Wednesday, July 15, 2009

what we'll do for shoes! by k

one of the strangest, funniest and most rewarding experiences (a bit of an exaggeration on the last count) was searching out and eventually finding a shoe factory in portugal. karen and i both knew that many shoes are manufactured in fact a brand we both like: fly london had a factory near where we were staying! we had to seek it out.

we got pretty vague directions from the woman who rented us our place. actually, she told nick, so we got his version of how to get there. off we headed on a sister search of shoes!

the basic directions were to head in the direction of a certain town. the factory would be halfway between that town and another town. we were off to a good start. after we passed the town we were supposed to look out for church on the right. shortly after that we would see an industrial complex thingy and in there would be the fly factory. first of all, there are more churches in portugal than i have seen anywhere else...way more than in spain. i think there were at least five between the two towns, and we didn’t see anything like an industrial complex anywhere.

we had seen a sign saying “zona industrial” at one point, and it was near a church on the left, so we decided to try that. we turned off and went a little bit into nowhere. after a few minutes we found what looked like some factory buildings, but none of them said fly! we laughed alot about how we could ask someone where to go. how should we pronounce “fly” in portuguese? how ridiculous we felt out there in the middle of nothing looking for stylin shoes from london.

but we couldn’t be deterred. we headed looked around some more to see if we could find more industrial buildings, but we came up empty. karen, i guess the more devoted shoe hound, said she would go into a cafe across from the “zona industrial” sign and ask. i waited in the car. after a few minutes karen came out of the cafe with a big smile on her face, giving me the thumbs up! success!

apparently she went into the cafe, full of only men (another phenomena we saw often). she asked someone if they spoke english. no. then she said “espanol?” and that got some recognition so she tried “zapatos” and that did the trick. we shouldn’t have been looking for a sign saying was something altogether different. and we had remembered seeing a sign with that name back where we had been before. we were getting warmer.

we got to a building with the right name, but i chickened out again and karen went and asked. wrong building. we were sent to one close by. we got there and all the doors were locked, but there was a sign saying “venta al publico” (sales to the public) so we guessed we had finally found the right place. after checking several doors we found a sign saying to ring the bell for access. i rang it once. nothing. karen rang it once. nothing. hummm, we weren’t sure what to do. so karen really pushed that bell for a few seconds and someone appeared!

we had been warned that the place closes in the middle of the day for lunch, and with all our searching we knew we were pushing that limit. the woman who opened the door let us in, but somehow made clear we didn’t have much time. we were led up some stairs and into a little locked room full of shoes. she stood there while we looked. we slowly figured out that what was out was what there was. no asking for different sizes or colors. all the women’s shoes were 30 euros a pair! that was good news because fly london shoes usually go for at least 100 euros a pair. i’d admit that for the next ten minutes or so we were like girls in a candy shop...or rather, women in a shoe shop! we tried on a bunch of pairs and lots of them fit and were really cute. but i felt the pressure of the woman watching us and not being able to talk with her. and the awkwardness of knowing that she doesn't get to travel and find shoe factories in her adventures.

then the lunch bell rang. oh no, the pressure was really mounting! a bunch of women came into a big room with tables right next to the little room we were in. we didn’t want to make this woman miss her lunch. i was ready to buy a pair of shoes when i saw another pair that looked interesting. i thought, no, don’t try them, but then i did and they fit and i liked them. shit, i decided to get them too and paid my 60 euros cash. it felt a little like being on a game show were you won’t get anything if the buzzer goes off.

karen also settled on two pairs of shoes and we said muito obrigada (thank you very much) a bunch of times to the woman who had helped us and headed out. did i need two more pairs of shoes?! absolutely not. am i happy with my cool fly london shoes that i got in a factory in northern portugal...absolutely!