Tuesday 14 May 2013

Craft Guerrilla goes to PORTO! ( PART 1)

My visit to Porto has been one of those trips which have split me straight down the middle - one half says "yeah, I love this place, lets move over now!" and the other says "meh, now that's totally not what I was expecting!"

A beautiful semi abandoned house in Foz (the sea side)...of course we had to go in for a gander!
But you know, having spent lots of time there through out my life I've seen it change and not always for the better. Change from a dilapidated, half forgotten city to a dilapidated full to the brim with cheap mass produced "Chinese"* shops kind of a city which offers little alternative. Still there are lots of beautiful public spaces, nice people and amazing new entrepreneurs who are slowly setting a precedent by opening interesting independent boutiques and eateries which have added so much to the city. But is that enough or a case of too little too late?

A beautiful statue...just because I like it!

Ribeira...a once super dodgy area is now a thriving indie shopping location and a night spot!

A gorgeous facade of a very old chemist near Rua das flores...

My quest for haberdashery and fabric shops was one which had filled me with excitement but left me with a sense of sadness and regret...regret that I wasn't there to fight for their preservation, to help campaign for a more sustainable local economy and sadness that those once amazing places have closed to give way to boring, faceless high street shops. Hey that sounds familiar doesn't it, Mary Portas where are you?!

An old fabric shop where I used to buy my fabrics and even found my cat Ziggy... now a gift shop but beautifully restored!

The north of Portugal was once a rich textile area and their linens and cottons were one of the best in Europe. What I found in their place were shops which wouldn't be out of place in Walthamstow Market or Green Street. Not saying all fabric shops in these areas are bad, heck I shop for fabric in Walthamstow and there are some really good ones but the majority aren't!
The ones I found in Porto were filled with horrible mixed poly cottons and cheap polyesters... my heart sank into a clingy, electrostatic pile of mess to never recover again!
Long gone is my favourite fabric shop, the same one I got my beloved Ziggy from, a sweet young tabby cat that lived between the rolls of fabric and the patron's feet.
Ziggy was given to me by the owner because he said I looked like I needed a cat in my life and that we'd treat each other well. That shop is now a gift shop and houses on the second floor "A Vida Portuguesa" which is a fab shop which sells lots of craft and national products but... it ain't my beautiful fabric shop no more! However they did restore it and left the beautiful wall to ceiling cabinets, shelves and panelled cashiers section intact where you took your ticket through a little window and paid for your purchase.

A Vida Portuguesa... traditional and national products...including traditional craft and some relaunched vintage products including the Arc-Brito Soap!

Sunny window display...inviting and serene!

"A Vida Portuguesa" is an exception but even the famous down town street of Santa Catarina hasn't gotten away unscathed. Where before you could buy the most amazing Portuguese leather shoes is now full of crappy plastic €10 trainers and boot "shoe" shops and lots of chains. Believe me I like a bargain and as a veggie I often wear plastic on my feet but honestly... do we need a whole street of it?
Things change. Things evolve, I get that, but what I don't get is why get rid of all the quality, quirky shops and fill them with mass produced crap? Please don't tell me it's because there isn't a call for them because I've experienced the exact opposite. Everyone seems to be after a slice of "yesterday" and of the unusual so why are these places closing down? That is something we all need to discuss and as the old saying goes: "If you don't use it, you'll lose it!" So yes I think it also falls onto us and taking responsibility as we shouldn't only like the idea of having these places but we actually need to shop there too!

If you look at the back of the photo there's that panelled wall with the cashier's window I was talking about...

Anyway it wasn't all bad... my meandering did take me to a few places where I did find a few gems so really I think there is still a chance of Porto coming through with a soul rather then a shadow of its former self... but I think people will also need to demand an alternative and not fall for the false economy of the "cheap". So yes there are a few interesting shops and a few little areas which I think will be up and coming so if you're ever in town visit:

Ribeira - for indie shops like "Cats and Hats" and lots of traditional products like seeds, religious paraphernalia and ironmongery

Hats & Cats... Rua Infante D. Henrique

A selection of Portuguese craft and international hand made items...the hats are from a factory in the North!

"Cabeçudos" Portuguese folk art/craft at the sister shop up near Rua das Flores...

Rua das Flores - for great quirky shops including a marionette museum, an organic shop/café and a modern haberdashers

"Retrosaria das Flores" Haberdashers

Marionette Museum...

"Merciaria das Flores" Traditional deli serving organic regional food to eat in, taste or take away!

Rua da Almada - for vintage clothing and a few good bars....

Mercado do Bolhao - for amazing fresh food, a right handful of characters and colourful language plus a stall which now sells tofu and other veggie ingredients for all your cooking needs! The fruit there is amazing as is the traditional hearty bread "broa".
For vegans and veggies...
Try The Casa Chinesa which is opposite (ish) the market on Rua Sá da Bandeira and sells lots of veggie and vegan stuff too but also cured meats and cheese so it's not solely a veggie shop but there are lots of fab ingredients ranging from grains, tofu, pulses, vegan patés and other healthy grub. Perfect if you are self catering and/or on a specific diet. Mind you there are so many vegetarian restaurants in Porto now that it would be a sin not to try them all!
Here's a list of a few and I highly recommend "Capa Verde" which also serves meat and fish:

A market with tons of personality!
Rua de Cedofeita - some good oldie worldie shops

and Rua do Rosario which has a few boutiques, galleries and an amazing health food shop come café  "Quintal Bio-shop" which serves the most amazing veggie food and has a very friendly resident cat.

A very happy Venti with the café cat at the "Quintal Bio shop"!
We'd love to hear your thoughts or if you have any top tips, comments or know of any cool places in Porto which we've missed out please share in the comment section below... we'd love to hear your experiences and stories about this majestic city!  We love Porto, Cidade Invicta!!! (Unvanquished City)

 foot note:
*Chinese shops are the equivalent of pound shops which sell cheap, mass produced, low quality, nasty stock!

1 comment:

Holly Hollyson @ Full of Beans and Sausages said...

Oh, that fabric shop! I could get lost in there for agoid amount of time!