Lagos, Portugal: A Place Like Home

2011 was the year of “The Great Epiphany.”  It was the year we decided  we wanted an alternative to the life we were living.  It was the year we realized that the “American Dream” was no longer our exclusive priority. We wanted something different …

2012 was the year we put our finances in order, sold everything, formally said goodbye to a steady paycheck and left the country to pursue what we once thought of as a pipedream: full-time travel. Over the next three years our dream has taken us through Mexico, all of Central America and several countries in South America as well as many islands in the Caribbean.  We’ve traveled by bus, by ferry, boat and luxury ship, plane, train, taxi, collectivo and tuk-tuk.

And in 2015, somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on our way to Spain, with visions of wandering across Europe dancing in our heads we decided that, while the nomadic life has been all that we wanted and more, it was time to tweak our travel dream a bit and set up a base.  A place where we could leave that extra suitcase as we leisurely explored Europe without worrying about the 90-day Schengen tourist visa and journey to North Africa, Turkey or the old Eastern Bloc.  A place where we could make friends without the constant goodbyes and even buy our own honed kitchen knives, coffee cups and pillows.  In short, it was time to find a place like home.

It was a toss-up between Spain and Portugal.   Both countries welcome foreign retirees, are relatively easy to obtain a residency visa and offer much in the way of culture, history, art and architecture, big cities and small villages, beaches, good medical care and all the needed amenities we might want.  And while we loved the small part of Spain that we visited, when we moved into our temporary abode in Ferreiras, Portugal we knew that the Algarve Region was the place for us, a place like home.carousel

Our friend, Luis said, “If you want to live in the Algarve, here are the cities you should check out.”  And so we spent our time traveling back and forth across the coast by train and, like Goldilocks, finding one city too small, one too hilly, one too quiet when the summer tourists left, …cobblestone walkway along marina

But Lagos, as Luis described it, was a city of “living history.”  A place where the cobblestone streets connect to the principal artery along the waterway leading in to the marina with benches for people watching, a place with a breathtakingly gorgeous coastline along the Atlantic, buildings from the 15th, 16th  and 17th   century, a city center that is relatively level for ease of walking on daily excursions to the fish market, the restaurants and vegetable markets as well as well stocked supermarkets.  Long popular with the British, Lagos has a large, English-speaking expat population and many of the locals also speak some English which would make settling in to the community easier.  Upon further investigation we found that there’s a language school where we can learn Portuguese, doctors, and dentists, pharmacies to meet our medical requirements, et cetera.plaza fountains & boy with church of Santa Maria and Santo Antonio

A part of the dense history clustered in Lagos is in the historic city center. Located here are the Ponta da Bandeira Fort and the original city walls – part of the complex of defenses to protect the nascent voyages of discovery – the slave market, the Governor’s Castle, and numerous ancient Catholic churches.Governors' Castle

Near the entrance to a church were two women, possibly widows, who, dressed head to toe in traditional black, whiled away the day in gossip, subtly indicating their bowls for alms. We later noticed these women leaving the historic city center in the late afternoon as we enjoyed a gelato waiting to taxi to our train back to Ferreira; the women, like ordinary workers, heading home at the end of another shift. Life, so it seems, has a rhythm that transcends national boundaries.cobblestoned streets

In the hills above Lagos are numerous villages and neighborhoods, none perhaps more picturesque than Praia da Luz. A small vertical town whose east-west streets side-hill the slopes rising out of the Atlantic while the north-south land drops precipitously on to the beach for swimming, snorkeling, boating and other aquatic opportunities. Here is a place to enjoy a cup of strong coffee, a mid-afternoon snack or simply watch the children and adults frolic in the surf.cobblestone road & ocean view

And as we hop-scotched across the Algarve region, playing our real life version of Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe the decision played out quite naturally and logically in the coastal city of Lagos. Here we were, are, betting that we will find a place like home. A place to settle in, study a new language, volunteer and teach English, become a small part in a large community and a place to serve as a travel base for further exploration, a place to return to and a place like home. Time with tell. Our application for a long-term visa is wending its way through the Portuguese bureaucracy and we await the country’s blessing on our request to reside in the Algarve.  For now we’re practicing patience while we wait, living out of our suitcases as we continue to travel and crossing our fingers.

