Expat Life in Portugal

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Single Woman Over 50 Looking for Adventure

Becoming an expat for a single woman over 50 can offer a plethora of enriching experiences and newfound independence. Embracing the expatriate lifestyle allows you to break free from routine, discover new cultures, and build a vibrant social network in a fresh environment. It’s an opportunity to redefine oneself, fostering personal growth and resilience.

Olive trees, Alentejo Portugal Alentejo walk expat

Living as an expat often brings a sense of adventure and the chance to explore interests or passions that may have been put on hold. Additionally, it allows you to choose a location that aligns with your preferences, whether a bustling city, serene countryside, or coastal haven. The prospect of creating a fulfilling and dynamic second chapter of life, marked by diverse experiences and a renewed sense of self, makes the idea of becoming an expat after 50 appealing and empowering.

over grown garden in house in Portugal, woman holding a vase with white flowers. Woman wearing a red sweater and sunglasses

Overgrown garden where I planted many herbs

My Portuguese Journey

Initially, I wanted to live in a different country, but my attempts to secure residency papers didn’t go as planned. Consequently, I decided to remain in Portugal. In my first year there, I ended up in a tiny town and a quaint house in the Alentejo region. It was a fascinating experience, but eventually, I opted for a livelier place and settled in Elvas, right on the doorstep of Badajoz, Spain.

Whenever boredom threatened, I’d casually hop over to Spain, where the vibe was vibrant, the tapas were great, and the people radiated energy.

Navigating between these two countries became my ultimate joy ride!

photo of plaza in Elvas Portugal with a large 3 D sign written "Elvas"

Elvas, Portugal

Expat in Elvas

Elvas is a Unesco Heritage Site fortified city that borders with Spain. Its romantic walls, beautiful entrances, and the majestic Amoreira aqueduct are unique. You will love to walk within the walls and get lost in the narrow cobblestone streets. The central plaza becomes alive with people drinking coffee and chatting in the morning and at the end of the day.

Elvas2Baqueduct-Portugal

Amoreira aqueduct in Elvas, Portugal

Roadtrips

Elvas sits pretty in the Alentejo, and guess what? It’s like the VIP pass to incredible places! You’ve got Marvao, Castelo de Vide, Estremoz, Olivença—just a hop, skip, and a jump away. But wait, there’s more! Throw in Badajoz, Merida, Caceres, and a bunch of Spanish treasures waiting to be discovered. Elvas is basically the launchpad for a fantastic adventure in the Iberian wonderland!

Car in front of church on dirt road in the Alentejo in Portugal

Beautiful road trips in the Alentejo, Portugal

Loads of folks questioned my move to Elvas about how isolated and dull it is. Hold up—let’s set the record straight! Elvas may be small, but it has that charming small-town vibe. And guess what? It’s only as boring as you let it be. For me, it’s been nothing short of exciting!

My life in Elvas

Blue-house-in-Elvas

My move to the Casa Azul (Blue House) in Elvas.

In Elvas, my blue house embodied the typical narrow and vertically oriented structure. The highlight was the beautiful rooftop terrace, where I found solace on countless afternoons and summer evenings, especially during some of the COVID lockdowns.

Social Challenges

One quirky challenge I set for myself was chatting with strangers daily. I’d often treat myself to dinner as the lone solo lady in bustling restaurants. Initially, it was a social adventure for me and for the locals, but as time rolled on, not only did I get the hang of it, but so did my favorite local eateries!

watercolor painting of man sitting crooked on a chair in front of a house and a woman peeking out from the door way you can see a hanging light bulb

Alentejo daily in watercolor

I spiced up life in the Alentejo with fun hobbies and adventures. I created a vibrant watercolor journal to capture the characters I met and the breathtaking landscape around me. I went on many road trips and joined cooking classes in Badajoz.

Pastelaria Primavera, Elvas

watercolor of woman sitting and chatting in front of a cafe in Elvas

Café Primavera, Elvas

I cherished my street and some of my neighbors, particularly drawn to the intriguing cafe. In the summer, it transformed into a lively gathering spot for a group of elderly ladies. Each day, they convened, sipped beer, and shared laughter and conversation, departing around 8:30 pm in time for their favorite soap opera. The cafe would close, only to reopen early the following day for a different group who met up to enjoy their morning coffee. A lot was going on in that cafe!

Alentejo’s Megalithic Stones

megalithic structure, burial stones, olive trees in the back and dirt road

Megalithic stones. Burial stones.

