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Life in Portugal: 7 Simple Pleasures

The Batalha Monastery in Portgal



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I’ve been happy to be back in Canada these past few months, but I can’t help but think about how much I love life in Portugal. I do love Christmas in Canada, with the snow and Christmas traditions, but as for the rest of the winter, I end up getting my fill by February. Besides the weather, there’s a lot to like about being in Toronto; generally the people are courteous, it’s diverse and multi-cultural, there are many comforts, including indoor heating, and the convenience of daily life here is something I try not to take for granted. For instance, the general efficiency in North America makes for pleasant experiences when running ever-present, seemingly never-ending, errands. Plus there are always a lot of cultural (and other) activities to choose from.

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Missing Life in Portugal

Still, sometimes, I find myself missing life in Portugal. However, when I am in Portugal, I also find myself missing Canada. To the point that I want to stop and greet every other Canadian I come across to chat for a few minutes. I have found that the deep attachment to two places, even an ocean apart, is common with people who, like me, who are children of immigrants, and maybe have even immigrated themselves. I am not divided every single moment, but there is enough nostalgia for whichever country I am not in while in the other, that it spills over. It’s different than a vacation elsewhere, because you’ll know you’ll be back home soon, maybe too soon!

sun everywhere in lisbon
(Sun everywhere in Lisbon)

And it’s spilling over now, as I am finding myself missing Portugal, but more specifically the simple pleasures of daily life in Portugal. There are many, and experiencing them can bring joy. And who doesn’t want more joy in their life?

While there are many major attractions to see and famous foods to try, I’ve listed 7 simple pleasures of daily life in Portugal. The small moments that are actually not that small.

So what are these simple pleasures I miss so much?

7 Special Things About Life in Portugal

a sunny day in portugal
(Portugal at dusk)

#1. Food comes to you

bread delivered a big part of life in portugal
(Fresh bread delivered right to your door)

Neighbours drop off fresh veggies
(Fresh vegetables from a neighbour who left them at our front door)

Life in Portugal means that good food comes to you. And while food delivery services are active, even in the countryside the way they are in Toronto and other major cities, it’s even better than that. Bread is delivered to hamlets and villages alike. Our village has three different bakeries making the rounds. This is very helpful to the elderly, who meet up for a bit of socializing while getting fresh bread. The family favourite isn’t just decent bread, which would be good considering the convenience, but there is variety in grains, and bread is award winning, and better than any I’ve had in Lisbon.

Fresh vegetables from our neighbours garden
(Gifted vegetables from another day)

Neighbours share their produce regularly. People are very generous with each other, and seem to delight in sharing. It sometimes feels like Christmas when we find a bag or bucket filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. Half the fun is in guessing who dropped it off because it will be days before we’ll know. My favourite thing to surprise neighbours with are oranges from trees our grandparents planted. One day, one of the village children mentioned she had a sore throat. Her mother had given her one of our oranges, and her sore throat went away, just like that. Sometimes, whatever a neighbour leaves for you is exactly what you need for feeling better or for what you wanted to add to that special dish. It goes without saying that this tastes so much better than anything store bought.

#2. Cafe Culture invites you

Enjoying coffee at home is part of life in portugal
(Enjoying coffee at home in the Portuguese countryside)

I love coffee. I just do. There’s something so lovely in the smell of coffee wafting across a patio, beckoning you to take a pause and enjoy a cup. If you say you want a coffee, you will likely get an espresso, so you have to be specific. I’m usually the only person at a table working on a computer, as this is normal to me from my life in North America. Who doesn’t work in a coffee shop?

Apparently, lots of people don’t.

While people in Portugal are on their phones, you rarely see people working while enjoying their coffee. In the village, they’ll often stop for coffee as an informal way to check in with friends. Those men wearing flat caps who start their day at the local cafe, standing at the counter, are networking over their coffee just as much as they are socializing.

#3. Beaches are close by and there are plenty of them

Lagos in the Algarve Portugal
(Lagos, Algarve)

This is true for me, but less true for those who live closer to the interior. Still, I’m including it here because although it’s a bit of a longer trek than for those who live closer to the coast, it’s sill close by. It’s closer than Toronto is to a beach. And no, the beaches neighbourhood in Toronto doesn’t count. As lovely as it it, the body of water is a lake.

