Savouring Great Food and Finding Close Friends in Atalaia, Portugal

My partner, Jonathan, and I moved to Portugal in April 2017 with our slightly bonkers rescue dog, Angel, and our grumpy rescue cat, Biscuit. We were seeking a more relaxing existence in a sunny climate that offered affordable living.

After much searching, we found our new home in Atalaia, a small farming village with incredible views over the Atlantic Ocean, yet located less than an hour from Lisbon and a major international airport.

Our life here is simple. Every morning we relax and enjoy a large mug of coffee while listening to the sounds of the ocean and the chiming of church bells and watching the farmers working their land through our bedroom window. Fresh bread at around $1 a loaf is delivered to our door each morning and, no matter what time we seem to wake up, there it is waiting for us at our gate.
Trips to the local markets for seafood, fruit and vegetables are always fun and very affordable—$2 for a kilo of mussels! Very few people speak English or they are too shy to try, but it’s a good opportunity to practice Portuguese. With a lot of pointing at items and a few charades, a lot of mispronunciation and a cheeky smile, we usually get what we want.

With good quality food so easily accessible, Jonathan has developed a keen interest in cooking, which is great—as I have developed a keen interest in eating. We even have our own vegetable garden now!

I have started Portuguese lessons as so few people in our neighbourhood speak English. It’s not easy since I am not good at languages, but I’m getting there. I meet twice a week over coffee and a pastel de nata (a Portuguese custard tart), with a local lady who teaches Portuguese in the nearby town, and very slowly, I’m making progress.

We have made good friends with our neighbours and enjoy long lunches together speaking an amusing combination of English, Portuguese, a little Spanish and French. But we all share a love of food and local wine and port. The wine starts from just $3 a bottle and is great quality.

During the summer months, there’s always a festival happening in the local villages—sardine festival, pumpkin festival, soup festival, even a potato festival. You name it, there’s bound to be a festival for it. Our favourite is the crab festival with all-you-can-eat crab for $19 per person.

And for people like us who love to travel, there is so much to see within an hour’s drive from our place. The medieval village and castle of Obidos, the giant waves of Nazare, the fishing town of Peniche, the fairytale palaces of Sintra and the many touristic sights of Lisbon.

We really can’t understand what took us so long to move here.

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