Alcobaca

Today is Kyle’s birthday so I decided to give him what the parent of any toddler wants- some time alone! 😂 With the bus schedule, me and Leo were gone for over 7 hours. Kyle is taking Leo to Alcobaca next week, so I will get 7 glorious hours all to myself. Just in time for Stranger Things! It’s one of my all time favorite shows and the last two episodes of the season come out on July 1st. Each episode is going to be longer than the others.

Alcobaca

Anyways, I digress. Kyle really loves Alcobaca and it has been on my list, so Leo and I took the bus there. We have a pretty good routine going at this point. Get to where we’re going, find a playground for Leo, stuff his little belly, and then he passes out in his stroller for almost 2 hours. It’s the perfect time to get coffee and explore. Once he wakes up we get ice cream or a snack.

Alcobaca is a cute and charming town, like so many in Portugal. I really love getting to see so many places. Alcobaca is known for the monastery. There were some steps to go inside, so I couldn’t go while Leo was sleeping. When he woke up, we didn’t have enough time to go inside. Maybe next time. The monastery is huge and beautiful from the outside.

There is a Main Street lined with shops and restaurants directly across from the monastery. There is a river with a path along it, and a cute park called Jardim do amor. There is also a castle that we didn’t see. We didn’t do a ton, but had a nice Portuguese day. We took an hour for lunch, sat in a cafe and had coffee and a snack, walked around a ton. I love these days. I love slowing down and trying to enjoy things more instead of cramming too much into the day.

We have finally started socializing a bit more. We went out to dinner with an expat group on Saturday night and that was nice. Kyle met some people in the square in Leiria because he heard them speaking English. In some ways it’s easier to meet people because when we hear English we are quick to stop and say hi. I’ve had people approach me just because they hear me speaking English to one of the kids. The people Kyle met have a son right around Sofia’s age and the two of them play so well together. It has been really nice meeting some people.

Guimaraes

We’re back in Braga for a few days and we head back to Leiria tomorrow. I have been wanting to go to Guimaraes for a while now but we just never had the time. Yesterday we took a bus over there to see the city. It’s only a 25 minute bus ride from Braga.

Portugal was born here

The city is much bigger than I expected. They have a really charming historic city center. It looks different than other places I have seen in Portugal. I haven’t seen much of Europe, but central Guimaraes reminds me of European city squares I have seen in videos. It doesn’t feel as distinctly Portuguese as some that I have seen.

Something I love about Guimaraes is how many different parts the city has. There is the historic city center. There’s a palace and a castle. There is the street filled with flowers, with the church on one end and the fountain on the other (I don’t know the names of any of the places), there is a modern mall and various shopping areas, there is the cable car to the top of the mountain, and there are quiet and quaint streets that just feel so European. They also have a Friday market that we hope to see next time. I’m sure I missed some stuff because the city offers a lot.

We took the Guimaraes cable car to the top of the mountain. We knew there was a church with an amazing view, but didn’t know what else to expect. I guess the area is called Parque de Campismo da Penha and the whole area is beautiful. It’s very shady and cool up there. I could see going on hot days because there is a nice breeze. We wish we could have spent more time up there, but we hadn’t even known about the cable cars when we first went to Guimaraes, so we just didn’t have enough time. We did get to stop for ice cream and take a cute train ride to see more of the area.

We both really love Guimaraes and it has moved into our top spot of places to look at for settling down. I never expected anywhere to knock Braga out of its top spot. Like I said earlier, I love the different aspects of Guimaraes and how it feels like so many different places in one. I also love how quiet certain parts are while still being central. Whichever we choose, they are only a 25 minute bus ride away from each other, so we will have two awesome cities nearby. Not to mention Porto as well.

On the way back to Braga we met a woman at the bus station who was headed home to Chaves. We were talking about how beautiful Guimaraes and Braga are, and she said that all cities in the north are beautiful. I googled Chaves and it looks gorgeous there and I definitely want to visit. A bus was going to Vila Real and it was pretty crowded, so I googled it, and it’s beautiful there too. She’s right, everywhere in the north is going to be stunning and I can’t wait to see them. All of them, lol. I’m adding every single Northern Portugal city to my bucket list.

