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Obrigada 

Sunrise over the ocean with congested city in between

Obrigada 

Empty living room overlooking an empty dining room.
Our living room opens up to a part of the terrace that is completely enclosed so we have decided to use that area as a dining room. We’re excited imaging this room with our new couch and dining table in it!

During last year’s European travels, we happened upon Porto, Portugal’s second largest and oldest city, and fell in love. After spending three weeks here and another three in Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon, we decided we wanted to spend more time in Portugal. We asked our Porto Airbnb host for a referral and found Ivo Moura, an amazing real estate agent, who has been a godsend. 

He helped us find a beautiful flat in Canidelo, a parish in the municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia. It’s on the other side of the Douro River from Porto’s city center, making it more affordable and less touristy than Porto itself. The entire process went much faster than we’d expected, which meant we paid a mortgage on our home for five months while we waited for our visas to go through. 

Clay and Jackie taking a selfie with Ivo in the middle.
Our real estate agent, Ivo Moura, has been a dream. And he’s continuing to help us with everything from finding an electrician to finding us a renter when it’s time.

While our original plan was to spend 8 to 10 months a year here, we have big work projects keeping us in the U.S. for most of the time, so we’re here for a few months now, enjoying our flat as we prepare it to be a furnished long-term rental. 

The building is the same age as our home in Reno, built in 1997 and our flat was renovated in 2017, making it pretty modern for this area of the world. It’s on the 9th floor of a 10-story building (with an elevator!), putting us at eye level with the seagulls and giving us an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean, which is a half an hour walk away.

Our flat is in a neighborhood surrounded by shops and restaurants, making it eminently walkable. And that’s a good thing, because I cannot imagine driving a car here. The streets are very narrow, with cars parked on both sides. While they’re technically not one-way, many streets are not wide enough for two cars to pass each other. As we discovered before, everyone is incredibly polite and willing to take their turns to help traffic flow pretty smoothly. And you’d better mean it if you approach a crosswalk, as people will stop and wait for you to cross (unless you’re waiting at a light). 

Our first week in Portugal was spent mostly working and shopping. But the working was at actual desks that we own, in actual office chairs. And the shopping was for our flat, so yes, it was immensely satisfying. 

We haven’t had our own dresser drawers and a designated place for our computers since we sold our Reno home in November 2022. Just being able to leave our computers in one spot, rather than packing them up in backpacks and taking them to a coffee shop for reliable Wi-Fi, has been more satisfying than I could have imagined. 

Nossa Nova Casa (Our New HOme)

We arrived at the Porto airport on Tuesday, March 19 around 3:30 p.m., after two days of flying. We piled our five suitcases into a taxi and made the 20-minute trek to our new flat, where we met Ivo, who had our keys. Not only did he help us find and purchase this beautiful home, but he also hired and supervised painters and cleaning people. When we had furniture delivered from Ikea, he met them and hung out while TaskRabbit assembled our guest room bed, desks and office chairs. And he also met the utility and alarm people to get all of that taken care of for us. 

This meant we got to arrive at a like-new place and even had someplace to sit down when we got here! There would be no sleeping, though, as things needed to be done. Since we’re not staying this time, all we brought with us were clothes, toiletries, our computers and, for some reason, a stupid amount of pens. 

After we dropped off our things, Ivo dropped us off at Worten, a local appliance store, so we could pick out some immediate necessities. Though exhausted, we had fun choosing a refrigerator, washing machine, dishwasher and TV. When it came time to purchase them, we learned that we weren’t in Porto anymore. Since Gaia is not a tourist town, it means fewer people speak English. We eventually found someone who spoke a little English, who let us know that only the floor models were available for two of the four appliances we had chosen. They looked fine, so we agreed, but we did ask for a small discount for the dishwasher, which had some scuffs and scratches. She let us know she’d have to check and would email us the next day. 

Feeling pretty satisfied with ourselves, we went next door to the Auchan (kind of like Target), to get groceries and some other necessities. This is where I hit a wall, so Clay went in to shop while I stayed outside with our coffeemaker, toaster and some other smaller appliances we had purchased at Worten. I worked hard to stay awake in what felt like the hours Clay navigated a foreign store and picked up what we would need for the next couple of days. When he came out, we realized he’d forgotten towels, so I took a turn. I found them pretty easily, but then made the mistake of using self-checkout, which is something I dislike using in English, so trying to do it in Portuguese with no sleep was extra not fun. Luckily, the cashier was very kind as she helped me figure it out even though I didn’t know my NIF* (which is packed securely in Clay’s brain). There is a work-around to not knowing yours, which the cashier assisted me with, all in Portuguese.

