Up to this point, I have either written about a place we have visited or some specific experience related to getting settled. Just after I published The Exotic Palácio de Monserrate post, Won asked me what I was planning to write about next. After kicking around a few ideas, we agreed that it might be interesting to share what a typical week is like for us. We also agree it’s bit of a risk for two reasons: 1) it may not be very interesting to anyone but us, and 2) I will be capturing and writing as the week unfolds so if it’s total crap come Friday I will have nothing to publish! Egad…now I’m nervous.
You may be wondering why this post is named “Friday to Friday.” Once I got into the rhythm of blogging back in March, I set a personal goal to publish every Friday around 5PM my time. Therefore, this post will cover what we did after I hit the publish button on Friday, July 31 to just before I hit the publish button on Friday, August 7. Big deep breath…here we go!
Friday, July 31
Won and I are lamenting the fact that we have not been eating out very much. Some of this is due to pandemic restrictions, some of it is due to the fact that Won’s nutritionist, Raquel, put him on a strict diet, and some of it is because we have pet-parent-guilt syndrome (we feel guilty when we leave Sweet Pea home alone). However, we decide we really need to begin trying restaurants nearby and today is a good day to start!
We make a reservation for 8PM at a tiny place called Alegria Vadia here in Monte Estoril. It’s a 10 minute walk from our home. We are warmly greeted by Paulo. He and his wife opened the restaurant four years ago. Paulo handles the front of the house and Isabel is the chef.
While placing our orders, we ask Paulo to recommend a wine to start with and he suggests the house wine which comes from the Alentejo region (red for Won, white for me). We both remark on how good they are! Paulo smiles and replies, “It doesn’t help your business if the house wine isn’t good.” Can’t argue with that logic!
Three of the five tables are occupied and Paulo seamlessly moves between each speaking Portuguese with one couple, French with another, and English with us! We take the opportunity to practice our nascent Portuguese and Paulo is kind enough to help us with pronunciation, but I tell him I’m having a hard time hearing him clearly. Without missing a beat, he quips, “The Portuguese are always hungry so we eat our language too.” Ha! Ha!
The entire evening is a complete delight. The food is delicious, the wine wonderful, the atmosphere terrific, the music perfect, and prices reasonable. Turns out Isabel has a good sense of humor too; check out how she garnishes my duck rice in the images below.
Here’s what we eat and how much it costs: Won has a tuna tartar and avocado appetizer for 10€. I have the prawns with papaya for 8€. We both have a glass of the house wine with our starters. Won chooses pork knee for his entrée (15€) and makes a valiant effort to save on carbs by skipping the potatoes. I have the aforementioned duck rice (14€). The wine is so good we both order another glass of the house red to go with our entrées. When it comes to dessert, I can’t resist and order the petit gateaux com gelado (little cake with vanilla gelato) for 5€. Won, once again, shows amazing restraint and only orders an espresso. Paolo, however, feels sorry for him and brings him a complimentary glass of port…so much for trying to be good about his sugar intake. The bill comes to 70,00€. We have such a great time we plan to go back next Friday!
Saturday, August 1
6:30AM. Sweet Pea is barking. No known cause. I groggily get up and find her standing in the living room. I stare at her like she’s completely lost her mind. She stares back at me with one of those “What’s the problem?” looks. Why are you barking at NOTHING, I scream inside my head! I march her straight back to the bedroom and tell her to go to sleep. Five minutes later, we’re all up for the day.
I receive a message from our friends Jennifer and Mark inviting us to join them for a wine tasting and museum tour of Bacalhao Palace and winery later today. I reply with a resounding, YES! They ask us to meet them at their house at 2PM, which gives us a good amount of time to get Sweet Pea out for a long walk. But before that, Won heads to the fruit and veggie stand around the corner and returns with the following for a total of 15,90€. It’s like having access to our own little Farmer’s Market every day of the week (except Mondays, when they’re closed).