For now we are going to have to slow down our Braga trips and focus on exploring the Silver Coast more. We were really excited about buying an apartment in Braga, but unfortunately our funding fell through. Someone was going to loan us money to buy a place, but they decided to back out. We need 30% for a down payment to a place, which we don’t have quite yet. We’re very disappointed, but it is what it is. We will keep saving and might have enough in 5+ years. For now I’m going to focus on working to make back the money we spent coming up here to see apartments and to keep funding our day trips.

A few days before we came to Braga we finally made it over the Nazare. I liked it a lot more than I expected to. I didn’t make a post because the gorgeous view was completely obstructed by fog. I’ll be going back there soon after we get back to Leiria. It’s pretty, the ocean breeze feels great in summer, and there is a playground Leo loves. Kyle went to Alcobaca and he really loved it, so I’ll be going there soon too. Lots more fun to be had and posts to make.

Day trips and apartment hunting

For the past month or so we have been settling into a routine. Sofia goes to school Monday through Friday so we take turns walking her to and from school. I have been working Wednesday through Saturday. On one of my days off we go somewhere. Sometimes all 4 of us go on a Sunday, sometimes just me and Leo, and sometimes it’s me, Leo, and Kyle.

There have been tons of day trips to Coimbra and Caldas. Kyle and Sofia went to Sao Martino do Porto and said it’s way different now than when we went a few months ago. That’s on my list to visit soon. Right now we’re on the train headed home from Caldas da Rainha. We’ve never been to Caldas on the weekend. I like it. Lots of people out and about, but without feeling crowded. The market had a lot more stalls today than we see on weekdays. When we move to Braga we’re going to miss Caldas.

A few days ago Kyle, Leo, and I took a trip to Bombarral , which is a small town with a train station. They have some gardens we wanted to see but unfortunately they were closed when we went. We just wandered around town a bit. It was interesting because it seemed like at least half of the buildings there were abandoned.

A few weeks ago Leo and I went to Braga. Kyle and I are hoping to buy an apartment there. Now that the kids are getting older we really don’t want to keep moving around. We want to enroll them in kindergarten and then stay put for at least 10+ years. It seems like renting an apartment is getting more and more difficult, especially with an 80 pound dog. Kyle and I have been slow to settle down and stop moving around, but we’re finally ready.

I went up there to meet a realtor and see a few places. We found an apartment on Idealista yesterday that seems perfect for us, so we messaged the realtor and hopefully one or both of us will be in Braga again this week to see it. We know we want an apartment with 3+ bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, an energy rating of C or higher, and a 10 minute or less walk from the city center. We would love a bathtub and a garage too, but those aren’t necessities.

Caldas market on a Saturday

I meant to take pictures of the places I saw to document what it’s like to buy an apartment here, but I couldn’t last time because the residents were home when I toured the apartments and it would have been way too awkward. If I view any empty places I’ll take some pictures. We have been using Trusted House Sitters to find pet sitters for Bailey when we go out of town. It has been working great so far, but these dates are super last minute, so we’ll see if we can find someone to pet sit or not.

Going to the movies in Portugal

The last time I went to the movie theater was when I was pregnant with Sofia. She’s over 3.5 now, so it has been quite a while since I went. A few months ago we met an expat couple in Batalha. They have a 1-year-old daughter. When we asked them about babysitters or daycare, they offered to watch the kids so that we could go out. I think Kyle and I have literally gone out together 3 or 4 times since Sofia was born. It’s definitely a downside of not having family nearby when you decide to have kids. Anyway, we decided to take the couple up on their offer and see a movie on Sunday night. We’ve been watching the Marvel movies so we decided to go see the new one.

We went to the theater at our local mall. At the theater there are different packages you can get. You can buy just the tickets, or combine it with snacks. I think this theater only had chips and popcorn, I didn’t see any candy. We got a medium popcorn, two drinks, and two tickets for 19 euro. They ask you what area of the theater you want to sit in and they assign seats on your tickets.

Movie night

In Portugal, the movies are not dubbed. We already knew this because we have had some Portuguese people tell us that the reason they know so much English is from watching movies. Movies and lots of TV shows here are in English with Portuguese subtitles. I think the exceptions are animated and cartoon movies and TV series. Those are dubbed.

After the movie, we got a cab back from the mall and it was interesting to say the least. We gave the driver our address. She got lost and got pretty angry with us. The fact that we speak English seemed to really set her off. We didn’t speak English to her, just to each other. She kept yelling at us in Portuguese. We were trying to give her directions in Portuguese and she was having none of it.

