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!

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.

Aveiro

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.