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.

PortAventura Spain

Today is Sofia’s 4th birthday and we finally made it to Spain! We flew into Barcelona a few days ago and have been staying in Salou to have easy access to PortAventura. Getting here was a bit of a pain. Our flight was delayed by over an hour and then our train was cancelled and we ended up stuck in the Barcelona train station for over 4 hours. Turns out there was a strike just on that particular line. The train station was really hot and pretty miserable, but we made it.

We went to PortAventura on Saturday and today, and yesterday we hung around Salou and went to the beach. I’m glad we came, but I wouldn’t repeat this trip. Salou is okay, but there is nothing special or unique about it. It feels super touristy and I hear more English than Spanish. It doesn’t feel European, it actually kind of reminds me of some of the touristy cruise ship ports that all look the same. It’s also really loud here and people stay up until 6 partying, talking, and laughing in the streets. I feel so old saying that it’s too loud, but it’s definitely too loud here, lol. At least for sleeping.

It has been really nice hearing Spanish again because I understand it. And when we ran into some issues in Barcelona I knew exactly how to say what I wanted to say. I have understood a lot more than I expected to. I can’t wait to get to that level with Portuguese. I have been taking Portuguese lessons two times a week and definitely want to keep it up.

We already knew Portugal was home, but this trip has really cemented it for us. I know comparing 11 months in Portugal to 6 days in Spain is pretty unfair though. We will have to go to Valencia to get a better idea. Valencia is where we planned to move when Spain was at the top of our list.

We were only in Barcelona to spend the night and then for a few hours in the morning. We went to the Lego store to get a few toys. I will definitely be back in Barcelona one day when the kids are older. For now it’s just a bit too much. I remember writing before that big cities tend to overwhelm me. I love them, but there is a lot going on. That’s definitely true of Barcelona, even more with toddlers. It’s just too stressful being in a huge city that I don’t know, not knowing if the kids are going to run off or step into a busy street.

Salou was a great city to visit right now, even if we didn’t love it. It’s flat and easy to navigate with wide sidewalks. Since the sidewalks aren’t cobblestone it’s a lot easier to push a stroller here. There is a pedestrian only area that leads right to the beach.

PortAventura was a lot of fun. They have Sesame Adventures and the kids spent most of their time at the huge playground there. We’re really going to miss that playground. Today wasn’t busy, so Kyle and I even got to go on some rides. Tomorrow we’re taking a train back to Barcelona for an early morning flight the day after. Fingers crossed it all goes well. Next up is Belgium in December to see the Christmas markets. Until then we are going to really enjoy being home in Portugal.

Budgeting Part 2

Our weekly trips have been put on hold because we got sick again. It has been weeks and I’m finally starting to feel better. It was a bizarre sickness with pretty much every symptom I can think of, including what seemed to be pink eye. It started with Sofia waking up at 2AM to throw up one morning weeks ago. Leo was next a few days later. They were so sad and pitiful, I’m glad that part is over. Luckily by the time I got sick the kids were already feeling better.

I have done a better job of tracking our expenses and can break them down a bit more than my first budget post. We have added a few things to our lives that up the monthly budget. I’m trying to list most of our expenses because it was really helpful for us when deciding which country to live in.

Our neighbor has a friend who cleans her house and she recommended her to us. She only charges 6 euro an hour. She’s usually here for about 4 hours and we usually just give her 30 a visit. She does an amazing job and doesn’t mind our kids trying to follow her around.

Sofia’s preschool was 275 a month but they just raised it to 285. We think it’s a great deal since it includes breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack! They also keep Sofia entertained, which we really appreciate. We will probably start sending Leo sometime next year, after his third birthday.

I always struggle with food costs. We have gotten a lot better with eating at home, so our eating out costs are down to about 200 or less per month. Groceries and other essentials (cleaning supplies, etc) are probably around 600-800 each month. So 800-1000 euro for food/ grocery store supplies per month. I feel like that’s probably high, but that’s where we’re at.

