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.

On to Sintra

Today we leave Lisbon and head for Sintra. We are ready. We have loved Lisbon and we will always have fond memories, but it has become exhausting. We have mostly been stuck at home the past three days due to rain, so we have been going a bit stir crazy. We feel really lucky that we got so many beautiful days when we first got here. We have figured out that the quickest way from our rental to the metro is down a big hill. Going down isn’t so bad of course, but the thought of climbing up that hill one more time makes us want to cry.

We’ve been having some bad luck with the metro lately too. At least half the time we take it there either isn’t an elevator, or the elevator is broken. That means a lot of carrying strollers and kids up and down stairs. The metro has served us well, but we are ready for a break. We love Lisbon, but we are not big city people and we’re ready for somewhere smaller and hopefully better suited for toddlers who want freedom.

A few days ago we took a trolley up a steep hill to a gorgeous view. I think the trolley is called Elevador da Gloria. The view from the top is the most beautiful we have seen. We found a playground and stopped at the botanical gardens and natural history museum on the way home.

On Saturday we were supposed to have a 4 hour break from the rain, so we decided to take the train to Cascais. We made it to the train station 10 minutes before the 10:00 train was scheduled to leave and we settled in for the 40 minute ride. Unfortunately 30 minutes later an announcement was made in Portuguese and everyone got off the train. The plus side is that we met a great couple from Florida (hi if you’re reading this! 😊) who told us that there was a problem with the train and the next one would come at 11. Unfortunately the one at 11 was cancelled, so at that point we just decided to do something else. The kids had been in their strollers for two hours and we were all ready to walk around.

Time Out

Time Out Market was right there, so we went to check it out. We knew it was essentially a big tourist trap, but I always think that touristy things are worth doing at least once. It was expensive, and really hard to find a place to sit and eat, but the food wasn’t bad and it was interesting waking around seeing what they have to offer. Now we have it out of our system and it’s not somewhere that we would go back to. I would have preferred Cascais, but at least we were able to do something with our short break from the rain. It started raining again, so we headed back to our rental.

We have started looking for a long term rental. I have researched quite a few places this past year- Braga, Porto, Coimbra, Setubal, Sintra, and a few others. I think we could be happy living in any of those places, but we have never quite been able to narrow it down. I’m very drawn to Braga for its beauty, walkability, and pedestrian only area, but the weather makes me nervous and it seems so far from all the other places I want to check out. I happened upon a website that mentioned Leiria and I started looking into it.

As soon as Kyle saw a YouTube video he said it felt like home and he wants to go there. So that’s where we’re looking for an apartment. Everyone we have talked to has said that Leiria is great for families, and right now whatever we can do to make life easier with two toddlers is a win. I think I could be happy for the next year or two pretty much anywhere in Portugal as long as there are some playgrounds and we can walk everywhere. I have zero interest in getting a car anytime soon. Our rental in Sintra is paid for through November, so hopefully our next move will be into a long term rental in Leiria. Until then, we are excited to see what Sintra is like. Like I said, we love Lisbon but it’s all that we know of Portugal so far. I’m excited to see some other parts of this country.

Last week in Lisbon

This has been a great week so far. We finally got our phones set up, so it has been great having working cell phones. We went to Vodafone and got a prepaid SIM card. One month of service cost 20 euro for two phones. We already have unlocked iphones, so we’re able to continue using those. Once we get an apartment we’ll get a phone contract. They offer budles, so we want to see what those are like before we commit. Now we just need to get ahold of Tmobile to cancel our US phones.

I can’t even remember everything we have done over the past few days. We went to the zoo a few days ago. It was big and we didn’t even see all of it in one visit. There is a really awesome ride there. You stand up in a cart type thing and go over the zoo and a bunch of cages. It’s a long ride, somewhere around 20 minutes maybe. The walls are nice and tall, so I didn’t have to worry about my kids falling or jumping out. I went with Sofia and Kyle took Leo. The ride goes over the lion cages, and gives some nice views of the city. I am deathly afraid of heights, but even I was able to enjoy the ride because it was so different than anything I have ever done.

Yesterday we went on one of those super touristy hop on hop off bus rides, although we were never able to hop off because the stops weren’t long enough 🤣 Kyle tried once, but the bus started moving again before he could even get to the stairs, It was a really nice break to be able to sit down for a while. The kids did good, though they did start to get restless. We all did at some point. The loop was just under two hours, which is more than we have sat for a while now. My butt hurt from sitting by the end. The tour made us realize just how little of Lisbon we have seen. We have come up with a plan for what to do for the rest of our time here, but we’ll see if we have the energy.

