Easy Living in an Old World Gem: Rent $1,300 a Month

My husband Keith and I sit at our neighbourhood cafe, enjoying a coffee and ice-cold bubbly water. Our Maltese, Carson, appreciatively sniffs the fresh ocean breeze. The cost to spend a couple of hours relaxing and chatting like this—a daily ritual which punctuates the easy lifestyle we lead—is $3.

This is our life in beautiful, affordable Portugal.

Our journey to this new life began after we took a three-week trip in Europe, driving through France, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and more. It was an eye-opening, satisfying, culture-rich journey.

Back at home, I was stood on our deck one evening when Keith said, “I want to go back”.

I smiled. “Sure, honey, next year we can—”

“No, I mean I want to go back now…and stay there. Don’t you miss the architecture, the statues of monarchs presiding over flower-filled roundabouts, the luxury of taking up a cafe table for hours even though you’ve spent just $1 on a cup of coffee?”

Less than a year later we had accomplished the first steps: we’d sold our home and applied for visas at the Portuguese Embassy.

We also secured a six-month lease in northern Portugal. Not sure if we would stay overseas, we didn’t ship our possessions, but stored them near our son who could send them after us if necessary.

Visas and plane tickets in hand, each armed with one suitcase and two carry-ons (one of mine was Carson), we began our adventure.

We moved into a 200-year-old stone cottage, in a valley not far from Porto, where we watched gamboling goats on the sun-kissed meadow on the property. I learned to tell time by the chiming of church bells, delighted in discovering superb, inexpensive wines and cheeses. Shockingly, the hamburger, pizza and pasta lover in me began to develop a taste for fresh-grilled fish.

That was five years ago. Today we’re just one year away from dual citizenship in the country we believe offers the best all-round lifestyle. Here’s why…

Portugal is geographically beautiful, with miles of coastline and sandy beaches, often with competition-worthy surf. Countryside and cities both hold mysteries of the past in castles, fortresses, cathedrals and palaces.

The people are welcoming and courteous. In fact, they’re what really made us fall for Portugal. There’s a chivalry and politeness in day-to-day life that’s been lost elsewhere.

After spending five years near Porto and Braga, we moved south, near to the beach city of Ericeira. The rent for our four-bedroom, four-bathroom house, a half-hour from Lisbon International Airport, is $1,300 a month. Back home, we paid two-and-a-half times that amount. Utilities run about $130 a month, about one quarter of our former bill.

Here, life flows at a slower pace. Running late? No worries. Someone cancels an appointment? You’ll find yourself calmly saying, “That’s okay. Let’s reschedule.” Because the whole nation rolls in this easy-going manner, you can’t help but adopt it yourself.

People often think of Portugal as simply a smaller version of Spain. Not the case. Each country’s esprit is unique. In a nutshell, Spain has the flavour of Central and South America, while Portugal feels truly European: think France with a southern, low-key attitude.

In fact, just think Portugal.

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