Monday, September 10, 2018

Our New Life In Portugal.....Living As Europeans.....

The past few weeks here have whizzed by making us feel like spinning tops, whirling around at excessive speeds only to topple over at the end of the day when the twirling stopped. The internet at our rent house was just connected a few days ago, so we have felt a bit disconnected from the rest of the world, even with our phones connected.

Saturday made it one week since we settled into our rented house and met our Portuguese landlady. Thankfully, the property manager was there to introduce us to her and help translate, since the homeowner speaks NO English. We are renting the upstairs of a two story house near the town of Caldas da Rainha, which literally means, "the queens hot springs."

As the story goes, Queen Leonore was travelling through the area when she noticed some pheasants bathing in foul smelling waters near the roadside. She questioned why they would be soaking in such nasty liquid and was told of the miraculous, healing powers of the enchanting waters. The Queen tried the waters for herself and was SO impressed by the results that she ordered a hospital to be built around the waters, so that many people could benefit from its powers. The town of Caldas da Rainha was literally built around those thermal springs and that hospital is still a vital part of the community today.

Located about an hour north of Lisbon, the town has it's cobblestoned downtown area that is so quintessentially European, along with a modern 3-story mall,  giving us the best of both worlds. Caldas da Rainha sees only the occasional tourist pass through it's streets, and is home to a small expat community who share the area with many locals. All Portuguese towns are sectioned off into several smaller areas called, "freguesias," so we actually live in an area called, "Casal do Cozinheiro," about a ten minute drive from downtown Caldas.

Meanwhile back at the house we attempted to chat with our landlady, a sweet, red-haired lady who works as a nurse in a Lisbon hospital. She lives full time in Lisbon, and only comes to this house for the occasional holiday. When she is here she will live next door, in the attached house, so there will be plenty of privacy for both us and her.

In order to help us settle in she stayed here for three days, hiring a parade of workers to come and go from our house. First she had someone bring in a refrigerator and the following day workers came to check all of the doors and windows for proper working order. Since the house has never been rented before and had been sitting vacant for a long time, this all was necessary. She even had new pulls put onto every cabinet and drawer in the kitchen along with new hinges to ensure proper working order.

A few days later a washing machine showed up and later was installed along with having work done on the old dishwasher. The first wash cycle of clothes did not go well, and in fact caused a small flood in the laundry room. Our dear landlady took our clothes back to her house and washed them in her washer. A few days later when the washer was still not running properly, she insisted on leaving her door unlocked so that we could do laundry in her house while she was gone. And to think that we just met this woman and she was going out of her way to accommodate us.

Thankfully, before she left the washer was up and running properly. Clyde went downstairs to talk to her before she left and came back with a huge basket full of grapes and tomatoes from her garden. She gave us strict orders to help ourselves to anything growing in her garden while she was gone, otherwise it will just to go waste.

We could not have wished for a better place to live and are so happy that we landed here. This house is old but full of antiques and old collectibles that are free for us to enjoy. What fun it was to "shop" for free in all parts of the house, moving around decorations and furniture to suit our needs. And besides the beautiful inside we have a garden and backyard to enjoy that even comes complete with a barbeque.

A few days later another worker showed up to fix the dishwasher, that according to the homeowner never worked. While he did manage to get it running and all seemed good, the next morning we woke up to find that the dishwasher did not drain, and was full of water. Another call to the homeowner via the property manager, and today we were told that on Thursday a brand new dishwasher is being delivered and installed. Wow!

Our house even comes with fresh, baked bread delivered right to our door every morning, if we desire? And we were told that once the man knows what we want he will leave it on our doorstep, so we don't even have to be out there waiting. This is where I had to put my foot down and say NO to Clyde who was all for this little perk. Europeans LOVE bread and it's really cheap here which makes it hard to say no.

Although the house is furnished with plenty of pots, pans, glassware and other stuff, we did make several trips to the store to pick up things that were missing. I insisted on new sheets, towels, pillows and one thing lead to another, and before we knew it we were the owners of plenty of new stuff.

