It’s Christmas in May in Portugal!

IMG_5070More than six months after we packed all of our remaining belongings (at least those that wouldn’t fit in the four suitcases we schlepped through the airports) into 32 boxes, we finally received them. It was like Christmas! Except we knew what we were getting. And it’s May. And the wrapping paper was plain white, and there was no tree, or lights or any other decorations signifying the holiday. And it’s about 80 degrees outside.

But other than that, it felt like Christmas!

We were excited to finally dig into the rest of our belongings, some of which we forgot we even owned, and some of which we wondered why we kept. We probably could have cut it down from 32 to about half of that, but hindsight is 32-32.IMG_5068

Surely no one else remembers, about 80 blogs ago, that when we initially sold all of our stuff at the estate sale, I discovered I owned about six hammers. Well, here we go again. We had packed a hammer, and I had already been forced to buy one here. Of course, the one I bought here is metric, so there is that. Ha! But Lord Almighty if I end up collecting another hammer before I’m done, I’ll be writing an episode for The Twilight Zone. The title will have to be something about getting hammered.

IMG_5064The only casualties were onion salt and onion powder of all things. We packed all of our spices along with our kitchen stuff, and we’re glad we did because the Portuguese have an unfortunate habit of labeling all of their spices in another language. And of course there’s always some spice you might buy once a decade, so I’m sure we’ll be happy to have that one a recipe calls for but that we would have never thought to have purchased ahead of time. In addition to that, the spice selection in American grocery stores is much broader than it is in Portugal, so I’m sure we have some unique items. Heck, a couple of them might be illegal for all I know.

IMG_5066Anyway, for some reason, the onion salt and powder expanded and hardened to the consistency of a rock in their little jars. Nothing else did that. Now I’ve got to go to my translate app and look up onion (ok I just did it, and it’s cebola), and spend the 27 cents it probably costs here to round out our spice collection.

Pretty much everything else made it in good shape. My heartfelt thanks go out to my sister Lynne and my good friend Mark Meyer, both of whom were indispensable in making sure we got our stuff delivered.

There truly is no place like home, especially when you have your last 32 boxes.



They build houses in the strangest places in Portugal…

IMG_5010The Atlantic ocean is about a ten minute walk from our house. Well, at least the cliffs bordering the ocean are. It’d take another four or five seconds of falling straight down to actually meet the ocean.

We’re on a peninsula of sorts; on one side of us are the cliffs and on the other side, about a seven minute drive away, is the very long sandy beach where we relax, watch the waves, and count our blessings.

But for walks, we head toward the side with the cliffs. There is virtually nothing but shrubbery and silence there, interspersed with numerous trails and dirt roads. Who made them, and when, and even why, is a complete mystery to me. But I’m grateful for them because they give us plenty of options to explore while taking walks.

Sometimes I walk the trails alone, and I’m constantly amazed at how quiet it is. Not even many bird sounds. Just the occasional drone of a distant boat, or the buzzing of an insect, or the wind whooshing by your ears. If it’s not a windy day, it’s as silent as a dream. After walking just minutes from our house, I can easily feel like I am the only person in the world.

On my latest journey, I noticed some stairs had been cut into the cliffside. I thought it was pretty amazing because there are no drivable roads that come anywhere close to that part of the cliffs. Some of the trails that crisscross the area are essentially roads in that they’re wide enough and have obviously been occasionally driven upon. But you’d need a Humvee or an ATV to get around most of them, and I have yet to see one try.


I assumed someone had cut the stairs into the cliffside to provide access to a secluded beach or a great fishing spot. I continued my trek over the next hill, and when I looked back in the direction of the stairs, I saw this:


At the bottom of the stairs, which you can no longer see from that vantage point, is a house of some sort. The only access must be by boat, or I suppose an ATV followed by a trek down the stairs. It’s hard to imagine a more secluded place to live. I zoomed the camera in closer hoping to view more details when I got back to the house.


It looks like there’s a large deck on what is for all intents and purposes a house. It doesn’t look much like a structure for fishing. In fact, I couldn’t see where you’d even tether a boat. I can’t imagine the logistics of building such a place.

I’ll need to either bring binoculars or a zoom lens to decipher further what it is. I’m not too keen on finding my way down to the stairs and walking down to knock on the door. It could be where Hannibal Lecter takes his victims, or perhaps its a hideout for drug runners. Is it a coincidence that I saw the Portuguese navy patrolling the waters right around there?


