In our hunt for the perfect overseas retirement spot, Keith and I explored all over Europe but the moment we set foot in Portugal, a land of cobblestoned villages, castles and breathtaking beaches, we knew we were home. Here’s just some of the reasons why…
Getting More and Spending Less
As soon as made the move to Portugal, we noticed a big drop in our expenses. Paying $800 a month for rent instead of the $2,700 we were paying back home has made a huge difference, of course. And the value is undeniable, the house we live in now has four-bedrooms and four-bathrooms and is just a half-hour drive from Lisbon International Airport. Utilities run about $130 a month, about one quarter of our former bill. Little savings add up too, like an espresso costing $1 instead of the $3 we paid back home. Lunch in a cafe averages $12 and usually includes soup, a main course, a drink, dessert and coffee.
Climate with Character
The landscape of the Alentejo region comes alive in springtime.
From north to south and west to east, the weather in Portugal can be a rollercoaster ride. Sultry summer days are for sunning at a praia fluvial (river beach) or maybe lounging lakeside under the shade of cork oak trees. Autumn’s crisp days herald the coming of a rainy—even snowy, in the northern mountains—winter. Come springtime, days are brightened by the blossoming of calla lilies, sweet-smelling roses, blue and pink hydrangea bushes and lush fields of vibrant wildflowers.
My husband and I have both had routine and emergency care in personal and private clinics and hospitals here in Portugal. We’ve paid as little as $9 for a consultation, $27 for X-rays and $270 for a combination of EKG and MRI. When I needed a tetanus shot, it was free at the local public clinic. In short, healthcare is accessible, professional and economical.
Not a week goes by that we don’t see a sign advertising a local festa. The Portuguese love food, wine, music and tradition. To that end there are festivals of garlic, cheese, bread, sardines, honey, lace—you name it. Medieval and Renaissance fairs give us a chance to dress up. In fact, if you don a costume, you’ll often receive a reduced entry charge. Our period wardrobe is definitely expanding…
In addition, big name singers and musical groups perform at arenas in large cities and an impromptu parade of local musicians in even the tiniest of villages is common.
Since moving to Portugal, we’ve become major roadies. With Spain our neighbour to the east, we’ve crossed the border many times to explore it. Malaga, Seville, Madrid, Valencia, Toledo and Barcelona all hold their own charm. Spain is also our gateway to France and from there we’ve journeyed on to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and beyond. Each country’s culture is fascinating and being able to transition seamlessly from one to another in a car is quite the thrill.
Living (in) History
It doesn’t matter where we are in the country, we’re bound to encounter the past. We’ve scaled the ramparts of medieval castles, sat in an amphitheatre dating from the days of Julius Caesar and wandered through ancient cathedrals, monasteries and synagogues.
Museums are everywhere, from the immense offerings of the two main cities of Lisbon and Porto to the most modest towns like Nisa, where you can learn about the classic art of lacemaking and the creation of unique red clay pottery decorated with intricate white flower motifs.
Far and away the best feature of living here is the friends we’ve made. We’ve met fellow expats from all over… France, England, Australia, Ireland, South Africa, Italy, Greece, Russia and Estonia. Schoolteachers, translators, writers, lawyers—even a National Geographic photographer. But it’s not just the fellow expat factor. We regularly see our Portuguese neighbours, raising our understanding of their culture as they learn about ours in turn.
Naturally, there’s plenty of food, like the famed salted cod (known as bacalhau), wine, and music involved.
Naturally, we’re in Portugal.