One of the best parts of being a travel blogger is discovering all the little-known things that you can do in a country and sharing them with others. If you read my previous post on my stay at Quinta do Cobral, you’ll have seen how this out of the way guest house provided a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of my travels. After our breakfast, my mom and I tried our hand at something neither of us had ever done before: making soap!
If you’re looking for a relaxing, get-away-from-it-all vacation in central Portugal and opt to stay at Quinta do Cobral, I recommend you take part in one of Ishbel’s courses while you’re there (as well as the beginner’s soap-making course I attended, she also offers advanced soap-making, liquid soap making, and stained glass courses). Ishbel has made soap for decades and has become an expert soap-maker and decorator. Some of her creations are so intricate, you wouldn’t even know they’re soap. As you can see above, some of them look good enough to eat!
She eased us into the class by explaining what we were doing and why we were using those ingredients, introducing us to the various scents and oils: why they’re used, what works together, and why. We then started on the actual soap-making process. It’s a combination of science, cooking, and art. Quantities have to be precise in order to create good soap (as opposed to an oily substance or – even worse – a limey soap that strips your skin). So even though you had to pay attention to what you were doing, Ishbel put us at ease throughout the entire process.
I loved that the soaps were made from natural ingredients such as olive oil, shea butter and coconut butter: the more natural, the better for your skin. One interesting thing I learned was that Portuguese olive oil is too good for soap-making – most people use the inferior pomace olive oil. So we ended up using a much more superior extra virgin olive oil in our soaps.
I was really happy with how the soaps came out: they smell and look great. I opted to fragrance mine with orange and lemon essential oils and decorated it with rose petals and orange slices. My mom fragranced hers with lavender and pine essential oils and decorated it with heather flowers. We both added a few poppy seeds to the mixture to gently and naturally exfoliate the skin.
Isn’t it nice to come back from your vacation with some hand-made souvenirs for yourself and loved ones (as well as a new skill)? We were so excited to share our creations with friends that we made some simple wrapping from cellophane and raffia and gifted individual bars to a few lucky people.
For more information on these courses, please visit the Quinta do Cobral course page here.