I think we bought a car sight unseen

We moved to Portugal sight unseen. Moved to Leiria sight unseen. Signed a 3 year lease for the apartment sight unseen. So we might as well buy a car sight unseen too, right?

We have been talking about buying a car for the past few weeks now. I have been pretty sick the past 2.5 weeks. Bad cough, lots of congestion, a fever on and off. I lost a lot of sleep because laying down would make me cough too much. During that time Kyle had to do pretty much everything because I had to save the little bit of strength I had for work. We had already wanted a car, but me being out of commission sealed the deal. We looked at leasing options, but just like in the states I have never been able to see the benefit of leasing over buying.

In the US when I buy a car I do tons of research. I like SUVs and I like Honda and Nissan, so I tend to start there. I look at gas mileage, safety, features. We wanted to get a hybrid here, but it’s out of our price range so we looked into diesel. We decided that we prefer diesel over gasoline because it seems like it will be more efficient and better on the car over time. So for us buying a car in Portugal meant walking into a dealership and asking if they have any automatic diesel vehicles. They had one. We bought it, lol. Maybe…

Unfortunately this is not the car we bought

The process is both similar and different than in the US. There is no test drive. They plug some numbers into a computer and show a list of monthly payment options. I forget all of the options, but they had some really long term ones, like 8+ years. We added a few warranties, which were cheap. We paid half of the down payment right up front. Then they wanted all of our info to see if we would get approved for a loan. It’s a little nerve wracking paying so much without even knowing if we will be approved. We didn’t bring any paperwork with us today, so we made do using our phone apps and screen shots. When we got home I spent over an hour getting some things together to email. I emailed bank statements and payments stubs. It would be easier if you have Portuguese income or have paid taxes in Portugal, but I am paid in USD and we haven’t paid taxes here yet, so we had to do it the harder way.

We spent just over 3 hours at the dealership and then I spent another hour or two getting everything together at home. When we left the dealership we still had no idea if we had been approved. I still don’t know right now. I figure it will probably take a few days at least. So fingers crossed that we get approved for financing! Since they don’t do credit scores over here I’m not really sure how they decide who to lend to or what the risk factors may be.

The car we (hopefully) bought is in the shop getting fixed up. They are painting it and replacing two of the tires. It’s a 2014 with 84000 kilometers. I don’t even know the make and model and I don’t even care. A car is going to give us so much freedom. We have made it work for an entire year and a half and we did it and it was fine. But we are both so excited at the thought of having a car again. It definitely brings a lot more cost, but hopefully it will be worth the trade off.

Playground inside the dealership

They did have a car in stock that’s just like ours (but not automatic or diesel) but a few years newer so they showed it to us. They said that all of the features will be the same. I really love the one they showed us. I was very adament about not getting a car when we moved here, but we’ve been here for a whole year and a half now and I think we’re ready. Having an automatic will make it easier. I can kind of drive stick, but only do it every decade or two, so my skills are pretty rusty. We keep talking about all the places we will go when we get a car. High on the list is Tomar because the bus schedule from Leiria doesn’t work, so we haven’t been able to go.

I’m not too sure of the next steps. Hopefully we get a happy call or email soon. We still owe half the down payment. We transferred the first half to them, so we will probably do the same if we get approved. They said that they will drop the car off at our house, which would be awesome. Next up is shopping for car seats, and then some road trips! I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. We still have to wait to see if we even get approved. Oh, and we need to figure out how to buy car insurance. And figure out the tolls. Well, plenty to keep us busy while we wait.

Disneyland Paris and Leo’s birthday, part 2

On Monday we headed to the main Disneyland park. We rented strollers, which I knew would be expensive but I definitely still had some sticker shock at €25 per stroller per day. In total we spent €100 on stroller rentals. I’m trying not to think about that 😂

We started in Fantasy Land, where a lot of the little kid rides are. Leo threw an epic fit right away and kept telling us to hold him. We figured out pretty quickly that he just really hates the cold. He is much whinier in below freezing temps and just wants to be held all the time. I think Leo wants some warm vacations. We were hoping to go on a few kid friendly dark rides to build them up to go on Pirates of the Caribbean, but they did great on Peter Pan so we thought they were probably ready. Peter Pan was a cute ride. Leo fell asleep when we put him in the stroller, so then we walked around a bit.

