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.

We have a preschooler

When we lived in South Carolina, there was a drop in daycare. When I was pregnant with Leo, we dropped Sofia off at the daycare to go tour the hospital where Leo was going to be born. We missed Sofia so much, but when we went to pick her back up she didn’t want to leave. She went back a few times before the pandemic hit. She always loved it.

There have been times we have been walking around Portugal and have passed a school. You can always hear the kids playing. Sofia notices them, and has been asking to go to school for a while now.

Sofia and Leo checking out preschool

In Portugal school is free, though you can pay for private school or an international school. We have always wanted Sofia to go to public school. She is young enough that language won’t be a problem because she will learn Portuguese so quickly. School is not required until the age of 6. From my understanding there aren’t many free preschools. People with lower income have priority, so most people have to pay for preschool.

The regular school year starts in September and I think it runs until June. I don’t think preschool follows this schedule because we are starting Sofia in April. We looked on google and found a preschool near us that gets good reviews. We contacted them on Facebook and set up a tour/meeting.

We were hoping that we could send Sofia part time. Technically we could I guess, but it’s set up for full time. You pay the monthly fee and it doesn’t matter if she goes for 1 day or 25- the cost is the same. They charge 275 euro per month. It costs is 235 to sign her up. That fee is the application fee and uniform fee. She will have a super cute uniform of a blue polo shirt, a blue hat, and a blue apron. The uniforms are color coded by age group, so when the age groups mix it’s easy to quickly figure out who belongs to what group.

If Leo were to enroll as well, there is a sibling discount and it would have cost 505 euro per month for the two of them. The cost includes snacks and lunch. I’m not ready to send both of my babies off to school quite yet, so Leo will stay home for now.

Sofia will be in the age 3-5 group. Most of the students are 3, so she will fit right in. The school is open from 8AM-7PM. It’s nice because we can mostly drop off and pick up when we want. Morning activities start at 9:30, so we need to drop her off by then. Afternoon snack is at 2PM, so we will probably pick her up after snack time.

Registration was easy enough. They had a few forms to fill out with some basic info about Sofia and us. It did take me an hour or two with google translate to fill them out. The school requires a copy of Sofia’s NIF paperwork, our lease, her vaccine records (in English is okay), and the 235 euro fee. Also copies of all our resident cards. That’s it. She will start in April, after we get back from Aveiro.

Sofia will need to bring a sheet and blanket for nap time (they have cots to sleep on), a hand towel for the bathroom, and a water bottle. Sofia has decided to really start potty training the past few weeks and she is doing great. She saw the bathroom at the school and asked to use it. She loved the kid sized toilets and sinks and she can’t wait to use them again.

Sofia will be the only American in her class, but there is a British student, a Ukrainian one, and a few Brazilians. They start teaching English in preschool and are excited to have another English speaker in the class. They said that she will be a great fit for their group.

She is so excited and is going to have so much fun. We are going to miss her so much. I can’t believe she is going to be gone so much! At the same time, she has been driving us a bit crazy. She really wants to be out socializing and learning all the time. We have a few weeks until she starts, so we’re really going to enjoy them.

Last night in Belem

Nom nom

We just got back to our rental after another long but fun day out. Yesterday my Apple Watch told me that I set a new record for exercise minutes. I’ve had that watch for 4 years! Today wasn’t quite as extreme as yesterday, but it was still a super active day. We’re sad to leave. We all love Belem.

I like where we stayed when we first got to Lisbon, but if I had known about Belem, that is where I would have chosen for us to land for our first time in Portugal. The views along the water are amazing. I loved going to Belem Tower. The food in that area is pretty cheap but good. There is quite a mix of Portuguese and English. I heard more English in Cascais, but Belem is a close second. If people ever come to visit us, I would want to show them Belem.

View from the top

Belem would be a great spot for Bailey. There are big parks and so many dogs around. I think I have seen more dogs in the past 2 days than in the past 5 months. That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of dogs in Portugal, it’s just to say that there are tons of dogs in Belem.

Over the past two days we went to Belem Tower and the Monument to the Discoveries. I went to the Jeronimos Monastery. We walked along the street where Pasteis de Belem is. And we got too many Pasteis de nata from Pasteis de Belem. Honestly, I don’t even like the pastel de nata that much, but the ones from Pasteis de Belem are amazing. All the other ones will be ruined now 😂

Last night we went to the Magic Garden / Alice in Wonderland at the botanical gardens. It was better than I expected! It was big and took us the entire hour to get through. Sofia loved it and keeps asking to go back.

