MUSEU DO PÃO (BREAD MUSEUM) SEIA
Why I dislike Museums
Firstly, I must explain my feelings about Museums. I know some of you will be screaming out loud about what I am going to say next but I don’t particularly like Museums, there, I have said it. I will try to explain my reasons why and hope you don’t judge me in the process. Firstly my dislike of museums stems back to my childhood in Bristol, U.K. Back in the 1980’s we were forced to go on horrendous school trips to the most boring museums ever. I remember dreading these coach trips and I would always try to pull a sickie so I didn’t have to go but my mum would see right through my lies. First nightmare was the non air conditioned coach where some child would always puke all over the place and I would be made to sit next to a kid I disliked just because the teachers wanted to punish me and try to force us all to be friends with the unpopular loner kids who most likely enjoyed being loners. I was entitled to free school meals so we had the shittiest packed lunch made by the school kitchen which consisted of a limp white bread sandwich with half a slice of spam inside and a piece of fruit which looked like it had been used as a tennis ball at the Wimbledon final. Food and journey aside the museums were so very boring I often phased out and morphed into a little world of my very own. Anything of importance was behind glass or roped off and guarded like the crown jewels and there was always a member of staff staring at me as if I was going to steal something. We were always made to take sketch drawings (I can’t draw) and take notes to support our written project when we returned. I did neither so when I got back to school and had to write an essay of 500 words+ I failed dramatically and these were not the times of computers so I could not google the museum, we had old school libraries with feisty librarians. I never had 500 words to say and I could sum up all the museum trips with 3 short simple words: IT WAS SHIT!
12 years ago I took my son Josh on a trip to Dublin to celebrate his GCSE exam results, just the two of us and he dragged me around a lot of art galleries and museums. I actually preferred the art galleries over the museums. Josh loved art and history so was happy as Larry, I on the other hand was bored rigid but tried to not let it show. I am nearly 50 now and I have spent many years trying to appreciate Museums because I think I should. I assumed a love of Museums meant I was more worldly travelled and that being into art and culture made me a better person somehow. Now I’m older and wiser and I know what I like and I know what I dislike. I have a passion for nature, wildlife, animals and the outdoors. It doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate a country’s culture or that I don’t care about heritage. I appreciate a lot of art and art can be everywhere and often found in nature like cloud spotting which I adore. I also have a passion for castles and chapels which is not every ones cup of tea especially with chapels and religion. What I am trying to say is you like what you like. Don’t be forced or pressured to visit places that do not interest you and bring you no joy. Then again if you are undecided on some tourist attractions, give it a go. I recently visited the Roman ruins of Conimbriga and although it wouldn’t make my Top 10 best days out list, I did have fun and learn new facts.
I have visited a few museums in Portugal, mainly due to the fact that they are attached to another tourist attraction and that I am often forced to walk through them as I exit the place or because I have paid an entrance fee, I feel I should give them a chance and have a little wander around and get my monies worth. I have found these museums O.K but most are a bit disappointing. My second reason for disliking museums is the fact that I’m not really an indoors type of person, I am at my happiest when outside, immersed in nature breathing in fresh air. I’m not a social butterfly and I hate crowds and dislike 90% of people I meet (I prefer animals) ha ha. Due to the current Covid times there are obviously strict rules in place so you have to wear a facial mask inside of a museum. I am totally on board with this, I just feel uncomfortable often as it’s really hot here in summer and I’m paranoid about getting too close to another tourist as most museums have limited space. Covid has restricted numbers which can mean there are queues too and I detest queueing for anything apart from pizza (ha ha).
Thirdly, I am not 100% against visiting a museum here in Portugal as I like to visit different tourist attractions and try to explore the Portuguese heritage and culture but for me personally, if I’m paying to visit a museum, it has to be a museum that totally interests me. By that, I mean I have to have a love for the subject or find it absolutely fascinating. For example, I have zero interest whatsoever in visiting the Electricity Museum, fascinating as this may appear to some people. There are so many museums here in Portugal it’s crazy. There is a Cheese Museum, Bread Museum, Olive Oil Museum, Chocolate Museum, Electricity Museum, Toy Museum, Wool Museum, Doll Museum, National Coach Museum, Tile Museum, Fado Museum and many more, too many to list!
History (info directly from Pão Museum website)
The Museu do Pão, located in Seia at Quinta Fonte do Marrão, is a private museum that aims to collect, preserve and display the objects and heritage of Portuguese bread in its ethnographic, political, social, historical, religious and artistic aspects. The Museu do Pão project dates back to 1996, emerging as a result of synergies created between historians, entrepreneurs and teachers. Since that year 1996 and until its opening, on September 26, 2002, the collection was carried out, either through purchases from antique shops, second-hand booksellers and auctions, or through donations. In the meantime, the collection of assets is always continued, insofar as the constant renovation of the Museum is intended, an indispensable condition for the full pursuit of its objectives. The Museum space resulted from the reconstruction and expansion of a pre-existing building, and in its long works, typical materials from the region were used, such as wood and stone, in order to fully integrate the property into the surrounding mountain landscape. The result was a museum complex with more than 3,500 m2 of covered area, thus constituting this Bread Museum as one of the largest, if not the largest, Bread Museum in the world. Very nicely worded!