Disneyland has 5 different lands/areas. We didn’t have a plan the first day and it all felt a little scattered. We went to each area of the park, but didn’t really get to see a ton of it. I definitely couldn’t tell you where anything is. We did go on the main rides I really wanted to do like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Toy Story one. The kids thought Pirates was a bit scary but they did good. They loved the Toy Story ride.

We had lunch at Agrabah Cafe because I had heard that it’s pretty good. To get a birthday cake you have to reserve one at a buffet or sit down restaurant. I knew Disney would be expensive, but the prices for the buffet were pretty crazy. €40 per adult, €23 per kid, and €35 for the cake. The food was fine, the service was awful, and the decorations were great. Seeing them sing Happy Birthday to Leo was awesome.

Our original plan was to go to Disneyland on Monday, stay at the hotel on Tuesday, and go back to the same park on Wednesday. We changed our minds and decided to try the second park on Wednesday. I’m glad we did because we had more fun that day and really got to know the park.

The other park is Walt Disney Studios Park. There were a ton of rides there that we could all do together. One of our favorite areas was the Ratatouille section. The ride was cute and well done and the area around it was nice. They have food stands down the main area. The food there was also amazing and seemed better priced than anywhere else in the parks. And everyone ate there. With two picky toddlers it’s hard to find a place everyone will eat.

We also saw the Stitch show, which was really cute. Sofia especially loved it and keeps talking about it. I think it was a lot easier because the park was smaller. We spent the same amount of time there as we had in the main park. Both parks had a lot of dead ends. I knew to expect it at the Studios Park since it’s likely not finished yet, but I was surprised by all of the dead ends at the main park. Also, there was a decent amount closed or being refurbished. The biggest disappointment was It’s a Small World. It was my favorite ride as a kid and I know Sofia would love it. It was closed the entire time we were there.

Overall we had a lot of fun and I definitely plan on repeating this trip in a few years. But probably not in February. I think we will try for Spring. The nice thing about February is that the crowds and wait times are low, but it’s also cold and it seems like too much is closed. Our last two amusement park trips have taught us that we want a smaller park with more toddler rides. There is one in the Netherlands that I think fits the bill if I can figure out how to make that trip work…

Disneyland Paris & Leo’s Birthday, Part 1

We kicked off our vacation on Saturday with a 1 night stay in Lisbon. We stayed at a hotel literally across the street from the airport. On Sunday our fight left around 8 something, so it was really nice to get up and just walk across the street to the airport. On Saturday afternoon we used the metro at the airport to head to the aquarium. We got to ride the cable car that had been closed last year. I’m terrified of heights, but I have really loved the cable cars rides we have gone on since moving to Portugal. The views are always stunning. As always, it was fun getting to be in Lisbon.

On Sunday we flew into Paris. It’s the first time in a long time that our fight left on time. Normally we take a bus or train to where we need to go, but there’s no direct train. We would have to take 3 trains and make 2 transfers. We had extra bags because we couldn’t do laundry this trip. Since it was already an expensive trip we decided to splurge and we hired a chauffeur. It was amazing. The driver met us at baggage claim, took all our bags and loaded them all into the car. And then we got a direct ride to our hotel.

We stayed at Explorer’s Hotel, which is about 10 minutes from Disney and 45 minutes from Orly airport. I picked this hotel because of the awesome indoor activities for kids. They have a great pool and a 3 story indoor play area. There’s also an outdoor playground which we did end up using for about 10 minutes one day. It was between 28 and 38 degrees during our stay. It wasn’t too bad in the sun, but the playground was in the shade so it gets cold pretty quickly.

On Sunday we got to the hotel early afternoon, so the kids got to play a lot and we went swimming. They warmed to the pool pretty quickly. We really wanted to go back, but we were just too exhausted. The hotel has a pizza place and snack bar type place. All of the food there was super overpriced and terrible. Luckily we figured that out the first day and we were able to order food through Uber Eats. It was still super expensive, but at least it tasted great.

The hotel also has a shuttle to Disneyland Paris. Both parks and Disney Village are all connected, as is the train station. It was pretty easy to get to and from the hotel and Disney. Kyle even took the shuttle to Disney Village to pick up dinner a few times.

