As I previously mentioned, our goals for our April visit to Lisbon were to ensure we could find what we needed to live safely and comfortably (ie: Kevin’s meds, Thor’s food, workable public transportation, etc.), and to figure out which specific neighborhoods we wanted to reside in.
We stayed in a small townhouse style Air BnB in one of our target neighborhoods, which allowed us to get a feel for how Portuguese homes are constructed. Designed to keep cool in the summer, many older homes lack sufficient insulation, and central heating and air conditioning are rarities. Instead, people rely on room units, fans, and dehumidifiers.
The week of our visit was very gray, though not particularly rainy, so we got a good sense of how living in a traditional apartment during damp, cool weather could feel. (Main takeaway: dehumidifiers are amazing.)
We walked all over the place, checked out our three target neighborhoods – Campo De Ourique, Ajuda, and Alvalade – and tried to do as much as we could to get a sense of life in this picturesque European city.
In actuality, that meant we had a lot of questions to answer.
Were the parks plentiful, beautiful, and green?
Were there places for Thor to socialize, and would he fit in with the locals?
Were there low-key, non-touristy neighborhood spots to enjoy a cup of coffee or a beer?
Was Portuguese wine as inexpensive as we’d heard?
Did they have boxed wine?
Wait…are those boxes on the higher shelves actually priced at less than one euro?? That CAN’T be a good idea.
…or can it????
Did I really need to bring 600 Glide brand dental flossers?
Would we have to live without the delicious flavors of our homeland?
Was the condiment situation acceptable?
How weird would it be to buy eggs from a grocery store shelf rather than the refrigerated section?
Does this cafe actually sell martinis for €1.10?? That can’t be right, can it?
But the martini on this menu is €2.50:
What the hell do the Portuguese consider a martini?
More investigation to come…
Could I buy Jimmy Choo stilettos?
Just kidding, I would never buy Jimmy Choo stilettos.
Or any stilettos for that matter.
In fact, no one who actually intended to walk in Lisbon would buy stilettos because the sidewalks are all made of these hand-laid tiles that would put you directly on your face if you even attempted such foolishness.
Speaking of these decorative sidewalks, some of which create optical illusions:
Would Thor ever forgive us for any of this?
Answer: Yes… as soon as he learned about the “ham stores”
Speaking of the dog, could we look forward to being the most popular residents of our new apartment building?
Would we ever get used to the Portuguese system of parking – also known as “just do whatever the hell you want”?
Would we ever be able to figure out how to operate a European washing machine?
Was the Metro clean, safe, and easy to use?
Were the local food options as good as we’d heard?
All in all, we were able to answer our questions in a positive way. No major stumbling blocks.
Finding a Place to Live
One of the biggest challenges would-be immigrants face when trying to get their visas is securing a place to live – either by finding a rental or by purchasing a home. As part of the visa application, you have to have a place to live (the government wants to make sure you’re serious about living there and you aren’t just going to disappear into some other European country as soon as you get your residency permit), so you actually have to rent or buy a place before the government gives you permission to live in the country. Weird, but true.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that Lisbon is experiencing a housing crunch. The ever increasing popularity of the city coupled with some oddities in Portuguese real estate law have turned house hunting into a kind of blood sport.
Not only is it hard to find a place, but prices have spiraled upward and lease terms have become increasingly onerous (and sometimes, downright ridiculous.) Here’s a representative post from one of the Facebook forums we use:
Add in the presence of a large furry roommate, and finding a place to rent can seem almost impossible.
Recognizing that this was going to be a big problem, we took others’ advice and met with a local consultant who helps people find apartments from afar – identifying potential listings, contacting landlords, doing videotaped walk throughs, and negotiating leases. (There are very few professionally managed properties in Portugal. Each apartment or home is individually owned by a landlord who has wide leeway to determine who lives in their place and under what terms. Each landlord must be contacted individually, usually by phone, and because of prior folks abusing the system, renting as an immigrant has become harder. Having a knowledgeable local as an advocate can be very helpful.)
While in Lisbon, we met with this consultant who was great, but she, too, made clear that finding a place would be a challenge and we would have to be ultra-flexible (read: ready to be disappointed in location, price, and/or condition), and ready to commit almost immediately. We left the meeting optimistic that she could find us something, but realistic that it might not be what we had in mind.
However, before she could even get started working on our behalf, the gods of social media smiled down on us once more and helped us on our way.