My love of bread
I love bread, I love eating bread (strange for someone who has a gluten intolerance), I love the smell of bread baking in the oven, I love slicing bread with a huge bread knife, I love the cute bread bags that locals hang on their door and I love the heritage of bread and the rustic outside bread ovens here in Portugal. My first ever job was in a local bakery at the age of 13. I helped the owner set up the bakery and sold the produce from the small shop, it was called Crusty Corner, it’s not there anymore, it was converted into flats years ago. I adore the Pão van which drives around and delivers daily bread and cakes to our little village so I was definitely happy about visiting the bread museum in nearby Seia in the middle of Serra da Estrela. It is advertised as a museum complex where you can take a short trip to the wonderful world of bread and apparently is one the biggest bread museums in the world which got me thinking, I wonder how many bread museums there are in the world (ha ha).
The museum is open every day 10.00-18.00 and closed on Mondays. It has a restaurant and a cafe. After paying our €5 entrance fee per person we were given a leaflet and started our tour by visiting different exhibition rooms titled:
The bread cycle gallery
Gallery of the art of bread
The political, social and religious bread gallery
I really enjoyed visiting this museum and finding out more about the history of bread and the process of bread making from the grain to the final product. The building itself is very clean and modern and we were the only ones there and didn’t meet another soul until we visited the Thematic space. I didn’t find it boring at all and the information was very interesting and I think I actually learnt some new facts about bread, it’s history and the whole bread making process. Some of the exhibits including tools used by bakers and millers back in the day were fascinating to see especially compared to the modern day bread makers that we have today. I particularly enjoyed the Thematic space, aimed at children (ha ha). I really liked the puppet gnomes of the Hérminos and their imaginary mythical journey into the history of bread. After the Thematic space you get to view the kitchen area which looked like it welcomed school children, groups and educational visits to make bread as it was right next to the kitchen. The gallery of art and bread displayed examples of many breads and it was nice to view the names of all the breads from the different regions of Portugal. We were all a little lost in translation with the video but tried our best to translate. Hubby enjoyed the poetry section and reading all the different poems and there was a wall displaying the name for bread in different languages from countries around the world which was cool. The braille sign for bread was also a nice addition. At the end we were told to head to the back of the bar/library for the tasting session. I was excited to try the yummy bread but when we entered the cafe there were some staff members having a meeting at one of the tables and no one else there. We hung around for a while and were ignored so we decided to leave as it got a bit awkward. We first took a quick walk to the outside area which has spectacular views.
My favourite part of the visit was visiting the shop which sold regional products and purchasing some epic bread which is freshly made on site. The shop only allowed 2 people in at a time due to Covid so we had a short wait then we were allowed in. The staff did not speak English so I’m not entirely sure what type of bread we purchased. I think it was a type of sour dough and the second loaf was definitely chocolate and the best tasting bread I have ever ate. The breads are displayed in pretty baskets and covered with old traditional cloth and it was a great sight and aroma when the staff lady whipped off the cloth, I was in my element, I even filmed the bread (ha ha). The loaves were huge and very heavy and a bargain at only €2 each. I had to semi physically restrain Teanna in the back seat of the car from eating the chocolate loaf straight out of the bag (ha ha). After our museum visit we ventured up to the top of Serra da Estrela (The Torre) and ate a very expensive yet tasty lunch at the restaurant. It’s lovely to see The Torre in different seasons and we live so close that we visit a lot. Our highlight of the drive was the Serra da Estrela wild cows who decided to come right up to our car and one took a very long pee pee right next to our car which I even caught on video!
Am I now a convert and do I now love museums and are museums going to be my new pastime here in Portugal? The answer is HELL NO! But I am open to suggestions of other museums, especially local museums for rainy days when I can’t paddle board on a local river. Since visiting this museum I summoned up the courage to visit The Fado Museum in Lisbon and I very nearly visited the Tile Museum and MAAT (the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) Contemporary art museum in Lisbon but we ran out of time. I think it’s important to embrace the culture of the Country I now call home and it was a unique experience visiting the Fado Museum. One Museum that has been on my bucket list for ages is the National Coach Museum in Lisbon (I know shock horror, an actual museum is on my bucket list). I have viewed so many glorious photos of the stunning royal golden coaches and I was beyond excited to actually visit during our recent 5 day road trip to Sintra and Lisbon. As well as bread I do have a love of chocolate and pizza. I have found a Chocolate Museum in Porto that I may have to visit in the near future but unfortunately I am yet to find a Pizza Museum so in the meantime I will have to stick with my pizza in the park eating or pizza eating by sunset on the beach which is fine with me. I did actually find a Pizza Museum exhibition open for a limited period in New York (the world’s first and only immersive art experience celebrating pizza) but I am slightly worried it might just be a bunch of naked Americans with slices of pizza strategically placed over their naughty bits and I’m extremely concerned I might not look a a slice of pizza in the same way afterwards (ha ha).