How much does it cost to live there #3

July 12, 2019

Finally enough data for semi-meaningful category averages. I’ve compared my first 3 full months here in Caldas da Rainha to the 2018 monthly average in Hua Hin. Some categories are omitted because what I’m spending on is and will be so different than in Thailand. For example, I won’t be making 2 round trips flights from Bangkok to Europe in business class each year.

In the Difference column of the tables below black numbers show higher cost in Caldas, red lower cost in Hua Hin. All prices were converted to Dollars.

It was a no-brainer that housing costs would be much higher. I went from a studio apartment without a kitchen located far enough from the town center that leasing a motorbike was essential to a 3 bdrm, 2 bath apartment in the center. I wanted a 2 bdrm because rooms here are small. Took the 3 bdrm for the location and because it was only €50 more than what was the upper limit of what I’d wanted to pay.

Pellets? What are pellets? The lowest cost way to heat a living space:

Food cost surprised me. Thought it was going to be higher in Caldas. Here I’m getting more animal protein, higher quality produce, bread, and cheese. The cafe portion sizes are substantially larger.

Much better insurance coverage, including my pre-existing conditions, for less in Portugal. Prices are so low that when they’re posted by expats on forums and FB groups, readers in the US think that’s the cost per month, not the cost per year. Prescription drug prices are lower, OTC higher. Both will go down now that I qualify for the SNS (national health system) health card.

Buses and roads are both better and more expensive here. No moto-taxis, Tuk-Tuks or Baht Buses here, so I’ve had to use taxis when buying something too big or heavy to carry home. Living in the center means zero need for a motorbike.

Laundry costs less because the apartment has a washer and 3 clothes lines outside the kitchen window. Spending more on clothes because after years in Thailand, I didn’t need any more shorts or t-shirts. That $23 average came from a single day in Lisbon at Primark (same retail concept as Zara and H&M) For my $69 I came home with 1 pair cotton twill pants ($9), 2 pairs cotton twill cargo pants ($15 each), 3 pairs of what I thought were called ‘boxer briefs’ but Primark calls them ‘hipsters’ ($10), and 6 pairs each of shorty athletic socks and longer, warmer socks. ($20). TMI?

Because this blog doesn’t have enough photos, here is today’s haul ($2.70) from the farmer’s market 200m from my apartment. For size reference, the green cutting board is 15″ wide. The yellowish ones are plums.


What Heat Wave?

June 28, 2019

It’s a good time to be on the central coast of Portugal.

35C = 95F, 37C = 98.6F, 39C = 102.2F

It’s Outdoor Events Season

June 22, 2019

There are many. Except as noted, all take place in either the large city park (Parque Dom Carlos I), or in and around a campus-like cluster of municipal buildings about 800 meters to the west (a technical school, hospitality industry school, Senior University, indoor sports complex, city library, and a combination BMX / skate park).

Sports demonstrations, food, music, and ‘muito mais…’ (much more…)
Live theater. Title translates to The City of the Birds.
Sardines, music and Marchas Populares

What are Marchas Populares? According to this article, it’s a combination parade and singing competition on St. Anthony’s day, first held in a Lisbon park in 1932. In 1934 an estimated 300,000 people filled six city parks. People came from Spain for the event. According to this article, it’s evolved into:

” The feast days of the popular saints (festas dos Santos Populares) is held in every street, neighborhood, and public square of the city. The biggest street party of the year might sound religious in nature, but trust me, it’s really all about sardines, beer, and irritatingly catchy folk music called pimba, which can only be described as slightly polka sounding songs that focus on squeaky-clean lyrics with sexual undertones. “


Annual party hosted by the SCMCR, a group that assists children and seniors, who sometimes live in the SCMCR facilities. Besides the 4 bands, there will be sardines, snacks, pig roasted on a spit, and much liveliness. Admission will cost you 2 smiles and donation of 1 drink (beer or juice). Held in the bullring. For an aerial view of the facility, at Google Maps paste this into the search box: CV58+34 Caldas da Rainha , zoom in, then switch to satellite view.

Art works encouraging greater awareness of the natural world

The Superior School of Arts and Design of Caldas da Rainha (ESAD.CR) is one of the best in the nation. Don’t know if their students are the source of the works displayed.

Eight types of display art plus ambient sound.

Held at the regional bus station in the town center. The covered outdoor areas are so much larger than needed for waiting bus passengers, it seems as if it were designed as a dual use space.