Social Media: The Cause Of And Solution To All Of Life’s Problems
Somewhere along the line, while researching Portugal, I ran into a YouTube channel created by a fellow Northern Virginia couple who had moved to Lisbon. They put out high quality videos, appeared to be fun and down to Earth, and shared many of the same interests as us. In fact, the list of things they were looking for in a home base basically mirrored ours.
I also noticed they had a couple dogs, so, last December I wrote them an email asking if they had any tips or resources for finding a dog-friendly apartment. Dianne gave me some good advice and then suggested we all meet up whenever Kevin and I visited the city. So, on the second to last day of our April trip, we headed up to their neighborhood of Ajuda (one of our original target neighborhoods) to have lunch at a local restaurant.
We hit it off immediately and ended up spending several hours after lunch touring their neighborhood and talking about life in Lisbon. We had a great time, and, before parting ways, they mentioned there was a trivia night for expats at a bar downtown the following evening. They were playing with another couple and needed two more for their team. We immediately said yes.
The next night, Guillermo and Dianne introduced us to their friends, Jeff and Kerri – who had also moved to Lisbon from the U.S. the prior year. Between rounds of trivia, we talked about becoming expats, the awesome neighborhood Jeff and Kerri lived in, and we all compared notes about our dogs. Then, almost lost in the din of a busy bar full of happily buzzed expats, Jeff said something along the lines of “we just bought a new apartment that we’re going to renovate. Once it’s ready, we’ll move there and have to find renters for our current apartment.”
“Why do you want to leave your current apartment?”
“Oh, it’s totally fine, it’s just a bit smaller than we’d like and we want some additional outdoor space.”
“When do you think you’ll move?
“Probably the Fall sometime.”
As they continued telling us their plans for the new and old places, what Kevin and I heard was:
Now imagine the globe graphic at the end of the video zeroing in on a beautiful, traditional apartment building in the city center with every single attribute we were looking for and directly within our housing budget.
The tears? The cheering? All accurate portrayals of how it felt to find a reasonably priced, dog friendly apartment in a great neighborhood, owned by nice people during this ridiculous market.
I’m telling you, sometimes fate just walks up to you on a super hot day and hands you a cold frosty beer…
Even better, over the course of just a few days, we’d made a couple friends – who’ve subsequently provided us all kinds of advice and resources to help us with this process. Having just gone through it all themselves, they know exactly what we’re dealing with and have saved us enormous amounts of time and stress by answering our questions, pointing us in the right directions, and – on more than one occasion – reassuring us that things would come together and it would all be worth it in the end.
Next time we all hang out, several rounds will be on us.
Coming up…. No clue. We’re moving to Portugal in about a week and I have no idea what’s going on. In fact, I really probably should be packing right now rather than writing blog posts. #nextlevelprocrastination
Wish us luck. See ya back here in a bit!
You had me at martini for less than €3! I also do love Jimmy Choo shoes but the best I can do is admire them from afar after realizing that the decimal is in the right place on the price ? Everything looks amazing and we can’t wait to hear all about it. So glad you found a decent place fairly easily. Ready to run the Lisbon marathon in 2023!!
I figured you’d appreciate those martini prices. 🙂 Already looking forward to the marathon. I think it’s gonna be a great one for both runners and spectators. Lookin forward to it already!
WOW! WOW! Making a random connection that leads to a great apartment is a sure sign that the universe wants you to move to Lisbon. And the prices on the wine and martinis (and the meals, and the ham, etc., etc.) are a sure sign that the universe wants you to enjoy living there. I’ll bet those unrefrigerated eggs will be the best you’ve ever eaten. So many wonderful adventures await you – I am so happy for you guys and can’t wait to read all about it!
Thanks, Shannon! Finding the apartment so easily and making a couple friends really did seal the deal and make us feel like we were doing the right thing. Of course, only time will tell, but it sure felt like a sign from the universe. In the meantime, we’re trying to bank all the good stuff so we can keep them in mind when the inevitable headaches present themselves. We know there will be plenty, so it’s good to remember why we’re doing all this in the first place.
I love going to France and enjoying the cheap but wonderful wine there. Luck is wished – boa sorte! Can’t wait to hear how it’s going.
Thanks so much! After all this craziness, a nice glass of Portuguese wine on a sunny patio is gonna be just what the doctor ordered.
Not so much a martini fan, but that’s a great price for a margarita! Testing the box wines could keep me busy for awhile, let us know the good ones 🙂
Hope Thor makes the adjustments as well as you guys have. Looking forward to your first ex-pat post
I’ll definitely let you know how the cocktails are, but even I’m not so sure about that boxed wine. LOL. We’re hoping Thor adjusts well too. He’s gotten used to a life of constant change living with us, but this is certainly gonna be a big one. I think as long as the pack is together, he’ll be alright.