Off to the park with Sweet Pea to stretch her legs and give her nose a workout (a terrier’s job is never done). We often go to Jardim do Estoril where she can be off leash and enjoy the freedom to explore. The park fronts the famous Estoril Casino and the equally famous and historic Palacio Hotel.
We walk over to Jennifer and Mark’s place and jump in their car for the hour long drive to Bacalhao. About five minutes after entering the highway we get a flat tire. Thankfully, Mark is successful in changing it, but we are so delayed there is no way we can make the reserved time for our tour and tasting. Mission aborted. Revised plan is to meet up for dinner at eight.
Jennifer and Mark join us at a little place in town called Tertulia do Monte. We sit outside to dine. The staff is great, prices reasonable, and wine good, but the food is mediocre (for all of us). Probably not going back.
Just before bed, I look at my phone and realize I COMPLETELY FORGOT I had a Zoom call with my girlfriends back in the US at 7PM!! How did I manage to forget?! It is on my calendar and I replied to an email the day before confirming that I would be on the call! ARRGGHH!!! A speedily-typed heart-felt apology is sent via WhatsApp along with a crying emoji for emphasis. Gracious friends that they are, they reply later with a screen shot of themselves on the call saying I had been missed. I think retirement is making my brain soft. Life is so relaxed I’m not looking at my calendar constantly. Won has agreed to add the next call to his calendar too so I don’t forget again. (Love you guys!!!)
Sunday, August 2
Laundry and house cleaning. Not terribly exciting, but necessary. In solidarity with my dear hubby, we’re both on the restricted diet plan which also means no alcohol this week. (Here’s another good time to use that crying emoji.)
Chores are done, including the removal of Sweet Pea’s “nose art” from the lower portions of the windows in the kitchen. Time to take her for a walk so we can all get some fresh air.
Won whips up a delicious dinner of roasted chicken and steamed veggies. Raquel will be happy about that.
We watch live coverage of the historic splashdown of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule and continue watching until the astronauts are safely extracted. What an incredible moment. It’s so very exciting and reminds me of when I was a kid watching the Apollo missions with my family all grouped around the TV.
Monday, August 3
As described in my blog post 1,25€ for an EKG?!, Won went in for his annual physical two weeks ago and before he left the clinic he scheduled an appointment for me. He told me the appointment was to get my COVID-19 antibody blood test. Turns out, that wasn’t what the doctor was expecting – we had a classic case of “lost in translation.” My appointment was also for an annual exam and I came out with a laundry list of routine tests to schedule. This morning I’m having my blood drawn for all the regular stuff and will include the COVID-19 antibody test. It also means I am fasting until after that has been completed. I’m grumpy.
While I am having my blood drawn, Won goes grocery shopping. It’s all very convenient because the clinic and the grocery store are in the same shopping mall, which is not uncommon here. I am in and out before Won is done (another amazing healthcare experience!).
We are home now and I can finally eat. Whew!
At 12:45 we head to Holmes Place, a health club located in Cascais, for our 1PM work out appointments. Won gets a message from Alex, his personal trainer, saying they need to reschedule due to an unexpected personal conflict. No problem – Won will work out on his own today. I have a private Pilates lesson scheduled. Florbela, my instructor, does what she’s great at and totally kicks my butt.
Note: Some of you might be raising your eyebrows at the fact that we are working out at a gym given the current situation with COVID-19. First – Portugal has done a really good job at controlling the virus because people are taking it very seriously and there is a coordinated plan to deal with it. Here is what happens when we are are at the club; everyone wears a mask (unless a member is exercising). As soon as you enter the club you are required to wipe your feet on special floor mats soaked with disinfectant. You are also required to disinfect your hands before stepping up to the counter. There are barriers between the front desk staff and members. Temperatures are taken when you check in. You MUST have an appointment to work out – even if you are working out by yourself. This way they can control the number of people in the gym at any given time. Social distancing is enforced everywhere, even in the locker rooms with purposeful spacing between available lockers. You must bring a pair of gym shoes to change into that are never worn outside the gym. Dedicated staff, personal trainers, and even members themselves disinfect equipment before and after use. The club has blocked usage of about 60% of all exercise equipment to enforce social distancing. We feel comfortable and confident in how the Holmes Place team is handling the situation. It is in no one’s best interest to ignore the safety requirements and have the gym shut down, so compliance is very high. For me, I am in a separate room alone with my instructor when I work out, but she still wears a mask the entire time. Masks must be put back on as soon as you are done exercising or showering and remain on until you are outside the facility.
