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Soliloquies from Cindyb: a Solo Scouting Trip

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Posts: 60
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(@cindyb)
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Someone suggested (thanks Annemarie!) that I write about my experiences as a solo on a scouting trip. Of course! I would have wanted to see such a thing myself! (Thanks Hank and Konni for setting this expectation and the bar so high!)

I love to travel but I loathe schlepping luggage! So this trip I planned to establish “hubs” or “bases” and explore from them. I am determined to do this scouting trip without a car because I hope to live in Portugal without one. My hubs are: Lisbon, Caldas da Rainha and Porto. The Algarve hub is yet to be determined. (Suggestions solicited!) I booked virtually nothing in advance leaving myself open to serendipity and the ability to shorten or lengthen a stay somewhere or even change a hub!

For a bit of context my criteria for selecting a home in Portugal is:

Walkable: I would prefer to do without a car

Good infrastructure and transportation

Access to Nature and especially shoreline (I am a Permaculturist and I garden)

Active community (ideally some expats!) and culture

Fresh markets

I have a (high maintenance, diva) fur baby

Healthcare: I am well to the other side of 60 (how did THAT happen??)

Observation: It's been harder than I thought to take off the tourist glasses and see a place through the lens of a full-time resident.

Up next: Reflections on Lisbon

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Posts: 60
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(@cindyb)
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Report on Caldas da Rainha

Portugal is a soft, warm embrace…

I was sitting at the coffee kiosk in Dom Carlos Parque in Caldas with, get this, two couples from my neighborhood back in Texas, and we were discussing how welcoming Portugal is. What rolled out of my mouth was, “Portugal is a soft, warm embrace”. It surprised even me. Bill thought for a moment and said, “yep, that’s pretty much it”. One couple had already moved a few months ago and just bought a home outside Caldas, the other couple came to “just check out Portugal” and after being in the country three weeks made an offer on a home, also just outside Caldas. If Portugal is an embrace, Caldas da Rainha may be downright seductive. I almost took the first apartment I looked at…in Caldas.

There’s a lot to love about Caldas. What drew me was the robust expat community and the proximity to the coast. Caldas was the hub to explore Obidos, Nazarre, Sao Martinho do Porto and Foz do Arelho. All of these towns are accessible to/from Caldas by bus and/or train.

Caldas is served by a municipal bus service, TOMA (

)

The link will take you to the English version of the web page and links to schedules and maps. The maps are virtually useless to me because it’s just lines drawn on a satellite view. I checked at the TOMA office and no other maps exist.

Caldas has a very walkable (mostly flat) city center packed with restaurants, coffee shops and all manner of shopping. Every restaurant I tried was excellent. Everything you need you will likely find right in Caldas. There’s a Continente, Leroy Merlin, Lidl and all manner of furniture and housewares shops along with the requisite Chinese stores. A visit to the tourist office in a courtyard at the top of the fruit market will reward you with a lovely and useful map in English.

One of the highlights of Caldas, in my humble opinion, is Parque Dom Carlos. There’s a charming coffee shop in the park that became a destination of its own for me (and has what may be the best toasty sandwich I have ever eaten). I was in the park almost daily meeting someone.

Another highlight is the Praca da Fruta (fruit market) which runs every day except for certain holidays. There’s much more than fruit! (I swear I have never seen bigger tomatoes in my life!) Saturday seems to be the big day but there’s plenty on offer every day.

Fun fact about Caldas: there are no traffic lights in the city, only roundabouts. If you are going to have a car and plan on Caldas, brush up on those roundabout skills…

And let’s talk about car-less in Caldas. It’s doable, but I can see already that I would likely want a car rather than be at the mercy of the bus and train system. Having a car also opens up the possibility of living in one of the extremely charming beach towns that are truly just minutes from Caldas. Know that Uber is all but non-existent in Caldas and a taxi starts at €3.90. I did not try Bolt when I was there.

A word about the trains: Note that the trains servicing Caldas are the regional and interregional. I found it extremely difficult to get on and off these trains with luggage. (Granted, I am tiny, under 5’ and depending on the day, under 100#) The steps are narrow and the gaps are wide. There is little signage or markings. Also of note: there are no facilities on regional or interregional trains (at least on the one I took from Caldas). The Urban, Intercity and the high-speed trains are all what you would expect in the European train system.

My takeaways: Caldas da Rainha is a warm, welcoming place and I felt very much at home there. Housing, both rentals and for purchase, I felt was reasonable. It would be doable without a car but a car would likely make life easier and more enjoyable.

Next up: Porto

 

 

 

 

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Posts: 159
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(@pamalcobaca)
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Joined: 11 months ago

Hi Cindy, glad you liked Caldas, sorry we didn't get chance to meet up this time :(. Hope you like Porto too - it's very different but another great place

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(@nfairman08gmail-com)
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CindyB....Wonderful narrative of your scouting trips....so helpful and positive. especially coming from a fellow Solo Expat!😁 Cannot wait to hear about CALDAS RHANA; I know this is not correct spelling. I hope to get there Next month when I come for a visit!  I just Got my NIF and in process if opening bank acct. With Gilda's team a Ei. I am going to obtain her help with everything....not sure how anyone else does this whole process alone.

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Posts: 60
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Topic starter
(@cindyb)
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Joined: 5 months ago

Just when I have learned to navigate the metros and the trains, the ATMs, the grocery stores, menus…just when bom dia, obrigada, desculpe and com licenca come easily to my lips and my calves stop complaining of climbing and descending the hills…it’s time to board the plane home. (Note that the bus systems are still pretty much a mystery to me)

It’s been three weeks and I have accomplished a lot. The bank account is open and funded. Debit card received and tested (works!). Intensives accomplished for the two areas I identified as landing zones for this new life. Only a couple more items needed for the D7 submission check list.

Now the fun starts…sluffing off decades of accumulated stuff and determining what actually goes in the $100 suitcase (what those extra bags cost to get here!) And unraveling a life in the US so that it can be knit back together in a whole new Portuguese pattern.

Report on Porto coming up...

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Premium Member
(@jeanne)
Joined: 12 months ago

Estimable Member
Posts: 247

@cindyb  Would you mind sharing which bank you chose and why?

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Premium Member
(@cindyb)
Joined: 5 months ago

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Posts: 60

@jeanne I went with Millennium. I am working with Ei! and it's the bank they recommended. They laod the groundwork and I literally just walked in the bank, signed the paperwork and was on my way.

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Ask Our Expats Consultant
(@pamalcobaca)
Joined: 11 months ago

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Posts: 159

@cindyb sounds like you have had quite an adventure!

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