And it’s back. With a vengeance.

Covid rides again, virulent, bolder, and faster than before.
Here in Portugal, the new lockdown has people pissed off. There have been some protests in Lisbon, but happily, all have been peaceful.

Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument in Lisbon. Celebrating the Age of Discovery in Portugal.

And, the government is pissed as well. People have been becoming lax about the rules, and those in charge have taken notice. So, you really can’t blame the powers that be for instituting more stringent rules and penalties for noncompliance.
When the new lockdown went into effect, we noticed folks hanging out outside some cafés on our way to the grocery store. I have also seen a lot of people out and about maskless lately.
I get it, everyone is suffering from lockdown fatigue. There was an image on IG in Portuguese that summed it up, be patient, or be a patient! A good reason to mind the basic rules: wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands!

And, to some extent, it is our own damn fault. Had to get together and go places for the holidays. This was abusing the privilege of being stupid. And here we are.
Not only has the vaccine rollout been fraught with problems, but now people are refusing to be vaccinated. People are afraid of something developed so quickly for something we don’t even know that much about.
The pandemic problems seem endless. We can only hope that the world will get it together sooner rather than later.

Listen to the man people! This is a public service announcement!

At least, we are here, in Portugal. Not only do you have the pandemic, but the disintegration of democracy before our eyes in the US.
Never have we seen the level of stupidity that we are witnessing. Between the political madness and the lack of common sense regarding fighting the virus, it is staggering. Idiocracy is happening! When I first saw the movie, I thought it was funny and a little absurd. Now it is a horror movie depicting where the US is headed. Unbelievable, but true.

Veiw from the roof of the Capitol in Denver, Co. The US has certainly seen better days!

Again, we are thankful to have left the states. However, it is still horrifying to watch. It certainly feels safer regarding events from afar. The old world seems ever so much more civilized these days.

And now this?!

We interrupt this usually informative and fun-loving blog for a rant post.

Sack Man Whiskey and Asura Malt Liquor from Yria, Spain. Will somebody please sack this guy?!

Holy mother of insanity! You can’t make this stuff up. It pushes the bounds of credibility. A delusional narcissist, hate monger becomes pres of the US and very nearly overthrows the government as we know it.

Here’s the thing, the decline of the empire has been happening for a long time. This latest event was just the icing on a rotting cake. (The cake got left outside and is melting. Somebody do something before it is too late!
Oh, right, I forgot, climate change isn’t real.)
Sorry folks but, I fear that it is already too late.

Even before the dump show, most of the systems in the country were showing signs of malfunction. And that is putting it mildly. Health insurance is a prohibitively expensive joke. Health providers, oblivious drug peddlers. Insurance, in general, a scam. The legal system, the absurdly random application of the “law.” And people get away with murder every day. The food supply has become so adulterated that it has lost nutritional value and flavor. Even if people woke up enough to take action, it is unlikely that there could be a noticeable improvement in my lifetime.

We survived the holidays that weren’t, in the year that wasn’t due to the pandemic, only to witness hoodlums storming the US capitol while being egged on by a president who is unfit for office. And he has pulled off his chicanery for years without penalty. The country has become a brainless, spineless laughing stock the world over.
When I was growing up, we considered the US to be the greatest country in the world. The T-word vowed to make America great again. Instead, he made it his dump-land of hate, greed, and stupidity. From a first world country to a third world mess in four years. Pretty impressive for someone as mentally unstable as he.

A timely vodka from Colorado!

It is sad when the people in power are only concerned with grabbing power instead of being the public servants that they should be.
Biden and company certainly have their work cut out for them. Best of luck to them. They will need it.

As for us, thank God we got out when we did!
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. How about a glass of wine? Or, maybe something stronger. Good old American whiskey seems fitting. Make that 100 proof!

May we suggest Lock Stock & Barrel 13 year old straight rye whiskey.

On the Road Again…

After a year and a half of living in Portugal, we are finally buying a place in Porto. Talk about an ordeal! Buying real estate is a big deal under any circumstances. But doing it in a foreign country and during the biggest pandemic since 1918 adds a whole new level of stress to the process. And I should know, I sold and taught real estate for 20 plus years in the states!

I have owned many properties, but never have I had such a hard time finding the right one. We must have seen 15 or more apartments before we said, this is the one! Of course, our parameters made it a challenge. We needed more space than our bank account could really afford. Oh, and wanting to be centrally located and preferably in Porto added to the challenge.

So True!

