Old World Elegance in Estoril, Portugal

An elderly gentleman wearing a Panama hat and carrying a walking stick strolls leisurely down a cobblestone tree-lined street in a suburb of Lisbon. “That’s what I’m talking about,” says expat Dave Dougherty as he snaps a photo to preserve the moment. “Old World elegance is alive and well here in Estoril.”

Estoril, in the upmarket area of Cascais, features picturesque cobblestone streets.

Estoril, in the upmarket area of Cascais, features picturesque cobblestone streets.

A native New Yorker, Dave and his wife Kelly had vacationed many times in Portugal. Then two years ago, they decided it was time to make a commitment to escape the hectic pace of life in Manhattan. They made a permanent move to the Iberian Peninsula. “We still go back to the East Coast, fairly frequently, to visit family in and around the metropolitan area. But we’ve definitely had enough of a daily dose of traffic, noise, and the tension of the big city.”

Dougherty was in the construction business for many years, designing high-rise office buildings and dwellings. “I loved what I did, I admit it. I was good at it, made money, and enjoyed life with Kelly. But keeping up that pace requires you to take breaks—as frequently as possible—so you don’t drive yourself crazy.”

Now life is a permanent vacation. Estoril is located 20 minutes by car west of the capital of Lisbon. “What’s perfect about this area is we also have quick access to Cascais village,” says Dave. “The village is packed with restaurants and cafés, parks, shopping, and a little beach stretch.”

There’s more. Wednesday and Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. the local outdoor market offers bargains of all kinds, and the library hosts readings and signings by multi-national authors. At the Cascais Cultural Center and Hotel Bai’a, groups like Americans Living in Portugal sponsor events including Happy Hour gatherings, traditional Thanksgiving Dinners, New Year’s celebrations, and Valentine’s Day dances.

The cost of living in this area is higher than what you would find inland, for instance in the Alentejo. But this, along with Porto in the north and the southern Algarve, is one of the prime areas for American, Canadian, British, and Australian expats to choose as a base, especially since English is widely spoken.

“We bought a three-bedroom condo overlooking the water. Kelly and I wanted that view and needed the extra space because we have frequent guests. Everyone wanted to visit, once they heard where we’d settled,” he adds, laughing, “but we love it.”

Rentals in the area range around $875 for a refurbished one-bedroom and $1,850 for a two-bedroom. Purchasing rather than renting, however, is probably a better idea now for anyone considering a move to the country, because property prices are on the rise.

Dining out is still affordable, even in this upscale region of Portugal. While dinner for two can easily run $60 with wine, a lunch at a local pub can be had for around $12, and coffee and a pastry for $3.

Another plus is low-cost healthcare. CUF Cascais is a private hospital nearby, but the state system is virtually free, and available to anyone who has a temporary residence card (required if you intend to remain in the country longer than 90 days).

“We have the best of all worlds,” concludes Dave. “Our free time is spent in museums, playing sports, sunning ourselves on the beach, and having a glass of wine with friends. Not a bad place to be in life.”

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