Portugal is a country that I absolutely love. I spend as much time there as I can.
I first visited Portugal way back in 1991. I had a friend that lived in Galicia, Spain, and I was invited to spend the summer of that year there.
I was living in London at the time and the nearest airport to my destination in Galicia was Porto.
So, I jumped on a plane, met my friend at the airport, and we headed north to cross the Spain -Portugal border.
We stopped for lunch on the way I clearly remember how good and cheap the food was and how dangerous the roads were.
I returned to Portugal again the following summer for a camping trip to Coimbra and Aveiro. My relationship with this country had officially begun.
13 years went by before my next visit. I was now living in Spain and my girlfriend and I didn't have any plans for the summer. We usually spent our summers in Malaga but this year we wanted to try something different.
I looked on the map and saw a place in Portugal that looked decent. We packed our bags, jumped in the car, and drove the 6.5 hours to the Portuguese coast from Madrid, only stopping for toilet breaks and snacks.
Peniche was our chosen destination and it did not disappoint.
The beaches, the food, and the hospitality blew me away. And it was cheap.
The following year we decided to visit Portugal again, this time for two weeks at a place called Foz do Arelho.
Although we had a great time in Foz, we ended up spending most our days in Peniche since our dog, Maggie, was not allowed on the beaches in Foz do Arelho.
It was during one of these days in Peniche that I decided to have a look at apartment prices. Not surprisingly they were cheap compared to Spain, which, at the time, was at the end of a property bubble.
We went to see a real estate salesman. He took us to see some apartments that were being built and we had a chat with the builder.
He told us that all of the flats, except one, were sold and that they would be finished by April 2008. We said we were interested, had a brief tour, and he gave us a bank account number to put down a 10% deposit.
We went back to Madrid and organised the transfer. Now all we had to do was hope that the builder was honest and wasn't going to run off with our money.
We then tried to organise a mortgage in Spain but to no avail. Even Portuguese banks in Madrid wanted nothing to do with us.
This was starting to become a bit of a worry so we spoke to the real estate guy, Emanuel, and he told us not to worry and that he would take care of everything,
A mortgage was organised with Banco Espirito Santo, now Novo Banco, and we did all the paperwork through email and then went to Peniche to sign all the documents before a notary in April 2008.
So nice was Emanuel that he let us stay in one of his spare apartments until we were given the keys to the new apartment.
All the doubts we had about buying property in a foreign country were put to rest as the apartment was finished on time and we had no problems whatsoever.
Both the builder and the agent we very professional and I cannot say a bad word about them.
Since then we have spent about 3 months a year in Portugal and we have got to know the region quite well.
In fact, there is little we don't like about the country.
Our son was born in 2010 and the way children are treated here is second to none.
Portugal never seems to let me down. Peniche has become more popular since 2008 due to the boom in the surfing and tourism industries but it is still not as crowded as other regions in Portugal.
Pros and cons of moving to portugal
When I recorded this video in 2016, Portugal was just starting to emerge from the severe financial crisis that crippled the country economically.
Spain also suffered but avoided the Troika. Basically, what happened was that the EC, FMI and the ECB took control of Portugal's finances, making sure that they were able to pay back all the money they had borrowed from Europe.
This left Portugal in a dire state as budgets were slashed and God knows how many people had to leave the country to look for a better life. According to what I have read one in five Portuguese lives outside the country.
This is one of the key factors that would determine whether I move to Portugal in a more permanent way in the future.
If you are retired, I can only see benefits of moving to Portugal. If you need to depend in the economy, probably a good idea to really study your options as to whether Portugal is a viable country to live.
I mean, if so many Portuguese people have to leave, what chances do we have to get a job?
One option could be to work online with some sort of freelance gig. Apparently the millennials are moving there "in their droves".
And Madonna too!
Portugal, or Lisbon, more likely, is in fashion. Porto as well. You know this is happening when you see trendy little cafés opening up all over the place.
No doubt it's the cost of living (cheap), weather (great), food (fantastic), and laidback vibe that attracts so many freelance millennials.
And it's a safe country, I can't remember the last time Portugal suffered a terrorist attack. Crime rates are relatively low and you can walk the streets at night safely.
Property in Portugal is also cheap compared to Spain and other European countries. In Peniche you can find 2-bedroom apartments for less than €100,000. Even cheaper if you go a few kilometres inland.
Telecommunications are also good in Portugal. High-speed internet is cheap and works well. You can get TV, telephone and Internet package for under €50. Add a mobile for a few euros more.
Getting around Portugal is also easy. The roads are good and traffic is only an issue in the big cities.
However, fuel is more expensive and a lot of the best roads have tolls on them. So driving is way more expensive in Portugal compared to Spain.
To give you an idea, ii is free to drive from Madrid to Badajoz on the Portuguese border but to go from Badajoz to Lisbon you will have to back around €20.
The Portuguese are a friendly bunch. It takes a while to get to know them but if you make the effort people will make you feel welcome.
Of course there are dickheads there. More often than not you will see them on the roads. A con about Portugal is the way people drive.
Children are treated incredibly well. People will go out of their way to see that children are looked after. You can also take kids to restaurants without getting dirty looks from other diners if they start to cry or get a bit rowdy.
The beaches in Portugal are a definite pro. The sand is white and you can find beaches that stretch for miles. The beaches in Pencihe are some of the best I have seen.
But the water is cold in Peniche. So cold in fact that it's hard to pluck up the courage to go for a swim. I imagine it's a little warmer on the Algarve but the Atlantic Ocean is not for for the faint hearted.
If you want to stay in the water for longer than 10 minutes you'll need a wetsuit.
That takes me to the next pro - the surf.
Portugal is Europe's surfing Mecca. People from all over the continent come to Portugal for the waves.
Surfing is also becoming an important industry for economy as well. Surf schools have popped up like mushrooms in the last decade, especially in places like Peniche.
People learning to surf invade the beaches around Peniche all year round but in the summer months they reach plague-like numbers.
So, to sum up. The pros of moving to Portugal easily outweigh the cons, at least for me.
In fact, there is little that I don't like about the country. No place is perfect and Portugal does have some defects.
But if you are looking for a relatively stress-free, laidback lifestyle where it doesn't cost a lot of money to live, the people are friendly and the winters are mild, then Portugal must definitely be on your radar.
Let me know what you think.