Sunday, December 23, 2018

Our Year In Review.....Feliz Natal....

This is actually our second Christmas in Portugal, even though we just moved here four months ago. If you remember, last Christmas was spent doing a house sit about two hours north of here, near the city of Castelo Branco. It was during that time that we first set eyes on this gorgeous country, talked to other foreigners who had settled here, and began seriously thinking about establishing a home base here.

Algarve, Portugal

After Christmas we headed to Munich, Germany where we welcomed in the New Year partying with the Germans. Our temporary home was located smack in the middle of the best part of Munich, where we cared for two darling dogs. With a free car to use we were able to explore numerous German towns that were just dripping with Bavarian charm.

The Glockenspiel in Munich, Germany

From there we headed to India where we had booked a 10 day tour of the Golden Triangle. We visited New and old Delhi, Rajasthan, Jaipur and Agra where we delighted at the sights of the Taj Mahal. A world like no other we had seen, with smog, food and water that could kill us, we were way out of our comfort zone, but loved every minute of it.

The Taj Mahal

Then it was a long-haul, twenty hour flight from New Delhi, India to Panama City, Panama to visit the place we once called home. Our six-week vacation in Panama would allow us to visit old friends. Another perk is because we already had residency in Panama, we would be allowed to apply for residency in Portugal at the consulate there, instead of going back to the US to start the process.

Coronado, Panama

From Panama we headed to El Paso, Texas for a family wedding, and to visit our kids and other family members. A side trek to the Grand Canyon in Arizona and New Mexico was a nice break also before flying onto other adventures.

Clyde's son Cobey and his wife in the middle
Clyde's sister Donna, and her husband on the right

Grand Canyon, Arizona

White Sands, New Mexico

From Texas we flew to New Jersey, where I spent the first 19 years of my life. There we visited my sister and friends before heading back to Europe.

Terry and her sister, Maryann

New York Skyline in the background

Back in Europe we landed at our next house sit in Belgium, a country we had long been wanting to visit. The tiny country exceeded our expectations with great people, food, and plenty to do and see. Besides seeing much of Belgium we explored the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria, Germany and more. And since we just happened to be there in April during tulip time, we were lucky enough to explore the massive fields of tulips that went on for miles.


Holland Windmill, Netherlands


Our next destination was Mombasa, Kenya where we would spend the next six weeks. This was a place I had wanted to visit for many years, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to finally get there. Since we landed a five week house sit in the town of Mtwapa, I convinced Clyde that we must do a safari and game drive while there. With a private guide we toured Tsavo East and West National Parks along with Amboseli. For five days we stood in an open top van while viewing lions, giraffe's, elephants, antelope, hippos, water buffalo, and more roaming freely in their natural habitat. Wow....was all we could say! There we stayed in lovely lodges where wild animals roamed freely beneath us and even a tented hotel, where we were instructed not to go out at night. Since there was a lake full of hippos nearby, and hippos come out at night, we could not leave our tent until daylight.

On Safari!

After our safari our house sit proved to be yet another adventure of being way out of our comfort zone. While there were no domestic animals to care for, there were packs of wild monkeys that came around several times daily to entertain us. They climbed on the side of the house, the terraces and even peeked in the windows, apparently as fascinated with us as we were with them.

Our Evening Entertainment

Next we revisited an old favorite and repeated a house sit in El Gouna, Egypt. Our home was a large villa with a pool, on a beach that lead to the Red Sea. Although we arrived safely my two suitcases DID NOT! Egypt Airlines managed to lose my luggage and was totally unresponsive in answering the phone, emails or any other form of communication. It took one week to locate the first bag, which according to the tags on it had been around the world and back. The second bag remained lost for a total of three weeks and ended up being in Cairo Airport the entire time. Still to this day I have NOT received any compensation from the airline for clothing and other necessary items that we had to buy while waiting for my luggage. We have even hired a third-party company that is taking Egypt Airlines to court over the issue, but still have heard nothing in several months.

Egypt House Sit

We left Egypt in August and landed in Portugal to begin our new lives here. Our new home is located near the city of Caldas da Rainha, about one hour north of Lisbon. The house we are renting has three bedrooms and one bath, a large balcony, private courtyard and stunning views of the countryside. And the best part is we pay only 350 euros ($400) per month.

Our New HOME in Porugal

One of the major reasons that Clyde wanted to settle in Portugal was for the healthcare. As residents we can access their National Healthcare System for little to no money. But like most public healthcare the wait times are long and doctors are few so we choose to go private. Even private healthcare is cheap here and we can see a doctor for just 40 euros. We have private healthcare for just 250 euros per month, for the two of us. It covers us at 90% if the doctor is in network, and 80% if they are not. We have used doctors here and the care is wonderful and they all speak English. Clyde's cardiologist even uses the same gym that we do so we see him every morning.

Our mornings are spent in the gym and in the afternoons we study Portuguese, a difficult language to master. There are numerous events going on in and around Caldas and we have already met so many people here. We are SO much more involved with the community here than we were in Panama and even have Portuguese friends.

We are involved with a private language teacher and do a weekly Skype lesson, along with weekly self study lessons from her. A local woman has started an informal conversation group that we attend as a way to allow ourselves more time to practice.

There is a weekly bowling night of mostly British expats that we enjoyed which even includes dinner for just 15 euros a person. There is a monthly night of 60's and 70's soul music, dancing and dinner for the same price. There are expat mixers, luncheons, walking groups, and women's socials just to name a few of the many things offered here.

We have friends from all over the world and are loving our new lives here. The weather is mild, with lows around 45 and highs around 60 during the day. But Portugal is damp which makes it feel cooler. And since buildings here have no insulation, the outside temperatures are actually warmer than inside the house. Yet we still love our rental house that offers us spectacular views of lush, green rolling hills, with few neighbors and easy access to the city and all that it has to offer. There are plenty of stores here, restaurants, gyms, clinics, produce markets, and a weekly market that sells just about everything.

It's amazing to think that we actually live in Europe now and are speaking Portuguese, although not perfectly. The Portuguese people are friendly, caring and will go way out of their way to help just about anyone. Many of them do speak at least some English, which has made the transition much easier.

From our corner of the world to yours, we wish you all Feliz Natal e Feliz Ano Novo de Portugal.....along the gringo trail.


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