Tonight we are in Lisbon. Tomorrow we’re headed to the airport to fly to Belgium. We’re staying at a hotel in Rossio Square. We wanted to visit the Christmas Market and walk around a bit. Unfortunately it has been raining a lot the past few days. It’s raining all night tonight, but luckily it let up a little bit and we were able to run out for a few minutes.
We stopped at a few booths and the kids got a picture taken with Mickey Mouse. I just saw our Mickey picture from last year when I was cleaning something at home. The picture was taken in Setubal and it was just Sofia because Leo was scared of Mickey. Today he was so excited to see Mickey. He kept running back to wave at Mickey. He’s going to be thrilled when we go to DisneyLand in February.
I wish we had a chance to walk around more, but I’m happy we at least got the 20 minute break in the rain. It has been a while since we were in Lisbon and it’s nice to be back, even though the visit is way too short. Now we have some down time in the hotel, which is nice too.
I’m excited to get to Belgium tomorrow. We went to Spain a few months ago but didn’t really get to experience anything local. I’m excited to see what Belgian food is like, what the coffee is like, and what their bakeries are like. Tomorrow we have an almost 3 hour flight and then a 1.5ish hour train ride.
It will be a big trip for Leo. We have left the stroller behind, so he will have to walk a lot more than he is used to. But he has to get used to it because he will walking to and from school twice a week starting next month, so he needs to build up some stamina.
Kyle and I have semi started a routine to give each other a break. Every week one of us (we alternate) takes Leo on a day trip while the other stays home alone. Our kids are at really demanding ages right now, and this is the only way we have found to stay semi sane. I was going to go back to Nazare today, but at the last minute I decided to check out Figueira da Foz because it has been on my list and it’s pretty easy to get to and from using public transportation (bus there, train back).
Even though Leo and I were in Figueira for 7 hours we somehow never made it to the beach 😂 We got to the bus/train station (they are connected!) and it took us about a half hour to walk to the main beach area. Leo got bored and fell asleep. I just wondered around a bit until he woke up. We got lunch, played at an awesome pirate playground, and then I ran out of steam. The beach is set back quite a ways from the street and looks like a bit of a hike.
They had a really cool looking pirate ship pool on the beach. I didn’t bring Leo’s swimsuit, but I definitely will next time. After that we got coffee and ice cream and then our 7 hours were up and we headed back to the train station. I’ll never again underestimate how long it takes a toddler to eat ice cream. That took up a good hour and he still didn’t even finish it. 😆
I’m not sure how I feel about Figueira. I should love it. It’s a beach town (and a pretty big one at that) with a beautiful fountain, a boardwalk by the water, and it’s one of the flatter areas in Portugal I have been to. It has a train station and lots of stores. It’s the same way I feel about Coimbra. I should love Coimbra and Figueira but so far I just don’t. I don’t dislike them at all either. I will continue to visit Coimbra and Figueira often because they have a lot to offer. But for some reason I’m just not in love with those places.
I’m definitely going to give Figueira another chance though. Maybe I will fall in love with it. It just wasn’t love at first sight and that’s okay. Well, for now it’s back to the grind of work. I’m trying to earn back some of the money we have spent traveling, and we’re hoping to travel Europe a bit later this year. The only definite is Belgium in December because we already have plane tickets. We’re trying to fit Disney Paris in before Leo turns 3 (in February) because under 3 is free.
I’ll be going on another day trip in 2 weeks! I’m thinking maybe Peniche because it’s an easy train trip from Leiria with a decent schedule.
Today is Kyle’s birthday so I decided to give him what the parent of any toddler wants- some time alone! 😂 With the bus schedule, me and Leo were gone for over 7 hours. Kyle is taking Leo to Alcobaca next week, so I will get 7 glorious hours all to myself. Just in time for Stranger Things! It’s one of my all time favorite shows and the last two episodes of the season come out on July 1st. Each episode is going to be longer than the others.
Anyways, I digress. Kyle really loves Alcobaca and it has been on my list, so Leo and I took the bus there. We have a pretty good routine going at this point. Get to where we’re going, find a playground for Leo, stuff his little belly, and then he passes out in his stroller for almost 2 hours. It’s the perfect time to get coffee and explore. Once he wakes up we get ice cream or a snack.
