Postcard from Jamie: Portugal



For years, we have been discussing how to work with ceramic factories in Portugal.  We finally managed to make some contacts with a few factories in a town that is a major ceramics hub, about an hour-and-a-half north of Lisbon. It was a great opportunity to explore this incredible country and meet the factories. We were completely inspired.


My Lisbon Travel Picks

We started in Lisbon and made our way to Porto. Great first trip experience. Lisbon is a great walking city, though it can be steep and strenuous. The cobblestone streets of the Bário Alto and the Alfama neighborhoods are so European, old and charming, filled with little cafés and shops. One of our favorite spots to visit was the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, dedicated to the famous art of Português tile making. Amazing walls of tiles in an incredible setting.

We had an incredible Portuguese traditional seafood dinner at a classic old school place called Pinoquio.

We went out to stroll the area and found this perfect boutique hotel called Hotel Alegria for lunch while we sat outside and watched people in the park.  

We had a great Sunday brunch at Solar dos Presuntos. A beautiful upscale establishment with Portuguese wines, amazing service and fantastic meats and cheeses.

 The Best Hotel in  Alcobaça

On our way out of town we visited the town of Alcobaça, north of Lisbon, the home of a 1,000-year-old monastery. An old wing of that monastery recently turned into the Montebelo Mosteiro de Alcobaça Historic Hotel where we stayed while working with our factories. An unbelievable experience, we were almost the only ones there and we agreed the atmosphere was humming with peculiar energy. Visiting the monastery itself is unforgettable as well.  We spent a few days here working with the factories and designing ceramic lamps and accessories.


From there we made a trip to see the nearby Batalha Monastery which is the greatest gothic example in Portugal. It's very inspiring to see as well.

My Guide to Porto 

A great stop on the way to Porto is visiting the castle town of Obidios, where you can walk on top of the originally Moorish castle walls and dine in one of the great little cafes within the walls.

Walking the city of Porto was fun and crowed with people from all over the world, smaller than Lisbon but filled with surprises.                    

We recommend the Pestana Vintage Hotel right down on the bustling riverfront with fantastic views and sunsets

In Porto, our favorite spot was the Mercado do Bolhao. Really beautiful with tons of mouthwatering food stalls. You can also pick your own fresh seafood and restaurants on the second floor will cook it for you.        

Hunt down all the blue-and-white tiled churches.  


Wine Tasting in the Duoro River Valley

And finally, our romantic getaway was to visit wineries in the Douro River Valley for a taste of the many surprising types of Port wine. (The steeply terraced vineyards are 5 times the size of Napa Valley!) Plus, there are olives and fresh fruit trees everywhere. Don't miss the spectacular scenery driving up through the emerald tunnels of trees to Gerês Mountain, far from the tourists and absolutely breathtaking,



My Take on Portuguese Design 

I was influenced by the architecture, the colors everywhere, the old tiles and their use of patterns that mix and match on all the buildings.  The influence was a combination to me of Spanish, Moroccan, Italian, and a Turkish melting pot.  All of the details in the castles and monasteries blew me away. I captured tons of design ideas in the shapes in every corner of the buildings. Simply traveling to a new place in the world allows space to think about design in a different way.  Portugal did this for us.