We have been in Vila Nova de Gaia for the past 1.5 years, and it is nice enough, but it is as expensive as Porto and a lot more rustica, shall we say. We are talking farm animals here. And excessively barking dogs everywhere. I guess if you don´t mind roosters, chickens, and geese, incessant dog barking shouldn´t bother you. Right.
When people think of cities in Europe, they generally think of old buildings. And there are certainly plenty of those. However, new construction is booming in Portugal. So, our pad is all new inside, completely remodeled, and the outside of the building is being resurfaced as well.
It quite a bit smaller than we are used to, but being in the city is worth it. And we lucked out and got a great deal on it. So, it´s good bye Gaia and hello Porto! And, there will be some delicious local bubbles in our future!

Sparkling Rosé from Piano Wines, Portugal

We just have to survive a week or so in an Airbnb that is a fourth-floor walk-up since our psychotic land-lady won´t give us two more days, and the movers couldn´t accommodate us on the day we should be moving out. Bugger. No problem. At least, we will be in Porto away from the constantly barking dogs! With fresh territory to explore, it will be nice to be back in the city.
So, onward and upward, Porto, here we come!

Reality Check

Our first week in Portugal was beautiful.  Fantastic food, wine, and weather and we did a little reconnaissance of our new neighborhood.  Expenses are half or less than what we were used to in the States. And going from freezing and snow to 70 degrees is what I’m talking about! 

Quinta da Foz Port house boat with view of the bridge to Porto.

Our realtor had told me that it would take about three or four days to get utilities up and running in our apartment.  Electricity was no problem, it took two days.  Water, however, was another matter.  Apparently, our pipes for the water meter were not up to date.  I showed the print out that Aguas de Gaia (water department of Vila Nova de Gaia) gave me to Rui (our realtor), and he said that he knew someone who could fix it.  Two days (and 80 Euros) later, it was fixed.  Now back to Aguas de Gaia.  They had to send someone out to inspect it.  Then we could get a new meter installed.  I asked Rui, shouldn’t the landlords be paying for this?  And he assured me that it was our responsibility as tenants.  Ok then.

Also, the place was filthy.  (Didn’t notice that when I looked at it for ten minutes six months earlier.)  Got an awesome cleaning lady who also speaks English, and it took her an entire day to clean the kitchen, it was so greasy and grimy.  Apparently, the former tenants were pigs, and never cleaned!  (Ok, sorry, that would be an insult to pigs!)  She agreed to finish cleaning after the painter was done.  I got a hazmat suit for the bathroom and did it myself.  Yeech! By this time, our time was up at the Airbnb where we had been staying. So, we had to move.  Luckily, I found a place that was only a few blocks away from our new place.  It had an awesome view of the ocean too!  Again, as luck would have it, the owner of said Airbnb was an electrician and said that if we needed anything, just let him know.  As a matter of fact, we happened to need a painter to rid us of the bad 70s acid flashback wallpaper in the entry and hallway and repaint.  Senhor Silva to the rescue!  His man Lorindo was amazing!  He did the whole place in three and a half days.  Ultimately, instead of three or four days, it took two weeks before we could move into our apartment but now it was freshly painted, and we could purchase some furniture and appliances.  The mover’s estimate for the arrival of our belongings is April 11.  When the few things that we shipped arrive, it will be like Christmas!  In the meantime, there is a trip to IKEA in our future.

Bad 70s Acid Flashback Wallpaper.

The Longest Day

The movers came and packed what was left of our things (which was still too much stuff) and we sorted out the rest of the last-minute things, cars, dog papers, and last visits to the vet.  Not to mention various things we forgot to have the movers take that had to be shipped separately.  Gawd, we suck at moving!

Luckily, I got us the most direct flight possible: Denver to Newark and Newark to Porto, with a four-hour layover in Newark.  Our plane departed from DIA at 8:30am so we booked a room at the airport Westin for the night before, to make our 5:30am appearance at the terminal.  Spendy, but so worth it.  Our friend/landlord for the past eight months, Dennis took us to the Westin DIA in his vintage Rolls.  (That’s about how far we traveled in style, suffice it to say!)  We should have known it was going to be a bumpy ride when Jiver whined and panted and shivered halfway to the airport.

The night at the hotel was short, with a 4am wake-up call but a bellman took us across to the terminal.  “First class? “ He asked…um no, I said, we’re lucky to have economy plus! After waiting in line to check our bags, we got to the check-in kiosk which told us that we would need special handling.  (Due to traveling with a service dog, we found out.)  We got to the desk and our large bag was 30 pounds overweight.  No paying for it either; 50 pounds max or no go!  Ok, drag our act out of check-in territory and go buy an extra bag, or throw out half of our belongings!  Ugh!  So, I had to run downstairs and put down $80 for the cheapest bag I could find that looked like it would hold 30 pounds.

