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.

Leiria Castle and Leo turns 2!

Today is Leo’s birthday! Somehow he is already two years old. For his birthday we decided to take a trip to Leiria castle. It’s about time- we always see the castle in the background. It sits up on a hill and is visible from most of the city. It has a really cool elevator that goes up and down the hill to the castle. Unfortunately, it was broken when we tried to take it up. There was a guy stuck in there, and Kyle and I were able to pry the doors open and get him out. He was really grateful. He was much calmer than I would have been stuck in an elevator.

Leiria castle in the background

We walked up to the castle. It was a lot of steps and hills that we hadn’t counted on, but I got some great pictures I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten. We were also reminded, yet again, of how helpful Portuguese people are. Kyle was carrying a stroller and a backpack, and I was carrying a stroller and holding Leo’s hand. A man came up and asked if we needed help, and then held Sofia’s hand as she walked up the stairs. She got a kick out of it.

I’m not sure what I was expecting of the castle, but it was more amazing than I expected. First, it was cheap! 2.10 per adult, and the kids are free. The views were amazing. I feel like that should have been obvious since it sits on top of a hill, but I guess I never imagined what the views would look like. The kids walked around the entire grounds and got pretty tired. Luckily the elevator was working by the time we went back down. It was a really cool ride down. I can’t wait to go again and ride the elevator up the hill.

From there we walked downtown, to our favorite burger place. Leo’s favorite meal is a cheeseburger. The birds there were insane. They would dive down onto the table and steal our food. We would try swatting at them to scare them away, but some of them weren’t scared at all and actually ended up getting swatted. I have never seen birds as courageous and annoying as these ones. It wasn’t just our table either, they were attacking anyone with anything edible on the table.

One bird swooped down and grabbed Leo’s burger. It fell on the ground and they all swarmed and it was over. We just got up and let them win. There were too many of them and they were everywhere. Sofia started crying. We let her chase the birds and she got over it. She loves chasing birds. The restaurant was awesome and cooked us a new burger for Leo and packaged it to go for us. They apologized profusely, which is really sweet, but also so unnecessary because it’s not their fault that the birds there are some kind of weird burger loving kamikaze birds. They make the best burgers and fries in town, and I guess the birds know this. Next time we will eat inside.

My favorite

Next up was our favorite ice cream place. Sofia loves their boba smoothies, and I love their coffee. They called it an iced coffee, but it’s really a shot of espresso mixed with vanilla ice cream, and topped with candy. It’s amazing. When it heats up I’m going to walk down there all the time for those things. After that we headed home and Leo got to open some presents. It was a great day and the weather was perfect. It was Leo’s birthday, but it ended up being pretty much my ideal day. Maybe I’ll pick all of this stuff for my birthday too 😃

Batalha part 2

Today Sofia and I went to Batalha to check out the monastery. She seemed excited, but got whiney and bored pretty quickly. I may not have seen everything, but I think I saw most of it. The unfinished chapel was my favorite part.

I’ll have to go to Batalha again on my own one day to spend more time in the monastery. I really like Batalha. It has one of our favorite coffee places. It’s just in a square with a view of the monastery. The coffee is good, and they always have a snack for the kids.

One of my favorite places to get a coffee

I knew that I would like Portugal, I probably even knew that I would love it. What surprises me is how much I love it, and how distinct so many places are. I love Lisbon because it’s big and urban. It’s old and new, and so charming and beautiful. When we were there, Kyle had said that there is a view everywhere and he’s right. Lisbon is full of stunning views. I love Sintra because it’s magical and charming. All of the palaces there are amazing and, much like the rest of Portugal, they are distinct.

Obidos is very different from Sintra but has that same magical quality. They both feel plucked from time and I could easily see them as the background to a fairytale. They are both unique. I see pictures on Instagram of Sintra and Obidos and I immediately know where they were taken.

Batalha is also charming and cute. I love how the monastery takes center stage and makes a beautiful backdrop to the city. Their park is one of my favorites. It’s along the river. They have two playgrounds, a dog park, a bathroom, and a place to play soccer. The town is small and easy to navigate on foot. It’s also the flattest place we have been in Portugal, making it easy to navigate with strollers.