I agree with Shannon…the universe is definitely supporting you in your decision to move to Portugal. New friends AND a place to live, all in one evening! Loved seeing the photos of what kinds of things you were evaluating in making your decision. It all looks great, except for two things: WTH are those symbols on the washing machine? I see a flower, and a cupcake, and a ball of yarn, and an ancient Native American pictograph spiral…you’re just gonna have to push the buttons and find out what magic happens! And why is a gin and tonic more expensive than a martini? That is a serious bummer. LOL. Can’t wait to hear more!
Hahaha… your analysis of that washing machine was the same as ours, but we pretty much did what you said – just pushed a bunch of buttons and hit start – and it did whatever it did and we said “good enough!” Getting a handle on European appliances is a project in and of itself and I’m sure many mistakes will be made. All part of the process, I guess…
As for the G&T, I’m not sure what’s going on there, but I promise I’ll do plenty of on-the-ground research for you and get some answers. 🙂
I cannot believe the pricing over there! Are rent prices comparable to over there or are they cheaper as well? What good luck to find that couple wanting to rent their apartment, cannot wait to read about the next leg of your adventure!
Thanks, Jim. Rent prices are also much lower than what we’re used to here in the states. For a comparable apartment in a comparable U.S. city, we’d easily pay twice what we’ll be paying in Lisbon. It’s one of the reasons so many Americans are moving to Portugal. Your money goes further. All that being said, all this foreign interest is pricing out locals, and any time that happens, conditions are ripe for resentment and backlash. So we’re trying to tread lightly, not feed into the ridiculous price inflation, and be good neighbors.
Congrats! Amazing twist of fate. Generally, eggs on the shelf are unwashed. They don’t have to be refrigerated until after they are washed. Just think that leaves more room in the fridge for wine! Thor will be happy because you guys are happy! Can’t wait to hear about the move and the next trivia night miracle!
Thanks, Laura! I hadn’t really thought about the egg/wine situation, but you’re right. Those European fridges are small. If you fill them with eggs, where would the wine go?? These are problems that need to be addressed. Eggs on a shelf, it is!! 🙂
Amazing luck!! It’s possible the wall prices are stand up at the bar prices, and the menu prices are table prices. I know there are different coffee prices like that in Portugal, so maybe?
Also, don’t try the cheapest box wine. We houses at in Brussels this July and bought some cheap box wine. I’m speaking from experience – learn from our missteps! ??
Hahahaha! Yeah, there is honestly no way I am drinking .55 boxed wine. Not without an IV in my arm pumping me full of hydration.
As for price differences depending on service, I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s certainly possible. I’m sure there will be so much of that kind of stuff to puzzle out. We’re gonna be soooooooo confused all the time. 🙂
Sounds like it is all going so well! Good luck with the move!
Thanks, Heather! So far, so good.
At first glance, I thought the inside of the Metro *was* a Taco Bell. There’s a million-dollar idea, right there. Kevin looks like he’s “pissed” at the car parked on the sidewalk, if you catch my meaning. Everything is shaping up to be unequivocally perfect for you!
You always think Kevin is peeing on things in my pictures. I swear, he doesn’t just walk around towns and parks peeing on stuff! now Thor, on the other hand…
All great news! I’m so happy you are happy! Best of luck on this new adventure. It sure helps to have ready made friends over there. Good luck with that washer though….:-)
The washer is just gonna be a mystery machine… you might get your clothes back, you might get tiny versions of your clothes back, you might get nothing at all back… Anything could happen!! Thanks for the good wishes!! You stay safe out there too!
Best wishes for a wonderful life in Portugal! Henry and I are so excited for you. Can’t wait to read the next post! Here’s to your new adventure! Cheers!
Thank you, Heidi (I think). We’re looking forward to all of it – and maybe you guys will come visit one day??? Hope you’re enjoying these last days of Summer!
Congratulations! Have a safe flight and cannot wait for the next update!
Thanks so much, Jana!
Oh I do wish you luck and I think you are well on your way, with finding a place to live! I am going to miss your RV blogs, and really wish our paths had crossed, but I can’t wait to hear all about your new adventures 🙂
I, too, am bummed we never crossed paths. If not for the stupid pandemic I think we would have in 2020, but alas, the universe had other plans. Either way, I still enjoy reading all these blogs and keeping up with people, and ya just never know where life will lead.