Well, that’s part 1 of our trip. We just got home a few minutes ago. It was a super long day of a 1.5 hour car ride to the airport, 2 hour flight, 20 minute car ride, 2 hour bus ride, and 10 minute car ride. But everything left on time! So even though it was a super long day it went pretty smoothly. I have a ton of work tomorrow and Saturday, so I will post part 2 in a few days to talk about the parks.

We will definitely do this trip again in a few years. We will stay at the same hotel in Lisbon and if it’s winter or spring we will stay in the Explorer’s hotel again. If it’s warm or hot out we would try a Disney Hotel to see what it’s like, but it would be hard for a hotel to beat Explorer’s if you have small kids.

2023 Travel Plans

Brrrr, it has been really cold in Portugal. It’s been an extra rainy year and we finally have a break from the rain, but it has been freezing. Literally! In the mornings when we walk the kids to school it has been 30 degrees (farenheight because I still don’t quite know celcius yet). It heats up to about 50 or so during the day, but the mornings are so cold!


Leo started preschool. He is just going 2 days a week so far. It has been really nice to have that break and be able to get some things done or just relax without being needed constantly. And we end up really missing them, so we really appreciate picking them up and seeing them again. Leo is in the baby room since he is 2. Once he turns 3 next week he will move to Sofia’s room. I think they will both like it more when they’re in the same room together.

In 6 days we leave for Paris! Well, more like passing through Paris. We’re going to Disneyland Paris, which is about 45 minutes outside of Paris. We want this trip to be easy, so we won’t really be venturing into Paris. It’s definitely on our list to visit one day. I’m really excited for Disneyland. Sofia is 4 and Leo will be turning 3. I know they probably won’t remember this trip, but I do think that they’re at the age where they will really love and appreciate it. Leo doesn’t cry anymore when he see’s people dressed up. He will be so excited to see Mickey.

We have a few confirmed trips this year and a few I’m still figuring out. There’s probably one or two that I don’t even know about yet. Before we had kids Kyle and I went on a few cruises. It was a good compromise because Kyle likes to relax on vacation and I like to sightsee. Sightseeing is a bit too stressful with the kids, so I have been trying to figure out how to travel easier and smarter. We decided to try a cruise with the kids. They’ll both be old enough for the cruise daycare program and they will be in the same room because their ages are so close.

We have been talking about a cruise for years, but we wanted to wait until the kids qualify for onboard daycare and until we felt a little safer. I know they will both be cautious around the railings, although we will obviously still watch them really closely. The cruise will be with MSC and it goes to France, Spain, and Italy. I picked it more for the ship than the itinerary. The ship has a water park for the kids that looks like fun. The cruise is a week long and leaves from Barcelona, so we will be in Barcelona for a night again. One of these days we’ll actually stay and see the city. I couldn’t find any flights home that worked, so we decided to take the train to Valencia and stay there for a few nights after the cruise. It will be a huge trip and we will be gone for almost 2 weeks. That trip is already booked and we’re definitely going.

Rufino cuddling with Bailey to stay warm

At some point before the cruise we will head up north to visit Viana do Castelo, Portugal. We also want to go to Viseu at some point because we know some people there and want to check out the city. We’re hoping to move to northern Portugal this year- ideally around the summer. We’ve been keeping an eye on apartments in Braga and Guimaraes but haven’t seen any that work for us yet.

In December we’re planning on going to Vienna, Austria. Kyle’s sister will be living there, so that’s the original reason we started planning the trip. I saw that Vienna has a great Christmas Market, so now I’m even more excited to go. At least we learned from our Belgium trip. I bought long underwear and scarves for everyone. We will really get to test it out next week because it’s going to be cold in France. I’m excited! Ever since we got back from Belgium I have been really antsy and wanting to travel somewhere again.


Whatever Kyle and Sofia had definitely caught up with me. Leo got sick before me, but luckily he got over it in less than 12 hours. I’m not as sick as I was in Bruges, but I’m still pretty sore and exhausted. Even so, we still got to see some of the Brussels Christmas Market. It’s huge!

