Six weeks into my new adventure in Portugal is perhaps an opportune time to share my immediate observations on village life and the impact the move has had on my well-being and health.
I can’t really believe it has only been six weeks, as I feel as though I’ve done so much. When I look back at driving over the Portuguese border and the sense of satisfaction and achievement that I had driven from the UK, through France and Spain, and arrived in Portugal trouble-free, the feeling was immense.
And I felt a little smug as, due to all my planning, I was able to drive straight through the first toll booth with a small beep from my Via Verde transponder and avoid the need to turn off and register my foreign car.
Arriving in Portugal was a momentous achievement for me. I’d done it. And the adventure was well and truly underway.
The first few days were hectic. But this helped me focus on practical things. Buying a few items of furniture and simply orientated myself around the village I’m staying in.
Some of those practical things have continued. Sorting out broadband, dealing with paperwork, updating meter readings, and finalising numerous outstanding items in the UK to name a few. Also looking forward, I’ve been planning for my SEF appointment (the second stage of being granted a D7 Visa) and the paperwork for the matriculation of my car.
Once I’ve had my SEF appointment, there are a host of other things that I need to arrange, for example, my Servico Nacional de Saude (SNS) [National Health Service number]. And a Número de Identificação de Segurança Social (NISS) [Social Security Number].
Experiencing Portugal village life
Since I arrived, the weather has been fantastic. Sunny, occasional breeze, rarely below 30°c during the day and, until two days ago, no rain. Acclimatising took a little while, but the weather has been superb.
Portuguese village life has been quite a learning curve. The weekend I arrived, there was a buzz around the village. Maybe this was the “warm-up act” for the Festa do Roqueiro, an amazing extravaganza, which took place in the middle of August.
The hustle and bustle in the village during August was great. There were generations of families returning to the family home. Childhood friends reuniting. Traditions upheld. This influx of people returning to their home village for a few weeks is reflective of so many villages across Portugal.
Now, as we move towards the middle of September, the village is considerably quieter. The demographic is more what I was expecting. Older people live simpler and quieter lives. Taking pride in their homes and working on their small piece of land.
Each day, I see several villagers on my daily walk around the village, or as they wander past the house. We always greet them in Portuguese and try a short conversation. Once I’m past the “Bom dia, como está? Estou bem, obrigado”, I often end up with the phone in hand to translate and revert to (poor) English pronunciation of Portuguese. But I make the effort and continue to try to speak more Portuguese.
As I sit outside my house, I am grateful for the calm and quietness. The silence is only broken by a bird chirping, the neighbour’s sheep baaing, or a rooster letting out a cock-a-doodle-doo. Occasionally I’ll hear a chainsaw or a tractor, and the mobile bread van giving a long toot on his horn.
But the greatest noise comes from the church bells ringing out over the village every half an hour. No need for a watch here.
While it’s a small village, like so many villages, it has a traditional Portuguese café-cum-shop that pretty much sells anything that you might need. And able to get a shot of caffeine early morning, and late evening.
When I undertook my scouting visits, I tried to experience properties in a variety of locations, from totally isolated properties to a central location within a town. My preference was always erring towards a slightly busier village with local amenities, within proximity of a busier town.
While I’ve experienced village life in the busiest month of the year, and thoroughly enjoyed the buzz that brings, the contrast over the last few weeks is most helpful as I consider the location of where I end up buying a property.
Wellbeing, health and fitness
Already, after six weeks, I feel so much more relaxed. Much calmer. I’m enjoying, and adjusting, to the slower pace of life. However, I am definitely doing (or is that achieving) more here in Portugal than I felt I was in the UK.
Firstly, my overall fitness has improved. One of my objectives was to get back out hiking regularly. This was something I did when I was younger and while I had periodic walks in the UK, in reality, they were few and far between.
The footpath network in Portugal has encouraged me to get back out hiking with a vengeance. Maybe my (self) competitive streak is kicking in, but I’m completing a few walks each week and getting them ticked off, including all eight of the Oleiros walks. Next on the list are those in the Pampilhosa da Serra area.
Overall, I feel much fitter and while some of the steepest climbs are still a challenge, this week I completed two separate ten-kilometre walks in a day, with an overall climb of nearly 1,000 metres.
Secondly, my diet has changed quite a bit. A significant increase in salad and fruit has become the main diet. I’ve reduced eating wheat-based products as well as the quantity of meat.
I am also drinking more water. Lots more water. Litres and litres of fresh water from the village borehole. No risk of dehydration and I’m looking after my kidneys (some of you will be pleased that I’ve listened!).
While my diet has changed, it was not a conscious decision, but with more time to prepare food, I’ve definitely reduced the number of convenience foods I eat and it’s had a positive impact on my diet.
Finally, I just feel I’ve much more energy. Whether it’s because I am sleeping better, and for longer, or I can take more time to think things through, make decisions and plan what I’m doing, or simply that I’m not bound by a fixed agenda. While I have some specific appointments with estate agents, generally I have no time constraints. The sun rises, and the sun sets. I wake up naturally and if I need a siesta, I have one. I guess I’m listening more to my body than I ever had done.
This improvement in wellbeing, diet and fitness has resulted in a few physical benefits too. Not least I’ve lost a little weight. 10kg in total, which is around 12% of my body weight. Not a bad result from a little more exercise and a relatively small change in my diet.
Visiting towns and friends
Over the last two weeks, I’ve also been out and visited several towns and friends.
I have ventured to Fundão. A few people have recommended the Monday market as one of the busiest in the area. It was busy and reminded me of a market I used to visit with my parents forty years ago.
I also spent a day in Tomar and did some of the “tourist” areas of this beautiful town. I think it’s a town, but it could be a city. I still get confused with the definition of villages, towns and cities in Portugal.
Finally, I started meeting a few more people and enjoyed an occasional coffee and meal with them. Thank you to those who I’ve recently met. There are a few more who I hope to catch up with over the coming weeks.
As always, I’d like to thank everyone who reads my blog. I am humbled by your interest in my little world. Please do get in touch or reach out by adding a comment below.
Thank you, take care and best wishes