When we got to our house she drove right past it. We told her “stop here please” in Portuguese and she said no and started looking at the house numbers. It was so bizarre – she acted like she knew where we lived but we didn’t. She realized she had passed it and she seemed upset again. We just paid her and got out. People are generally really great, so it always throws me off when they get really upset with us. I know we need to learn Portuguese, but we know enough to communicate how to get to our house. She was swerving a bit and braking at weird times. Kyle thinks she had been drinking and that would definitely explain some of her weird behaviors and why she was so angry and loud.

Second impression of Braga

Braga is still the perfect fit for us. Even more so after spending a few days here. Yesterday we went to Bom Jesus and it was beautiful. The views from there are amazing. Today is mall day. I guess I have to accept that we just go to malls a lot 😆 It started when Sofia was born. She would cry at home, but she loved going out. She would do so well any time we left the house. The problem was that Florida was regularly one billion degrees outside. We realized malls were air conditioned, and free, so thats how this whole things with malls started.

As Sofia got older, we realized malls have some pretty fun things for the kids to do. And I am always appreciative of places where they can’t run out into the street. This morning was a rainy morning, so we headed to the mall. It was definitely one of the better ones for the kids. The playground was great and there were tons of rides for them to go on. It will be a great rainy day activity when we live here.

We also happened to meet a great family at the mall. They have a 1 year old son who Sofia really loved playing with. She loves babies. They are from Canada and have been living in Portugal for a few years now. We talked for a few minutes and we really like them. They love living here. We can’t wait to move to Braga.

Part of what is so exciting to us is that we want to live here for a long time. We want to raise our kids here. We bounced around the US a bit, moving every few years, and we never found anywhere we wanted to stay for a long time. We knew once we had kids (and especially once they start school) that we want to settle down. We want them to make friends at age 5 and still have some of those same friends into adulthood. Braga really feels like the place that we can do that. It’s small enough to feel manageable, but big enough to hold our attention. It has everything we need, and things we wanted that we didn’t even consider until now.

Tomorrow the plan was to take the train from Braga to Coimbra, and then the bus from Coimbra back to Leiria. The train company is on strike tomorrow. I got an email that services may be impacted, so now we’re not sure what to do. I’m not sure if that means that all trains are cancelled or just some. Definitely not looking forward to that. We wish we could just stay here. It’s really beautiful here and the more we see the more we love it. Soon enough. At least we live in Portugal. And now we know what city we want to move to.

First impressions of Braga

We’ve only been in Braga for about 8 hours now and we have barely even seen it, but it’s our place. It was always the place I was drawn to on paper and now that we’re here we are even more sure.

It started with the train station. It’s not too big, so it’s easy to navigate. No stairs or elevators to manage with the strollers. The train lines are marked and there is an electronic board telling you which train goes where. And there are a bunch of taxis waiting outside. One thing that’s hard about Leiria is that when we get to the train station we have a hard time finding a car to get home. It would be awesome having taxis waiting outside.

Braga train station

I knew that Braga has the biggest pedestrian only area in the country, but it’s significantly bigger than I expected. Tons of streets. Some are filled with stores, and some are just gorgeous streets lined with restaurants and flowers. There are so many flowers here. Sofia and I love flowers, so seeing them all over the place is a bonus.

We are at a rental right in the center with great views of part of the pedestrian only area. I would love to live in the city center. It has everything we could want and more. We already saw two playgrounds nearby. There are so many restaurants and cafes here. Today we just picked one at random and it ended up being an amazing meal. Two appetizers, two entrees (pesto ravioli and a braised beef pasta), two coffees, two desserts (banana split and cheesecake of the day), and a bottle of water for 50 euro. I need to work more just so we can eat out when we move here, lol.

This city feels young and there are so many teenagers. We keep talking about how much Sofia and Leo will love growing up here. I can picture them as teenagers, taking the train to Porto with their friends, or even taking the train into Spain. Kyle and I can take a train to Spain for lunch while the kids are in school. How awesome is that?

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll have a lot more to write and more pictures in a few days. I can’t wait to see more of Braga.