The market has at least 1 Ferris wheel and two carousels that we saw. I think there is one more Ferris wheel somewhere. The carousels are really unique and awesome. We saw some of the light show at Grand Place. The first night we ventured a little too far from the hotel and the kids got upset because they were so cold. They’re definitely not a fan of the cold weather. Neither am I.

Today is our last day of vacation. Normally I feel sad at the thought of returning home. I love living in Portugal though, and I’m excited to get back. This is our first time leaving our cat, so I’m ready to get back and see him and our dog. It also doesn’t hurt that we have a trip planned to Disneyland Paris is less than 2 months. I think that will be easier. Trying to do this trip without a stroller for Leo was too ambitious. And I’m definitely ready for above freezing temperatures.

Today we’re planning on staying close to the hotel. Luckily that’s easy because our hotel is in the center of everything. We just went out for less than an hour and now we’re back at the room to rest and thaw out. I’m sure we’ll venture out at least one or two more times. We have been seeing horse drawn carriage rides that we would love to take if we can figure out where they are.

The go to language in Bruges seemed to be Dutch. The go to language in Brussels is definitely French. Everywhere I go people greet me with “Bonjour.” I should have looked up a few phrases in French before we came here! I wish I could learn French too, but I really need to become more proficient with Portuguese first.

We took the train from Brussels to Bruges, and then from Bruges back to Brussels. We’ll take the train again tomorrow when we head to the airport. The trains in Belgium are extremely easy to use. They’re comfortable, really easy to navigate, and seem to be on time. That’s good because we will have a long travel day tomorrow. I’m excited to come back to Belgium again. There is so much that we still want to see. But next time we will definitely try for Spring or Summer 😂


Our flight out of Lisbon ended up being delayed for 1.5 hours. So far any time we try to leave Portugal is not very good, lol. We missed our original train from Brussels to Bruges, but luckily they come every hour so we were able to make the next one. We were tired but wanted to see the city so we ran out for a few minutes.

It was 28 degrees and I haven’t been in below freezing temps in over a decade. The kids have never been in weather this cold. Turns out Bruges is not like Portugal. Things mostly close here once the sun goes down. Probably because it’s so cold. 🥶 We got a chocolate covered waffle on a stick for the kids and then headed back to our apartment.

The next morning Kyle was feeling pretty sick, and the kids didn’t want to go back out in the cold, so I went out for a bit by myself. Bruges is a very cute town. I see why people like it. The architecture is beautiful. I booked 4 nights here and that was way too much. We could have done a single night, or even just a day trip from Brussels. I guess it worked out though because our second night here Kyle got worse and Sofia got sick too. They were up all night throwing up. The next day they felt better but were exhausted. That brings us to today. The minute Leo woke up he threw up, and my stomach is feeling pretty bad too. Looks like today is our day. Hopefully it will pass by tonight because tomorrow we are back on the train to Brussels.

The only things I cared about doing in Bruges were The Christmas Market, having hot chocolate at The Old Chocolate House, trying waffles, and trying French fries. I’m not sure about the Christmas Market this year. It’s definitely not bad, but nothing like the videos and pictures I have seen of past years. It was nothing special. We didn’t get to try the hot chocolate or fries. Our first morning here we had some waffles at House of Waffles. I got a waffle BLT with egg and it was delicious. It was kind of pricey, but I’m glad we got to try it.

I’m still trying to figure out the language situation. Obviously the official language is Dutch, but I’ve had a couple of languages spoken to me. I opened the door open for someone and they said “merci.” Another time was “danka.” When someone had to reach in front of me they said “excuse me.” How does anyone know what language to speak to other people? I’m not sure what language to even use to ask if someone speaks English. When I go into stores about half the time they just start out speaking to me in English. The other half of the time they say “hallo” and I try to say it back but I must butcher it because they immediately switch to English.

Unfortunately Bruges has been kind of a wash. We were all pretty sick at some point. Kyle and I each got a few hours to explore on our own. It’s a very charming and beautiful town. A lot of the food here reminds me of comfort food in the US. I could definitely see coming back to Bruges, but I would rather stay in Brussels and take a day trips to some of the places around. When Kyle was sick but Sofia wasn’t I had planned on taking a day trip with her to Ghent, so maybe we will do that one day.