Tomorrow we take the 3 hour train trip back home. I will really miss Lisbon, though I miss our apartment. We really wish we could just take our apartment and move it somewhere. It really is the perfect apartment for us, we just want it in a different spot. Well, our Aveiro trip is in a few weeks, so we’ll see if that’s somewhere we could really see ourselves living. It’s number 1 on our list at the moment.

Finances and our travel plans

I’ve been meaning to write a post about finances, but I haven’t been tracking them as much as I should be. I know how helpful finance posts were for us when we were thinking about moving here, so I’ll try to put a few numbers out there.

Our apartment is €700 per month. No bills are included in that price. We have a T3 (3 bedroom) with 2 bathrooms, a huge balcony, and an enclosed 1 car garage. I don’t know the energy rating but it must be an A or B. We don’t have to run the heater. Here are some pictures. We still haven’t finished unpacking, so excuse the mess. Also, we have two toddlers and a dog. And I’m just kind of a cluttery person. So there will always be a mess, no matter how much Kyle tries to clean, lol.

Our patio with awesome sun exposure for drying our clothes

Our electric & gas bill is combined and has been around 100 euro per month. Like I said, we don’t run the heaters. We do run 4 dehumidifiers- a small one in each bedroom and a larger one in the living room. We haven’t gotten a full water bill yet. Our only water bill so far was for 6 euro but was only for 1 week of service back in January. I read somewhere that people pay the water bill for 2 months, so we really should be getting another one any day now.

Our health insurance is 150 euro per month for the 4 of us. Kyle and I are 39, and we have two toddlers. Our insurance is through Medis. Our cellphone/internet/cable is around 65 euro for two phone lines. It’s not unlimited data on the phones. I forget what it is, but we haven’t gone over our data yet.

Food is the one thing I don’t want to talk about, lol. We eat out waaaaaayyyy too much. Multiple times a week, but not every day anymore. We must spend a few hundred a week on food. When we get tired and burnt out, cooking is one of the first things to go. Luckily groceries are cheaper than we’re used to. So is eating out, though it still really adds up. We have been doing better lately, but eating out too much is something that we still struggle with.

We’re leaving for Lisbon in two days. We will only be there for 3 days, but I’m really excited to go back. We haven’t been to Lisbon since we first moved to Portugal. I may have gone a little travel crazy and planned a bunch of trips. In less than 3 weeks we are going to Aveiro for 5 days, and then in May we are going to Porto and Braga for a week. It’s so hard to be by all of these places I read about for years. I’m ready to go see them!

Coimbra, part 2

I titled this Coimbra, part 2 but really it should be titled Portugal dos Pequenitos. Todays forecast was for rain, rain, and more rain. Originally we planned to kill some time at the mall and then go to exploratorio, which looks a lot like a kids museum. We could see the mall from the bus station, so we walked there. We were planning on getting a taxi from the mall to the exploratorio, but Leo was melting down and needed a nap, so we decided to make the 35 minute walk so that he would fall asleep in his stroller.

About halfway through our walk, we stumbled upon Portugal dos Pequenitos. We could see some miniature buildings and knew it was for kids, but we weren’t entirely sure what to expect. We figured we might kill an hour and then head to the exploratorio, but the place was way bigger than I thought it would be. Leo and Sofia didn’t want to leave, so we spent hours there. Luckily the weather forecast was wrong. It was windy, but no rain while we were there.

Portugal dos Pequenitos must have at least a hundred buildings. Mini houses, palaces, and buildings. All of them are the perfect size for kids. Leo and Sofia had so much fun going into all of them. There was even a playground, but for once the kids didn’t care because the rest of the park was so much cooler. I’m not sure what the best age ranges would be, but it was definitely age 2 and age 3 approved. They had so much fun. It’s a little pricey, but it was worth it for us.

We wanted to get a snack, so Kyle found a well reviewed bakery nearby. Luckily it was across the bridge, so we got to see some amazing views as we headed into town. Coimbra must be one of the most dramatic cities to drive/walk into. Walking over the bridge into Coimbra is a great experience.

The bakery happened to be Pastelaria Briosa, which we see in all the videos. I remember watching a walking tour video of Coimbra on YouTube when we were in the states. They stopped at the bakery to show a picture of the window. I told Kyle that we would go there and I would remember the video, and I did! We tried a bunch of things. They had a chocolate cake that was amazing.

