Since almost all wine now comes with a screw-top, and corks have more or less disappeared, we have to think about what's happened to the Portuguese cork growers. Their success in creating a 'perfect' and universal product has vanished. The weird and wonderful cork oaks are no longer wanted. We've seen these crops on an earlier visit to Alentejo - the skilful way in which the bulbous trees are scraped and managed, and the beautiful quality of some if the corks.
What the farmers have done is to rethink the whole thing.
You can now buy cork hats, handbags, wallets, umbrellas, fabric of all sizes. The cork is cut into fantastically fine veneers, and laid onto flexible and strong backing fabrics, As far as we have been able to see, so far, they are mostly producing natural cork-coloured finishes, but I guess and hope in due course they'll inject some colour into it.
The hats, mentioned above, are in the style of the old-fashioned, traditional flat hat, beloved of royalty, farmers and working men for at least 100 years (think Andy Capp).
They have stared disaster in the face, and come up with a high-tech answer. We'll wait see if thus us the answer. I love cork. I hope it survives.
We visited a couple of fine museums today - the Quinta de Cruzes - stuffed with English Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton, and magnificent Portuguese silver, and then the Museum Frederico de Freitas - housing the lifelong collections of a man who was clearly driven, who liked furniture, ceramics (not cream ices as suggested by autocorrect) - including fine Chinese teapots and British Toby Jugs, and tiles, and religious carvings. All beautifully displayed and polished.
Lunch was in a resto called Typographia, once a print works and now part of a boutique hotel. Assiduously served, and filling.
Supper was back at the apartment - fruit and cheese - and we are really coming to the end of our holiday. It's been quite boring compared to most of our trips. A ca would have got us out and about more - into the countryside. And we needed a better guidebook than the one frm the library (Landmark) which was pretty with nice pictures, but turned out to be appallingly badly indexed and patchy.
Tomorrow - we'll doodle about a bit, pack, hand the keys back to the landlord, then find our last lunch, and bus to the airport. We didn't use all the bus trips on our prepaid cards.... In the end, not enough destinations. Eheu!