I think we will have to come back in a few years. We missed out on a lot from being sick and this is our first trip without strollers. It’s nice not to have to lug them around, but also makes us really limited in what we can do. The kids are not fans of waking around in the cold, which is understandable. Tomorrow we are on to Brussels. We only have two days there so we will have to make the most of them!

A night in Lisbon

Tonight we are in Lisbon. Tomorrow we’re headed to the airport to fly to Belgium. We’re staying at a hotel in Rossio Square. We wanted to visit the Christmas Market and walk around a bit. Unfortunately it has been raining a lot the past few days. It’s raining all night tonight, but luckily it let up a little bit and we were able to run out for a few minutes.

We stopped at a few booths and the kids got a picture taken with Mickey Mouse. I just saw our Mickey picture from last year when I was cleaning something at home. The picture was taken in Setubal and it was just Sofia because Leo was scared of Mickey. Today he was so excited to see Mickey. He kept running back to wave at Mickey. He’s going to be thrilled when we go to DisneyLand in February.

I wish we had a chance to walk around more, but I’m happy we at least got the 20 minute break in the rain. It has been a while since we were in Lisbon and it’s nice to be back, even though the visit is way too short. Now we have some down time in the hotel, which is nice too.

I’m excited to get to Belgium tomorrow. We went to Spain a few months ago but didn’t really get to experience anything local. I’m excited to see what Belgian food is like, what the coffee is like, and what their bakeries are like. Tomorrow we have an almost 3 hour flight and then a 1.5ish hour train ride.

It will be a big trip for Leo. We have left the stroller behind, so he will have to walk a lot more than he is used to. But he has to get used to it because he will walking to and from school twice a week starting next month, so he needs to build up some stamina.

Thanksgiving in Portugal

I have been working a lot the past month to make some money for all the stuff we have coming up. Between working and all the rain we haven’t left the house much. Last year it didn’t rain a lot, but this year is more of what I expected Portugal to be based on people’s comments. It has rained almost every day this month. Some days it rains all day long, some days it just rains for a few hours or even less.

Last year at this time we were just moving into our new apartment, so we didn’t give much thought to Thanksgiving. Turns out it’s pretty easy to find some Thanksgiving celebrations wherever there are American expats. A lot of us agree that it’s the one American holiday we don’t want to give up. Really it’s just because of the comfort food that we don’t eat anymore.

Stuffing is basically my favorite food and I really only get to eat it once a year. Actually maybe pumpkin pie is my favorite food. Anyone reading this from the states- have a piece of pumpkin cheesecake for me. Pumpkin cheesecake is absolutely the best thing in the entire world. Except for my kids. I’m supposed to say my kids are better than pumpkin cheesecake, right?

There is a really good restaurant in Leiria called Atlas. They had Thanksgiving dinner for €20 per adult and kids were free. There were also some Thanksgiving dinners we found in Coimbra and Caldas, but we wanted to stick close to home. We planned on going to dinner around 7, but the kids were having none of it. Luckily Kyle was able to get it to go, so we ate it at home. It was amazing.

Turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and macaroni and cheese. Not pictured- bread with herbed butter, apples with cream, and a sweet potato soufflé type thing.

We started looking at babysitters to come once a week to give us a break. I really do adore my kids, but we are with them every waking moment. Sofia is at school, but Leo is always here. We realized pretty quickly that having a regular babysitter will add up quickly, so we talked about sending him to preschool. Kyle talked to the owner of Sofia’s school and he said that we can send Leo 2 days a week because that’s what we’re comfortable with for now.

He will start school in January and we will pay €150 a month. I’m so excited but also kind of nervous. Leo is super joined to my hip and he is going to be extremely unhappy to be away from mommy. But I can’t even begin to imagine two days without kids. We haven’t had any days without the kids since they were born. We can go places. I can sit at home and watch a movie in silence. It’s going to be awesome. And it will make us appreciate the times that our kids are home.

Also, I think that Leo and Sofia are going to be in the same class, which would be great. Sofia would love to show Leo around and introduce him to everyone. And he would take at least some comfort in being around his sister in the unfamiliar and scary new place. The first few weeks will be tough and Leo will be so unhappy to go to school. But first we have lots of fun stuff to do, starting with the Obidos Christmas market tomorrow. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain.