Lagos Gratos in the Algarve Portugal
(The Grottos in Lagos, Algarve)

Famous Elephant faces in Lagos, Portugal
(Famous Elephant faces in Lagos, Algarve)

Sometimes people go to work at the end of the day. How nice is that? Or they can spend the entire weekend at the beach. Parking is usually free. It can be crowded in summer, but not so crowded that you can’t find a decent spot on the sand. It’s nice to have that freedom to go to the beach, enjoy a coffee, read a book, or take in the beautiful scenery. It’s so relaxing and the beaches are exquisite.

Praia dona ana in Lagos Portugal
(Paria Dona Ana in Lagos, Algarve)

#4. Historic treasures are hiding in plain site

The Batalha in Portugal
(The Batalha Monastery in Portugal)

This is one of the coolest parts about life in Portugal and never ceases to amaze me. Every once in a while, you’re out and about and you find an object that is hundreds of years old.

Monastery of Batalha
(More views of the Batalha Monastery)

up close of a corner of the Batalha in portugal
(A close up of the Batalha Monastery)
Above a door to the Batalha
(Above one of the doorways of the Batalha)

It can be a water fountain with its date pressed into the stone.

Fountain from the 1700s in Torres Vedras Portugal
(In the distance, the fountain is from the 1700s)

Or the smallest of plaques reminding you that this tiny house survived an earthquake that devastated its neighbours. Historic tiles are everywhere, and mostly preserved on building façades.

former tribunal now an office building with tiles
(Tiles inside a former tribunal in Portugal)
tiles on a building in torres vedras
(Tiles on a building)

art work on the ground a calcada in portugal
(Calçadas, Portuguese pavement, are works of art)

pura poesia graffitti popular in lisbon
(Pura Poesia is a popular graffiti slogan around Lisbon)
Green Tiles on buildings in Lisbon
(Green Tiles on buildings)

a tribute to severa the first fado singer in mouraria lisbon
(A tribute to Maria Severa, the first Fadista)

There is also some painful history as well, but if we are going to celebrate the good, we must acknowledge the bad, and there is a lot of this as well.

#5. Lunch is sacred

closed for lunch 1 until 4 in mid August
(Closed for Lunch from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. sign)

And no, I’m not kidding. In the smaller towns, most businesses shut down so that employees can have lunch together. People also go home and make their lunches when they can.

I remember going into a bigger town with my mom when I was very young and the stores were closed for lunch for three hours. Now, lunch is usually about an hour and a half, although I have seen stores close for longer. Even in the middle of the busiest season.

There is a lot of dignity in how people approach lunch. It’s never a case where they will work through it, or have a lunch meeting. Like most people in North America, I have had too many lunch meetings. People in Portugal who I have told this, were at first confused and later repulsed. The feeling, it seems, is that they have worked all morning and by mid-day they need nourishment and rest before working further. It makes sense. A simple pleasure that takes place every single working day.

# 6. The scenery is dotted with grazing animals

a man his dog and his herd of sheep
(Spotted on the way to get groceries: A Shepherd with his herd)

Although it happens often enough, it’s a delight to come face to face with herds of sheep and goats grazing on meadows, their shepherd and herding dog in the mix. There’s been times when I’ve paused to appreciate the loveliness of it all. You’ll also frequently find cattle and horses grazing in fenced in pastures. This will happen many times and in many unexpected places, like on my way to the grocery store. Not to mention chickens along roads and even crossing the road (and in most cases, they are crossing the road in search of food and to keep up with the rest of the flock). Keeping chickens is still pretty common, and they are allowed to wander during the day.

a man and his sheep
(A Shepherd and his flock)

# 7. The sun is spectacular in Portugal

Isabel in Lisbon
(Isabel enjoying the sunshine in Lisbon)

According to Visit Portugal, Portugal gets 300 days of sun. Not only does the sun frolic in Portugal in the summer, it does so throughout the year. While it does rain a lot during winter in the interior and along the coast, the sun still manages to appear. Even in winter, the sun seems to warm everything whenever it shows up. It’s not there just to brighten the day. In general, the light in Portugal is magnificent, especially in summer. The sun alone is enough to get me to miss Portugal, although so does everything else on this list.

sunny days in lisbon
(Sunny Days in Lisbon)
Marilyn and Isabel in sunny Lisbon
(Marilyn and Isabel in sunny Lisbon)
sun makes its way even in the narrow residential streets
(Sun makes its way into many nooks and crannies)

Which of these simple pleasures are your favourite? Let me know in the comments.


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  1. Susye says:

    I love all the tile work! Loved all the photos!

  2. Chloe says:

    Portugal looks so beautiful. My boyfriend and I are looking for a summer holiday and Portugal is definitely a contender! x

  3. Sara says:

    What an amazing country! I just got back and would def recommend.

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