Wow, the universe definitely wants you to move to Lisbon! Loved the photo “tour” to answer the pressing questions, it was hilarious *and* informative! I’m taking notes for that time in the future when I have the means and schedule to get to Lisbon, so keep giving up the tips and tricks, OK? And soooooooo glad you found that apartment, takes a big weight off you two, I bet!
Thanks, Annie! Yes, the apartment find was a huge relief, especially since other parts of this process have been incredibly stressful, so it was nice to get that huge win early on. And I’ll definitely be sharing all the good and bad of this process and Lisbon itself. I hope you do make it for a visit one day. If you do, you know you’ll have some ready tour guides at your disposal!
1) Women who can pull off wearing stilettos in Europe don’t walk anywhere. They are driven.
2) Are you setting up some sort of web-based tool for guests to book reservations in your lovely new apartment? Or will it just be by e-mail?
1) Good point.
2) I’m gonna need an app. Seriously… it’s getting out of control.
PS: You’re welcome any time. 🙂
Positive intent attracts good things. Congratulations! #karmaFTW
Man, I would really like to believe that that is true and I sure hope so! Thanks, Andrea!
Maybe the Martini was for a glass of vermouth (Martini de Rossi). On our wine tour we visited a co-op that produces boxed wine that carry a DOC label meaning it’s the same quality as what is bottled. We found the wine to be inexpensive but, it was all fairly one note.
That is amazing about finding an apartment. We walked through that neighborhood as well. It seems like a good choice.
Good choice about the Jimmy Choos. When we were in Sintra and it was raining I almost bit the dust walking (and I had good traction shoes on).
Ugh, when I was a teenager, I was going to a party where we all needed to bring booze. I didn’t know one alcohol from another, so I stole a bottle of Vermouth from my parents’ liquor cabinet. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Vermouth is gross and not a winning choice for high school parties. 🙂
As for the walking, I cannot tell you how many stories I’ve read about tourists and recent immigrants falling on the calcadas. They are slippery when dry and a skating rink when wet. There’s a reason all the locals wear sensible shoes. And even then…. Glad you didn’t get hurt!
Isn’t it amazing how sometimes the stars do all align and you need to pinch yourself to make sure it is true. So very glad you found a new home and new friends! Have a wonderful move. Can’t wait to hear how it all goes.
Thanks, Pam. Honestly, this bit of good fortune reminds me of you guys finding your home when you came off the road. The perfect place at the perfect time in the perfect location. You’re totally right: Sometimes all the stars do align and things just come together. We’ve had our share of hiccups recently, but on the big stuff, it’s been ok. I’ll keep you posted!!
Wow! I am so happy that everything came together for you guys. How exciting to actually be making the move. Can’t wait to hear how you like it once you get settled.
Thanks, Kelly. I appreciate all the good vibes and positive thoughts we’re getting. I expect the next several months will be quite challenging, but we’re looking forward to getting started. It’s felt like we’ve been waiting for this moment forEVER and now it’s finally here. Hope you guys are doing well too!
Hurray for social media! You are probably settling into your new neighborhood right now. Wow. I so admire the way you follow your dream. I’ll bet Thor is following his dream right into that ham shop and, OMG, those plates look amazing!!! I can’t wait to eat up your next post!
Safe & Happy Travels and hugs to Thor!
Yep, social media is truly awful except when it’s truly awesome. It really has created our entire social life these last several years and it seems to be doing the same now. A blessing and a curse…
We are settling into our temporary digs and so far so good. We’re exhausted, of course, but that is all to be expected and part of the challenge. I hope all is well with you three!
Love those tile sidewalks!
Sounds like Portugal is going to be amazing! Such good kismet.
Thanks, Duwan. Sure seems like it – on both counts! I hope your eastbound travels are going well.
Looks like a beautiful place, love all the tile work, though with my vertigo one of them sure could have made me dizzy. It’s all in who you know, our recent land purchase in TN was aided by friends we had not yet met in person. Because of them we were moved up to an earlier appointment and were in the 5th car of 20. Look forward to your adventures assimilating in Portugal.
Thanks, Faye! You are definitely right that knowing the right people can make all the difference. That, and plain old luck. Given how hard it is to find anywhere to live these days – whether it be an apartment in a city or a long term site for your RV, it definitely helps to have a little luck come your way.
I look forward to following your updates as well…speaking of which, all my blogger blogs have stopped sending email notifications of new posts. I’ll have to remember to check in with you guys every so often. Stay well!
We made your blog! ☺️ See you for some of that delicious, affordable wine today. ?
Of course you made the blog! Without your help, we’d probably still be sitting in the U.S., trying to figure out how to move to Portugal. 🙂