Dinner is simple and delicious. Won tries a new recipe – Lime and Ginger Marinated Chicken with steamed broccoli. I give it two thumbs up and tell him he can add it to his regular repertoire.
After several attempts to connect with my Mom who initiates a video call via WhatsApp, including a few times when we have audio, but no video, we finally figure it out and chat for an hour. My mother lives in California which means I’m eight hours ahead of her. This is her first experience with the app. Good job, Mom!
Tuesday, August 4
The weather is expected to be sunny with a high of 24 degrees Celsius (75F) and a bit breezy with moderate winds from the north. Pretty much what every day this week is expected to be like. We decide to take Sweet Pea for a walk along the coast later.
While I haven’t been mentioning it, I check the stats on my blog every single day. I can see how many visitors and views I have received and can sort by day, week, month, or year. It also shows the country location of each visitor, which of my posts are being viewed, the number of followers I have, and what day and time my blogs are most popular. It’s incredibly gratifying, humbling, and exciting to see. Again – a BIG, genuine thank you for reading my blog posts. I’m truly grateful. (Literally, while writing this paragraph, I just picked up another follower!! Wow! Thanks!)
We are now at the ACP office in Estoril. ACP is the Automobile Cub of Portugal and we are here to have one of their agents review documents we have pulled together to get our car legalized to drive in Portugal. The agent slowly, deliberately and carefully reviews each document. Unfortunately, we are still missing a few. Groan… We did as much research as possible before we left the US, but couldn’t find any information to help guide us and this is why we are struggling. Won may end up having to fly back to New Jersey to get the necessary documents from our storage unit. (Here’s another good place to use that crying emoji!)
Note: To be clear, we are driving legally now, but we have to get the car registered here as well as secure Portuguese license plates and driver’s licenses within one year of arrival. Back in February, we joined ACP because they offer a service to help navigate the tricky Portuguese Customs process required to get this done. If we don’t do it right we could end up paying more than $15,000 in taxes. The first step is to gather all the required documents and there are a lot. I will make this the focus of a future blog post once we have successfully completed the entire process in the hope of helping others avoid some of the challenges and issues we are having to resolve.
Back at home we spend another two hours combing through archived emails, reviewing paperwork we brought with us, and wracking our brains trying to figure out how to get the documents we need. We’re still working on it, but it’s time to leave for another doctor’s appointment. This one is to get medically certified so that I can get my Portuguese driver’s license. Won had his assessment last week. Everyone has to have one. While I’m at the doctor’s office, Won takes Sweet Pea for that walk along the coast.
My blood work results come in from yesterday’s appointment. I’m in great shape and I have not been exposed to COVID-19.
Won’s culinary skills are really improving! He makes Summer Shrimp Scampi with tomatoes and corn. I give him another two thumbs up. This time I remember to get a picture before I dive in. After dinner, Won mentions the pressure he’s beginning to feel now that I’m posting pictures of his dishes…LOL!
Wednesday, August 5
The peacefulness and quiet of the morning is shattered with the sound of construction saws cutting through concrete block. Unfortunately, this has been a nearly constant experience for the last six weeks or more (we’ve lost count) because there are several apartments undergoing renovation in our building and in the building next door. The tools they use during the demolition and reconstruction phase can be ear-splittingly loud. Hopefully, the noise will be short-lived today. All we can do is hope!!