Porto

After years of knowing I would love Porto, we finally made it here! It’s amazing and beautiful, just like I knew it would be. It’s hard not to compare it to Lisbon, and it definitely feels different in some ways. Kyle is already super in love with Porto and says he likes it more than Lisbon. I love both cities for different reasons. One of the biggest and most noticeable differences is that Porto is more compact than Lisbon. It’s definitely still a big city but feels so much more compact. On the one hand, that’s great. It’s easier to get around and the things you want to see are all so much closer together. On the other hand, it feels so busy and makes me feel overwhelmed a lot quicker. We were able to stay in Lisbon for weeks and it didn’t really feel overwhelming the way most cities do. But Porto does feel overwhelming to me and it’s because there are so many people in a smaller area. It’s an unfair comparison though. We stayed in Lisbon for weeks and have been a few times. We have been in Porto for about 24 hours and this is our first visit.

People talk about the vibes of cities here, especially the vibe of the northern cities. I definitely notice it in Porto. It feels younger here, and in a sense, hipper. To me, Lisbon is the more refined older sibling, and Porto is the younger one who likes to stay out late. That’s probably a bad comparison, but I’m sticking with it, lol. Sometimes you want refined and cultured, and sometimes you want fun. I love both cities very much. Don’t make me choose! Both cities make me so happy to live in Portugal. I love this country.

There’s a lot I would like to do in Porto, but the only thing I cared about this trip was walking across the Luis I bridge and taking the Gaia cablecar. We did both this morning and it was even better than I imagined. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience…except I have no doubt that we will do it again. You can take a one-way trip or a round trip. We did the one-way trip and had lunch at the bottom. Next time we will do the round trip. It’s a pretty short ride and the views going back looked even better. For lunch we got to try the sandwich Porto is known for, the Francesinha. It wasn’t bad. I’m glad I got to try it and I don’t hate it, but I don’t see myself eating it very often either.

Francesinha

We arrived in Porto yesterday and went to the Jardins do Palacio de Cristal. It’s a beautiful park with great views of Porto. I definitely want to go back, but not on this trip. It was quite the hike to get there. We’re staying down by the water, which is a pretty flat area, but any time we try to go into the city we have to hike a bunch of hills. It’s really hilly here. At least the sidewalks are wider than in Lisbon, so it’s a little easier to push a stroller, but we can’t wait to visit some of these places without having to push strollers up the hills.

On Thursday we’re heading over to Braga. I wish we had more time in Porto, but this trip was really just to see if Porto is somewhere we would want to come to again. It definitely is! I know in my Aveiro post I had said we would probably move there, but we talked about it more and I think it’s going to be Braga. Braga was always number one on my list. It just feels right on paper. In two days we will finally be there and see if it feels right in person.

Numero Utente and updating our financas information

There was tons of stuff we had to do in order to move here and get ready for our SEF appointments in December. Once that stuff was done, we kind of took a break for a while. In March we decided to get the ball rolling on our numero utente/SNS. Those are the numbers that allow us access to the public healthcare system. We primarily need them in order to get our COVID boosters and to start the driver’s licence exchange process.

One day in March we went to our local centro de saude and they gave us a peice of paper with the documents we needed and the email address to send them to. I filled out a single application, and uploaded our residency cards, NIF paperwork for each of us, and a copy of our lease (for proof of address). I emailed it off and heard back the next day. They said they received everything and would process it and get back to me in a week.

A month later, I still hadn’t heard back yet, so I emailed them to ask if I need to do anything else. Three weeks later and still nothing, so Kyle went back into the office. Turns out they forgot to send us the email. So while he was there, they sent it to me and voila, we all have our numbers now. Yay! Next step is on to the driver’s license exchange. Ugh. Luckily that should be just about it with our administrative adventures, but I am really not looking forward to it. All of the paperwork we have for the exchange is over 6 months old now, so I’m wondering if I will have to get it all again. I hope not, but we’ll see.

April 19th marked our 6 month anniversary in Portugal. I think that by 6 months you need to update your address with financas, so about a week before out 6 month mark, we finally headed to financas. We dropped Sofia off at preschool and figured out where the office was. We took a number and waited for a few hours. When it was our turn, no one spoke English, but we used our translator apps and got it done. We had them update our address and remove our fiscal representative. We brought our residency cards and our lease. They didn’t care about the lease though, they just wanted our cards. It took about an hour to get through all 4 of ours.