Tent City, DIA

Back to check-in, at least we didn’t have to wait in line again.  With a little more finagling, we brought the big bag down to 49.5 pounds.  Thank God! 

We present our IDs, and the folder full of dog travel paperwork to the agent. After ten minutes, she tells us that there is something wrong. Our boarding passes won’t print out. And it looks like it’s because we don’t have clearance for the dog from TAP, Air Portugal for the Newark to Porto portion of our trip.  After an hour of her talking to various superiors and others, I put a call into TAP myself. After waiting on hold for nearly half an hour, it is starting to look like we won’t make the flight.  Finally, I get an agent on the phone, and he says we are clear for takeoff with them.  At this point, I am guessing that United realized that it wasn’t TAP that was the holdup. (I knew it!) It was United having technical difficulties.  Now we have five minutes to make the flight, and the “security” line is about five miles long.

The United agent took us personally around security, and we made a mad dash for the gate.  When we got there, the gate agents saw and called out to us.  They were holding the plane for us!  Thank you, gate agents at United Airlines!

Can you say, holy mother of sweating it out?!  Our new bag cost $80, and the cost for an extra checked bag was $120.  We paid extra for seat assignments. Due to the delay in getting to the plane, we were stuck with inside seats in the middle of the aircraft.  Jiver had to sit on the floor over the engine and landing gear.  He whined, shook, and panted all the way from Denver to Newark! Poor guy was probably terrified. And this, after the woman across the aisle threatened to pitch a fit about us having a dog.  “He’s a service dog,” I said.  (I left out …bitch, trying to be nice!)  Let’s just say, if looks could kill, she’d be dead!  At least, we made the flight.

Logistics

Once we got word that the Portuguese government had deemed us worthy of living in their fair country, it was time to spring into action.  There are so many things to consider: plane tickets, movers, getting ready for the movers.

Oh, and transport for our “fur child,” Jiver.  I had purchased one-way plane tickets for us to leave at the end of October. They had to be canceled but, I got a credit for those and now had to rebook.  Let’s just say it:  traveling with an animal is a pain in the ass!  I had read that dogs could not travel on the plane with you internationally at all.  Wrong again!  After speaking with an airline employee, it was suggested, if I could get him certified as an emotional support animal, he could ride in the cabin with us.  I got online (sometimes the internet is your friend) and promptly found an outfit in Louisiana that did such animal certifications, US Service Animals.  For about $200, a therapist calls you and asks you a few questions and then decides if you are certifiable…!  Happily, I am.  (None of my friends were surprised by this).  I mean, they certified Jiver as my emotional support animal.  And issued me papers to that effect.  In reality, I will be his emotional support human for the trip!

Given airline animal shipping regulations, it’s a good thing this worked.  It costs about the same amount to ship an animal as cargo ($200) but, the weather must be 45 degrees or warmer. Getting out of Denver and Newark in February, there is no way it’s going to be warm enough for that to happen.

There has been more paperwork to bring the dog with us than there was for us to get into the country!  The vet must issue him a doggie passport, and the airlines require forms to be filled out as well.  Then there’s the eight-page Portuguese form the vet must fill out to bring him into the country.  It is a relief that he can travel with us. And that there is no dog quarantine in Portugal.  He spent the better part of his life as a diabetic alert service dog for his person until he died almost three years ago.  We inherited Jiver when that happened so, he has paid his dues, so to speak.  He also has the wardrobe for it. He came to us with a service dog vest, which we will use.  And all the service dog papers are good for a year so, our little buddy is about to become a world traveler!

Jiver is dressed and ready to go!

The sorting out of what to take and what to leave continues.  The movers will come on February 11th and we ship out on the 21st.  And, this just in…our passports came back from the consulate in the mail today with shiny new residence visas inside!  Coming soon to Portugal…us!

It’ a Miracle!

Well, it only took four months from the application date, but we finally got word that our resident visa to live in Portugal has been approved.  Holy mother of the wait from Hell!  I am in shock, and it seems so surreal that we will actually be leaving in about three weeks!  So much to do it is staggering because so many things hinged on getting visa approval.  It is a little over a year since we set out on our first trip to Portugal last February.  I still can’t believe how long and trying a journey it has been, and we are just getting started!  We are still on the road to Portugal, but soon we can rename the blog Adventures in Portugal.  Hal-le-freakin-lu-jah! 