Português é Difícil (Portuguese is hard)

I thought I’d have some time to learn Portuguese through living here, but it’s going to need to be much faster than I thought, since English is less common in Gaia than other European cities we’ve visited (mostly tourist destinations). Many Portuguese words are similar to Spanish, so I can read much of what I see. It is a much more gutteral language though, so it’s pretty difficult to understand when spoken. Luckily, everyone (literally everyone) has been kind about slowing down and explaining what we need to know through hand gestures and Google Translate. We have found a few people who speak English very well and they have been godsends in helping us settle in. 

Limpa Tudo (Cleans Everything)

Our first full day in Gaia was spent working while we waited for the Internet provider to show up. That went smoothly, so our offices were fully functional within two days of arriving. Bliss!

Having an office, a furnished guest room, and a working coffee maker is great, but we knew we needed more. After work the second day, we took an Uber back to Auchon. When we arrived, we realized we had input the wrong address, and we ended up at a different branch of Worten (in the same mall as a different branch of Auchon). Since we never received an email from the first woman at Worten, we went in, found a young man who spoke enough English to understand us, showed him the four appliances we wanted, picked up a blender, and were done in half an hour. He explained that we would need a Portuguese phone number to get our purchases delivered, but he thought a 2,50 € SIM card would be enough and that we didn’t actually need a phone (big mistake). 

Then we went next door to Auchan to get cleaning supplies and the groceries we could store without a refrigerator. Since we’ve been buying dish soap for, oh, 50 years, it shouldn’t have been that difficult. But we spent more time examining different kinds of soap than we did choosing our refrigerator. 

It looked like dish soap, but the consistency was wrong, and when I Googled it, I saw Limpa Tudo, which translates to “cleans everything.” Everything? Does that mean dishes? Hands? Hair? We finally chose something that we presumed would wash dishes and went to the next aisle to look for hand soap. That’s when we found the actual dish soap, and we spent another 20 minutes smelling the different kinds to find a scent that wasn’t overpowering. We finally found one and then repeated the same process with hand soap, shampoo and conditioner.

We thought we bought shower gel and shower lotion, but ended up buying two different brands of shower gel – something we discovered after covering our bodies with shower gel after showering. 

Compras Sem Carro (Shopping without a car)

Furnishing an empty flat is fun, and a little frustrating when you realize all of the thousands of things you don’t have, from paper towels to garbage cans. And doing it without a car creates its own challenges. We would visit one store, fill up our Ikea bags (you have to bring your own bags or buy them there), take everything home, drop it off and then go to another store and do the same thing. Luckily, Uber is pretty cheap here, and it gives us a chance to practice Portuguese with our drivers, all of whom have been patient with us. 

We’re also reliant on delivery drivers for the big things. We stayed home all day on Friday, waiting for our appliances to be delivered. At the end of the day, with no appliances, Clay called Worten’s customer service to be told the drivers had arrived, we didn’t answer the bell and so they left. While we never heard the bell (and we were listening), we realized it was an imperfect system and went back to to Worten to buy a cheap phone so we could actually use our Portuguese phone number. That was a good decision, as it has been requested for everything else we’ve ordered. I’m still not sure why they won’t call an American number, but we’re adapting to their way. 

Conhecendo Novos Amigos (meeting new friends)

When we decided we wanted to move to Portugal, we joined several Facebook groups for expats. Once we were here for a few days, we decided it was time to start meeting people in person, so I posted that we were open to a meet-up. That’s how we met Su, a retired man originally from India, who had moved to Porto from New Jersey with his wife. He agreed to meet us at 100 Culpa, a delicious restaurant that Clay has been looking forward to since our last visit to Porto almost a year ago. 

Stack of thin pancakes topped with avocado and scrambled eggs.
100 Culpa is around the corner from last year’s Airbnb in Porto, making it a very convenient (and delicious place)
to work.

Su has been here for a year, and he described the area as “a perfect blend of everything you want it to be,” which was a much more concise way of describing what we had experienced as well. He also had all kinds of valuable information to share with us, including how to transfer money without all the extra fees and how to port over an American phone number. 

