Port, Porto, Portugal
PORTO, PORTUGAL -- It was tempting today to skip the official tour organized by the Portugese Cork Association and wander instead the twisting streets of this beautiful and historic city (after all, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site), with its steeply narrow buildings, fronted with ornate metal grills and elaborate stone decoration. Had I made my way as far as the River Douro, I would have been looking toward the banks on which the grapes used to make the famous Port wine are grown. Along the way, I could have stopped and stared at the gravity-defying houses that are literally built into a huge cliff that faces the river.
On the whole, however, I'm glad I didn't. Had I done so, I would have missed seeing the incredible process by which rough cork bark is transformed into granules that are then pressed under high heat and pressure into sheets which become a variety of flooring products, including conventional cork flooring, or underlay for other materials -- such as vinyl, wood veneer and recycled leather (perhaps my fave look). It didn't hurt that when we stopped at the family-owned Amorim and Granorte flooring factories, they plied us with gorgeous Portuguese sweets and Port (both red and white). And you know, dear reader, I'd never miss a chance to bring you news that you can use to make your home more beautiful or eco-friendly. Or a free drink.
Back to Lisbon tomorrow and then home to Toronto the day after. Look for a story in my Hot Home Products soon about how cork combines style and sustainability. And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some streets to wander.