As I read my Google news feed this morning, I learn that we have a new neighbor. The embattled ex-King of Spain, Juan Carlos I has moved to Estoril. Funny enough, his choice to come here is not that unusual.
Note: During WWII, Estoril was a center of spies and diplomatic secrecy. These situations created a sophisticated and cosmopolitan atmosphere and ultimately drew several dignitaries and royal exiles here. As a result the area became known as the Coast of Kings. Some noteworthy names include Miklós Horthy, the regent of Hungary; the Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona (father of Juan Carlos I of Spain) and the King, as well as Umberto II of Italy and Carol II of Romania. Even former King Edward VIII the Duke of Windsor, briefly resided in an Estoril villa when his escape route from France was cut off during the invasion. Many stayed at the Hotel Palácio I mentioned in my update from Saturday. The hotel’s website says this, “The Hotel Palácio was the chosen home of numerous members of European royalty and was also the haunt of British and German spies, who could often be found in its bar. Later, these stories of intrigue and espionage inspired famous novelists and filmmakers and the hotel served as the set for the James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.
Back to earth…
Won and I head to Holmes Place for our personal training appointments at 1PM. Won is committed to getting in shape and one of the last things he typically does during his session is a plank, only he’s not content to do the same length of time each session. Last time he kept his plank for two minutes and twenty-eight seconds. This time he says he will do better and will hold it for two minutes and forty-five seconds. And, he does!! Alex is impressed. Florbela manages to find muscles in my body that have been dormant for decades and, let me assure you, they’re not happy about waking up. Florbela is hyper focused on proper form to ensure the best results and knows I’ve achieved it when I yell, “ow!” Her response? “That’s it!” (Here is another good time to use that crying emoji…)
We take Sweet Pea to the park. While she has her nose to the ground, a dog comes running full speed directly at her. We try to warn her, but she doesn’t see it in time and is caught off guard. The dog wants to play, but Sweet Pea isn’t interested. We find out later he is an eight month old boxer and he’s about three times bigger than Sweet Pea. Unfortunately, because she’s not responding to his insistence that she play with him, he gets increasingly agitated. The owners are not coming for the dog, but are whistling and calling him back. Of course, he’s completely ignoring them. We are closely monitoring the situation even though Sweet Pea is tough and can generally stand up for herself. She’s doing a pretty good job, but the dog gets more frustrated and, because he’s still very young, becomes a bit too aggressive. He starts to jump and knocks her over. Sweet Pea recovers quickly and begins to defend herself which includes standing on her hind legs, blocking with her front legs, and shrieking, not barking, but shrieking. I call to the owners to come get their dog, but by this time he’s out of control and Won and I quickly realize we need to step in to rescue her. It’s a complete melee, but Won manages to block the dog so I can grab Sweet Pea. (By the way, picking her up is generally the last thing I ever do because that is when she immediately becomes protective of me and will snap and snarl if she senses a threat of any kind; however, I know it’s getting too dangerous for her to be on her own.)
As predicted the second I pick her up the boxer starts to come at us both and she reacts just as I had anticipated. Keep in mind this is a chaotic situation now with the boxer running and circling us, barking and jumping. Won and I remain calm and assertive so we don’t escalate the situation needlessly, but the dog clearly needs to be controlled. Every time he comes at Sweet Pea and me, I stand tall, hold my hand out and loudly say, Stop! and he immediately retreats. Won continues to try and block the dog. This happens multiple times until the owner finally reaches us, but she can’t catch the dog’s collar, and now he thinks this is a game of catch-me-if-you-can. With Sweet Pea still in my arms, we tell the owner that we will begin to calmly walk away, but I know the boxer will follow and sure enough he does. Eventually, she catches the dog’s collar and apologies profusely. We are not angry; we know she feels bad. We check to ensure Sweet Pea has not been injured and confirm she’s fine. Thankfully no one else is hurt and we walk to the other end of the park to let Sweet Pea catch her breath, calm down, and rest for a while in the shade of a tree.