We are definitely starting to run out of steam. We’ve been in vacation mode since we got here, so we don’t really have a schedule and we’re running around all the time. It has been tons of fun, but we’re ready to slow things down a bit and get a routine going. We have already outgrown our Airbnb. It’s a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom. It’s in a great location, so the apartment size is, of course, on the smaller side. The biggest problem though is that there just isn’t any organization, so our things are just kind of laying around. We don’t have a pantry, so we have been putting our food on top of the stove, which obviously makes cooking a pain. We are making do though, and plan on enjoying our last week in Lisbon.

Tomorrow or Friday we want to go check out the Belem area. I loved it on the tour yesterday. We have been wanting to get pastel de natas from Pasteis de Belem, so we can kill two birds with one stone. I still want to check out Time Out market at some point, but we might run out of time for that. I really want to go to Cascais while the weather is still nice, and the kids would love that too. I know we can do that from Sintra, but there is a train from Lisbon and it seems easier. Hopefully we can fit that in this weekend. We’re running out of time in Lisbon, but I keep reminding myself that we’re going to live pretty close. It’s not like we’re going back to the states next week. We’re going a half hour away…

We love Lisboa

Yesterday we learned how to take the metro. It’s super easy and convenient. Today we decided to take a break from running errands and to just play tourist. I’m glad we did- we really needed the break.

We took the metro to the Praca do Comercio. We took the elevator from the metro up to ground level and when the elevator doors open it’s one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. I have been wanting to go over there because it’s in so many videos and blog posts and is instantly recognizable. It was interesting being over there because it’s much more touristy than anywhere else we have been. The prices are higher and people speak English to us before we even get a chance to say anything. We’ve already gotten more used to being around locals.

We walked around the pedestrian only areas for a while and then took the metro back home. We stopped at a nearby grocery store to get a few more things. They sure do love their yogurt here, which is great since Leo loves yogurt too. We’re back at the rental with a few new toys and the kids are happy for the moment. I love going around Lisbon, but it’s nice having an easier day. Monday we’re going to see if we can go get Portuguese SIM cards for our phones.

The more we see of Lisbon the more we love it. It’s so beautiful here and I always feel safe so far. Sofia waves at everyone and they wave back, which delights her. People stop all the time and spend a minute or two talking to Leo. He gets shy and tries to hide behind me or Kyle. For the most part people are really friendly here. I know there is so much more of this country than just Lisbon. I’m excited to spend the next week in Lisbon and then getting to see more of the country.

Lisbon

Today has been our best day so far. We decided that our top priority today was to get a second stroller. We have been out so much that one stroller won’t cut it. We found a store that is a 21 minute walk and we set out. It took way longer than 21 minutes because Sofia had to walk and she is exhausted. She doesn’t seem to have caught up on sleep yet. The walk took us through some beautiful areas. It’s amazing how gorgeous this city is where ever you walk. We still haven’t been to the parts of Lisbon that are on postcards and in videos, but so much of this city is really stunning. My pictures never do it justice.

We passed a park and it was similar to the one by our house in the sense that it has a playground, fountain/bird bath, and a coffee kiosk. We let the kids play for a while. We met a woman from Nepal who has been here for two years. It was nice getting to meet someone else who isn’t from here.

We made it back to the apartment in time to get the kids a nap. I went to IKEA while they slept to check it out. It was huge. There were a few things I couldn’t find, so when I got home we set out to find them.

I’m in some Facebook expat groups and some have talked about El Corte Ingles. The way it sounded to me was that it’s a somewhat expensive store where Americans can find some things that they might not be able to find other places. Well, what we got was pure insanity. I’m not even sure it’s a store…it has 7 floors, but then also has negative floors. It’s like a massive department store, but with restaurants, a grocery store, and a movie theater. We weren’t at all prepared for everything that store (ginormous megaplex) has to offer. I did finally find some coffee filters and sugar at their grocery store. I haven’t been able to make coffee at home yet, but I think I finally can tomorrow.

On the way home we decided to try one of the nearby restaurants. The food was amazing. The kids were pretty well behaved considering they had been in their strollers for a few hours. I have noticed that Portuguese kids seem to be well behaved while ours run around screaming, yelling, and banging on stuff. Everyone here is very nice to them though, and Sofia and Leo get tons of attention. They really do love kids here.

Today was better because we’re starting to adjust our expectations. We can’t have a to-do list and expect to make a ton of progress in one day. Today it took us about 4 hours to get a stroller. But we had fun doing it. We went on a beautiful walk, had fun at a park we had never seen, had some coffee, stopped for a snack. It made us realize that if we can accomplish one or two goals a day then we’re doing good.

