Yep, we’re still in Portugal. The good news is that for the most part, these three months have gone very well. We were warned that in moving to Portugal from the U.S.A. we might face a slow bureaucracy but so far that hasn’t happened.
We’ve been enjoying our time in the seaside town of Cascais and have even done some mini-road trips to the nearby Silver Coast and trips into Lisbon.
Everything is ok. You will usually be alright if you use this all-purpose phrase. We’re still learning Portuguese (fun but challenging) and the locals help us along, which is great. Many people in the stores and shops speak English here in Cascais. This makes practicing Portuguese all that much more difficult.
Moving To Portugal – How Did We Get Here?
As you may remember, we received our Portugal residency cards via D7 visas here in Portugal. It took a lot of research and work on the front end of this process. Once we were here it all went very smoothly. After three months, we’ve continued our research on where we’d like to move to next. We’re thoroughly enjoying our time in Cascais. What’s not to like? We’re in a beach resort area that is just stunning. There’s lots to do, friendly people, and great food. However, Cascais is one of the best places to live in Portugal but it’s also the most expensive. Unless we find a killer deal on our next apartment in Cascais it’s likely we’ll move to a nearby town along the “Linha de Cascais,” the coastal train line that runs between Lisbon and Cascais.
Finding Our Next Spot
In our last couple of homes, we’ve found that we like to be near a good-sized city that has the amenities you’d expect. Some things that are important to us are easy access to healthcare and hospitals, cultural events, plenty of restaurants and grocery options, and lots of green space for us to enjoy. We like to be a little bit away from the action, not in the midst of the city.
In Chicago, we lived in the last section of the city to the west in Galewood. It was still in the city, less than a half-hour to downtown, and we had a big yard for gardening and entertaining. In Madison, we lived on the west side about 20 minutes from downtown with a cornfield view from our front windows and a forest view in the back. We saw the sunrise and sunset every day! It was a great location.
We’re looking for something like that here in Portugal. We rented a car for 10 days and drove through all the towns along the train line and found a handful we’d be happy to live in. They are all less than an hour from Lisbon by train, close to the beaches, and offer a smaller town feel yet access to everything we need.
We also drove up to the “Silver Coast” or Costa da Prata. The exact definition of what area is in the Silver Coast seems up for debate. For our exploration, we looked at Caldas da Rainha, Mafra, Torres Vedras, Ericeira, and of course Obidos one of my favorite places. We even found a cute beach town on the Obidos lagoon Foz da Arelho that we just fell in love with. All these places are wonderful too but we’ve found that for now, we want to be closer to resources in Lisbon and the airport. We also really like the moderate weather in the area between Cascais and Lisbon.
The fun part was eating in each of these spots, checking out their local markets and shopping. Even in the smallest of places, there was always a local restaurant with wonderful and affordable food.
We’re just beginning to look at apartments and houses to rent. Fingers crossed we’ll find something that will make us and our two little furry friends happy. Ideally, we’d like to be able to move into our new place in September.
What’s Going On With COVID-19 Over There?
This is a question we get asked a lot from friends and family. Portugal has made vaccination a high priority. They are vaccinating people as quickly as possible and are hoping to have 70% of the population vaccinated by the end of August.
The numbers in Portugal had begun to climb but recently we’ve seen a slow down in the number of cases, which is terrific. There were additional restrictions put in place a few weeks ago with even tighter restrictions and lockdowns on the weekends. The rules seem to change frequently here so if you’re planning a visit be sure to check Visit Portugal for all the latest rules and regulations.
The good news is that it seems that most everyone we see walking the streets is wearing a mask. All the stores require masks and smaller retail stores have limits on how many people can enter. Our neighborhood’s small fruit market only allows 8 people in at a time and they closely monitor it, too.
What Do You Miss?
Other than our friends and family, not much. We’re looking forward to the time when we can have visitors and can move about a little more freely. I’m guessing just about everyone feels the same way no matter where they live.
We’re enjoying the fresh fruits and veggies of the season and, of course, all the delicious seafood.
The stuff we shipped finally arrived and it was like Christmas morning. Finding all our old favorites once again. Even the cats were excited to see more toys, more beds, and catnip. Most of it will stay in the boxes until we find a bigger place.
To be honest, we brought the things we knew we would need right away in our suitcases. Like our Cold Advil for the occasional sinus headache. Diana brought her very favorite kitchen utensils and brought back a few things from her trip back to the U.S. in June for her dad’s 90th birthday.
What’s Your Average Day Look Like?