Caldas da Rainha is, to me, not as overtly charming as some of the other places, but it is the only one I would consider living in. I love that their train station is so central to everything. It’s super easy to take the train into town, walk to the playground, the outdoor market, the park, and restaurants. The food there is amazing. Caldas has a lot of what I want for daily life.

Batalha

I do think that we will likely move north next year. That makes exploring the Silver Coast this year even more fun. I love all of these places that I hadn’t even given a ton of thought to. I have given a ton of thought to Porto and Braga, so I wonder how I will feel about them when I see them. I’m happy that we love Portugal so much. Literally my only issue so far is that I don’t speak the language, and obviously that is my fault, not Portugals.

Once it warms up a bit, we will start some beach trips. I can’t wait to see Nazare. We already love Portugal, and we haven’t even gone to the beach yet (other than our day trip to Cascais). There are so many cute towns nearby worth exploring. I love that we are getting to travel and do new things again. And I love that we already have some comfort and familiarity in a foreign country.

Obidos

Today we finally left the house. Yay! We haven’t really been out since Setubal and we have been going a bit stir crazy. We have been wanting to go to Obidos, and since it’s a small town it seemed like a good place for our first outing in over a month.

I know a lot of people love Obidos, so I was excited to see it. I read a blog and the writer said it was one of the most charming places she has ever been. I agree with that- Obidos is charming, beautiful, adorable, and unique. I would definitely recommend that everyone visit. We already can’t wait to go back.

Obidos Train Station

We took the train from Leiria. The Obidos station is the smallest we have seen. It’s also in a really beautiful rural setting. You can see the city walls from the station. It’s a bit of a trek from the station up to the city. It’s not far, but it is up. And up. You can take plenty of breaks and admire the beautiful view.

As you walk into the city, the walls and the view take center stage. At some point you round a corner and see how cute the town itself is. Everything about Obidos is photogenic.

There are tons of places you can walk on top of the city walls. I tried to do it, but I’m really afraid of heights so I didn’t make it far. And by not far, I mean I made it up the steps and that’s about it, lol. I wish I could walk the walls, they are so interesting and offer amazing views.

It was a great day to go to Obidos. The weather was good and there weren’t too many tourists. I’ve heard that Obidos can get pretty crowded in the summer, so it was nice to see it without many people. They have a summer market and the Christmas festival, so we will definitely be going to Obidos multiple times.

It was so nice to get out of the house. Like I have said in past posts, we love our apartment, but it’s far from things. It’s hard to live there without a car. Leaving the house is always a bit of a trek. We’re excited to find our spot to settle down in. I think it will come down to Coimbra or Braga. I think that Porto will be our favorite city, but it’s more expensive than we can do long term. Wherever we go next, I want to stay for at least 5 years.

In the next week or two, we’re hoping to head to Coimbra to check it out. There was a part of Lisbon that we didn’t get to check out before. It’s Belem, and they’re having an Alice in Wonderland light display right now. I think we’re going to head down to Lisbon some time in the next month or two. Then a month or two later we’re hoping to go check out Porto and Braga. We’re ready to get back to traveling. Since international travel is a bit harder right now, it’s the perfect time to travel around Portugal.

Almost 3 months in

Next week marks three months in Portugal. I spent well over a year dreaming about this, and I still can’t believe we have been here for three months already. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to enjoy it as much as we want.

Since Christmas I have been battling something. For a few days it felt like a mild cold, but then I had a few brutal days of body aches with a fever, and I spent most of my time on the couch. A week or so later I started to feel better, but still not quite at 100%. A few days later the body aches came back along with a sore throat. Now the body aches and sore throat are gone, but I have a runny nose and cough. The symptoms seem to change every few days. It’s kind of bizarre.

Bailey cuddles

Kyle has been sick, but his symptoms have been milder (although that might be changing today). He took a Covid test and it came back negative. I really can’t imagine what else it could be though…it’s not a cold and it’s not like any flu I have ever had. I got the flu vaccine right before we moved, and I got the Covid vaccine last year. I can’t imagine what this would have been like for me without any vaccines. I would have been pretty worried. Luckily the kids seem to just have a runny nose and they are a little more tired than normal.