Alcobaca is a cute and charming town, like so many in Portugal. I really love getting to see so many places. Alcobaca is known for the monastery. There were some steps to go inside, so I couldn’t go while Leo was sleeping. When he woke up, we didn’t have enough time to go inside. Maybe next time. The monastery is huge and beautiful from the outside.
There is a Main Street lined with shops and restaurants directly across from the monastery. There is a river with a path along it, and a cute park called Jardim do amor. There is also a castle that we didn’t see. We didn’t do a ton, but had a nice Portuguese day. We took an hour for lunch, sat in a cafe and had coffee and a snack, walked around a ton. I love these days. I love slowing down and trying to enjoy things more instead of cramming too much into the day.
We have finally started socializing a bit more. We went out to dinner with an expat group on Saturday night and that was nice. Kyle met some people in the square in Leiria because he heard them speaking English. In some ways it’s easier to meet people because when we hear English we are quick to stop and say hi. I’ve had people approach me just because they hear me speaking English to one of the kids. The people Kyle met have a son right around Sofia’s age and the two of them play so well together. It has been really nice meeting some people.
We’re back in Braga for a few days and we head back to Leiria tomorrow. I have been wanting to go to Guimaraes for a while now but we just never had the time. Yesterday we took a bus over there to see the city. It’s only a 25 minute bus ride from Braga.
The city is much bigger than I expected. They have a really charming historic city center. It looks different than other places I have seen in Portugal. I haven’t seen much of Europe, but central Guimaraes reminds me of European city squares I have seen in videos. It doesn’t feel as distinctly Portuguese as some that I have seen.
Something I love about Guimaraes is how many different parts the city has. There is the historic city center. There’s a palace and a castle. There is the street filled with flowers, with the church on one end and the fountain on the other (I don’t know the names of any of the places), there is a modern mall and various shopping areas, there is the cable car to the top of the mountain, and there are quiet and quaint streets that just feel so European. They also have a Friday market that we hope to see next time. I’m sure I missed some stuff because the city offers a lot.
We took the Guimaraes cable car to the top of the mountain. We knew there was a church with an amazing view, but didn’t know what else to expect. I guess the area is called Parque de Campismo da Penha and the whole area is beautiful. It’s very shady and cool up there. I could see going on hot days because there is a nice breeze. We wish we could have spent more time up there, but we hadn’t even known about the cable cars when we first went to Guimaraes, so we just didn’t have enough time. We did get to stop for ice cream and take a cute train ride to see more of the area.
We both really love Guimaraes and it has moved into our top spot of places to look at for settling down. I never expected anywhere to knock Braga out of its top spot. Like I said earlier, I love the different aspects of Guimaraes and how it feels like so many different places in one. I also love how quiet certain parts are while still being central. Whichever we choose, they are only a 25 minute bus ride away from each other, so we will have two awesome cities nearby. Not to mention Porto as well.
On the way back to Braga we met a woman at the bus station who was headed home to Chaves. We were talking about how beautiful Guimaraes and Braga are, and she said that all cities in the north are beautiful. I googled Chaves and it looks gorgeous there and I definitely want to visit. A bus was going to Vila Real and it was pretty crowded, so I googled it, and it’s beautiful there too. She’s right, everywhere in the north is going to be stunning and I can’t wait to see them. All of them, lol. I’m adding every single Northern Portugal city to my bucket list.
For now we are going to have to slow down our Braga trips and focus on exploring the Silver Coast more. We were really excited about buying an apartment in Braga, but unfortunately our funding fell through. Someone was going to loan us money to buy a place, but they decided to back out. We need 30% for a down payment to a place, which we don’t have quite yet. We’re very disappointed, but it is what it is. We will keep saving and might have enough in 5+ years. For now I’m going to focus on working to make back the money we spent coming up here to see apartments and to keep funding our day trips.
A few days before we came to Braga we finally made it over the Nazare. I liked it a lot more than I expected to. I didn’t make a post because the gorgeous view was completely obstructed by fog. I’ll be going back there soon after we get back to Leiria. It’s pretty, the ocean breeze feels great in summer, and there is a playground Leo loves. Kyle went to Alcobaca and he really loved it, so I’ll be going there soon too. Lots more fun to be had and posts to make.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.