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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

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.