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.

Caldas da Rainha

Our pallets are here! They arrived today. Our apartment building has a steep driveway down to the garages. We were really hoping they would be able to put the pallets in our garage since we really have no other way of moving them. It was a bit dicey, but they were able to do it. It’s a huge relief having the pallets in the garage. We can take the boxes out as we’re ready and they’re not in our way. We have already unpacked some of the kids toys and books, so they’re very happy. The pallets arrived in good condition. It kind of feels like Christmas!

Our pallets in our garage

Yesterday we decided to take the train to Caldas da Rainha. It was on my short list of places to live, so I was excited to go check it out. The Leiria train station is a bit out of the way, so we took an Uber there. We bought tickets using the CP app. It was just over 5 euro per adult- the kids were free. When we got to the train station we saw that there is a spot for Line 1, Line 2, and Line 3. We looked everywhere, but we couldn’t find anything to indicate which line to take. In Lisbon they have an automated screen that tells you the destination, the time of departure, and the line. We had to ask and were directed to Line 1. It was the same when we came home- nothing to indicate which line to take. We can always ask, but no one else has to, so we’re definitely missing something.

Anyways, the train ride took about 40 minutes. The train was really comfortable and we got our very own car since not many people were on the train. The train also has a bathroom! We have a 2+ hour train ride to Lisbon on Sunday and it was nice seeing what the train ride would be like. Sofia and Leo did great.

We got off the train at Caldas and almost immediately ran into a playground. We let the kids burn off some energy and set off to find the main square. When we got there, they had a market set up. That’s something we haven’t seen yet in Leiria, though I’m guessing they must have one. Kyle got a giant orange, Sofia a banana, and Leo an apple for 80 cents total. Kyle says the oranges out here are the best. I don’t like oranges, so I’ll take his word for it.

After the market we walked around the park a bit. I can’t remember the name, but it’s a beautiful park with the abandoned hospital. Caldas da Rainha felt smaller and more compact than Leiria (which it is), but not as small as Batalha. I think we saw all of Batalha while we were there, but we definitely did not see all of Caldas.

We could definitely see ourselves living in Caldas. It seems a lot easier to manage without a car. It’s cute and has its charms. I love the market. The food we had there was really good (though that has been true of everywhere we have gone on the Silver Coast). It’s nice to know that my judgement was correct- I thought Caldas was somewhere we might like to live and I was right. At the same time, visiting Caldas made me more aware of what I like about Leiria. I like the main square in downtown Leiria. I love the river and the walking/biking trail that goes along it.

Also, Caldas was the first place I really noticed the dog poop. A lot of people complain about dog poop on the sidewalks in Lisbon, but we didn’t really notice a lot. In Caldas I noticed it more. And it smelled like dog poop fairly often. I kept checking my shoe, sure that I must have stepped in some, but I didn’t. Kyle pointed out that, apart from the big park, we didn’t see any other green space in Caldas. There seems to be more in Leiria. But we could still seeing ourselves living in Caldas. There are a lot of pros there.

Batalha

We’ve been busy making our apartment home, which has been good timing since the days have been gloomy with some rain on and off. Today the forecast said there was a 0% chance of rain, so we decided that it was time to get out of the house.

Kyle has been seeing some pictures of what turned out to be the Batalha Monastery. I had never heard of Batalha, but it’s 15 minutes away from our apartment so we decided to check out the town and monastery.

Batalha Monastery

Batalha is a small, very walkable town. The main area didn’t have any hills- a rarity in Portugal! The monastery is right in the middle of town and makes a beautiful backdrop. There is a park nearby with playgrounds, a river going through it, and a basketball court.

We didn’t go inside of the monastery because it has a sign outside that says to be quiet inside. Sofia and Leo are not into being quiet right now, so we’ll have to go back some time without them to explore the inside.

I love that Portugal is made up of so many amazing towns. One of the reasons we moved to Leiria is its proximity to other towns we want to see. Caldas da Rainha, Nazare, Tomar, and Obidos are all towns nearby that I really want to see. And those are just the ones I know of. Like I said, I had never heard of Batalha, but I loved it. I look forward to going there again.

One of the reasons we moved to Portugal is so that we can explore the rest of Europe. That’s still high on our list, but with the increased Covid regulations it might be harder over the next several months. I’m glad that there are so many places within Portugal that we want to see. Madeira Island is high on my list for next year. So are Coimbra and Porto. Porto looks so amazing in pictures and I can’t wait to see it in person.

There is still so much we need to learn. Public transportation around Lisbon was easy, but we need to learn it around here. There is a bus station downtown, and Leiria has a train station somewhere too. I guess we will have to learn next weekend when we head to Setubal!