And within a few nights of sleeping on this tiny, double bed that measures only 135 centimeters in width, we realized that it would just not do. Another trip into downtown Caldas da Rainha to look for a store that sells mattresses, and one that would deliver to the house. As promised the store owner said the bed would be delivered on Tuesday at 2pm, and like clockwork there he was on our doorstep.

As he and another man attempted to bring the base of the bed up that sixteen stairs into the house, I heard him say to Clyde, "sorry, but it will not go." What, I thought? That is NOT an option and there must be a way to get it up here?

Since it was a warm day we had the balcony doors open to let in the fresh air. The balcony is off the living room and looks out onto the front of the house, right above where the van with our new bed was parked. Clyde suggested to the men that they push the base up onto the balcony from outside. Both men pushed it up to the balcony while Clyde and I hung onto it from above. Then one man raced up the stairs, grabbed the end that I was holding and the three men pushed, and pulled the thing up onto the balcony and eventually through the house and into the bedroom.

Throughout Europe, many of the houses feature hooks that hang from the roofs of the houses for this exact reason. Oftentimes furniture needs to be lifted into the house via the windows or balcony doors, and today we witnessed that very thing.

This was the bed that came with the house
much too small for us!

Here is the bed we splurged on
I don't know if you can tell, but it is much wider!

To get around we would need to buy a car and since we plan to drive into other European countries, a newer model was necessary. With the advice of a friend and much research on Clyde's part, we choose a 2014 Renault Clio Diesel. The Clio diesel will get about 60 miles per gallon and since diesel costs around 80 cents less per gallon than gasoline, it's very cost efficient. Most of the cars here run on "gasoleo," which is the word for diesel in Portuguese.

Moving to Portugal was WAY easier than moving to Panama was. The Portuguese people are kind and hard working, service workers show up on time and get the job done quickly, and many of the locals speak English. And what a nice surprise to discover that television programming is mostly in English with Portuguese subtitles. Even the movie theaters here show English films with Portuguese subtitles at a cost of 4 euros per movie.

I have to admit that I was not too happy about coming here since for me it meant settling down into a normal, boring life again. Clyde wanted to come here for the good, affordable healthcare and by having residency here it will allow us to stay in Europe long term. But since we have been here I have to say that I really like it. The house, the town, making friends, and still begin able to travel will be wonderful. The best part is by having a home base we NO longer have to travel with everything that we own. We will be able to pack one small suitcase and go.

Today we tried out the bus system since we needed to return the rental car to a drop off point near Lisbon Airport. Instead of driving both cars into Lisbon, we parked the Clio in Caldas and drove the  rental car to the drop off spot. From there we ordered an Uber taxi to take us to the main bus terminal in Lisbon, at a cost of 7 euros. From there we bought two bus tickets on the Expresso Bus back to Caldas da Rainha, at a cost of 8 euros each for the one hour ride. The bus was plush and modern and even offered an on board bathroom. A stress free ride back for Clyde and a bit of nap time for me.

Life in Europe is rather different than life in the US in many ways. Cars all come with standard transmissions, clothes dryers are nowhere to be found, refrigerators are tiny so many things are stored in the pantry and wine is cheaper to buy than water. Coffee is served everywhere in itsy, bitsy cups that look more like a shot glass than a coffee cup. We order,"cafe Americano," which is served in a 6 ounce cup that sells for the low price of 40 to 60 cents per cup! Aside from the price of gasoline or diesel, electricity, and the price to buy a car, everything else is cheaper here, and that is precisely why we are here.

We are loving life in Portugal, learning to live as Europeans and looking forward to more adventures.....along the gringo trail.


  1. Just learned that you're finished house and pet sitting. (2 yrs?) How exciting about your new digs in Portugal! I visited Lisbon this past spring wish I had seen more. Your rental house and Cilo look great....glad Portugal is easier than Panama but you're far away from us. Enjoy the garden and resist the bread! 😎😀 Susan

  2. Very cool and how cheap for what you are getting living wise. Enjoy!


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