living in portugal
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT VISITING PORTUGAL?
read this post for my top recommendations
Growing up in Idaho, USA, I always dreamed of living by the ocean. Five years ago, that dream came true when I came with my husband, Micah and our Labrador, Hunter to the Silver Coast of Portugal.
It was there, while dealing with the effects of an autoimmune disease that forced me to slow down, that I discovered beachcombing. The restorative mental and emotional effects of searching the beaches for sea glass and other treasures was addicting and soon it became a passion.
Before long, I felt inspired to start creating with the items I was finding, and that’s when I started my artistic jewelry and home décor business, Silver Coast Designs.
For such a small country, Portugal has much to offer, and not just the beautiful coastlines that are perfect for beachcombing, although that certainly helps! If you’re thinking of visiting Portugal, here are some tips from a “local”:
No one comes to Portugal without visiting Lisbon, the capital city. One of my favorite places in Lisbon is the LX Factory, a shopping and dining area with lots of trendy food and locally made artistic products. Nearby Lisbon is the famous bakery, Pastéis de Belém which makes the best of Portugal’s well-known pastry, the pastel de nata. Of course, there are lots of great attractions outside of Lisbon too, if you have time for a longer visit.
PORTUGUESE CITIES YOU MUST VISIT
My favorite city in Portugal is Porto, in the north. It’s artsy and funky, and you can walk everywhere.
In winter, I recommend visiting Nazaré, home of the tallest wave ever surfed at 100 feet (30 m)! You’ll find locally made ceramics, blankets, and other handcrafted items in this beachside town, and if you like Indian food you should stop by Little India for a chicken tikka jalfrezi and naan. Keep an eye open for the old ladies wearing the seven-layer skirts, the traditional dress of Nazaré.
A little further south, the medieval town of Óbidos has amazing vistas, cute streets and great tourist shops.
Sintra is also a lovely place with several palaces that are well worth visiting.
THE BEACHES OF PORTUGAL
While the Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, is famous for its beaches, I am partial to the beaches of Alentejo, just a little north of the Algarve. The Portuguese only go to the beach in late summer, so the rest of the year the beaches tend to be empty. Surfing is a popular pastime in Portugal for locals and visitors alike. There are several surf schools popping up on beaches with smaller waves that are good for learning.
SEA GLASS AND SHELLS IN PORTUGAL
If beachcombing is on your list while visiting, check out some of the beaches along the Tejo River in Lisbon. You’ll find sea glass, tiles and maybe even a few marbles! The beaches in Lagos are loaded with shells. In Porto, there’s a small beach by the lighthouse where I’ve found some great pieces of glass. In general, it’s a good idea to look near old forts and castles, of which there are plenty in Portugal.
PORTUGUESE SEA GLASS
While the Portuguese love the beach and the ocean, sea glass isn’t a “thing” here. Most locals have never heard of it, let alone collected it. The looks I get when the old Portuguese men see me hauling a load of driftwood to my car are priceless! The only other beachcombers I’ve run into were either Portuguese shell collectors or foreign visitors.
The Portuguese were seagoing explorers for centuries. With so much history from the seas here, it is fun to imagine where the various pieces of glass and pottery may have come from. Could it be from an olive oil jug a century old? Perhaps from an 18th century bottle of Port wine? Maybe it came from a pirate ship! Or could it have been tossed overboard from a ship leaving for a great discovery? It seems the possibilities are endless!
For those who are interested in visiting Portugal, I recommend visiting in September after the summer tourists have left, but the weather is still good. Don’t forget to bring an outlet adapter and a debit card to get euros from the ATM. Trains are not common in Portugal, so the best way to get around is by car; just make sure it’s small enough to make it through the narrow streets.
Portugal is a surprisingly inexpensive country to travel in and eating out is very affordable. You can get a coffee and a pastry for about 2.50 euros or less. Order an abatanado if you want an Americano coffee or a meia de leite if you want coffee with milk, otherwise you will be served an espresso. If you like seafood, Portugal has many tasty offerings. Another common meal is the bitoque, a steak with an egg on top served with salad, rice and french fries, usually around 9 to 10 euros.
Be aware that most restaurants don’t open for dinner before 7:30 pm, and most shops are closed for lunch between 1 and 3 pm.
DON’T FORGET THE PORTUGUESE WINE!
Portugal also has wonderful and affordable wine, so be sure to visit some wineries in whatever region you end up visiting. Some of our favorites are Quinta do Crasto in the Douro region, Esporão in Alentejo, and Quinta do Gradil in the Lisboa region.
Portugal is beautiful, has great weather, is affordable and the people are very friendly. Like me, you may just love it so much you’ll decide to stay!