Força Portugal!

The courtyard at Quinta da Pacheca.

We are heading into week number 4 of lockdown here in Portugal and, I have to say that it hasn’t been too bad. The lines to get into the stores have been minimal. There has not been a shortage of much of anything so far. I am happy to report that there is plenty of TP, food, and drink.
It is a far cry from the pandemonium we are hearing coming from our friends in Italy, Spain, and the US. We wish you all well! So sorry that you are the victims of so much trumpery! (Yup, it’s a word. Go ahead, look it up!)

Kudos to the Portuguese government for handling the crisis so well thus far. Thanks to the quick official response and cooperation of the people, it looks like the virus will be contained here sooner rather than later. We hope so. In any case, it is being taken a lot more seriously than in a lot of countries.

Springtime in a glass!

There have even been some perks. One of our favorite wineries, Quinta da Pacheca, has been offering 20% off their wines with free delivery on a case or more. We now have plenty of wine. More and more restaurants are offering take-out and delivery. That includes our favorite pizza place, Rei da Gula, here in Gaia. So, theoretically, we wouldn’t have to leave the house at all except to walk the dog! The mandate is to, “Fique em casa!” Stay home, which we are doing. We hope that you are too! Lay low and know that better times are coming! Stay strong and stay well everyone!

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, 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.  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, to 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!  Did the entire 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 movers 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.
View from Airbnb #2.

The Longest Day Continued…

Jiver simmered down once we got off the plane in Newark.  Ok, I thought, we’re almost halfway there.  Our bags were checked all the way to Porto so, now we could check in for the flight and relax.  The check in agent looked over our dog papers and issued us boarding passes.  No problem!  As we waited to get through security a fire alarm started going off and it was LOUD!  Jiver did not like it at all!  He started to growl and was threatening to start barking when, after about ten minutes it finally stopped.  False alarm, thank God.  We made it through security without incident and went to find our gate.  We had about three hours to kill and we found a Vino Volo near our gate.  Perfect!  We stopped to have a drink and a nosh.  Vino Volo is a great concept that serves good healthyish food and good wines to go with them.   A great place to hang out at the airport, a dreadful place to work.  Yes, I worked for Vino Volo at DIA in Denver for about a year.  It’s ok if you are willing to cook food, serve wine, bus tables, and wash dishes by yourself for up to 40-50 people at a time.  Right! 

Jiver sacked out by the table and after some food and drink we made our way to the gate hoping that this plane ride would be better than the first.  I had overheard a gate agent say that the plane was not full and that there were about 40 empty seats.  That should help.  We got on the plane and the row in front of us was almost empty so, we agreed that after takeoff Joe would move up to that row and we would let Jiver have the seat next to me.  He whined and panted for the first 45 minutes but, once we were at cruising altitude, we put his blanket on the seat and he sat there through the flight.  Finally, he was ok.  We figured that he did not like the vibrations of the plane when he had to stay on the floor.

It is amazing how different the attitudes are between US and Euro airlines.  Everyone is so uptight and stressed out on the US flights and so much more relaxed on the European flights.  The TAP Portugal flight crew was great.  They loved Jiver and were fine with him sitting next to me.  Also, the food is so much better on the Euro flights.  Oh, and no charge for wine either.  We had a delicious baked cod in cream sauce with spinach with mashed potatoes and a nice white wine to accompany it.  We weren’t even there yet and already I preferred my new country of choice to my country of origin!

When the plane started its descent, Jiver got nervous again.  This time, he only whined and panted for about the last half hour.  Whew!  We made it to the ground and arrived in Porto.  Now, we just had to get through customs, passport and vet check.

I took Jiver to find a doggie rest area but couldn’t find one.  There was an area with some planters, and he christened the Porto airport right there.  After cleaning up after him, I found the veterinary office.  The doctor was waiting for us there and it only took about ten minutes for her to sign off on us bringing Jiver into Portugal.  Now customs.  We presented our box of spirits and wine from Colorado and they opened it.  The officer examined our stash and asked, to drink with friends?  And, I said yes!  He said, ok and we were off.  It took about 30 minutes to get into the country, through customs and have Jiver checked in by the vet.  Portugal, what a country!  It might have something to do with the fact that we arrived at 5:30am.  There was a cab driver waiting outside arrivals and he transported us to our Airbnb.  After a year of planning and waiting, we finally arrived in Porto!  Ha-le-freakin’-lu-jah!

View from our table at Adega Sao Nicolo, Porto! (A fantastic seafood restaurante.)

We should get a prize for all we’ve been through!  Oh yeah, being here IS the prize! 😉

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, in order 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 half way to the airport.

The night at the hotel was short, with a 4am wakeup call but a bell man 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 handing.  (Due to travelling 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 and 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 hold up, 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 but now, 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 from us threatened to pitch a fit about us having a dog.  “He’s a service dog,” I said.  (I left out …bitch!)  Let’s just say, if looks could kill, she’d be dead!  At least, we made the flight.

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.  A little over a year from the date that 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 nice 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.  (ha, ha, 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.  And anyone who tells you 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!