Being sick has definitely made me miss a few things from the states. I would kill for some NyQuil. Unfortunately whatever I have has brought on a case of insomnia and I’m not sleeping enough. NyQuil always suppressed the symptoms and knocks me out. I also miss soup! Obviously soup exists in Portugal, I just haven’t found it quite yet. I need to learn to cook some, but I don’t even have the energy to go to the grocery store at the moment.

We got our residence permits! The last hurdle after the SEF appointment is waiting to see if the cards arrive. Sometimes they don’t, and you have to go back to the SEF office to pick them up. Obviously we don’t want to make that trip again right now. Before our cards arrived I noticed that Leo’s address was not completely right on the receipt they gave us. They got the address right, but the apartment wrong. My card, Sofia’s card, and Kyle’s card all showed up right around New Years. I was worried that Leo’s might have gotten returned, but luckily it showed up a few days later. I have never really thought about beyond our SEF appointment. I still can’t believe we’re at this point!

We have a bunch of things that we have kind of started, but have also put on the back burner. We’re trying to get our SNS number, which allows us access into the public health system. We don’t plan on using it much, but we still need the number. We can’t get a Covid booster until we get our number. Normally you just go into your local health center to get the SNS number (with your NIF number and resident permit), but since Covid some offices just want you to email the documents. We’ve had a hard time with the email- so far most of the email address we are given have been undeliverable.

Kyle made an appointment with a doctor for a checkup. As part of the driver’s license exchange we need to have a physical done and the doctor needs to give us a letter saying we are fit to drive. Hopefully Kyle can get that at his appointment, and then I need to make an appointment as well.

We made pretty good progress on unpacking our boxes, but that has been moved to the back burner too. We have about 10 half unpacked boxes in various rooms throughout the house. I can’t wait to get them unpacked and put away.

There is a school in Caldas da Rainha that a lot of people on the expat boards recommend for learning Portuguese. It’s called the Carvela School. I would love to go to in person classes, but I can’t imagine taking a 45 minute train ride each way and also being in class for hours at a time. It’s just too much time. Luckily they offer an online class. I contacted them and got put on a wait list. They just contacted me and I’m good to go, starting February 8. They’re going to be kind of intense. 2 days per week, 2.5 hours per lesson for 8 weeks. Only 3-4 students in the class. It will be hard, but I’m excited.

I really want to learn Portuguese. I keep saying that I’m going to watch YouTube videos or practice on my app. I always mean to, but then life just flies by and now we’re 3 months in and I barely know any Portuguese. I can’t even count to 10. I need some accountability.

After living in Portugal for 5 years, we will be eligible for citizenship. A requirement for citizenship is having a certain level of proficiency in Portuguese. This class counts towards that requirement, so by taking this class I’m already working on the citizenship requirements!

As soon as we all feel better we are going to take a trip to Coimbra. It’s only an hour away on the train and we really think it’s going to be a good fit for us. We’re excited to go check it out! We’re excited to check out more of Portugal! Hopefully soon…until then, I’m back to my Manifest binge. I discovered the show a few days ago and I love it so far.

Feliz Natal

Merry Christmas from Portugal! We actually aren’t doing anything to celebrate today, which makes me kind of sad, but things have been so hectic lately. The kids have so many toys (some haven’t even been unpacked yet!) that adding to the pile seems like too much right now. My goal was to be in Portugal for Christmas and we did that, so it’s still a pretty exciting Christmas. The job that I quit in October recently took away our paid holidays, so if I stayed I would be working today. Spending the day watching movies with my family (in Portugal!) is a much better way to spend the day.

During the week I was finally able to organize our kitchen. It had been a complete mess, but now it’s organized and functional. We had been ordering takeout pretty much every day. Since everything is closed today, the timing is perfect! I got a bunch of groceries yesterday and now we have some food for the next few days. I keep trying to adopt the European way of grocery shopping, but I haven’t yet. I always buy way too much food and then have a hard time getting it all home.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!