We found a babysitter for 10 euro an hour. We haven’t used her yet, but if anyone is wondering how much childcare would be, that’s the cost for the babysitter to come watch our kids in our apartment.

Here is our monthly budget (keep in mind we’re a family of 4, including two toddlers. We also have an 80 pound dog).

•700 rent, •170 gas/electric, •60 water/trash, •157 health insurance, •65 phone/cable/internet, •60 house cleaner, •285 preschool, •50 Bailey (food and toys), •33 Bailey’s grooming, •1000 food (sometimes less, but let’s estimate high).

US expenses: $10 peacock subscription, $8 Disney plus subscription, $10.98 virtual mailbox service, $60 tutoring for me, $30 tutoring for Kyle. We have been using italki for tutoring. Different tutors on the site charge different amounts, but we’re paying about $15 per hour for ours.

There are a few US expenses I didn’t include, like student loans and my professional liability insurance because they won’t apply to most people. Also, I try to put away a few hundred or so each month for savings/traveling, but didn’t put that in the monthly budget since it will be different for everyone.

Apples from the Leiria Medieval Festival

So our grand total is about €2580 and $118.98 plus a bit extra for savings, student loans, and my professional liability insurance. Some months we don’t put any into savings because we’re using the money to travel.

We have some traveling coming up. Sofia’s school is closed next week, so we’re hoping to take the kids some places because they will go stir crazy at home. I definitely want to take them to Nazare. Next month we’re going to Spain for Sofia’s 4th birthday. I’m so excited to go see Spain! We have really loved exploring Portugal and we’re excited to see more of Europe.

Figueira da Foz

Kyle and I have semi started a routine to give each other a break. Every week one of us (we alternate) takes Leo on a day trip while the other stays home alone. Our kids are at really demanding ages right now, and this is the only way we have found to stay semi sane. I was going to go back to Nazare today, but at the last minute I decided to check out Figueira da Foz because it has been on my list and it’s pretty easy to get to and from using public transportation (bus there, train back).

Even though Leo and I were in Figueira for 7 hours we somehow never made it to the beach 😂 We got to the bus/train station (they are connected!) and it took us about a half hour to walk to the main beach area. Leo got bored and fell asleep. I just wondered around a bit until he woke up. We got lunch, played at an awesome pirate playground, and then I ran out of steam. The beach is set back quite a ways from the street and looks like a bit of a hike.

They had a really cool looking pirate ship pool on the beach. I didn’t bring Leo’s swimsuit, but I definitely will next time. After that we got coffee and ice cream and then our 7 hours were up and we headed back to the train station. I’ll never again underestimate how long it takes a toddler to eat ice cream. That took up a good hour and he still didn’t even finish it. 😆

I’m not sure how I feel about Figueira. I should love it. It’s a beach town (and a pretty big one at that) with a beautiful fountain, a boardwalk by the water, and it’s one of the flatter areas in Portugal I have been to. It has a train station and lots of stores. It’s the same way I feel about Coimbra. I should love Coimbra and Figueira but so far I just don’t. I don’t dislike them at all either. I will continue to visit Coimbra and Figueira often because they have a lot to offer. But for some reason I’m just not in love with those places.

Leo’s favorite part of the day

I’m definitely going to give Figueira another chance though. Maybe I will fall in love with it. It just wasn’t love at first sight and that’s okay. Well, for now it’s back to the grind of work. I’m trying to earn back some of the money we have spent traveling, and we’re hoping to travel Europe a bit later this year. The only definite is Belgium in December because we already have plane tickets. We’re trying to fit Disney Paris in before Leo turns 3 (in February) because under 3 is free.

I’ll be going on another day trip in 2 weeks! I’m thinking maybe Peniche because it’s an easy train trip from Leiria with a decent schedule.


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.


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.


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.