Coming back to our apartment today was great. We had a lot of big and exciting days in Lisbon, but we always returned to an apartment that was too small for us and wasn’t home. Coming back to our apartment today really felt like home and I love that so much. Our apartment is further from town than I want, but other than that I really love the apartment. I can definitely see living here for 3 years, exploring Portugal, and finding the town/city we want to live in long term. The next few years are going to be a lot of fun.

Christmas lights and Covid Restrictions

On December 1, Portugal initiated additional Covid measures. To eat inside, go to a gym, or go inside some places, you need to provide a negative Covid test, or a EU vaccination card with QR code. Unfortunately our American vaccination cards are useless, and we can’t get an EU card since we’re not residents yet. We’re okay with ordering takeout or eating outside, so we figured it wouldn’t be a big deal. But a EU vaccine card is required for the Christmas village downtown.

We went to see the Christmas lights in Leiria a few nights ago. They’re beautiful and they’re all over downtown. It was a lot of fun walking around looking at everything. There is a carousel and train outside. We got free pictures with Santa. I had the best hot chocolate I have ever had. They created a huge tent filled with activities like ice skating, sledding, and other fun stuff. when we went the activities in the tent weren’t really set up. We went again last night and they now require the EU vaccine card to go in the tent.

One thing I really wanted to do was go to Obidos to see the town and their famous Christmas Village. I wonder if they are going to require the vaccine card. We don’t mind doing a Covid test, but we have no idea how that works. They have self tests at the pharmacy for cheap, so we’re not sure if we just buy some and then take them in front of people when they are required. I’ve heard they are good for 72 hours but I’m not sure how if it’s a self-test. No one would know when we took it. Anyway, we’re headed back towards Lisbon in a few weeks for our SEF appointment, so I think we have to skip Obidos this year. I’m disappointed but we will be here for years and maybe next year will be easier.

Our SEF appointments are in a few weeks in Setubal. We just booked an Airbnb for 3 nights there. I’m excited to go back to Lisbon and to see Setubal. Setubal is on a lot of lists for good places for expats to live, so I’m looking forward to seeing it myself. I already miss Lisbon and welcome a chance to go back. Especially during Christmas! I’m very excited to see some of the lights there. I guess we should buy some Covid tests just in case…we plan to take buses and trains to Setubal and throughout the area. I don’t think we need a negative test for those, but better safe than sorry.

We are getting our apartment settled. We still don’t have much furniture, but a lot is coming next week. We finally caught up on laundry and we got a kid’s table yesterday, so we’re making progress. The maintenance guy was over a few times this week and now our apartment is in good condition.

We’re mostly ready for our SEF appointment. Our landlord gave us the registered lease, which was my biggest concern when we were looking for an apartment. Landlords are required by law to register the lease with the tax authorities. Many don’t because they don’t want to pay taxes on rent. In order to get residency we need a registered lease, so I’m glad that our landlord did that and made it so easy. The last big step is to get health insurance. Unfortunately I can’t just buy online. I had to fill out a little bit of information and then the insurance company is supposed to call me to go over everything. So, we’ll see how that goes.

Overall we’re settling in pretty well. Furniture is coming really soon. Hopefully we will have our residency cards by the end of the month (ish). December is cold, but a beautiful time throughout the country with all of the Christmas lights. Things are good right now.

Settling into Leiria

It has been a rough week or so, but things are starting to settle down and get better. Earlier this week we left Sintra and came to Leiria. We stayed for 3 nights at a hotel right by our new apartment. That was a tough transition because there was so little space. We rented two hotel rooms, but it was still a tight squeeze and we missed having a kitchen and refrigerator. We moved into our apartment a few days ago. Before we did so, we were able to buy mattresses for everyone. That’s all the furniture we have at the moment.

Sofia helping with grocery shopping

Things went wrong with the apartment pretty much immediately. Kyle noticed that there was no hot water. He contacted the landlord and she told him to just turn on the water heater. He tried for 2 hours, but it wouldn’t work. He called her again and she agreed to come over. After some time she figured out that the gas line outside of the apartment had not been connected.

At that point we had hot water, which was great, but we still couldn’t get the radiators to work. They use hot water to heat the house. That first night was pretty bad because the house was freezing. We all bundled up as much as we could, but we were still cold. At bedtime we realized that none of the bedroom doors close, which sounds super trivial but matters to me since we have such young kids and don’t want them wandering the house alone right now. At 3 in the morning Leo found his way into our room. Poor guy was probably freezing.

At that point, Kyle went to try the radiators again and he noticed that the water heater was pouring water out. He called the landlord and she told him how to shut the water off. So then we were freezing and had no water. And Leo wouldn’t go back to sleep.

I think that leads to yesterday. I was super grumpy and hated everything. I hated the apartment, I hated Leiria. I was just exhausted and frustrated. The day before yesterday we had a few frustrating encounters and some people were rude to us. People told us it was a fluke and that people in Leiria are usually nice, but I was still feeling weird about those interactions. So back to yesterday- we decided that a fun day was in order, so we put off shopping and trying to furnish our apartment.