Back in the Southern US

Well, we made it back to South Carolina two days ago. Whew, this humidity! I somehow forgot how humid it gets. It was nice getting to spend two weeks in the way cooler air of the Pacific Northwest. The flight home was so much better. Our first flight landed on time, so we had an hour and a half layover in Dallas. It still felt kind of cut short, but we had time to eat and stretch our legs a bit. We have all been pretty exhausted since we got home.

I go back to work today, in two hours. It will be fine. I’m feeling kind of sad though. I always feel kind of sad when vacation is over. It has been so nice getting to spend the past two weeks with my kids. I’ll miss getting to spend so much time with them. I really miss my parents too. Sofia has been asking to see them a lot today. She misses them too. Since having kids it has gotten so hard saying bye to my parents. It’s so nice spending time with them and the distance between us is hard. And it’s about to get way bigger.

On the plus side, we will be moving to Portugal soon. I still haven’t picked the exact date, but we’re really close to deciding. We got our passports back and my SEF appointment is December 20 in Setubal. Kyle, Sofia, and Leo have their appointments on December 21, also in Setubal. For that appointment the biggest thing we need is a lease. Originally we planned to find something to start January 1, 2022 but now it’s looking like we will aim for a start date of December. The travel date we listed on our D7 visa was October 13, and that might be the actual date we enter Portugal, or we might do a week later.

Kyle has already started selling some of our stuff. I’ve been going through the kid’s clothes to either sell or donate them. I still have all of their clothes, back to when they were both newborns. We have so much to do and not a ton of time to get it all done, but we should be fine. We’ve known this was coming and I began packing some things a few months ago. Now that we know that we’re actually going soon it’s time to get moving.

I still have to figure out my last day of work. I think that I might just stay for a while longer, and have my last day be 10 days prior to our move. That last paycheck will be helpful, and having our insurance for as long as possible means we won’t have to spend a ton on short term health insurance. We still have some decisions to make, but that’s the fun and easy part. We tried calling Lufthansa today to book Bailey’s flight, but after being on hold for a while we were told by a machine to leave a message. I definitely have some anxiety about Bailey’s travel- booking his flight will be a huge piece. Once we book his flight I will book ours and make the last decisions that I need to make.

Why do we want to move to Portugal?

I love to travel. I have wanted to experience living abroad for as long as I can remember. Kyle and I used to talk about it and it was always something we wanted to do “someday.” Originally we were looking at Spanish speaking countries because I speak enough Spanish to get by. At first Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico were all on our list in part because of their proximity to the United States. We had been to Cozumel, Mexico a few times and we loved it. We took a 10 day trip to Costa Rica and we loved it there too.

When I got pregnant with Sofia we decided that we wanted to move abroad before she began school. We started to make serious plans to move abroad. A top requirement of mine is that I do not want a car. I want to walk and take public transportation. That made Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico more difficult. You can live in any of those places without a car, but we wanted to be able to travel around pretty freely, and it just seems a lot easier with a car in those countries.

I’ve always wanted to live in Europe, but dismissed it as being too expensive. At some point I read that Portugal and Spain are pretty affordable. Immediately I began looking at Spain. I narrowed in on Valencia pretty quickly and I started learning everything I could about living there and their visas. I wasn’t quite sure that we qualified, but figured we could swing it and it was worth a try. Then I got pregnant with Leo, and the second dependent would have made the financial requirements hard to meet.

I had looked at Portugal before, but couldn’t narrow down where to live, so I had turned my attention back to Spain. This time I looked at Portugal’s visas, and the D7 was a great fit. We more than met all of the requirements, including the financial ones. For the next year I researched Portugal. I kept trying to narrow down where to live, but all I did was expand the list. There are so many cities and towns I want to check out.

Portugal is fairly easy to travel around without a car, especially if we live in a bigger city. It’s easy enough to access the rest of Europe from there. Spain is their neighbor. I have read time and time again that Portuguese people are incredibly friendly and helpful. I know that in Portugal family matters, and kids matter. I like that Portugal does not have the same gun culture that we have in the US. I love that Portugal is a safe country. There seem to be a lot of positives. That sealed the deal and we knew that Portugal was the place for us.

As we get closer to moving it can be easy to focus on wanting to leave the US. Even though there are some reasons we want to leave the US, ultimately we are moving because we want to experience living in another culture. We want to be able to travel around Europe and obviously living in Portugal would make that significantly easier. We want our kids to experience other cultures.