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  • Tony

...We moved to Portugal!

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

The January 1st, 2022 perspective...

Celebrating the New Year, not only meant saying goodbye to another year of the Pandemic but brought a dose of reality to one of our most highly anticipated new year’s resolutions…EVER. 2022 is the year that our long-planned move to Europe is finally happening! Assuming all goes as planned, we will be in Portugal sometime in the Spring, beginning a new chapter living abroad, traveling, and experiencing more of our world. So grateful that we can even consider such a move.

We began shedding our US possessions in anticipation of a move that includes only what we can carry in a few pieces of luggage (Plus the Kitties of course). It’s not until you start this process that you realize what a huge task it is. Think about it, sorting through file drawers full of documents that you felt were important to keep, shredding most and digitizing the important pieces you wish to have access to, sorting through closets and storage to determine what to keep, donate, or giveaway, The Kitchen cabinets that we have managed to fill with gadgets and tools that at some point determined of great need but ended up gathering dust. Not to mention the big stuff like Cars and other large toys. It’s like playing out the reverse of George Carlin's comedy routine about “more stuff.”

It's a big life change for some but for us doesn’t feel like such a big deal. Sure, there are moments of feeling a bit overwhelmed by the process but research, planning, and a few trips to the region have provided some solace and comfort. Adapting to a new way of life, new cultures, a new normal, and not having access to the “things” that we have become accustomed to in the US will take some getting used to. The biggest thing that weighs on our minds is the distance the move will create between Family and Friends. We hope that our move will provide some with the opportunity to visit us at our new home in Portugal and do plan on staying in touch via phone, video chat, and the occasional visit back to the states. This will probably be the most difficult part for us.

Six weeks before departure…

While the reduction of “stuff” continues and two “scouting” trips have been conducted, we have secured a home in Portugal, given notice to our landlords in Carpinteria, and booked our one-way flights to Portugal.

Finding the right home in the right location in Portugal was a challenge. You pretty much have a choice of a modern home in a planned community, an apartment or condo in a tourist community or an older home amid historic villages or rural countrysides. We were fortunate to find something in the middle, a newly-built cottage home on a small farm in a rural village.

We opted to rent for at least the first year in Portugal providing the chance to explore the country in greater detail to decide where we want to land long term. We’re in a tiny, quiet village called Montes de Alvor (700 residents), just next to the slightly larger, more active fishing village of Alvor (6,000 residents) that has a riverfront marina to the west and beautiful Atlantic beaches on the south. The small village is filled with small restaurants and shops.

The larger towns of Portimão (55,000 residents) and Lagos (22,000) are 10 minutes away in either direction. Faro, the largest city in the Algarve (62,000 residents) is a 45 minute drive and is home to the closest international airport.

Outstanding beaches are 5 minutes away from our house and the adjacent riverfront & Marina provides hiking/biking trails, boardwalks, and boating.

With six weeks before departure, staying on course with weekly tasks is our priority to ensure that everything is in order for our exit and entry. We opted to ship a small container of “stuff” (mostly golf clubs, clothing, and personal items). The 4’x4’ box on a palette arrived and over the next few weeks, we worked to fill it with items that we felt were necessary to take but could live without for 3-4 months it will take to ship.

I’m not sure that our Kitties share our enthusiasm, they are perfectly happy with their current surroundings. Their trip will involve long hours of unfamiliar experiences, scary first flights, airports, caged in their new carriers with no sandbox in sight, only to end up in an unfamiliar home and environment. Good thing they are great at adapting and require long hours of sleep!

One week before departure…

The stress has ramped up a bit, one of our flights has changed making our connection in Newark a bit tight, the process of getting pet passports certified was incredibly stressful but complete, and lastly getting the house cleared out and the car sold!

On the positive side, we were able to make a trip up north to visit family and friends before our departure. It was great to see everyone and spend some time together. Mary’s brother and family have been up a few times to help with the house and spend some time with us before we go. We’ve had many friends and neighbors stop by or take us out for one last meal together as the departure date gets closer. I’m not going to say this part is easy, creating such physical distance between us and family is hard. We are fortunate that most will come to visit while in Europe and we do plan on returning to the US on occasion to see everyone too…

Our last afternoon in Santa Barbara...

Departure day...

Up at 5 am getting ready for our departure, the scramble begins to wrap up any last items and get the cats into their carriers and ready to go. We have three flights today: Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Newark, then Newark to Lisbon. We’ll pick up a rental car in Lisbon then drive for 2.5 hours to our Home in Montes de Alvor, all in its about a 24-hour journey door to door!

We arrive at SBA, drop off the rental, haul our 6 pieces of luggage to the desk for check-in, and secure the kitties boarding passes. Then it’s off to security where we requested a private screening room. They ask that the cats be taken out of their carriers to screen them so we wanted to make sure they didn’t escape and run through the airport, one of our pre-travel nightmares!

Through security, tired, but great to have a few of the hurdles behind us. The flight to LAX was uneventful, the kitties are stressed but handling the process very well, no crying or trying to escape their homes for the next few hours! LAX to Newark was also going well until we landed in Newark. Circled in the air a bit waiting for landing clearance then spent about an hour on the tarmac waiting for traffic to clear in order to get to our gate. I mentioned earlier that United changed our flight schedule a few weeks earlier which left us with a tight connection, only a little more than an hour between scheduled landing and our next departure. Extremely stressed that we would miss our flight to Lisbon we hurried off the plane, cats and carry on luggage in tow, and took off hustling to our gate which was a 12-minute jaunt away. Luckily our Lisbon flight was delayed also due to the traffic, it would have been nice to know that, on the United app or otherwise. Could have saved some stress but got a good stretch/workout getting to the flight!