It is strange how some things have come so easily: selling the harp, getting NIF numbers and a decent place to live in the Porto area.  And how long and painful a wait it was for visa approval.  I was so desperate that I was about to agree to pay two grand to an immigration attorney in Lisbon to try and help us speed up the process.  (haha, never use the word speed when talking about government of any kind!)  I had just texted Joe about the cost when he got the email from the consulate that our visas had been approved. (Whew, that was close!)  This, the day after the consulate received the letter I sent with a cashier’s check for the visa application fee, which was not collected from us at the time of application. I can only assume because their systems were down. Hmmm.  Coincidence?  You decide.  Anyone who tells you that it’s easy to move to ANY other country is full of it and/or selling something!

Yup, with no plan B, failure is not an option!
We are all in. Vamos!

Stay tuned, there’s more to come.  Tally ho, and away we go!

Give Me Visa Approval or Give me Death!

( I’m pretty sure that death would be quicker and less painful!)

Well, it’s the end of December, and as everyone says to me lately, you’re still here… yup, we are still here in beautiful BFE, USA.  Ok, not so beautiful when the high probably won’t crack 20 degrees tomorrow.  Not to mention the government shutdown due to mango unchained and his hare-brained ideas.  I was hoping to be gone by October and here we are staring down the barrel of January 2019.

Let’s recap, shall we?  We started the process of moving to Portugal last March 2018.  Ten months later, it feels like we are no closer to achieving that goal than we were then.  Now, a lot has happened since then. And here is my advice to anyone contemplating a move to another country:  do not believe what you read on the internet.  There, I was told that a resident visa could take anywhere from two to four weeks for approval and that Portugal was one of the easier countries to emigrate to.  A friend who resided in Lisbon for a year said that it shouldn’t take more than a month.  On December 24th (X-mas eve, bummer!) it was 90 days since we made our visa application and, we are still waiting.  (Granted, the Portuguese visa website says to apply 90 days out, and hey, it’s the Portuguese government, after all.  It could be worse, I guess, could be Spain or Italy.)  It may take more than twice as long as you think to get that resident visa approval and will certainly cost you at least twice as much as you might think.

Once again, I am reminded of Kafka’s The Trial and have started to suspect that our government idiocy isn’t helping our cause any. If only I could have done this two years ago.  That is when I decided that I wanted to relocate to another country, and it is now over two years in the making.  I could never have guessed that it would take so long.  I thought, six months, tops.  Boy, was I unclear! 

Since first submitting our online visa application in July, which got us an in-person visa application appointment in San Francisco in September, it has been almost six months.  The time disconnect between the online application and the in-person appointment (Not to mention the stress levels involved,) caused me to forget that in the email I got acknowledging my online application, was listed a site where I could check the status of my visa application.  I completely disregarded this since we weren’t there yet and wouldn’t be for a couple more months.

I woke up in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago and thought, wait a minute, wasn’t there something about checking visa status somewhere?  After going through months of emails, I found it and the password to access the site.  Hallelujah!  Now finally, maybe I could find out something about our progress.  Here’s what it said… there are four stages in the visa application process:   Application acceptance, consideration, analyzation and finish.  Our applications have been analyzed.  Or, as I like to say:  we’ve been done, duly analyzed!  So, now we know that we are one step from our visa application process being finished.  What does that mean, exactly?  Diddly squat from where I’m sitting.  We are thisclose, apparently, although what that might mean in real-time, I have no idea.  Just as in The Trial, it seems to have no end.

My assessment of the whole process?  I think that resident visa approval to move to another country is a moving target (like trying to nail jello to a tree) that depends on timing and political climates.  Five years ago, I’m sure it would have been A LOT easier.

As a result, we are looking forward to a bleak and dismal New Year, and we are still waiting.  Ugh.  Darkness before the dawn?  I can only hope as we go on month number four of paying for two places to live, one unoccupied and where we want to be.  (Having an address in Portugal was one of the resident visa application requirements.) Let’s hope that the new year will bring good news ASAP.  In the meantime, happy new year, and I hope that we will have a happy one next year.

Thanks to Mark Baylor for reminding me to keep at it!

Hold Please continued…

Well, we survived Thanksgiving (three-alarm hangover notwithstanding).  What is it about the holidays that makes us think it’s ok to drink EVERYTHING in one night?!  (Oh yeah, friends and relatives.) The turkey was even good thanks to Marczyk’s Willie bird and a prosciutto and chili rub treatment.  Thanks for an excellent meal, guys!

So, we’re going on eight weeks since our visa application and zero word from the Portuguese consulate.  If we don’t hear something SOON, and we are stuck here through X-mas, I may have a complete meltdown.  I’m not going to lie; the waiting is killing me.  Not to mention paying for two places to live, one in Gaia that is vacant.  I won’t even go into how much I hate “the holidays,” especially X-mas.  After harping for dollars for ten years, if I never hear another X-mas tune again, it will be too soon!