SEF appointments in Setubal

On Sunday we took the train from Leiria to Setubal. We took one train from Leiria to the Lisboa Sete Rios station, and then from there a train to Setubal. The train from Leiria to Lisbon was 3 hours, and Lisbon to Setubal 45 minutes. A long day, but the 3 hour train isn’t so bad. It’s not at all crowded and we got our own car. The seats are pretty comfy and there is a bathroom.

Our AirBnb was right in the city center. That’s the one thing we don’t get with our apartment in Leiria. It was great getting to walk to everything in Setubal. It does come with a cost though. The apartment was at the top of a steep staircase and it wasn’t well insulated at all. We could hear the people above us a lot. Not a big deal for a few nights, but it really makes me appreciate our apartment in Leiria.

My SEF appointment was Monday at 3:30 PM. I was pretty nervous. This was arguably the most important meeting of my life. We love Portugal- we just signed a 3 year lease and spent thousands furnishing our apartment- obviously we want to be able to stay. I haven’t heard of anyone actually getting denied, so the logical side of me was trying to convince the anxious side that it would all work out.

Our AirBnb was only an 8 minute walk from the SEF office. Unfortunately it started raining right as we set out. It was forecast to start raining Sunday night and pretty much rain straight through the next two weeks. When we got to the office, the guard asked for my name and consulted a list. I’m not sure what happened because he couldn’t seem to find it and left for a few minutes, but then he came back and handed me a number.

Kyle and the kids were with me. Their appointments were not until Tuesday (9,9:30, and 3:30), but people have said that sometimes SEF will process the whole family at one time. When they called my number they let Kyle and the kids come with me, but they sent them back to wait in the front waiting room.

A woman who spoke English asked to see my passport. I was holding all of my documents and she asked for the whole stack. Included was my SEF application, our lease, proof of our lease registration, proof of our health insurance (with Medis), NIF paperwork, and 3 months of our Portuguese bank statements. She made some copies and then did the fingerprinting and pictures. I asked her if we could process my family and it seemed like she was going to, but then she said that they would just do them tomorrow. I asked if we could just do Sofia’s since Sofia’s appointment was so much later than everyone else’s, but she said no again.

We were about to leave, but there was a woman there who had been really kind and empathetic towards us. Kyle asked her one more time if they could process everyone else’s so that we could head home. She convinced her coworker to do it. We were so excited. She was so nice and we really appreciate her help. She didn’t speak any English, which always makes me nervous, but obviously we all got by. All together it took about 2.5 hours. We’re so excited to have that done. We’re officially residents! 🎉 🥳

Originally we were going to stay in Setubal until Wednesday, since we had 3 appointments on Tuesday. But it’s now 13:00 on Tuesday and we’re on the train back to Leiria. We actually miss Leiria a lot more than we expected. We miss our apartment. We have only been there for about 4 weeks now, but we’re really getting settled. We have so many boxes to unpack and we want to get back to it.

Plus, the weather has finally turned. We got so lucky our first two months here, but now it’s grey skies and rain. It’s forecast to rain most of the day, and I would rather be stuck in a train than an Airbnb. Side note- Airbnbs with toddlers are stressful. Sofia is 3, so she is somewhat past the age of breaking stuff, but Leo is just shy of 2 and he loves looking for things to break and ways to kill himself. Staying at an Airbnb with a 1 year old pretty much means chasing them around to see what they try to break or use as a weapon. It’s exhausting

So now we’re on the train, on our way home. I am so happy that we feel like Portugal is home. The place we miss is our apartment in Leiria. The place we miss is Leiria. Setubal has its charms and it’s pros, but it’s not home.

Kyle and I agree that we want to spend a few months at home, taking some day trips, but sleeping in our apartment. Then in a few months maybe we will take some overnight trips somewhere. For now I am nice and warm, riding on the train, watching the rain fall outside. I love riding on the train. It’s much more comfortable than flying or driving, and I have more freedom to move around.

One day we will go back to Setubal and give it a fair visit. We were only there for two nights and it was gloomy and rainy the whole time. I would love to see more of it some day. For now, we’re really excited to sleep in our own bed. And to see Bailey again. Sofia really misses him.