Dance Performances
Band, orchestra, and philharmonic performances
Championship BMX and Skate, food, music, and surprises
Photo I took early on the second day of the event

The First Day of Shorts

May 30, 2019

Pleasantly toasty today. I took the long way to everywhere I walked. I was kissed by the sun and I liked it. Now I have to find where I put my sandals.

No optical illusion. I’m really that skinny.

A Preview of Summer

May 13, 2019

Between the temperature and high humidity, it’s been cold enough that almost every day I wear long underwear as a base for multiple layers. That’s for indoors. The longies come off for anything involving more than a few minutes of walking outside. Yesterday was the first day warm enough to be in T-shirt and pants both indoors and out. Warm enough for me, that is. Today is warmer. Pleasantly toasty. Thirty two C (94 F) with 19% humidity.

That’s both comfortable and practical. My apartment has a washing machine and a balcony shaped enclosure with clothes lines. Until now, starting a load at 7-7:30 meant by sunset some items were still a bit damp. That’s on days without drizzle. Yesterday, the first load was crunchy dry by 1 pm. What were 2 large bath towels are now 2 large bath towel shaped loofahs.

One of the reasons I wanted to live in Caldas was its mild 4 season climate. It’s easier to carpe diem when nature provides a hard to miss reminder that the celestial clock is ticking. May brought with it two reminders – posters around town for events in the park, and a trickle of tourists. There will be photographs. Maybe there will be ones with posting.

How much does it cost to live there #2

April 29, 2019

Why I’m posting a snapshot of costs was explained previously.

For most of my time in Hua Hin the choice of western style markets was either a Wal-Mart style store or the store where addicted expats pay high prices for their favorites from home. So it’s nice to have a choice of where to food shop in Caldas. Within easy walking distance I can choose between 3 markets of Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear size, plus the daily farmers market at Praça da Fruta (Fruit Square). Two big box supermarkets are a 20 minute walk, in different directions of course. Can’t get everything I want at any one place, so maybe what I buy where will tell you something about life here. Or about me. From what I’ve read online, such multi source shopping is typical in Portugal.

Also, some routine medical costs.

Food Costs

Auchan Market has the best choice of canned fish, prepared sauces, and what would be an insult to call canned pork parts and white beans, though those are the two main ingredients. I call them stews. Why canned foods? It’s an easy meal to dump half or all of a can on left over pasta or boiled potatos, add blanched veggies and dig in.


17.6 oz Spaghetti – $1.40
4.2 oz Canned Cod – $2.12 each ($0.50 per oz)
8.5 oz Vinagrete – $1.67 ($0.20 per oz)
7.4 oz 3 Pepper Sauce – $2.03 ($0.27 per oz)
Fifty 1 Litre plastic bags – $1.00
Thirty 20 Litre plastic bags – $1.09
14.8 oz Chispalhada (stew) – $1.72 ($0.12 per oz)
15.2 oz Dobrada (stew) – $1.40 ($0.09 per oz)

Pingo Doce has the best sweet potatoes, bread, and greens of the 3 markets. Also the only one to sell eggs by the half dozen.

Pingo Doce 1-20190418

1.6 lb Chicken – $3.25 ($1.01 per lb)
0.6 lb Sweet Potatoes – $1.24 ($0.96 per lb)
1.2 lb Greens – $1.83 ($0.76 per lb)
0.3 lb Carrots – $0.25 ($0.35 per lb)
1.1 lb Sliced Bread – $1.89
Six Large eggs – $1.11
0.2 lb Lowish fat fresh cheese – $1.10 each ($3.11 per lb)

Pingo Doce is the closest place with plain yogurt. Auchan market doesn’t sell it. Haven’t noticed if the other markets sell 250 ml of juice box wine. It’s decent table wine. Auchan doesn’t sell juice, only ‘nectar’, which is juice & sugar water.

Pingo Doce 2-20190422

Pingo Doce wine

Six Medium eggs – $1.00
1.1 lb Spaghetti – $0.55
0.2 lb Bread Rolls – $0.97
0.3 lb Plain Yogurt – $0.76 for 4 ($0.17 per oz)
33.8 oz Orange Juice – $1.67 ($0.05 per fluid oz)
8.5 oz Vinho Branco (White Wine) – $0.50 ($0.06 per fluid oz)
8.5 oz Dandruff Shampoo (½ off sale) – $2.12

Daily Farmers Market is the only place for ready to eat roasted sweet potatoes. Far better produce choice than the 3 markets. Plus it’s fun to shop there.

