Portugal Pt 1
I still have a little bit to write about from our full time motorhome travels but right now the most important thing that has happened is… we have moved to Portugal!
Our last blog was about celebrating our first year of full time travel and meeting up with friends from home, back in September. Between then and now (December 2020) covid has reared its ugly head again and with Brexit looming on the 2021 horizon that meant we needed to make some big decisions and fast!
We had been trying to get to Portugal since March of his year, but we were stopped in our tracks by the first covid outbreak which meant we had to lockdown in Spain for 9 weeks. When borders reopened we took the opportunity to travel whilst we could, heading north to Scandanavia, meeting with friends in Amsterdam and heading back south through Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France and Spain. Finally, in October, we made it to Portugal, country number 23 on our travels. For some reason, for which I have no reasonable logic, I just knew we’d find something special in Portugal. Neither of us had ever visited Portugal before (although we did get engaged in Madeira) but I was just drawn to it from talking to other people and reading about it. We have quite a big Portuguese and Madeiran community and friends in Jersey; we liked the people, their culture and, of course, their food. It ticked a lot of boxes for us (a temperate climate, green and lush, safe and low in crime, good healthcare and low cost of living) and through our research we knew on paper that it was a place that we could call home. But what would it be like in reality?
We entered Portugal through the north of Spain. Again, another totally different landscape from what we had experienced along Spain’s east coast and further inland from Valencia. It was beautiful, we found some fantastic park ups & experienced the most incredible sunsets but we were eager to get to Portugal so drove through quickly. We will need to head back up to explore the Spanish north coast further in the future, there is so much more to see. We were thoroughly enjoying exploring the north of Portugal, stopping in the river town of Chaves and at Bom Jesus do Monte (a religious sanctuary and pilgrimage site) in Braga, through Coimbra on the way to the west coast. Following our friend’s recommendations we headed to Aveiro (the Venice of Portugal) for a day out on the gondolas then down the coast through the seaside town of Costa Nova (with the striped houses) and to Figuiera da Foz to watch the surfers and the waves crash on the beach from the Atlantic Ocean.
Around this time the weather had started to change. We stopped outside Porto for one night but due to the storms we were forced further inland, away from the coast. Again, it’s another place we’ll have to head back to later. Our next stop was a little village just outside of Leiria where we celebrated Halloween with Bruno and his family. Bruno has a small, 6 space, camper stop on his land. With covid numbers rising again and travel restrictions in place in Portugal over the Halloween/Day of the Dead bank holiday weekend we needed a place to stay for a few days. We spent 5 nights here, up in the mountains, took a tuk tuk tour to Leiria and were treated to such generous hospitality by Bruno and his family that we really didn’t want to leave.
Unfortunately time was ticking by and we needed to decide our future. With Brexit looming and Jersey being dragged along with the UK we needed to either head back to Jersey or find a place to live in Portugal and apply for residency. We loved what we’d seen of Portugal in the short space of time we’d been here and from the research we’d done, had found that gaining residency in Portugal wasn’t too complicated, especially compared to other European countries. Our next step was to decide where in Portugal we would be happy to build a home. After hours of research and exploring through the country we concluded that the middle/west of Portugal would be best for us. Not too hot in the summer, or too cold in the winter. Some rain but not too much, close to Lisbon airport for family and friends to visit and the coast or rivers for our love of swimming plus reasonable property prices and access to shops etc without being in a big city. We booked in lots of property viewings and started searching through them. The estate agents were all really helpful and gave us lots of options but covid numbers were again rising, especially in the north and centre of Portugal, with rumours of another lockdown pending.
We had met John & Kate during our first visit to Spain, in March. Originally, we planned to travel with them into Portugal but were split up just as lockdown came into force. They hurried on through to Portugal as we were locked down in Spain. During the past 7 months they had found a little home in southern Portugal and finalised their residency. We’d kept in touch during our time apart and now needed their help, as we were again looking for a safe base to park up, should a second lockdown come into force. They lived in Tavira, 5 hours away in the Algarve, but we were still in central Portugal. Our options were to return to Bruno’s site near Leiria or head south to our friends. After a mad, full day of non-stop driving we were finally reunited with John & Kate. It was an emotional reunion, which seems crazy since we’d only spent two or three days with them in Spain, but we’d messaged nearly every day in between and got to know each other really well. Whist travelling, we’ve found that strong friendships can be made so quickly, especially when we’ve met genuine, honest and open people.
Our plan was to park up at a motorhome site in Tavira, just a 20 minute cycle ride from where John and Kate now live. Little did we know, this would just be the start of our Portuguese adventure…