I first visited this wonderful country in 2011, exploring in and around Lisbon, with a short excursion to the Algarve village of Salema. I was so struck by the welcoming attitude of the Portuguese people I met, the charm of Lisbon and the laid-back atmosphere, that I began dreaming of retiring here. After a lot of hard work and planning, that dream became a reality for me in 2019. It hasn’t disappointed. Here are some of the things I love that have, and continue, to brighten my daily life.
1. Portuguese People
I have found so much kindness and such helpful attitudes. Like the MEO internet technician who spent an hour helping me set up my computer and re-wiring my power strip even though he knew that the MEO service the sales people proposed wouldn’t work for me and I wasn’t going to buy it. Another time, a Millennium bank manager phoned me in the US, before I moved, to tell me how I could set up a savings account to AVOID paying bank fees. Sometimes it brings tears to my eyes.
I have become accustomed to the rich bitter taste of a “Bica” – what they call an espresso in Lisbon. A tiny thimbleful of dark high-octane coffee is just right mid-morning.
Of course you can’t have a coffee without a pastel de nata (plural pasteis de nata), the flaky pastry custard cream cakes that are synonymous in my mind with a Portuguese cafe.
4. Living in the country
I love walking out the door of my home in Portugal each morning with my dog. I have so many choices. So many places I can go without having to drive somewhere or pay for parking. I can walk past olive groves and vineyards and happily hail those I see with a “Bom Dia.”
I’ve been so delighted to help neighbors with their grape harvest “Vendima” and to assist in picking “Azeitonas” (olives.) This is such a key part of rural life. I am glad to join in and learn new skills.
Before the Corona virus changed all our lives, there were so many fun country festivals. Every weekend during the summer a different village would hold a festival with food, music and general jolliness.
I love going to the weekly markets in my area of Central Portugal. Whether it’s the small Sunday market in the local village or the larger Monday or Friday markets in the towns of Tomar, Ferreira de Zezere or Freixanda. You wander around, shopping bag in hand, browsing the vegetables, dried fruit, nuts, olives, meat, fish, baked goods, clothing, tools, household goods and gardening supplies. I love listening to the shouts of the vendors and breathing in the scent of grilling chicken at the “Frango” stand.
8. Country stores
I love shopping at the little shops 3 kilometers from my house. The Amenhecer grocery has all the daily supplies I need. The hardware shop and gas/diesel station next door completes the list. And even though the stores are out in the country, the prices they charge are the same as the bigger supermarkets.
Although I am not a big fan of rainy days, the old saying about April showers is true. The wet spring we had this year brought an explosion of wild flowers in myriad colors. Every morning was a visual feast.
Living out in the country there is little light pollution. On the many clear nights, I can look out my bedroom window and see a sky filled with stars infinitely brighter than I ever saw when I lived in the city.