We went to downtown Leiria and spent the day walking around. They have the Christmas stuff all set up and it just adds to the charm. When we first got to Leiria I really missed the charm and beauty of Sintra and Lisbon. Well, downtown Leiria is charming. I like it there. Our apartment is a bit further than I want, but once we settle in it won’t be such a big deal.

One of our last stops yesterday was an ice cream/ coffee shop. They have some of the best coffee I have ever had. They also have boba ball smoothies that Sofia loves. It’s nice that anywhere we go now is somewhere we can go over and over again.

Ice cream with a shot of espresso. Yum!

While we were out we signed up for phone/internet/cable. We got a Black Friday deal for 61 euro per month, which makes me really happy. We were paying $150 just for two phones in the US. We also have fiber optic internet, which is awesome.

Last night when we got home the cable/internet people showed up at the same time as the maintenance guy and another guy to fix our water heater. So it was pretty busy in the house for a while, lol. At the end of it all we got hot water, working radiators, doors that close, and internet. Our TVs were delivered too, so at least we have TV now. It’s amazing how much life improves with some hot water, heat, and TV. I’m feeling a lot more optimistic today.

Trying to get furniture has been a challenge. Our cards get declined when we try to make big purchases. We have daily limits but we’re not sure what they are. Our cards get declined when we try to make online purchases. I know banks here take security seriously, which isn’t a problem as long as you’re not trying to furnish a house. I think we are going to have to try making smaller purchases to get stuff. Hopefully, we can get some furniture in this week. For now, it’s just nice having a kitchen and showers back.

We are completely out of clothes, so we’re trying to catch up on laundry. Until now we have been using laundromats, but we have a huge patio and a drying wrack now, so we’re finally doing our laundry the European way. Our patio doesn’t get sun until afternoon, so I don’t think we will have clean/dry clothes for a while. A day at home sounds perfect right now though. Fingers crossed that we can get some furniture in here this week!

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.

Cascais day trip and we got the apartment!

Today we decided to take a day trip to Cascais to distract ourselves. A few hours after we got there we found out that we got the apartment! We are so excited and relieved. I’ll be even more excited when we get the signed lease in our hands, but the landlord told us that the apartment is ours, so we’re focusing on that. There is a lot we don’t know about our apartment, so we are very excited to get there to see it and find out the answers to our questions. I have no idea if there is a dishwasher or a washing machine in there. I do know that it has a huge living room, a huge patio, and a bathtub, so those things are awesome.

The shipping company (from shipping our pallets) needs to have an address for us by November 12. We weren’t quite sure what we were going to do about that if we didn’t get the apartment, but now we don’t even have to worry about that. And now with a Portuguese address, we can go ahead and get private health insurance, which is the other thing we need to do for our residency appointment. And we can go to the bank to change our address, and then maybe they can mail me another bank card. There is a branch right up the street from us in Sintra.

Cascais

Cascais was, of course, absolutely gorgeous. I have seen videos of it and knew I would love it. People say that you don’t really need to know Portuguese in Lisbon and Sintra, and that is true to a degree, but we found it to be even more true in Cascais. There is a lot of English spoken there. We had some really good fish and chips for lunch. Things were expensive in Cascais, but all of the food we got was really good.

We walked down the promenade for a bit, and then we turned around and walked back down a busy road back into town. We walked around some of the shops for a bit. We went to two different beaches and got some gelato. The first part of our trip was more of a distraction, but the second part was a lot of fun since we felt pretty relieved and happy. There is some beautiful artwork that we see for sale in Sintra and I really wanted to get some of it, but I don’t want to lug it around if we don’t know where we’re going. Now that we know we have an apartment I can go buy some! My favorite ones are pictures of doors. I know how strange that sounds. I never used to be into doors, but I have seen so many beautiful ones in Portugal and I love them. So I am going to have framed pictures of doors in my new apartment, lol.

As soon as we find out our move-in date we are going to arrange some things and then we’re heading up to the Silver Coast! We have absolutely loved our time in Lisbon and Sintra, but we are very excited to get to know our new home and hometown.

Fingers Crossed…

We found our perfect apartment. It’s a T3 with 2 bathrooms. Huge living room, it’s on the ground floor, 10 minutes walking from town, and it’s beautiful. Great price and the owners are looking for someone to sign a longer lease. There is a small garage, which we hadn’t even been looking for, but now we want it because it would be perfect for bike storage. The problem is that the apartment is in huge demand. I’m not sure how many other people want it, but I know the owner has numerous showings.

