Hard to believe, but true…
On January 13 of last week, Won and I opened a split of champagne and toasted the one year anniversary of our arrival in Portugal. We marveled at how quickly the time has gone by and what we have been able to see, learn, and accomplish – in spite of lockdowns, restrictions, and curfews related to COVID-19.
To commemorate the milestone, we went back and re-read some of my blog posts. It sparked a lot of memories, laughter, and observations.
Before we left for Portugal, one of my hopes was that the excitement, adventure and romance of the move would counterbalance the upheaval, challenge and change it would involve. I can categorically report that it did. It was all worth it and we have absolutely no regrets. If you’ve followed along with us on our journey, you’ll know that it wasn’t always easy, but we learned that patience, a good sense of humor, flexibility, humility and actively managing expectations were at the core of this successful transition.
Won just mused that he’s surprised at how lucky we were to learn about Portugal at all. It wasn’t on our radar because we were focused on Spain and only learned about it because we had friends who suggested we consider it. I’m so glad they did – it changed our lives for the better. Sometimes life directs you where you need to be and you should pay attention. Thank you Carla and Adelino!
Having just published two posts related to getting our car registered, we had to laugh when I read a line in To Bring or Not to Bring, That is the Question, because we had been forewarned about bringing a car. Obviously, we didn’t heed that advice. However, let me be very clear to anyone who may be wondering if they should attempt it – DON’T.
I was overwhelmed with emotion reading the last post I published before we left the US. We were filled with such excitement, but it was tempered by knowing we would be leaving our family and friends. At the time, I was looking forward to seeing them in the coming year. What I didn’t know is that the pandemic would change all that. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; thank heaven for technology. It truly has been a lifeline.
Thinking back on everything we dealt with, navigated, figured out, overcame, and muddled through, we’re pretty proud of ourselves. We had plenty of twists and turns, but we successfully handled them all. We are especially happy that we got Sweet Pea here in a manner that made us feel good and that ensured she was stressed as little as possible, even though it dealt us a few surprises…LOL!!
All week we have been talking about how lucky we are – lucky to arrive in Portugal before the world locked down due to COVID, lucky to have someone help us get our NIFs and open a bank account when we knew a total three people in the entire country (and had not even met one of them!), lucky to be able to take Sweet Pea on the plane with us, lucky to have found such a nice place to live, lucky to have each other.
We have also been laughing about how challenging that tiny Airbnb we stayed in for the first two and a half weeks of being here was. In the end, it did not really matter. We chose it because we thought it would make the transition for Sweet Pea easier given the quiet, safe, and open space she had to explore and enjoy.
Looking back, we are shocked at how much we did this past year even though we had to work around COVID-19. We loved all the beautiful palaces and castles we visited (I’ve added a few photos below) as well as all the the cultural sites, monuments, towns, hotels, restaurants, and churches!
We talked about our favorite trips; Won loved Tavira and I loved our second trip to Porto, but every place we went was fascinating and fun. All three of us have fallen in love with the coastline. Whether it is beach or cliff, it is all beautiful!
All the things that were unfamiliar and stressful when we first arrived, have become familiar and comfortable like the currency, metric system, lengthy street names (with signs that are nearly impossible to find when you are driving), the language, which is becoming more understandable, and the supermarket for example. All of these things have become a part of our daily lives.
Some annoyances I wrote about in my early posts are no longer issues like mustard; we found Heinz. And dill; we have seeds that my friend Birgitt sent us as well as a bottle of dried dill from my friend Tracey. Thank you both! I’m happy to report that Won is much better at being able to tell the difference between a whole fish vs one that has been descaled and gutted (thankfully). And, we have learned how to successfully use a food delivery app called Takeaway, primarily because we found an awesome little Italian restaurant called Lamassa that makes the best ravioli! We have even become completely comfortable with drying our clothes outside.
Unexpected situations forced us to think on our feet. When Sweet Pea became seriously ill in November, we had to quickly find an emergency vet, navigate our way there, and ensure she was well cared for. The staff at the vet hospital staff were all great. They had people who spoke English which ensured I could explain what had happened and they could explain what I needed to do to bring her back to health. Pretty soon Sweet Pea was back to her perky self attempting to make friends with the cats that hang out in our neighborhood.
To date, I have published 55 blog posts (this one will be the 56th) and have had 3,412 visitors with a total of 12,420 views. [Mind blown.] The post that has received the most views is my very first, but since it is the oldest, I suppose that is not surprising. What is surprising is that people who find me often go back and start from the beginning. What hearty souls!
So, Year One has been wrapped up with warm memories, tied with a ribbon of wonderful adventures, and tucked into the memory banks. Now we are looking forward to the next year. As soon as the current lockdown is lifted and we have vaccines in our arms, our bucket list includes trips to Madeira, the Douro Valley, and the Azores. There are multiple museums that we need to see including the Berardo and Gulbenkian at the top of the list. We also want to see a live performance of Fado, a professional football match (soccer for those of you in the US), a Formula 1 car race, the bird migration in Sagres, big wave surfing in Nazaré, and the sand sculptures in Pêra just to name a few. We are also hoping some of the fantastic festivals and special events hosted all over the country will begin again. One thing is for sure, the list of things to do and see is endless!
My heartfelt hope is that we will be able to experience some of these fun adventures with family and friends later this year. Until then, I promise to keep you posted on what we’re up to. As always please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch.
From Portugal with love,