Sunday, September 1, 2019

Our First Year Living In Portugal......

As I gaze out from our balcony admiring the lush, green, rolling hills of fertile farmland that blanket the landscape, the silence in my head is interrupted by a noise. A rusty green, tractor hobbles up the road with an old farmer at the wheel and a woman, presumably his wife riding in the rear. He nods his dusty grey head at me as I lift my hand in a friendly wave. A smile spontaneously adorns my face as I remind myself just where I am.

Views of the farmlands of Portugal

It's been one year already since we planted our feet on the ground in our newly adopted country of Portugal.

A neighbors dog comes to life barking out a warning of another passerby. A tiny, white haired woman comes into sight carrying a plastic bucket. Like many farm wives she wears a simple, house dress of black topped with a green and yellow flowery apron. I notice she wears black, rubber boots that cover her calves before she vanishes from my view into a nearby house.

We need not go far to find gardens of fruits and vegetables that grow plentifully all around. And the wonderful Portuguese people are always willing to fill our arms with plenty of free produce. A few days ago Clyde was outside chatting with our landlady and came back with three large grocery bags stuffed to the brim. Courgettes, also known as zucchini to some, tons of tomatoes, plums, lettuce, strawberries, and more.
From our Trip to the Market

Our first year in Portugal has been filled with the excitement of finding a place to live, getting our residency visas, buying a car, exploring our new town and making plenty of new friends.

Those of you who have followed this blog might remember that we left the United States 8 years ago and first retired to Panama. From there we decided to travel fulltime as house and pet sitters and enjoyed that lifestyle for two full years. It was house sit that first brought us to Portugal. We looked around, talked to people that had already made the move and decided to make this our next home.

We are leaving Panama, heading for adventure!
Hard to believe, it has been over 3 years!

Over the past year we have joined a gym and are back to exercising five times a week for ninety minutes to two hours each time. My goal was to lose 10 kilograms (22 lbs) but I ended up losing 13kg or 28 pounds. Two times a week I work out with a personal trainer who pushes me hard. Clyde has turned his excess weight into muscle and is enjoying his new body too.

We have, unfortunately tried out the healthcare system here with regular checkups and other ailments that we have had along the way. As part of our visa requirement we have purchased private health insurance at a cost of 250 euros per month ($278) for the both of us. It covers us at 90% if the doctor is in network and 80% if they are not. Some of you might recall that the major reason that we left the US was due to the high cost of health insurance. If we were still living in Texas today our monthly premium would be around $1800 per month!

So what are healthcare costs like in Portugal you may be wondering? To see a specialist we pay 80 to 90 euros, a general practitioner around 60, in private clinics. A month ago while doing a boot camp class outside, I was running and fell on cobblestone and broke my left elbow. First we went to a private hospital where I was seen quickly. Our cost was 75 euros. I was told by the doctor that he thought my arm was broke but since it was Sunday there was no orthopedic doctor on staff. I was sent to the public hospital where I saw an orthopedic in about an hour at a cost of just 18 euros. He confirmed that my elbow did have a slight break in the ulna and I was sent to buy a sling to wear for two weeks and could resume normal activity after three.

Caldas da Rainha Public Hospital

For me it was time for a routine mammogram which here in Portugal is followed by a routine breast ultrasound. Of course I had to visit a gynecologist first for a checkup of the lady parts. Then I decided it was time to be allergy tested again and began immunotherapy in the form of sublingual drops. I am being desensitized against dust mites, dogs and cats and should begin to notice results in six months to one year. Also had an eye exam followed by ordering new contact lens. Total cost after insurance: Gyno, 18,50, Mammo, 4,50, Echo 3,50, allergist 18,00, immunotherapy for 5 months, 260, bone density, 7,50, eye exam 16,00. Also needed to have a root canal done at a cost of 200 that was reimbursed by our insurance. Following this procedure all dental cleanings will be done free of charge, every six months for life.

For Clyde is was time for to have his pacemaker checked and first had to see a cardiologist for a referral. The cardiologist recognized us from the gym since he is there every morning also. Consult, 12,50, holter monitor overnight, 7,00, 12-lead ekg, 1,25. Then off we went to Lisbon to see a specialist that would check the pacemaker itself at a cost of 20,00. Everything with his heart is perfect and he was told to live life as usual and pretend that he does not have a pacemaker.

Clyde's Pacemaker

Next was a checkup of the manly parts, urologist 16,00, eye exam for him, 12,00 along with a dermatologist for 4,00. This was just a quick breakdown of our medical costs. Medication at the pharmacy is far less than our US counterparts also. Costs are listed in euros so it does add up to a bit more in US dollars.

As our first year comes to an end so does our rental agreement. But since we love living where we are we have decided to renew and ask for a long term, five year lease this time around. This agreement was contingent upon our landlady installing some type of heat source, other than the fireplace that we already have. Being warm blooded we both froze last winter since buildings here tend to have NO heat source and are old with no insulation. While Clyde was willing to absorb the entire cost of a heater, we asked our sweet landlady IF she would go half and she gladly agreed.

At her request we had quotes done from several different companies and we all decided that a pellet stove insert put into the fireplace would be the best choice. From there tubes will run through the ceiling into several other rooms, offering us central heat throughout the home. If you are not familiar with pellet stoves they burn cleaner and more efficiently than wood and are quite economical to run. The total cost for this project is around 4,400, and if we pay half that adds just 41 euros per month to our rent of 350 euros for the next five years. A great deal for a three-bedroom, fully furnished house in the country, just a ten minute drive from town.

What ours might look like

While are mornings are spent in the gym our afternoons for the past year have been spent, in part, working on learning European Portuguese. We are now at the point of being able to converse in Portuguese, somewhat anyway. Our first instructor was British and although we loved her and learned lots, we decided it was time for a change. Currently we are taking private lessons with a Portuguese teacher that we met in our gym. Although she does speak English, her classes consist of conversation totally in Portuguese to challenge us to speak more.

Life in Portugal is good and we are happy that we made the decision to settle down and create a home base here. Quite often we have to remind ourselves just how cool it is to say, "we actually live in Europe." Smile!

We will resume our travels soon and have some cool trips planned for the near future. In just a few days we are heading to Poland for over two weeks. Since I grew up with a Mother and Grandmother who spoke Polish but did not teach it to us kids, it's a country that I have always wanted to visit. I grew up eating delicious Polish foods that I will soon get to sample in Poland. In November we will be house and pet sitting in France and in March we will revisit Valencia, Spain for another house and pet sit.

Warsaw, Here we Come!

Stay tuned for details here and on Facebook of our travels around the world and throughout this gorgeous country of Portugal that we now call home. Tomorrow our adventures in Poland begin as we head to Warsaw..….along the gringo trail.


  1. Great blog post! We, too, are from the USA ... and are arriving at our 18th month living in Portugal (we also have a small vacation bolt in Spain). I am the administration for a Facebook group -- American Expats & Friends in Portugal and Spain: Leaving the USA for Good -- and I have taken the liberty of publishing this blog post of yours to our site: If you don't want this additional exposure, please let me know and I will delete the post. Meanwhile, congratulations on this milestone! ~bruce

  2. Nice post, Terry! I love your adventures!

  3. So happy you are resuming your blog. And so happy for both of you... You seem so content!

  4. Great blog, enjoyed it very much!

  5. We are about to make the move to PT this upcoming March, if everything goes well. Reading your blog helps to reaffirm that out decision to move is the right one.


Life In Portugal....At A Snails Pace....

Yesterday was just another day in Portugal when my dear husband Clyde said he was going to run to the pharmacy for a few things. Time passed...