The process so far has been a learning experience and different than anything we have done so far. We hired a company to help us find an apartment, and they met with the owner and toured the apartment. They told us how important family is to the owner and that they want a family with kids living there. We definitely fit that bill. They told me to call the owner to tell her a little about the family and then to follow up with an email, so we did exactly that. We put a lot of emphasis on how great the apartment is for our kids and how much we want to raise them there. We didn’t even have to embellish at all, we really do love it and we want to live there so much. The owner said that she will choose someone and let us know of her decision by Wednesday. So now we wait. We have no idea how it’s going to go.

Leo being a goofball

In the meantime, we’re trying to stay busy and distract ourselves. Today we went to the Cascais mall. I swear we do more than go to malls all the time, lol. We started going to malls a lot more once Sofia was born because it’s a win for everyone. We can walk around and exercise no matter the weather. There is food, usually a playground, and if the kids want to walk around we don’t have to worry about cars. I was very proud because we took the bus from Sintra to Cascais. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it was our first time and it was a bit intimidating. In case you ever want to take the bus around here, you have to flag them down, they don’t automatically stop.

The mall is big and has a nice playground with slides and a ball pit. Sofia and Leo had a blast. The mall has a Toys R Us, which was really fun to see. The US ones went out of business a few years ago. When I was pregnant with Sofia we went to their going out of business sale and stocked up. This Toys R Us also had a playground, so Sofia and Leo got tons of playground time today.

Later this week we want to go to Cascais. We went to the mall today, but didn’t actually see the city. Fingers crossed that we get good news about the apartment soon…

Sintra and Pena Palace

We have been in Sintra for a few days now. I wonder if we are going to like each city more than the last. We love Sintra, and the change of pace is much appreciated. We still go out everyday, but things feel easier- probably because Sintra is smaller and more compact than Lisbon. Sintra is equally as stunning.

A few days ago we went to the mall, Alegro Sintra. It’s big. I’m not even sure what we did, but we spent hours there and didn’t even see half of it. The kids playground there was different than ones we have seen before and the kids spent a bit of time there. That day was kind of rough because we realized how overwhelming it is trying to acclimate. Seeing all of the stores I realized that we don’t even know what stores we like in Portugal. We still don’t know which stores to go to for certain items. But we’re learning, and eventually we will figure out what stores we like and where to go for specific items.

View near our AirBnb

That was also the day that an employee at the mall got visibly irritated with me when I asked him if he speaks English. I get that it would be annoying to have all of these people moving here who don’t even speak the language, but we really are trying. We do need to learn some more Portuguese ASAP. Most people here are incredibly kind and helpful, but we have run into one or two who seem very upset that we’re here. I suppose it’s like that in every country. Kyle pointed out that it’s humbling and he’s right. Everything is harder because we don’t speak the language.

The apartment search is not going as well as I had hoped, so I’m a bit anxious about that. Our SEF appointment is December 21, so we absolutely need a lease by then. We still have time, but it seems like there is a high demand for apartments right now and not much supply. Every apartment that we have been interested in is already rented and no longer available. All we need is one apartment, so fingers crossed that one becomes available and we’re able to get it. Needing an apartment and trying to learn a new language are our biggest life stressors right now, so we are pretty damn lucky.

One of the many amazing views from Pena Palace

We have been seeing Pena Palace on YouTube videos for months because it’s always shown when anyone talks about Sintra. Every single time Sofia would see it she would say “I want to go there!” Well today we finally went! I knew the castle would be beautiful because I have seen so many pictures of it. Pictures don’t do it justice. I had no idea how spectacular the view would be, and from so many different places. There is a wall walk that walks halfway around a part of the castle. I was fairly terrified because I’m scared of heights and Sofia was with me, so I had her arm in a death grip so that she wouldn’t try to climb over the side. Even she seemed somewhat impressed with the views.

We took bus 434 to the outside of the palace. There are ticket machines and you can buy tickets for just the park, or for the park and palace. If you want to go inside, buy park and palace. We didn’t want to go inside, so we just got the park tickets. You can also buy transfer tickets for 3 euro. The transfer ticket is needed to ride a separate bus to the top of the hill. We had no idea of this until later. When we walked in we saw a line of people waiting for the bus. We waited for 20+ minutes just to be told we needed additional tickets. So don’t wait in the bus line unless you paid for the transfer tickets. We walked up the hill to the palace. It really wasn’t so bad- the hills in Lisbon definitely helped to prepare us. There are lots of beautiful side trails and gardens which we skipped since we’re always on a bit of a timer with two young toddlers. We like to get things done before someone melts down- and it’s not always the toddlers that melt down 😆

We loved visiting Pena Palace. It’s gorgeous there and I wish we had a bit more time and energy to explore the grounds. We’re hoping to go back in a few years when the kids are older and we can ditch the strollers. Today we left Sofia’s stroller behind to see how it went. We made it, but she was tired and asked to sit in the stroller a few times. I guess we’re still sticking with two strollers for a while longer.