We find ourselves staying up later not getting to bed until midnight or so. This has been a real adjustment for me as I’m typically an early riser. Getting to bed later means sleeping later than I’d like. We both still spend much of our mornings working. We’re writing for Travel Awaits, tending to our consultancy clients, getting ready for the fall semester, keeping Food Travelist going, and working on some new projects. On busier days we work all day and sometimes well into the night.
Diana still cooks most of our meals so I’m extremely spoiled on that front. The fresh ingredients we get here have inspired her to cook healthy and delicious meals. She loves to go to the markets and spends way too much time reading all the labels and picking out just the right items. This, however, is not new, she has done this everywhere we’ve lived. I guess that’s just one of the things that make her a good cook.
We both find time each day to play with the cats. Since our current space is smaller than they are used to they seem to get bored. So we try to entertain them when we can, introducing new toys and new ways to play with old toys to keep things fresh. They are very happy to have their familiar beds and blankets here, but we will have to wait to get a new cat tree until we have more space.
We go for daily walks to learn more about our neighborhood and neighbors. Other days we take a break and head down to the village market, or the waterfront for a walk and lunch at one of the local spots we’ve come to love. We’ve been fortunate to have met a lot of other folks from the U.S. There’s an excellent expat community in Cascais. Many have chosen to retire in Portugal.
It’s also easy to find expats and people who have immigrated to Portugal through local meet up and Facebook groups. Our little group usually has several events planned each week either in advance or sometimes just “impromptu,” as one friend puts it. We go for walks, have picnics, and meet for lunch and dinners. We’ve gone to friends’ homes to cook together, and there’s a planned bar crawl coming up. It’s great to get together and share our stories about Portugal and help one another out with tips and tricks for day-to-day life in Portugal.
We also had our first Portuguese haircuts. That was quite an adventure. Thankfully, one of the stylists in the salon spoke pretty good English and our first results were pretty good.
We’ve done one hotel stay here in Cascais at the Grande Real Villa Italia Hotel. We stayed there to celebrate my birthday. It was just lovely. We enjoyed our oceanfront luxurious room and even enjoyed a Sunday brunch.
One area we’re not doing well in is spending more time on creative writing for Diana and drawing and painting for me. We’ve made a little time here and there but it is our goal to make this a bigger part of both our lives. We’ll get there! The weather has been so beautiful here most days are in the seventies with a nice breeze off the mountains. We’ve had a few warm days but nothing worth complaining about.
- We’ve learned not to shop at the neighborhood fruit market on Monday. There’s a reason there’s no line. The fresh stuff comes in on Tuesday and later in the week.
- When buying produce buy only what you can eat in the next couple of days. If you don’t it will go bad and fast.
- Be extra careful when crossing the street. The Portuguese are super nice, laid back, and friendly but they drive really, really fast (especially the women). They do stop at the crosswalks but these are typically not exactly at the corner. I am now sure that every time I take one step into a street a car comes. Every freaking time. The roundabouts here are especially treacherous. I’m extra cautious and wear bright colors when I’m walking around.
- You can’t rush anyone. You just can’t. Best to wait in the line and amuse yourself in some way. I watch people and see how they go about their lives and shopping. I’ve learned a lot that way.
- Say olá to everyone you meet. It breaks the ice and, usually, you’ll get a smile.
- Order the lunch special. It’s typically cheaper and it’s usually very good. There are often a couple of things to choose from but it’s gonna be a local gem whatever it is. Just be sure to do the translation. One of our friends ordered the lunch special from an enthusiastic server and ended up with a plate of sauteed liver and fries. This brings back bad childhood food memories for me. Yuck.
- Stop worrying about what your hair looks like. It’s constantly windy and impossible to keep it in place or to take a reasonable selfie.
- There’s a fortified wine from Carcavelos, one of those small towns along the train line we like, that is delicious and rare. It was one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorites!
- You can pay your bills at the ATM. This is super convenient and safe. Most vendors will provide you with a reference code number, their vendor number, and the amount due. I easily paid a bill for our new business cards this way. And got a pastry at the local grocer Pingo Doce while I was there too. Win-Win.
Moving To Portugal & Things Are Going Well
All and all I’d say we’re doing very well. Living in Portugal as an American has its challenges but we love it. It’s hard to imagine what it will be like in another 3 months when we hit the six-month mark. I’m hoping our grasp of the Portuguese language will be a lot better and that we’ll have found our next place to live. I know we’ll keep exploring and learning about this beautiful place we’ve come to call home.
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