I did decide to take the image into Photoshop and see if a digital zoom would reveal anything further. Lo and behold I saw something I hadn’t seen before. I do believe that’s Luke Skywalker practicing with his light saber! Who would’ve thunk! Luke’s hideout was in Portugal all along!

Luke Skywalker

Okay, just kidding about Mr. Skywalker. I’m pretty sure his hideout is on another planet in another galaxy far, far away anyway. But it is a remarkable house, and I hope, over time, I can find someone who can explain it to me.


I found someone who could explain it to me. Our good friend Luis, who provided excellent painting and light hanging services for us, told me that it is a private building built to provide support for fishing. I still marvel at the construction in such a remote place, surely everything had to be boated over. Anyway, mystery solved. Guess I won’t be knocking on the door to find out anything more!


I cannot tell a lie- this may be the only cherry pie in all of Portugal

Here pictured is the first cherry pie I’ve ever made. The other day, I passed by a street vendor who had dozens of flats of cherries and strawberries. I decided to stop by to sample his wares.IMG_5007

He didn’t speak a lick of English, so we struggled with the pricing somewhat. I have gotten to the point where I know my Portuguese numbers through 100, give or take. But when the Portuguese say anything, it whizzes into one ear, bounces around the empty space in my head and then exits before I can process the first syllable. As a result, I couldn’t make out whether he was saying 25 or 250 or what. He only had larger bills, so we struggled to make it all work. But he didn’t want my 20, so we were stumped until he fetched a pencil and paper and wrote out what the deal was. Turns out one flat of strawberries was 2.50, so we made it two, and when added to the very large flat of cherries for 10, we had a cool 15 euros to deal with, which we could both handle cash-wise.

We haven’t seen a pie of any kind anywhere in Portugal so far. They seem to go in for tarts and mousse and cakes and pastries instead. So you’ll never hear the phrase, “As Portuguese as (insert a fruit here) pie.” The grocery stores have no pie tins or pre-made pie crusts. I’m not stupid enough to hassle with making my own crust, so we used a tart thingee and it worked just great.

So clearly, it was the best pie we’ve ever had in Portugal. Because it was the first. And boy it was delicious. I may have to stop by that vendor again, although pitting all the cherries was a bit of a pain the butt. But my mouth is telling me that it was very worth it! Bonus: Carolyn’s not as big a fan of cherry pies, so I get most of it. Booyah!


I Have the Foggiest Idea

I’ve always liked the fog. Whether it rolls in from the ocean or lays its sleepy head over the countryside like a warm blanket, it conjures forth a temporary world of peace and tranquility. Sounds are muted, bringing serenity and stillness to an otherwise bustling world. Sight is also muted, granting all creatures in its grasp a momentary gift of visual equality. While in its calm embrace, it’s as if Mother Nature is gently prodding us to focus only on what’s near. It reminds me of a blanket of snow, except without all the school closures and car crashes and people dying from hypothermia.

I’ve always liked the fog.

Carolyn’s Cup Runneth Over…

It was just over 9 years ago that my ex-husband walked out of our home, and the life I had known for 25 years went up in smoke.  At times the pain of that experience took my breath away. I felt I was suffocating.  If you told me then where I would be now, I would never have believed it.

IMG_4707I said “I do” almost four years ago to the wonderful amazing man I now call my husband. He is kind, generous, funny, and smart.  He keeps me grounded, showers me with grace and love, and has helped heal wounds so deep I feared they would never heal.  I am blessed, I am loved, and I am accepted for who I am. What more can love give?
Well, not only am I married to the greatest guy on earth, but I get to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth!  Because of Kevin, I am now retired at 56, living in a foreign country, learning a new language, and experiencing things I only ever dared to dream about.  I see this for the amazing gift that it is, and I am grateful every day.
Sure, I miss family and friends back home, and am anxiously awaiting the first visit, but this is a small price to pay for such a privilege.  Great things in life require sacrifice, but in the end the rewards are more than worth it.  If I could make a wish for everyone I know, it would be that they too will take a chance, and dare to dream of such a life.  The adventure starts with a dream. So dream people, dream!
To Kev I say, I love you more than words can ever express.  My heart is bursting, and I grow more in love with you day by day.  I love life with you, and the adventures we share make it always fresh, and more than amazing!  My cup runneth over!

Watching our language

Portugal would pretty much be our paradise on earth… if they only used English as their native tongue. I’m only kidding about that; it’s our problem, not theirs, and Portuguese is a beautiful language. But the truth is, the only part of this whole experience we would describe as difficult is learning Portuguese. We’re retired, for goodness sake. We’re not supposed to have to work at anything!