Fruit Square-20190422

0.3 lb Roasted Sweet Potatoes – $0.87 ($1.52 per lb)
0.4 lb Clementines – $0.49 ($0.66 per lb)
0.6 lb New Potatoes – $0.34 ($.30 per lb)
0.4 lb Apples (unknown variety) – $0.67 ($0.81 per lb)

Medical Costs

Except for Gaviscon (non-generic OTC heartburn relief), my prescription and OTC meds cost less than in Thailand, which cost way less than in the US. Woo hoo!

Colonoscopy with anesthesia – €285 (~$315)
Colonoscopy without – ~€130 (~$150)
EKG simple 12-way – €12.5 (~$14.50)
Doctor visit for prescriptions of existing meds and request colonoscopy because it’s been 10 years since the first one. – €40 (~$45.50)

First Month in Portugal

April 18, 2019

Snippets for now, as I don’t have enough on any topic to warrant a post.

Jet Lag

It was bad. Hadn’t completely recovered when the daylight savings change happened. That alone usually disrupted sleep for a week for most of my life. For the first time I tried tried treating jet lag by walking outside for 30-60 minutes while the sun came up. Supposedly it helps reset your body clock. Don’t know if it helped. Do know it gave me something productive to do, exercise and photography, after waking up way too early.

x-20190318-06468-850Taken in the park adjacent to my apartment.

Unpacking While Jet Lagged

I knew that what would seem as perfectly obvious places to store things while jet lagged wouldn’t look that way 3 weeks later. Lucky for me, most of them did. Haven’t lost much. Did take me 2 weeks to find a pair of shoes. Can’t find the photo gear padded insert for my daypack, but I didn’t try very hard because –

Moving the Former Airbnb Stuff Out of My Way

I’m going to move the Airbnb stuff in the bedroom I use to the bedroom I don’t use. Actually will use it when I reassemble my PC bits in a new computer case and add a monitor. Also will move unused kitchen stuff into that bedroom. Unlike unpacking after arrival, I’ll do it on paper before doing it for real.

Why a 2 bedroom? Rooms are small here. Wanted a second one for computer desk, dry box for camera and lenses, empty luggage storage, and a bicycle if I buy one.

Exercise Walking

Fewer obstacles to deciding to walk than in Thailand. I’m not limited to: 1) Avoiding the heat by walking early in the morning or after dark, 2) Streets with sufficiently large margins to separate vehicles from pedestrians, except for a few narrow ones in the town center, 3) Streets with inclines either too shallow to raise my heart rate to desired level, or so steep as to hurt my knees, 4) Streets where the packs of soi dogs are friendly. Haven’t seen a stray dog here yet.

Eating Habits

From previous trips, I knew I wasn’t going to pig out on pastries, despite living 50 m from the best traditional pastelaria in town. Then I tried Salame de Chocolate for the first time. Ohhhhh Nooooo. Is it as heart unhealthy as it tastes? Recipe check says yes. Lets see if I have the willpower to buy 1 a week, eating half there and saving the rest for another day. It’s not going to help that blood test results from last week show all cholesterol and related numbers were in the excellent range.  Link to Google Images.

For the first time since Nov 2008 March 2010 my apartment has a kitchen. Yea! Living in Hua Hin meant toast that was usually barely warm, always too lite, and with one exception, bread that I tolerated at best. It was there I realized how much I liked toast and that I took something seemingly that simple for granted. I’ve been making up for the deficit with the aid of French jellies and jams. So far, my favorites are Fig, Chestnut with Vanilla, Rhubarb, and Red Currant, in that order. 


Adventures in Speaking Portuguese

This happened during my second visit to a shop selling whole and half flattened grilled chickens. I was served by the same man each time. The following exchange between him and myself was ALL in Portuguese, except for one word by me. His questions were short and simple, e.g. how many, whole or half, here or take away, as were my answers. Then he asked which sauce. I could tell from the graphics there was chili pepper hot, orange, or lemon. Didn’t know the word for lemon. I asked. After he replied, I pronounced it mostly correctly. He said it again, I nailed it. Then, as he was applying sauce he said ‘Thank you for learning Portuguese.’ I replied with a sincere Portuguese version of ‘Many thanks, sir’.