S. Goncalo de Lagos (1360 -1422)

S. Goncalo de Lagos (1360 -1422)

By Anita and Richard

 

47 comments

  • Hola, my dear old friends! I’m so happy that you’ve found your home base, at least for the near future. It sounds beautiful! I want you to know that I still reference your old blogs all the time! I still haven’t made it from Utila past Central America, but that will come some year soon. Next up for me in November: Granada, Nicaragua (You spoke highly of it. I trust you.) I also throw your names out often, random conversations. You are my travel heroes and mentors. xoxo Lisa

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lisa! Hola to you and your Utila compadres. We also think of you often and mention our times in Utila and friends as one of our favorite travel experiences. So glad that your are venturing forth to another of our favorite cities, Granada – you’ll love it! We’ll FB message you with some suggestions and comments of mutual admiration!

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  • Congrats! It sounds like you really did your research thanks so much for sharing it. We’re just starting to have conversations just like you did in 2011. We’ve never been to Portugal but it definitely sounds like a destination to consider for a home. All the best!

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    • Thanks for your warm words, Sue and we look forward to spending a great deal of time in the future exploring and learning about Portugal as well as taking advantage of the ease of access to the rest of Europe. We’ve said many times that full time travel was the best decision that we’ve ever made and I’m excited that you are talking about it now. For us the decision to settle in Lagos is a way to have the best of both lifestyles – a place to call home and a place to launch our travels from. We expect great adventures ahead!

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  • Congratulations on getting a home base. Lagos looks great. I love places with history and charm. Will follow how your new life is going- as sometimes I think about where we’ll live if we leave the US. Always interested to see where others are settling.

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    • There seem to be more and more US retirees choosing to live outside the country for a variety of reasons. We love the fact that our retirement is active as travelers and that there are as many things to learn about the places we visit as there are reasons to be an expat. As we’ve traveled over the last 3 years we’ve kept a few places that we might return to in the backs of our minds but Portugal was a standout choice. It seems that many other expats agree too!

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  • I am so thrilled to be reading your Portugal posts, and even happier about the fact that you have such great things to say about the country. One of my reasons for visiting this winter is to determine whether or not it might be a country that I could possibly retire to. I love the look of Lagos, and will try to visit this winter. Good luck with the residency permit. If I do make it to Lagos this winter, I hope we can grab a cup of coffee!

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    • So far Nancie, our only negative comment would be how much we’re missing Portugal while we’re waiting for our long-term visas to be approved! How interesting that you, too have been thinking about Portugal as a place to settle in. There are many reasons that we chose Lagos as our place to live and it would be well worth your time to visit. Luckily Portugal is small enough and very easy to get around in so we should be able to figure out a place to meet for coffee while you’re here and compare notes!

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  • I was just in Portugal and truly fell in love with it. I currently live in Florida but don’t love it and would like to not live here in the summers. I’ve never been away for more than 3 weeks because I had an elderly beloved kitty. Very sadly she died this week and I’m fighting the urge to get another kitty against the urge to go live in Europe for a couple months; most likely Portugal. Maybe I”ll try volunteering at the local cat shelter to fill my kitty needs long enough for me to go on an adventure for a couple months!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s not hard to let Portugal take a piece of your heart and we totally understand why you love it. While it won’t make up for the loss of your much-loved cat it may offer plenty to divert your attention while time passes. Please let us know if you set off on an adventure in Portugal so we can possible arrange a meet-up!

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  • congratulations! I’ve been to the Algarve and I think it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’m glad you have found a place that makes you happy to settle for a while.

    xo,

    Monica

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  • Great to hear of your settling into a home base in Portugal. Tom and I look forward to learning more about your experiences in the Algarve…your new hometown looks beautiful!