Once in the air, 6 ½ more hours of flight time to Lisbon. We were a bit concerned about the cats having been without food, water, and sandbox now about 11 hours into their journey. They seemed fine and were very content to be secured in their cozy environment. Our seatmate was a 20-something gal from Camarillo who, with her parents and her brother were also relocating to Portugal. They bought a house in Burgau which is about 20 miles from where we will live. There was also a couple behind us who were from Texas, heading to their summer home in the Algarve.

Landing in Lisbon there was a line for passport check (Non-EU citizens) at least an hour-long! Fortunately were entering the country using my Italian passport and could utilize the EU line which had about 6 people in it! After passport check, we’re required to check in with the Airport Veterinarian to ensure that their papers are in order and provide us with permission to bring them in. 20 minutes later we gathered our two carts worth of luggage and headed to pick up the rental. Over an hour wait in line before we could check in due to computer issues at the agency! We’re learning patience as things move a lot slower here! Into the car and were off for a 2.5-hour drive to our new home. We stopped along the way to check on the kitties, and offered them water and treats but they were not interested and would not even consider coming out of their carriers. Tired from our journey thus far the drive seemed to take forever.

We arrived at our new place greeted by our landlord & husband, her son, his girlfriend, and Irena who served as the realtor when I first looked at the house. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and helpful with getting our things in the house. They wanted to chat and hear about our travels but all we wanted to do is get the cats out of their carries and set up with food and sand. They politely offered their services for any needs and Tony the Landlords son made himself available for appointments and translation, he speaks French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English.

We got the cats settled in and closed them each in their own room to acclimate. It took a while for them to even consider coming out of their carriers and once they did they either hid in the closet or in Barney’s case on the bed under the comforter. It’s going to take some time for them to get comfortable with their new home

Our first week in Portugal...

We arrived at the house around 2 pm and spent most of the day running a few errands to get kitty supplies and a few food staples for the house, unpacking and organizing our things. The house is a small cottage, newly built on a small family farm in the village of Montes de Alvor. The owner lives adjacent to us which we were a little concerned about, but it has worked out extremely well. Teresa and Luis are about our age and very nice people, both are Portuguese but spent most of their life in France. The land is their family’s small farm where Teresa and her sister both have homes, they built the one we are renting as a source of income. Teresa is an avid gardener and maintains a large vegetable garden, and fruit trees galore…Three types of oranges, lemons, mandarins, fig, avocado, peach, etc.. flowers, grapes, kiwi, blackberry, and passion fruit! We have been given access to as much fruit from the trees as we can handle and have discovered that Teresa is very happy to share from her garden. She has delivered Potatoes, zucchini, large green beans, parsley, blackberries, and butternut squash so far, we didn’t know that our rental included groceries!

The rest of the week has been spent doing chores and experiencing our new area. We’ve set up our new Portuguese mobile numbers which include cell service, wifi at home, satellite television, and a landline phone all for the cost of 70€! Tried to open a bank account but need our proof of residence first, Secured our proof of residence from the Junta Freguesia (City Hall) with Tony’s help, and shopped and purchased a new car. After shopping at the dealerships only to find very few cars available and a several month wait for new ones, We visited a small family-owned car stand (dealership) that Tony had recommended, he’s a friend of the owner. He had a one-year-old Renault Captur, the car we had narrowed our search to, a very legitimate shop with only newer cars and very good prices compared to the dealerships, so we bought it!

We’ve managed to fit in a little fun time as well, exploring and eating our way through our new area. The beaches are incredible, wide with soft fine sand, and to the east red earth cliffs and rock formations with caves and unique water-carved caves and openings. There are restaurants located along the beach and boardwalk throughout the Algarve. Most beaches have a beach chair concession where you can rent a lounge chair and umbrella without having to haul your own down to the sand. Most restaurants include a wide variety of Portuguese cuisine almost always including a wide variety of fresh fish, shellfish, and octopus. We’ve enjoyed a few of the local restaurants and Pastry shops, walks on the beach, in the village of Alvor, and neighboring Portimão so far and are adapting to the lifestyle and culture as we settle into our new home.

The Village of Alvor. Of course we ran into a festival, they happen all the time around here. I had to try the local delicacy of grilled Sardines! They were delicious

These are from our walks along the local beaches of Alvor. Not pictured well here there are also several restaurants along the beaches that are fantastic for a snack or beverage while hanging out at the beach or to enjoy a nice meal with a view

These are from neighboring Portimao. Another beautiful port/marina town with more amazing beaches

We took a short drive to the neighboring mountain village of Monchique where again we ran into a festival celebrating the foods of the region. The Birds are storks which you see nesting throughout the Algarve, easy to spot their massive nests along the road.

To the west of us is another marina town, Lagos. We stopped for Tapas and Sangria overlooking the Marina. Several world class sailing races are held here

We found a real mexican restaurant that helps with our mexican food craving. Not quite the same quality as we were used to in Southern California but it works. We were also fortunate to find some great fresh chilies in a local market!

Some of the local meals we've had. The Sardines were very good, Shrimp are very common and available in several sizes, and potatoes are served with just about every meal...Boiled, fried, roasted...either way very fresh and tasty!

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