We walked through the pedestrian only area and happened to find a cab once we reached the street. We decided to just take a bus back because the train still didn’t leave for another 2 hours. All together we were out for 11 hours today. It was a long day. We figured out a schedule that will let us be in Coimbra for about 3 hours. It involves a morning bus and an afternoon train. It seems a lot more doable than 11 hour days. We still have tons we want to do and see in Coimbra, so it looks like there will be tons of smaller trips in our future.

Ukraine news break (Coimbra part 1)

Right now we’re on the bus leaving Leiria. We’re finally headed to Coimbra. The train schedule between Leiria and Coimbra isn’t ideal, so we decided to try the bus instead. It costs a lot more and isn’t quite as fun as the train. The train has bathrooms and we’re free to move around a bit more. But the bus will get us there too.

Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine I have been glued to the news. Probably to an unhealthy degree. Well, okay, it has definitely been unhealthy. There has been plenty of conflict in my lifetime, but this feels different. I’m not entirely sure why. Part of it is because, for the first time in my life, I am living on a continent where war is taking place. It’s still so far away, but not as far away as if I lived in the US. That part is kind of surreal.

Maybe it’s because I have kids now, and it’s so much easier to imagine the terror people must feel knowing their kids are in danger. I know how lucky Kyle and I are. We had the means and the freedom to leave our country to start somewhere else. It’s also a choice that we chose- it was not forced upon us. And if we had to flee Portugal for some reason, we have the means to do so. So many people didn’t have the means to leave Ukraine. I get stressed out just watching the news. I can’t imagine how stressful their lives have become. All in the span of a week.

And what about the ones who were able to flee? Many of them are without their husbands or family members, as so many stayed behind to fight. How do they just start over? How do they handle the stress of not knowing if they will ever see their loved one again? How do they go from a dual parent household to just one? How do they handle the sudden loss of income? I can’t imagine how hard this must be for those who are personally involved. There is so much death and it is so senseless. I hope there can be peace soon, but it just doesn’t seem likely. It seems like there is going to be a lot more senseless death.

Anyway, there is part one of my blog post. I’m ready to take a break from the news for the day. I’m excited to finally see Coimbra. I’ll finish part two tonight on the train ride home, or tomorrow if I’m too tired.

Sao Martinho do Porto

Kyle first noticed the Sao Martinho do Porto train stop when we went to Caldas da Rainha for the first time. He looked at the town online and saw that the beach is kind of a cove. This beach is great for kids because it’s more sheltered than other beaches, so the water isn’t as rough. I know late February isn’t exactly beach weather, but we’re ready to get out. We were going to go to Coimbra but the bus/train schedules there are not the best for us. Also, we’re struggling a bit with Sofia and don’t want to commit to the huge outing that Coimbra would be.

I’m sure that what Sofia is going through is normal, but it’s trying for us all. She’s just about 3.5 and I think she’s trying to learn how to deal with emotions. I get it- emotions are tough even for me sometimes, let alone a toddler. She has been having multiple outbursts during the day, which just isn’t like her. We’re trying to support her the best we can, but we’re all feeling a little worn down right now. She has been doing a great job of naming her emotions. She can identify when she is sad, and she pretends to be angry sometimes, so she seems to know what those ones feel like.

It was nice to see the beach again. Obviously it’s off season, so a lot was closed in town. We knew it would be a small town, and it was. This was the first time we got kind of bored before the train came. We will definitely go back in the summer, it will be a great beach for the kids to splash around. You can see the waves crashing at the entrance of the cove. They look so big, but by the time they get to the beach they are so much smaller.

Today we just walked along the strip next to the water. Sofia played in the sand for a while and then we got lunch and ice cream. I have been meaning to mail a few things to the US and today I finally remembered to bring them and mail them.

We have a few trips planned this year. In late March we’re headed back to Lisbon to go to the Alice In Wonderland event in Belem. I’m excited to go to an event. We have been traveling around, seeing awesome stuff, but an event will be fun.

Sharing some gelato

In May we’re headed to Porto for 4 days and Braga for 3. That’s the trip I’m really excited about. I know I sound like a broken record by now, but I have always felt that Braga is a great fit for us and I’m really excited to see it.

I’m looking at a trip somewhere in September or December. September is Sofia’s birthday and my and Kyle’s wedding anniversary. It has always been the month we take a big trip. The weather is good, but places aren’t as crowded as in the summer. December would be amazing because we love Christmas lights and the holiday markets. I’ve been looking at Ireland, Brussels, Madeira, Italy…there are too many places. For now I’m just watching the prices. I have seen a few sales for €20 to different places in Europe. I can’t believe how low some of the prices get.