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    • It sounds like you love Portugal as much as us – at least the coffee and food! We both felt immediately like the Algarve region could be a lovely place to call home and the hardest part was choosing among the cities/villages which each offer something unique. Lagos has so much and we’re excited to get our long term application approved so that we can settle in and start exploring more about this fascinating country!

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  • Very cool. Didn’t know that Spain and Portugal were easy to move to. Sounds like a great idea, and a very interesting next chapter to life. Congrats!

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    • There are a few hoops to jump through to apply for a residency visa but, really, it seems to boil down to a little stubbornness (both of us have plenty of that!) and a whole lot of patience (that is not a characteristic anyone would say we have!) Many countries have realized that retirees add a great deal to the economy (Panama and Ecuador are prime examples) and have rolled out the welcome mats to lure them and boost their bottom line. Spain and Portugal have a few more requirements that we’ll be writing about in a few weeks but also want the expat dollar, Euro, pound, etc. And you’re right, our next chapter promises to be very interesting!

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  • Bring out the champagne now!I am so glad you have finally found a place like home. We are still hesitating about the Phoenix area. But we have decided it will be in the US for us. Proximity to family and good healthcare are priorities for us. Had we chosen to stay in Europe, I am sure we would have chosen between Spain and Portugal, too. But I am sure to visit that region next year! Hope to visit you! BTW, why do you need Schengen visas? Don’t US passports negate the need for it?

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    • Woo Hoo Carol! And you know you’re welcome! Both Spain and Portugal have a lot of appeal to a traveler looking for a home out of the US and, especially with the Euro down, are a great value for living in too. You’re right about US citizens not needing to apply for a Schengen visa to visit that area for less than 90 days but, for long term travelers like us, the hard part comes in having to leave the area and then return again after another 90 days. Basically you can be in the Schengen area for 90 days out of 180 days. If we have a resident’s passport we can stay (as long as they’ll renew it!) and take our time visiting the places we want to see. And having 26 countries in Europe plus the non-member countries like the UK, Ireland and Scotland should fill up our dance cards for the foreseeable future!

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  • Hi Guys – So excited to get more details on this momentous decision. I remember fondly our conversation in Barcelona and you mentioning this was a consideration. You’ve picked a lovely spot and I think eeny meeny miney moe is the perfect methodology!

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    • The decision to find a base and travel to and from it rather that continuing to travel like nomads carrying all we own was a hard decision as we’ve loved the freedom of having just a few ties. However the pros far outweigh the cons and we love the idea of having all of Europe accessible at a whim if we want. And now, we can invite friends like you to visit so that we can pick up our conversation where we dropped off!

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  • It’s a big decision, and I wish you the best of luck! The Algarve sounds like it fits your needs quite well. The only problem I can see with it is that Lisbon doesn’t have the kind of key airport that Amsterdam or London, for example, have, where you can get quite cheap flights for many places.

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    • Thanks Rachel. We’re leasing an apartment but even if we buy something big (like a car!) nothing can’t be tweaked or sold to fit our needs as they change. Your point about Lisbon not being a key airport is good and we’ll have to really price shop or find cheap connections to get us to other locations. But, like working out the buses in Central America, I’m sure we’ll become adept at this skill too!

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  • I can totally relate to your decision to have a base again. We spent eighteen months travelling in Europe making sure we didn’t break the Schengen visa rules. I only realised how tiring this was when we returned home. I’m going to look forward to hearing that you have received your residency and following the next part of your dream.

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    • We had originally thought that moving in and out of the Schengen area would work but Europe has so many amazing places and things to see that hurrying through it is not practical and would be exhausting. The cooler weather also means that we need to carry more and since we have the time and wherewithal to explore at our leisure jumping through the hoops to set up a base/home promises to be a good decision for us!

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  • Lagos looks like a wonderful place and your decision seems very considered. Hoping that you enjoy it until you have your next epiphany!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lagos is a small city that will fit our needs well and, the beauty of renting is that we can always move in a different direction if circumstances require a change or we get another great idea! We’ve made a lot of decisions over the years that are exactly right at the time and we think this will be an awesome choice!

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  • Congratulations, looks beautiful, enjoy!