Moving

I think we would all agree that moving is hell.  Even with movers, you must go through all your things and decide what to ditch and what to keep.  This move happened on rather short notice, and we didn’t have a lot of time to get it together.  You never realize how much crap you have until you go to move it all.

We were fortunate that we were able to find takers for all the oversized things that were a tough sell, some at the last minute.  Large architectural flat files and a seven-foot-tall harp case were two of them.  (Mr. Roberts, harp purchaser and Craig’s List to the rescue!)  There is a big Good Will store in Stapleton and I must have made 25-30 trips over there with carloads of stuff.  Still, there was too much to do and we weren’t ready when the movers came.  The goal was to rid ourselves of 80 percent of our belongings and I think we might have hit about 60 percent.  Oh, and the apartment to which we moved is up three flights of stairs.  And it was about 95 degrees that entire week.  Ugh.

We had a new understanding of the word exhaustion by the end of it.  My calves were screaming for mercy from lugging boxes up the stairs.  The closing went well but we signed the place over at 10am and still had things in the house to move!  Ack!  By law in Colorado the buyers take possession when the sellers sign it over.  The fact that we weren’t completely out by the time we signed was unacceptable.  The buyers were understandably annoyed, but what could we do? At that point:  apologize profusely and get ‘er done!  We both had to work that day as well.  The timing was abysmal.  So, at 8:30pm we went back over to finish up.  After a few more trips back and forth we were finally out by 10pm.  We left the new owners a bottle of bubbly and some restaurant coupons and hoped they would be ok with it.  Happily, they were.

Our goal is to leave for Portugal by September, we now have about two months to relieve ourselves of a lot more stuff and ship over the rest.  Holy mother of F:  why do we need so much stuff?!  We don’t, that’s the thing. The purge continues but now we have a nice new neighborhood and time to breath, at least.

The next step will be to go over and find a place to live.  The plan is to do so at the end of August and then apply for our visa.  That’s the catch 22:  can’t apply for a visa without an address, can’t really get an address without going over.  Why can’t anything be simple?!  Those online con artists have ruined it for the rest of us!  Apparently, there are a lot of Eastern Euro scumbags taking your money for an apartment and running with it, so internet renters beware!

Now it’s near 100 degrees in Denver for the next three months and where can I go RIGHT NOW to escape this heat?  This is why I wanted to be gone by June.  The sweltering continues!  I must remember that it could be worse, we could be in L.A. (120 degrees last week), Arid-zona, Palm Springs or Las Vegas.  All versions of Hell on earth right now.  Which level would you like?!

In the meantime, cool off with a cocktail!  Or three…

Curio Bar, Denver Public Market

El Five Bar, Denver

Coach Museum/O Prado, Take 1.

Being older helped us out with the timing of everything we did on this trip.  While the rest of the Portuguese world has lunch around 1pm or later, we were usually hungry by noon.  The same went for dinner.  We usually wanted to eat around 6pm and were the only ones in the dining room at that time.  Restaurants got busy after 7pm, which suited us just fine.

We re-visited the Pasteis de Belem at about 11am in the morning and, guess what?  There was no line!  The place is also much bigger than it looks from the outside and seats around 400.  We ordered coffee and two pasteis de nata, as they are known.  This is the Café du Monde of Lisbon.  Little custard tarts served in a parchment like pastry shell.  Not as good as beignets, but still, quite tasty.

After our “breakfast” of custard tarts and coffee, we decided to check out the Coach Museum.  Now, Joe thought, really?  A coach museum, how interesting could it be?  Boy, was he surprised!  As was I.  These were historic coaches built for royalty and they were impressive and amazing to say the least.  Having been a carriage driver in Denver for many years, I could really appreciate these mobile works of art.  They made our carriages look mighty pedestrian, I’ll say!  Well, look!

Coach.2

After being wowed by the antique coaches for royalty we found O Prado for lunch.  This little gem of a restaurant is on Rua da Junqueira, 474, 1300-341, Lisboa, and if you are ever in Lisboa (Lisbon, to us foreigners!)  you need to dine there.  We sat at the bar and were entertained by the Johnny and Christina show!  These two run the place and they are awesome, as is the food.  I had a salmon steak that was crazy good, super fresh and cooked to perfection, that is not overdone, and Joe had a pork dish which melted in the mouth.  We shared a bottle of the house red wine which was a red Vinho Verde.  Why, oh why do we not get this wine over here?!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not against the white Vinho Verdes, but the red is so perfect with everything!  Beautiful dark red color, a hint of effervescence, light bodied with dark fruit flavors and nice and dry on the finish.  Yumilicious, it was.  It reminded me of the dry Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna in Italy.  I Wish I could have brought some home.  One of the many reasons we’ll just have to move there!  Seriously, I have travelled a lot, but never have I visited a country where all the food and drink is so consistently good if not great. 

Given the great fun, food and drink, we became instant friends with Christina and Johnny and said we’d be back before we left Lisbon.

O Prado house red Vinho Verde.