But work we do. We are not only taking lessons from a tutor and playing around with some software training (via a very effective online program called “Memrise,”) IMG_4942, but also every time we go out, we read all the street signs and advertisements aloud and debate what we think they’re saying. When we go into any given store, we look at tons of products and attempt to decipher their purpose. Sometimes we see products unique to Portugal and can’t help but be impressed at their ingenuity.

For example, I want to buy this tube of mofo repellent before we go back to the states. There aren’t very many bad mofo’s in Portugal, but it’ll be nice to have a tube of Stop Mofo if I wander into a bad area of Portland or Seattle.

IMG_4975Some translations are easier than others. For instance, the sign to the left is obviously telling people to control their velociraptors. We were surprised to learn that dinosaurs are apparently still alive and well here in Portugal. In fact, not only are there signs pointing to where you can find them, as seen below, but they even have dental clinics dedicated solely to the care of their dinosaur teeth. The top sign must mean, “lots of dinosaurs,” and of course it’s easy to translate the one below it to “dental clinic,” obviously intended for the dinosaurs mentioned above.

So you see, it’s not all just about memorization. Sometimes you have to connect the dots and use your brain power to figure this stuff out. And as you can tell, our brain power isn’t suffering from any dementia yet, boy howdy.

IMG_4976Otherwise, how are our Portuguese lessons going, you ask? Well, it’s progressing, we answer. We have been inching our way toward a little more understanding of things. We are catching more words spoken by passersby. As already illustrated, we can obviously translate more signs than ever (although accompanying illustrations are always appreciated). And of course the more Portuguese we throw around at strangers, the more we can confuse them as to what the hell we’re trying to say.

There are days when we think we’re never going to learn enough. And then there are other days when we feel like we’re getting a handle on it, like when we can finally translate the stop signs on the streets. There aren’t nearly as many of them here as in the US, mostly due to the prevalence of round-abouts, or as I like to call them, “scream generators.” funny-traffic-signs-stop-signsCarolyn still hasn’t gotten used to cars racing up to the roundabout just as we’re passing in front of them. So far, they’ve always stopped in time, but we don’t know if that’s due to Carolyn’s screams or whether they all understand they have to give way to anyone coming from the left.

We did finally figure out that the letters on the red signs not only spell STOP, but they mean that too. It was confusing for a long time because the Portuguese word for stop is “pare,” and we couldn’t find out what “stop” meant in Portuguese. In the end, we figured they didn’t want English speakers to use paring knives while driving, so they went with the English version to cut down on the emergency room visits.

Otherwise, we can provide an example of our progress by showing you an entry from our training book. We can actually read the below and mostly understand what it’s saying:

O Pedro levanta-se as 7:00, toma um duche, vesta-se e as 7:45 senta-se para comer. Ele toma o pequeno-almoco sempre em casa. Come sempre pao com manteiga e doce a bebe café com leite sem acucar. O Pedro e economist e entre as 9:00 e as 13:00 trabalha numa empresa no centro da cidade. As 13:15 almoco com os colegas num restaurante perto do trabalho. As tercas e quintas, as 18:00, tem aulas de ingles numa escola de linguas. A noite chega e casa e prepara o jantar. Janta as 20:00 e deita-se sempre as 22:00. Ao sabado de manha, o Pedro vai as compras e a tarde limpa a casa. Ao sabado a noite, ele sai com os amigos e deita-se tarde. Ao domingo, ele so se levanta as 11 horas e almoca em casa dos pais.

Now, if you don’t speak Portuguese, you’re probably wondering what all that means. Well, he says, hitching up his pants with Trumpian confidence while speaking in boastful tones not unlike Don Knotts at his best (albeit in a lower timbre). It has something to do with Pedro the economist who goes to work and is struggling with the ideas of eating his children and having spiders in his pants. He’s also a bit upset when he goes out to eat, because perky college students always serve him almonds instead of meatballs. So he just licks the arugula and refuses to tip. But they don’t tip very much in Portugal anyway, so despite his worrying about getting shot due to his stinginess, he makes it home safely with almonds in his shoes.

The paragraph actually doesn’t make a lot of sense to us, because there are very few guns in Portugal, so his worries are very misplaced. We just don’t think Pedro is all that smart. But hey, if your claim to fame is to have a one paragraph biography in a language textbook, how smart can you be?

The interesting thing about the Portuguese language is that if a Portuguese speaker were to speak that paragraph aloud, here’s what the entire thing would sound like:

OPedrolecon shh shh prajant sh sh sh rrrrr-limdos-doshpais.

All uttered in approximately three seconds. And we’re supposed to understand that.

