Universally speaking

Is it just me, or does anybody else notice that sometimes when somebody mentions something (or indeed, in this case, someplace) you’ve never heard of before in your life, then all of a sudden, it keeps coming up randomly in completely different and unrelated conversations? Suddenly everybody keeps saying it!

Well, this is exactly what happened to me recently. First, it was artist Jessica Dunn who, while I was visiting her gallery a few weeks ago, asked me if I had been to the "República 14 in Olhão"? (apparently, the Quinta Art Collective had held an exhibition there in June).

Next, it was Vanda Lopes, from the O Cabaz Algarvio shop in Almancil, who I wrote about early this year. Vanda knows about all sorts of interesting people in the Algarve as she either sells their products in her shop or takes people out (as part of her other business Algarve treasures - tours & experiences) on trips to visit them. The perfect person I thought to ask about story ideas and she again told me about the República 14 and suggested I go along and check out the ‘Produtos da Terra - Bio & Local' products market they have there on Wednesday mornings.

This was enough for me and off I went, but, as if to confirm that the universe was clearly calling me, the day after I had been, and before I even got a chance to tell her what I was writing about this week, Daisy suggested it in our editorial meeting. Everybody, it seemed, was on the same wavelength.

The ‘plaice’

The Associação Cultural Re-Criativa República 14 is located on the Avenida de República (number 14) in Olhão. Google Maps led me to their door and the poster on the wall of a girl in flip flops balancing happily on top of a flat-fish confirmed I was in the right ‘plaice’ (sorry, I couldn't resist).

Going through the door of the grand entrance, I was greeted by colourful birds hanging down from the ceiling, and I stopped to take in all the signs and posters for events both past, present and future.

It seems the place has recently celebrated its 4 year anniversary and, as well as holding frequent concerts and exhibitions, they also have regular pilates, yoga and capoeira classes, as well as singing, piano and guitar. And, in case you are thinking that your Portuguese might not be up to all these things, you can also come and attend Portuguese lessons for all levels. There’s also a swap market on the last Sunday of every month, where you can exchange your clothes and books.

I made my way through the building, explored the gallery briefly, and then headed out into the beautiful orange open courtyard. With its many trees, there was a very nice vibe going on here and I got myself a meia de leite and a tosta mista at the art filled café and sat down outside to take it in for a while before heading down to check out the stalls.

The stalls

Out in the pretty courtyard were a bunch of lovely locals selling their biological, homegrown and homemade produce. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to talking to everybody, but there were fruits and vegetables, a sweet beekeeper lady selling her honey and related confectionery (I had a sweety), and a lovely lady from the LOAAA - Liga Olhanense dos Amigos dos Animais Abandonados who helps capture and sterilize street cats as well as care for and find new homes for injured cats and kittens. She was asking for donations and gave you some delicious home-baked (that morning) cookies to say thank you.

Captain B-Art

I also met Bart, a retired sea captain, who caught my attention with his beautiful collection of woodwork. I hope there wasn’t a misunderstanding (because it seems a little too good to be true) but the company is called B Art Olhão, and if his name really is Bart then, well... I think he’s found his calling.

Of course, being a captain, a lot of his work was marine-based, with various models of different ship decks as well as islands (floating in a sea of epoxy resin). All his work was done with extreme precision and to scale and that's because it's all done by a computer. That's right. Bart uses something called Computer Numerical Control (CNC) which he’s been experimenting with for the last 3 years and has managed to create these exact and beautiful works of art. He programs the computer with the image he wants and, in a sense, this allows him to 'print out' anything he likes. Besides his sea-based stuff, he’s also made puzzles for kids, animal-shaped cutting boards, napkin rings, pizza plates and even cut out space to fit a clock in a beautiful olive tree stump.

The Pied Piper of Olhão plays his marimba

The Pied Piper of Olhão

And finally, hidden under a lemon tree, there was a chap who may as well be called the Pied Piper of Olhão, Luís Vale. Luís fascinated me with his stall of bamboo flutes of varying sizes and shapes. He had a treasure box full of these hand-carved musical instruments which seemed to hypnotize and call everybody over when he started to play them. He was also in the process of constructing a ‘marimba’, which was a sort of V-shaped box on which he laid different size bits of split bamboo that would cause different notes to ring out when he hit them with his homemade ‘drumsticks’ (sticks with corks on the end). Luis does workshops with children (who tend to be the most fascinated by his works) to teach them how to make their own bamboo instruments.

He also had another surprising talent and had to keep rushing off to his other stall where he sold wild mushrooms. He collects them himself and will soon be taking people out into the Serra do Caldeirão on wild mushroom picking trips.

All in all, this was a very chill and interesting space and I’m pleased that I followed the universal signs to go and check it out.

If you are looking for a sign to go yourself, then consider this one.