And hey, have you ever been on a Menir quest? The Alentejo has many of these ancient stones in gorgeous settings. I went on a snapping spree, photographing the stand-alone miners, the groups, and the rocks believed to be ancient burial sites.

Activism in Elvas

Elvas has unfortunately gained a notorious reputation for its crime rate, particularly in burglaries. To my surprise, it turns out the city has a long history of break-ins. A designated “burglary season” kicks off in spring, with commercial properties and vacant houses being the primary targets. The frustrating part is that even if the police nab the culprits, the courthouse often releases them, allowing them to resume their thieving ways. It’s a real headache.

Woman holding sign stating: We have been burglarized,

Marguerite holding up a sign near Elvas’ castle walls.

Alentejo, Portugal

In the Alentejo, you get a glimpse of the old Portugal. Let’s be honest: places like Lisbon, Porto, and other major cities have undergone significant transformations due to the influx of expats.

Things at the street market: top left, A bike with knives for sale, top right, pastries, bottom left family with balloons, bottom right cheese table

Street market in Estremoz

In pint-sized towns, the streets might play hide-and-seek with people on ordinary days. But, lo and behold, when Saturday market magic kicks in, it’s a whirlwind of folks chatting, shopping, and having a great time catching up. This is where you see the real Portugal.

The Fabulous Alentejo Restaurants

The street markets have unique foods, amazing local cheeses, honey, veggies, and more. Each town has its unique dishes and fun festivals. You will find excellent restaurants run by great chefs all over the Alentejo.

In my Elvas days, you could often find me at Adega Regional. This cozy spot, practically my next-door dining room, saved me on those lazy cooking days and when I craved some human interaction. They have an impressive wine selection and a menu of delicious dishes from the Alentejo area.

Estremoz boasted two of my go-to restaurants: Gadanha Mercearia e Restaurante and Restaurante Alecrim.

Meet Michele Marques, the Brazilian-born journalist-turned-chef extraordinaire behind the sensational kitchen at Gadanha Mercearia. Her culinary creations offer a modern and creative twist on traditional Portuguese cuisine with mouthwatering desserts.

At Alecrim, a family-run restaurant, I indulged in great meats and loved their hefty burgers and tasty homemade chips—my perfect remedy for homesickness. The place also flaunts an impressive array of cheeses and a wine collection that’s nothing short of amazing.

Marvão’s Classical Music Festival

Marvao rock city walls, cloudy sky view of mountains

Did you catch wind of the fantastic summer classical music extravaganza in Alentejo? It’s none other than the Marvão International Music Festival. Marvão is a charming little town perched high on a hill in the Serra Mamede, surrounded by jaw-dropping views. Talk about a magical setting for music!

This musical spectacle is orchestrated by the German maestro extraordinaire Christoph Poppen.

Some Fantastic Alentejo Vineyard Hotels

São Lourenço do Barrocal

swimming pool at the Sao lourenco do Barrocal pool. Large rock on one side of pool

Swimming pool at São Lourenço do Barrocal

When you’re in Alentejo, you can’t miss out on a visit or stay at São Lourenço do Barrocal – it’s like hitting the jackpot of cool places! This gem, nestled just about twenty minutes from Monsaraz, used to be a family farm, proudly owned for a whopping two hundred years. Now, it’s transformed into one of my all-time favorite hotels in Alentejo.

São Lourenço do Barrocal hotel at night, clear sky

São Lourenço do Barrocal at night

Torre de Palma 

The vineyard hotel is in Monforte, Portalegre. It has a stunning pool, the grace of horses, and the enchanting beauty of blooming trees and vineyard. A walk around the premises is an absolute pleasure. While the restaurant alone is worth the drive!

Evora’s Convento do Espinheiro

When visiting Evora, consider staying at the fabulous Convento do Espinheiro. The hotel is gorgeous and has two excellent restaurants and a private chapel- for those of you who know of someone who wants to marry in Portugal. When in Evora: Remember to visit Cartuxa for wine tasting!

Herdade da Malhadinha Nova is a vineyard hotel in the lower part of the Alentejo.

L’and Vineyards is a great hotel and vineyard near Montemor with a great restaurant.

The Alentejo is a delightful destination for exploration. Whether you embark on a scenic car journey, hop between charming hotels and vineyards, or join an organized cycling group, the region offers many experiences.

Marvao-Portugal

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This post was rewritten and updated in December 2023

Marguerite Beaty, Blogger, Photographer & Artist

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