It’s not really a long term problem though. Because as soon as we give them our best I’m-not-even-going-to-pretend-I-understood-one-word-of-that look, they translate everything they just said into about ten English words.

I’m not making that up. Once, our attorney was talking with a banker on our behalf. They went back and forth for fifteen minutes in Portuguese. When they were done, I asked what was said. He told me, “She says that you have to turn in the form and wait five days.” That was it? He shrugged and said, “pretty much.”

So they either use a lot of words to communicate individual ideas, or they were talking smack about me, knowing I couldn’t understand. Maybe I have to buy some of the Stop Mofo paste for here after all.




Even the weeds are beautiful in Portugal

A year ago this week we landed in Lisbon, where we were first exIMG_2531posed to Portugal’s amazingly inexpensive yet delicious wine, the beautiful (albeit rainy, at least during our visit) streets of Lisbon, and some cramped living quarters, especially in the steep stairway of our rented apartment.

One year later, we are very much enjoying the inexpensive wine (with a bit of a taste for their “green wine,” or “vinho verde”), we’ve driven the winding streets of Lisbon and the surrounding area to the point where we hardly use the GPS anymore, and the apartment we purchased for short-term rentals has its own narrow stairway (although not as narrow as the one we rented in Belem, shown at the right).

We couldn’t be happier with our choice of Portugal. We were fortunate enough to find a house in SesimIMG_2554bra just minutes away from a sandy beach that stretches beyond sight. We pass by a medieval castle every time we drive into town. And while we have had some of the same May rain we did a year ago, it quickly gives way to 75-80 degree days, which is perfect weather for the beach or our ever-warming pool. I describe it thusly because it’s still too damn cold to swim in. I’ve jumped in a couple of times for an immediate cool-down. But it’s straight to the ladder after the cold water wreaks its bodily-shrinkage-havoc.

A quick drive into Sesimbra town brings us into a delightfully touristy area of shops in front of another nice beach. Condos and other buildings are built into thIMG_2595e hillside, reminiscent of a seaside town in Greece. And the wine is still as inexpensive as it was a year ago.

In addition, the area surrounding our home has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of nature’s beauty. We enjoy taking walks whereby in the first five minutes we are treated to a 220 degree vista of the Atlantic ocean. We can see the Cabo Espichel lighthouse from the upper floor of our house, and can even walk to it if we don’t mind a two hour round-trip hike.

While taking a walk recently, I decided to photograph the various weeds and flowers that lined the way. Yes, even the weeds are beautiful in Portugal!


I also wandered off the street to explore a path that led toward the ocean. At the end of the path was a pile of rocks.




To my left was an incredible shoreline, where the ocean meets the cliffs.




Ahead of me was a great expanse of ocean. Surrounding me was nothing but silence.
I walked around the pile of rocks and found, to my amazement, that it was actually the back side of a bench. Someone had taken the time to build this seat hundreds of meters from the road. It simply faces the sea, serving as a place of contentment and reflection.
I walked home, counting myself incredibly fortunate to live in a place with such beauty, populated by innately decent and kind people, and all with a life partner who has even more of those attributes than what I admire in this country.
Even if she is a little goofy sometimes…

Out for a Walkabout… Turned Right Instead of Left

Before you get a gander at the views I experienced when I turned right instead of left at the mailbox, here’s an image of Carolyn driving for the first time, from the narrow streets of Alfama all the way to our home in Sesimbra. IMG_4788She was more than a little nervous, although the pedestrians of Lisbon should have been more so. Just kiddin’. She’s a good driver, but the tiny streets, confusing street lights, and chaotic traffic are not for the faint of heart. Needless to say, we made it home in one piece. Although it took us a bottle of vodka to recover from the trauma.

The two panoramic views below give you an idea of the landscape surrounding our house. The top one is my attempt to show that, since we’re on a peninsula, we can see the Atlantic in about an 180 degree arc. It didn’t come out that great, but in person, I just stood at gawked at it for a good five minutes, which is about how long it took me to walk to the spot in the first place.



Cabo Espichel is within walking distance, although it’s a decent hike.








I’m not sure what this device is, but I could have sworn I heard a high-pitched, nasally voice saying, “Phone home! Phone home!”


Otherwise, just more gorgeous scenery of the coast. I’m enjoying my walks here, to be sure. The weather is perfect for walking, the occasional human being I encounter is always nice and polite, if not a bit shy, and most of the walk is completely quiet.

We’ve named our home, “Casa do Paraíso,” which means “House of Paradise.” That’s truly the way it feels…