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.

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.

Aveiro

It’s our last night in Aveiro and tomorrow we head back to Leiria. We had already liked Aveiro and all that it has to offer. Yesterday we went to Costa Nova, and that pretty much sealed the deal. I’m still really excited to see Braga, but I’m not sure how it will compete with everything Aveiro has to offer. I think Aveiro will be the next city we live in.

Aveiro is pretty flat, making it so much easier with strollers. There are sidewalks everywhere. The kids get a lot more freedom to just run around here. There is a pirate ship playground in front of Aveiro Forum that we all love. It’s fenced in and there is a coffee place, so we can sit and drink coffee while the kids play.

Our favorite playground

The canals are definitely unique. Aveiro is big enough to keep us entertained, but small enough to be able to walk around pretty easily. I wanted to live somewhere with a train station, but I never thought to check the schedule. Leiria’s train schedule just doesn’t work for us. There are huge gaps in the schedule, so sometimes we have to commit to being gone for 6+ hours. Aveiro has so many trains coming and going all day. They also have some high speed options to Porto and Lisbon.

Bolts and Ubers are pretty easy to find around here. They even have pet Bolt. That was something I hadn’t even thought of, but I definitely want that. Bailey would love to get to go to the beach with us!

Costa Nova is so charming and cute. It’s only about a 10-15 minute drive from Aveiro. They also have a bus that goes there. Sofia and Kyle are big beach people. I like the idea of the beach more than the beach itself. I spend about 20 minutes on the beach and then I get bored. I think Leo is like that too. In Costa Nova we can go walk around and see the stores and the candy striped houses while Sofia and Kyle spend hours at the beach.

The location of Aveiro is perfect. Super close to the coast. Close to northern Portugal, which I think I will love. Probably slightly milder weather than the north. Aveiro is a great location to travel. We can easily access both Lisbon and Porto airports. Kyle and I were going over what we want, and there is no compromise in Aveiro. Some things are important to him, but not to me. Some things are important to me, but not to him. In Aveiro we will both get what we want.

To add to it all, there is a beautiful park here too. It’s big and one of the prettiest we have seen. There is an area with three slides in the side of a hill. I thought the kids would get bored quick, but they loved those slides and didn’t want to leave.

Tomorrow we head back to Leiria. I’m going to miss Aveiro a lot. I really don’t hate Leiria at all, it’s just not the lifestyle I want right now. Sofia starts preschool on Monday. She keeps talking about it. I plan on spending the next year visiting (and revisiting) some of the places near Leiria that we might not visit much if we move to Aveiro. Obidos, Caldas, Alcobaca, and Batalha are all on my list.

I’m still super excited to go to Porto and Braga next month. I really do think that I’ll love Braga, but Aveiro is going to offer some pretty tough competition. It will take an amazing city to push Aveiro out of our number one spot.

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.

Quinta da Regaleira

We have somewhat settled into our temporary life in Sintra. Every 2-3 days we have a pretty big outing, and then we take a day or two to stick around the area and rest a bit. Over the past week, we have taken the train into Lisbon a few times. It was nice getting a break from Lisbon, and it was nice going back. We went to the aquarium on one of the days. Another day just me and Sofia went to the science museum.

Today we took the bus to Quinta da Regaleira and it was one of the most fun days we have had. It was a lot of walking, but it was an easy day. The bus went from the Sintra train station to directly outside of the palace.

The outside of the palace is beautiful. The inside is fine, but I love the inside of the Sintra National Palace, so the inside of Quinta da Regaleira just paled in comparison. The grounds, however, are absolutely amazing. I’m not sure which I find more beautiful- Pena Palace or Quinta da Regaleira. This one was easier with kids, more stroller friendly, and more kid-friendly. There were a few areas where the kids got to run around. That wasn’t the case at Pena Palace, where everything was so up high that I was terrified the kids would lean over a railing too far and fall.

Quinta da Regaleira was a lot of fun because it feels like there are so many secret parts. There are a few main paths, but numerous paths that branch off to different things. We ran across a few underground caves to explore. Countless staircases lead to beautiful views or underground caves. I feel like we saw a lot, but I know there is so much that we didn’t see. There were tons of staircases that we skipped because of the strollers. We were there for almost 4 hours and there was still so much more to explore. I want to go back to Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira in 10 or so years when the kids are older and we can explore a lot more.

We had lunch at the cafe there, and it was one of my favorite meals we’ve had since coming here. The view/surroundings were also some of the best I have seen. I was sitting facing the palace, with a view of some of the gardens, a fountain, and the city in the background. It was really relaxing and nice. I forgot to take pictures because Sofia kept trying to play in the fountain. They wouldn’t have captured everything anyways, it was one of those times that you just had to be there. As beautiful as our pictures are, they still just don’t do justice to the places we have been. Portugal is very photogenic, but it’s also even more beautiful than its pictures.

One of the highlights of our day is that we ran into Dan and Michelle from Honeymoon Always. They moved from the US to Portugal a few months before we did. They have a YouTube channel and I watch all of their videos. In the US the videos helped provide info on what to expect, and their experiences with the visa process. Now I like their videos because I get to see them do some of the things we eventually want to do, like going down to the algarve. They were super nice and it was great getting to talk to other people who have done what we just did. Hopefully we will run into them again some day.

On Monday we are heading to Leiria. I am very excited to see where we are going to live- both the actual city and the apartment. Moving is a huge hassle each time. We came here with 7 boxes, 2 suitcases, and 4 backpacks. Each time we move, we have more stuff. This time is the last though, at least for a few years. We’re still trying to work out the logistics of how to get to Leiria, but we’re figuring it out. Every time we move we have to take two separate vehicles. Me and the kids usually take an Uber (we still have their American carseats with us). The day we first got here we took two separate taxis from the airport. Kyle’s driver turned out to be wonderful and gave Kyle his card. He brought Kyle and Bailey to Sintra from Lisbon, and now he is going to bring Kyle and Bailey to Leiria. It’s more difficult finding someone wiling to transport an 80 pound dog, so we’re super grateful to have found someone willing to transport Bailey.

I’m ready to move into our apartment and get settled, but I’m kind of sad to be leaving Sintra. I have gotten used to Sintra. I have gotten used to the amazing view just a few feet away from our Airbnb. I have gotten used to the buses and bus system around here. I’ve gotten used to being 5 minutes away from the Sintra train station. I have gotten used to looking around and feeling like I am in some magical place. I am excited to explore the Silver Coast, but I know that Sintra has a kind of magic that we won’t find anywhere else.