It feels great to have almost all of the administrative stuff done. We can finally go get our COVID boosters, which is great since mask mandates are being scaled back. People aren’t wearing them inside anymore, which feels so weird after the past 2 years. We’re sick (again!) at the moment, so we’re going to wait a week or two until we’re better. It still isn’t COVID. Sofia started preschool a few weeks ago and we pretty much got sick immediately. From what I have been reading, we can expect to get sick 8-10 times over the next year. Oh boy. I guess I should cut back on trip planning then.

We have been in Portugal for over 6 months now! It kind of feels like that, but in some ways it feels like more. I’m really happy with all that we have accomplished over the past 6 months. We even have Sofia in preschool already, which is not something I expected to have done by 6 months. We have seen a decent amount of the country, though obviously there is still so much more we want to see.

Beautiful Batalha

The longer we’re here, the more frustrating the language barrier gets. I know it’s completely on us. We’re trying, but Portuguese is a hard language to learn. I think it’s extra frustrating because I know a lot of Spanish, and since I have known it for almost 20 years now I don’t really remember the struggle to learn. I can form sentences and conjugate verbs in Spanish, but not at all in Portuguese. There is so much about Portuguese that I just don’t understand, so it’s easy to get discouraged. I want to take another class, but one that moves a lot slower than the last one I took. Actually, I think I should look into a tutor. That might be really helpful.

Our trip to Porto and Braga are coming up in less than two weeks. Braga has been the top spot on my list almost since I started seriously considering moving to Portugal. Porto has been too, though it will be too expensive for us to live in. I’m excited to finally get to see and experience Northern Portugal!

Aveiro

It’s our last night in Aveiro and tomorrow we head back to Leiria. We had already liked Aveiro and all that it has to offer. Yesterday we went to Costa Nova, and that pretty much sealed the deal. I’m still really excited to see Braga, but I’m not sure how it will compete with everything Aveiro has to offer. I think Aveiro will be the next city we live in.

Aveiro is pretty flat, making it so much easier with strollers. There are sidewalks everywhere. The kids get a lot more freedom to just run around here. There is a pirate ship playground in front of Aveiro Forum that we all love. It’s fenced in and there is a coffee place, so we can sit and drink coffee while the kids play.

Our favorite playground

The canals are definitely unique. Aveiro is big enough to keep us entertained, but small enough to be able to walk around pretty easily. I wanted to live somewhere with a train station, but I never thought to check the schedule. Leiria’s train schedule just doesn’t work for us. There are huge gaps in the schedule, so sometimes we have to commit to being gone for 6+ hours. Aveiro has so many trains coming and going all day. They also have some high speed options to Porto and Lisbon.

Bolts and Ubers are pretty easy to find around here. They even have pet Bolt. That was something I hadn’t even thought of, but I definitely want that. Bailey would love to get to go to the beach with us!

Costa Nova is so charming and cute. It’s only about a 10-15 minute drive from Aveiro. They also have a bus that goes there. Sofia and Kyle are big beach people. I like the idea of the beach more than the beach itself. I spend about 20 minutes on the beach and then I get bored. I think Leo is like that too. In Costa Nova we can go walk around and see the stores and the candy striped houses while Sofia and Kyle spend hours at the beach.

The location of Aveiro is perfect. Super close to the coast. Close to northern Portugal, which I think I will love. Probably slightly milder weather than the north. Aveiro is a great location to travel. We can easily access both Lisbon and Porto airports. Kyle and I were going over what we want, and there is no compromise in Aveiro. Some things are important to him, but not to me. Some things are important to me, but not to him. In Aveiro we will both get what we want.

To add to it all, there is a beautiful park here too. It’s big and one of the prettiest we have seen. There is an area with three slides in the side of a hill. I thought the kids would get bored quick, but they loved those slides and didn’t want to leave.

Tomorrow we head back to Leiria. I’m going to miss Aveiro a lot. I really don’t hate Leiria at all, it’s just not the lifestyle I want right now. Sofia starts preschool on Monday. She keeps talking about it. I plan on spending the next year visiting (and revisiting) some of the places near Leiria that we might not visit much if we move to Aveiro. Obidos, Caldas, Alcobaca, and Batalha are all on my list.

I’m still super excited to go to Porto and Braga next month. I really do think that I’ll love Braga, but Aveiro is going to offer some pretty tough competition. It will take an amazing city to push Aveiro out of our number one spot.