I hear that X-mas is big in Portugal,  and I can’t wait to try the freshly roasted chestnuts sold on street corners everywhere.  Oh, and did I mention the Bananeiro festival in Braga?  When I first started researching Portugal over a year ago, I came across the banana and Moscatel fest that happens on Christmas eve in Braga, which is about an hour north of Porto.  Banana and Moscatel festival, you say?  How wacky, let’s go!  So, I started fantasizing about going to Portugal for X-mas last year already.

X-mas banana
Merry X-mas banana. (Only in Portugal!)

The tropical fruit and wine fest is the outcome of some mad marketing by a guy who owned a banana warehouse and wanted to attract customers.  On Christmas eve a few decades ago, he offered a glass of sweet Moscatel wine to anyone who bought some bananas, and it became a thing, as they say.  And now, every year thousands of folks descend upon the banana warehouse in Braga on Christmas eve.  Just the thought of it makes me laugh, and, want to try it, banana and Moscatel, that is.  It could be a great pairing!

Meanwhile, still in government limbo hell, I realize that it’s too late to be early.  Even if our visa approval comes through this week, we are already in the middle of holiday travel season hell.  Finding a decent one-way airfare will be nearly impossible.  So, if anyone, anyone (of my three readers) knows someone with a private jet that can move us from N.Y to Lisbon once we get that pesky visa, I will throw in free accommodations with us in Portugal for life.  Keep your ears open and let me know, will ya’?  Thanks a bunch, and I will keep you posted of events as they occur!  (Here’s to hoping that events will occur SOON!  Hope with me, won’t you?!) We need all the help we can get.

Jiver is all decked out and ready to go with his happy santa tail! (You can see Happy Santa Tail on You Tube or Instragram!)
Jiver is all decked out and ready to go with his happy santa tail!

Hold, please.

After our visa appointment in San Francisco and some breakfast, we headed back to the airport.  Joe flew back to Denver, and I went on to L.A. to see family there.

I texted our realtor in Portugal and asked if he would be willing to be our reference, and he responded that he would be glad to.  It’s a good thing that he agreed to help us, once again, since we don’t know anyone else over there!  Thank you, Rui Castro!  You are our hero!

It was fun to catch up with friends and family and be reminded of why I wouldn’t want to live in L.A. again.  An hour to get from the west side to the valley during rush hour.  Really, it takes an hour to get just about anywhere in a car in L.A.   Pass on that action.  At least, the weather was nice.  The wining and dining were great, and it was a nice distraction from knowing that we would be stuck in the US for at least another probably eight weeks.

I was warned about the snail’s pace of government bureaucracy in Portugal but, when I returned to Denver and FedExed the last documents to the consulate, I tried to email them as well.  All emails have been returned as undeliverable.  There is a phone number on the website that states that the Portuguese consulate is currently not taking phone calls or returning messages.  There was an SOS email to which I sent a note saying that I had FedExed documents to them and would they please confirm receipt of said documents.  I received a reply that my email was received and nothing else.  Ugh!  They did warn us, but the complete lack of communication is disconcerting, to say the least!

On the heels of all this, a hurricane hit Portugal on October 13th.  The first one of this magnitude to hit in 176 years!  Awesome.  Luckily, by the time it hit landfall, hurricane Leslie was downgraded to a tropical depression and did the most damage to Lisbon.  where a beachside restaurant was destroyed and the roof of a stadium blown off.  I texted our fairy Godfather, Rui, and he replied that Porto was OK, just a lot of wind and rain.  So, our place is vacant but still standing.  Hallelujah.  Thank God for small favors!

So, now we wait.  The Portuguese consulate has our passports, and I guess that is about all we can do.  That and cross our fingers and pray to God!  I’m also guessing that it will be December before we get our visas, at the rate we’re going.  And I wanted to be out of here before last summer!  Haha.  Now it looks like we will have to endure half the winter in BFE, Denver, Colorado, USA.

Here’s to hoping for a mild one courtesy of El Nino.

Our gracious host/landlord is hosting Thanksgiving and has invited us, which is so nice and, obviously, we will attend, but have I mentioned how much I hate turkey?  Why do Americans think it is so great?  Oh, never mind.  There are many things that Americans love that I don’t care for, which is one of the many reasons we have got to get out of here!  Holding.  And dreaming of Portuguese food!

Grilled cod dinner at Churrasqueira Kinay in Porto.