    Portugal, is on our bucket list, but a few years away, living the last 24 years in Colorado, and the next few in landlocked Iowa, the thought of being able to walk to a local fish market sounds fantastic.

    If you are still there in a few years, maybe we will meet in a sidewalk cafe! I enjoyed those when I lived in Greece for a few years (some 40 odd years ago), something about outside eating, with wine, under a tree or next to the sea, small place a few tables, that’s run by a family, not a big restaurant operation serving hundreds.

    Anyway, I regress. Enjoy yourselves.

    Hugo Ernst Grand Junction, CO

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    • We loved all the tables spread along the cobblestone streets and sidewalks outside the cafes and the pleasurable pastime of people watching. We picture ourselves eating at a sidewalk cafe in Portugal for several years to come so we’ll hope to see you there! P.S. And checking out the cafes in Greece is on our bucket list …

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  • What exciting news! Best wishes and welcome home. Portugal was one of our top three countries on our list for a homebase in the world. We loved everything about Portugal, however, the ease of traveling back to the states was what eventually led us to Nicaragua. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Portugal will welcome you with open arms. It will be a new chapter in your lives…your own coffee cups and a place to unpack your suitcases for a while…fantastic!

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    • Thanks so much for the kind words and encouragement. We also loved everything about Portugal and, although it’s not as easy to get back to the States to visit friends and family it certainly is doable. We’re looking forward to enjoying some of the small niceties that make a place a home and it will be wonderful to know where our things are rather than digging through a suitcase!

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  • Loved seeing your new community. I’ve got my fingers crossed for you and hope you will be in your new abode before Christmas/New Years. I’m soooooo looking forward to seeing that part of Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

  • We hear the area is as inexpensive as Nicaragua so will follow your adventure. We plan to visit the area in April 2016.

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    • Nicaragua holds a special place in our hearts and is, as you say, very inexpensive. We’ve read the figure (but haven’t corroborated it) that Portugal is approximately 30% cheaper when compared to the rest of western Europe. Unfortunately, our visit was during the high season so we saw a hike in prices (especially housing) during the months of June and July. However, we’ll have a much better idea of the cost of living when we return to the Algarve during the quieter months. April will probably be a terrific time to visit. Please let us know what your plans are -maybe we can meet for some Portuguese coffee!

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  • Hi, so enjoy your blog and all the wonderful photos. Could you tell me what the minimum financial requirements are to be able to receive a long tern visa as retirees? Thanks in advance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Diana. Finding out information of how to go about applying for a long term visa as well as a list of the requirements has been confusing. We haven’t see this figure printed anywhere but the lawyers we retained in Lisbon to help guide us through the process advised us that income of 500 Euros per person was the figure needed to prove financial independence. A printout from social security, pension or bank statements will provide that information. Good luck!

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  • We will be following the tale of your resident visa with interest as we have yet to embark on that ‘journey’ in Greece. While it can be done, we’ve not yet tackled it.. .decided we’d spent too much time in government offices during the house purchase – we’ll enjoy it for awhile and then tackle the next step. We’ll have to visit each other once we get those visas in place!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Wonderful post. Our stories have so many parallels, it’s wonderful to be able to relate to others in this huge world who are living the same dream. Good luck with your residency visa. Enjoy the journey!!
    Suzi

    Liked by 1 person

  • Oh Anita and The Mr. What a wonderful dream of adventures. Just like in our History books..but in the 21st century. Write a book! Love reading your posts and photos. Good luck on your residency application. You’ve come this far I’m sure you will get it. You 2 love birds be safe..HUG HUGS.

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  • It sounds wonderful, and a great base for exploring Europe. Hope you get your resident status!
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’re crossing our fingers and staying busy by taking an extended road trip in the US. It’s been 4 weeks since we submitted our application (in person) and were assured that everything was answered completely so we’re keeping positive and thinking “any day.” Looking forward to returning and learning more about Portugal as well as the rest of Europe!

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  • Good luck with your residency application. I know how that can sometimes be troublesome. And Lagos looks ideal. A base for travel is what I decided to have when I came to Turkey so I completely understand.

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