Behaviour. The Quinta has so much potential but suffers of a mixed bag of messages, creating wrong expectations and not meeting them by claiming something it is no or has moved away from. The objective was to discuss the present and the future ideas of the brand path the direction forward. This was why it was great that the owners of the Quinta were there too, simultaneously smaller groups also did the exercise. However, right from the onset, it was difficult for everyone to differentiate between what the Quinta is now, was and what it potentially could be.  It created interesting discussions and the end result were the personalities of the explorer, the innocent and the magician.

All three types seek Risk and Independence. This definitely reflects the spontaneous personality of the Quinta. But shall it stay this way? What do the owners want to do? How much do they wish to be involved in running their business and are they ready to delegate and create change within their property? All very relevant questions, all of which could not be clearly answered with the confidence of not changing their mind the next moment or let it be two weeks later, hence most work was suspended from our side. Why run after a slippery fish when you are not even getting paid for the work?!

From this I had a first stab at the philosophy of the Quinta.

Designing guided tours

When I was in Lisbon, I joined two ‘free’ walking tours by which a small group of people, less than 15 are taken by an English speaking guide to different view points and points of interest in Alfama and Chiado/Bairo Alto. The Alfama tour is themed ledgends and myths, the Bairo Alto/Chiado is about Lisbon’s history. I was particularly baffled by the first tour, taken around by the owner of the company, is pretty cool and insightful. The second group was larger than ten with three rather dominating personalities, asking lots of questions and creating most of the group dynamic. the details and historic information were exemplified and illustrated well, so that I even remember the key dates. (and I certainly do not have a memory for historical information). Anyway, of course as a by product I also used this experience as a research opportunity to exemplify some examples on how good guiding tours are planned and executed, primarily for the Veredas de Monchique.

So what makes a good guide and an enjoyable experience?

Firstly: the guide’s personality and preparation. The first guide we had, well educated in history and human rights, repackaged the information in jokes and narrations and used reoccurring descriptions like ‘coward kind’ to differentiate between King Jose and Marques de Pombal. He used lot’s of anecdotes, examples and leading questions to take the listener on his historic adventure unfolding few and steadily new packages of information. Unfortunately I did not make more detailed notes on this to draw on more specific examples, but I am sure reading into constructing a narratives and doing good presentation can teach some more specific examples:

Structure of information and narratives:

  • roll out historic facts in chunks that correspond to what is being visited
  • prepare listeners to and confirm – Next I will tell you about…. So,…
  •  embedding it into a story with indirect speech and jokes
Secondly: Sufficient time to explore and avoid confusion:
  • Complimentary drink included – no complication with money
  • Explain how it works with the ‘tipping’ in the right situation, leave it not right to the end, but rather explain how the company works and remains existing
  • Regulate group size
  • No stress for time, if a group takes longer than the 2.5 hours

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?!

Portuguese theater

Last summer a group of actors and visual artists visited Monchique for 20 days to write a play about the convent of Monchique. This group is called the Karnart and does a variety of community theater – combining visual, animation, photography and sound. Often ‘community theater’ means that members of the community enact a role or themselves even in plays which address issues a community is experiencing. This play did not have anyone of the community enacting, but integrated video interviews and speech. The play, just over 60 minutes long, was split into four parts:

1. Setting the Scene (history of the convent and first impressions)

2. Describing the outsiders point of view (tourists, other community members)

3. Video and interviews describing the insiders view (footage showing the family living there and telling their story about the convent and what they would do with it if they had the money)

4. Future for Monchique and making the community realise that they have all the ‘good’ things just by their doorstep (organic farming, nature, springs etc)

As the play was in Portuguese it was rather difficult to understand the spoken parts of the play. We (the three of the group that went) were very lucky that the play integrated so many audio/ visual elements. It was a rather enjoyable play – some parts were abstracted with several layers of plot and expression (especially in the last bit), others were rather strict – three chairs with speakers against black. I think the main point of the play was to communicate perspectives. Perspectives of what should happen with the convent differ: business man want to transform it into a hotel, tourists want to visit it and learn more about it, the community does not want the ruin the fall to pieces, and the family wants to have a place to live and continue living there since the last 30 years. One of the last points (picture below) unbranded packaging ‘para usar no futura’ – which means ‘to use in future’ – and the flower objects made from cans, express that the opportunity of Monchique lies in a different approach, beyond the convent. It lies in rethinking and living the alternative ‘dream’ which respects limited resources and nature. However, the way this was communicated could be called plump.

Also from talking to friends later on, they said that the whole situation was rather unusual – rarely, this diverse mix of social groups (including the family who lives at the convent, who also went to Lisbon to see the play), are in one room or event together giving them both the opportunity to mingle and understand each other a bit more. The Portuguese somewhat reserved behaviour was rather apparent throughout the entire event. No one would be talking particularly load or stand out (apart from of course the producers of the play) and even when there was Monchique’s mel cake (honey), Melosa and Medronho, every one was rather calm and keeping to themselves.

Craft shops, Alfama Lisbon

In the process of completing all unfinished blog posts: I finally completed the Lisbon Craft Shop Map of the Alfama district. Especially the colourful, simple tiles of the Artesanatos de Portugal shop are worth a stop. Wish I had picked some up when I had the chance! This map is part of the gems of Lisbon Crafts blogpost.