While walking around Porto with him after breakfast, we found our way back to the Mercado do Bolhão, which we had discovered on a Porto food tour with João in 2023. As we told him about how great that food tour had been and how we planned to bring visiting friends on it in April, we looked up and who did we see, but João! One of my favorite things about living in Reno is running into people I know everywhere, so that was a very nice taste of home. We loved getting to know João on our tour, and it was delightful running into him again. We’re looking forward to having dinner with him next weekend and learning how he and his family have been since we saw him last. 

After re-exploring Porto’s shopping district, we said goodbye to Su and made our way over to Supernova for a drink and then more bliss. Last May, we got Thai massages at Sabai Thai Spa, which were the best we’ve ever had in our lives. After travel and work time, our backs were demanding more, so we went back and experienced the same fulfillment from having very strong massage therapists climb onto the massage tables and rough us up. 

Dining room table in a furniture store showroom.
This is the table we found and it’s so beautiful that it’s totally worth it to wait three weeks for delivery.

Um Apartamento Vazio (An Empty Apartment)

As we begin our second week in Gaia, we still have the same amount of furniture we had when we started. Fingers crossed, our appliances are delivered today so we can start buying groceries and doing our laundry. Our bed and cabinets will be delivered this week, while our table and couch won’t be here for several weeks. We were going to hold off on buying outdoor furniture since we won’t be living here full-time for awhile, but it’s so beautiful outside that we’re going to want to spend time there. Plus, we can use our patio furniture to watch our new TV while we wait for our couch to arrive. 

Uma Diferença de Tempo Complicada (A complicated time Difference)

As before, we’re running into complications with the 7-hour time difference, but we’re more prepared for them this time. We’re still starting work in the morning, taking breaks mid-day to shop or whatnot, and then getting back to our desks at the end of the day and working into the night to be available for our clients in the U.S. This weekend, Daylight Saving Time begins in Portugal, so we’ll go to an 8-hour time difference, and it was kind of nice being able to have a slower transition. 

Uma Vida Normal (A Normal Life)

Jackie and Clay in a selfie outside Homy Casa.
Homy Casa is kind of like Ashley Furniture in the states and we’ve found all kinds of cool stuff there. Along with a lovely woman named Flavia who speaks perfect English.

As I write this, I’m thinking about how ordinary our lives have been this past week, but in such an unordinary way. Clay is going to walk to the bank to get our ATM cards today, while I wait for the appliance delivery people (and pray they arrive). As delicious as the restaurants are around here, we’re looking forward to having a refrigerator so we can eat at home more. And it will be extra fun when we can do that in the dining room rather than our offices (the only place we currently have chairs). And we’re also looking forward to exploring our area beyond restaurants and furniture stores. We have a trip to the beach planned for next weekend, along with dinner with João. 

We have friends coming in April, who are stopping by on their way to hike the Camino, and we hope to know our neighborhood (and Portuguese) better by then so we can be better tour guides. 

The two phrases we remembered from our last visit were obrigada (obrigado for Clay) and bom dia. The first means “thank you,” and the second means “good day,” which they use interchangeably with olá (hello). These two phrases have done a lot of heavy lifting, and now we’re working on more phrases so they don’t have to do all the work. 
Wish us boa sorte!

*Your NIF is your Portugal tax number, unique to each individual, and it is used for everything, from the purchase of our home to setting up utilities and buying groceries and furniture. It’s a way for the government to keep track of purchases to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share of taxes. And it will be used when we apply for temporary residency, to ensure we’re following the rules. In some cases, it could mean a tax refund at the end of the year, but I have no idea how that happens. Luckily, we don’t need to worry about that until next year. 

Jackie Shelton, APR, is a strategic communications veteran who, after 30 years still has a hard time focusing on one particular aspect, so she has stopped trying.

Comments

  • Geralda
    March 25, 2024

    I love your place. I can’t wait to come visit. 😉

    reply
  • Laynette Evans
    March 26, 2024

    Happy to see you finally made it to your new home! Please keep posting as you discover new ways of living and new things about Portugal.

    reply
  • Chip
    March 26, 2024

    What a wonderful flat! Love the view.
    Your experiences parallel those we had in our 3-month exploration of Portugal. Faro has a high percentage of English speakers. We look forward to hosting you both when we get settled in this summer. Our flat should close very soon. Take care and enjoy! These ARE the good old days!

    reply

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