Pediatrician and Vaccines

We finally took the kids to the pediatrician and to get vaccines. It’s definitely different than in the US, but now that we know the process we know what to do next time.

Kyle made an appointment to take Leo to a pediatrician that takes our insurance. As luck would have it, the doctor did speak some English. He looked over Leo’s records from the US and said that Leo needs one vaccine. He wrote a prescription and told Kyle to take it to the pharmacy.

Doctor visit stickers

Kyle went to the pharmacy and they gave him the vaccine in a bottle. They said to refrigerate it and take it and Leo to the Centro Saude. They said that we don’t need an appointment. That turned out not to be accurate. A few days later Kyle took Leo to get the shot but they were not particularly pleased that he didn’t have an appointment. After he waited for a while they scheduled an appointment for a few days later and told him that he needs the prescription paper. Which he lost. So when you get a vaccine filled, keep the prescription paper.

Luckily we happened to have an appointment at the same pediatrician scheduled for Sofia the day before Leo’s newly scheduled vaccine appointment. He was able to get a copy of the vaccine sheet from the doctor. The next day he went to Leo’s appointment at Centro Saude and while he was there he made an appointment for Sofia. Then he went to the pharmacy to get Sofia’s vaccines.

Vaccines from the pharmacy

It all sounds more complicated than it is, though there are quite a few more steps than we’re used to. It will of course be significantly easier when things are closer together or we have a car.

So to get vaccines for your kids: 1. Make an appointment with the pediatrician 2. Go to pediatrician, they will write a prescription for the vaccine(s) your kid needs 3. Go to pharmacy. They will fill prescription by giving you the actual vaccines in bottles (the bottles may need to be refrigerated- ours did) 4. Make appointment at Centro Saude 5. Bring kid, vaccine(s), and prescription paper to Centro Saude. They will administer the shots

You’re done! 🎉

1 year in Portugal!

Today is the 1 year anniversary of our arrival in Portugal. I can’t believe it has been a year already. And what a year! We have seen a lot of Portugal and even a tiny bit of Spain. It has also been an entire year since I have driven a car, which feels so weird. Also a year of walking at least 100% more than before, so my heart is probably healthier now than a year ago.

Thinking back to everything that it took to get here is kind of overwhelming but definitely worth it. The first few days arriving in Portugal were probably the hardest because we were super sleep deprived and didn’t know anything yet. We didn’t know how to say anything in Portuguese, how to order coffee, or even how the get groceries. I’ll always remember our first grocery trip in Lisbon.

Kyle and I constantly remind ourselves that just the first time is hard. The first time grocery shopping was hard because I didn’t know the questions they ask at checkout or even how to use the bank card yet. But the second time I did know. And now it’s easy. The first time eating out was hard (mostly because we hadn’t slept in 30+ hours), the first time withdrawing cash at the ATM was hard, the first time using multibanco to pay a bill- all of those were just hard the first time but now they’re easy. There are still firsts that we go through, but it gets easier and obviously the firsts aren’t as frequent as they were a year ago.


We have met some great people and had a lot of fun the past year. We still plan to move to Braga (or Guimaraes) next year, but it gets harder to leave Leiria as we meet more people here. We just found an amazing vet who speaks English. Our neighbor genuinely loves our daughter and vice versa. Even though we will end up in Braga (where I wanted to move) I will never regret living in Leiria.

Living here we have gotten to explore so much of the Silver Coast. We will go to the Christmas Market in Obidos this year, which I’m super excited about. We couldn’t go last year because of Covid restrictions. I also want to go to Nazare next month to see the huge waves. I have been to Batalha a few times and I love it there. We still need to go to Tomar and Fatima. We wouldn’t have done any of this if we had moved straight to Braga.

My favorite time of the year is coming up. Last year we were still pretty new and trying to figure things out, but this year we plan on seeing tons of Christmas lights and Christmas markets. For sure Obidos, Lisbon, and Belgium (Brussels and Bruges). I’m so excited to see all the lights and Christmas decorations! I’m excited to spend another year here. I wonder what the next year will bring. Definitely more adventures.