After all that excitement and drama, Sweet Pea takes a much needed nap when we get home. The remainder of our evening is quiet and uneventful.
Thursday, August 6
6:00AM. I’m awake. No known cause. I can tell I’m not going to be able to fall back to sleep so I get up. Sweet Pea literally yells at me, as if to say, “Why are you getting up!? It’s early!!” Pay back is hell, I tell her.
We take Sweet Pea for a mid-morning walk around our neighborhood and decide to stop in to see the grounds of the Museu da Música Portuguesa (Portuguese Museum of Music) which is only a 350 meter walk from our house. We check with the staff to ensure we can bring her on to the property. It’s fine as long as she’s leashed. It’s lovely! Afterwards, Won and I agree we must come back soon to see the inside of the museum.
Sweet Pea is stinky so it’s time for a bath. After her bath she gets a case of the ‘zoomies’ and runs around the house like a crazy dog. Looking at her, you would never know she will be 12 years old next month! As I’m brushing out her coat, it’s apparent she needs to be professionally groomed again. I send a message to Luis, her personal stylist, and we schedule an appointment for Monday at 11AM.
We drive to the Ajuda neighborhood of Lisbon to meet Inês Barata who owns Rua na Patas (roughly translates to Paws on the Road), a dog walking, sitting and boarding business. We meet up in a park where she and her partner are watching over, and playing with, several dogs. The energy and behavior of the dogs is very good. After the obligatory “dog greeting” activities conclude we chat amiably with Inês and learn more about her and her business. She then invites us to see their apartment which is just a block away. Sweet Pea has the chance to explore it too. It’s immediately obvious that they both enjoy what they do. They are attentive to all the dogs in their care and demonstrate calm, confident leadership. Won and I need to find someone we can trust to care for Sweet Pea when we can’t bring her with us. Inês was personally referred to us by our property manager, Frederico, who knows her well. We have decided to give Inês a test run next week which will give everyone a chance to see how it goes.
Another delicious dinner! This time it’s salmon over a medley of julienned veggies. Hmm, maybe we don’t need to have Won attend cooking school next year after all.
Friday, August 7
I wake up sore from my Wednesday workout. I suspect this is a good sign, but it still sucks.
Back in early May we weren’t able to properly celebrate an important milestone birthday for Won and I want to do something special for him to make up for that. We spend nearly the entire morning researching and talking about places to go and things to do. The challenge is how to choose. There are so many great options! We need to focus. We are all over Portugal from the sumptuous Duoro Valley in the north to the lovely Alentejo region in the center to the relaxing Algarve in the south. Honestly? We could close our eyes and simply point at anywhere on the map and find someplace fascinating and fun to go. We are so deeply lost in the fun of dreaming and chatting that Won nearly forgets he has to meet Alex at noon for the rescheduled training session that was canceled on Monday! He flies out the door.
Won returns from his workout session complaining about his shoulder (it’s been giving him problems for a long time). Good thing he has an appointment to see Tania, his massage therapist, on Tuesday. She’s amazingly talented and knows her anatomy and physiology because she’s studying to become a doctor. He always feels better after he sees her. I see her once a month and love her too.
One thing that moving to Portugal has allowed us to do is focus on, and invest in, our personal health and well-being without giving up a great lifestyle and still enjoying loads of adventure. We have the time and the financial resources to be able to do that because we live here and not in the US. Holmes Place is a full-service health club with a state-of-the art gym, nutritionists on staff, an indoor pool with aquatic-focused lessons if desired, full spa facilities, a cafe with a lovely view of the ocean, a variety of exercise options including virtual training, and even hair and nail services. We feel very fortunate to be able to do this.
Wow…it’s approaching 5PM already. Just before I hit the publish button, Won calls Paulo at Alegria Vadia to make a reservation for 8PM. We had such a wonderful time last Friday that we want to do it again tonight! We are looking forward to another fun and tasty evening. When you come to visit, let’s have dinner there together. You’ll love it.
Until then, please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch!
From Portugal with love,