Let’s get this out of the way: Porto was a MOB SCENE last October. When we planned last fall’s trip to Portugal and Spain, we somehow thought we’d be hitting the downside of the tourism rush. “Kids will be back in school and Europeans will be back at work, and besides, it’s well into shoulder season,” we naively thought. Wrong! In early October, Porto was chock-a-block with tourists. So many that we realized we’d have to take a different approach with this city. Rather than trying to hit all the usual tourist spots (and wait in LONG lines, which we refuse to do), we looked for lesser-known corners. We started early in the morning and sought out quieter places, less frequented by visitors. We walked, walked, walked and looked for smaller details that might be overlooked in a mad rush to see as much as we could, as fast as we…

Seville wasn’t always on the agenda for our October trip, but we’re glad we added it! We’d only just gotten started on our latest Spain explorations, but Seville made a huge impression on us. It’s a city where centuries of history are so palpable, they can be seen, felt, and heard on every corner. Seville is probably best known as the birthplace of flamenco, that dance form that never fails to move us to our core. But Seville is also home to the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, a fabulous royal palace, and many other gorgeous buildings both ancient and modern.  Oh, and some of the best tapas and Spanish cuisine that we have sampled, thus far. Seville factoids: Seville is the capital of Spain’s Andalusia autonomous community. And it’s the only river port in Spain, connected to the Atlantic by an 80-km stretch of the Guadalquivir river. Seville’s human footprint dates…

One of our favorite photos from our 2023 travel: Sun-dappled Porto, Portugal Happy 2024 to All!  Ah, a fresh new year. Time to dream about the future, but also to reflect on everything that made the past year so memorable. And for us, 2023 was memorable in so many ways. It was a time of transition and brought a major course change, seasoned with some fantastic travel and expat experiences in our lovely adopted home of Colombia. We reached a milestone: Five years in Colombia In the wee small hours of Thanksgiving Day 2018, we boarded a plane from Panama City, Panama to Medellín for the next chapter in our expat adventure. And here we are, five years later – still Colombia expats, and still in love with this beautiful country and its wonderful people. A lot has happened since that Thanksgiving: We weathered a pandemic in a big South American…

January 2024 update: We have learned from our attorney that new expats who are awarded the “M” (for Migrant) visa are no longer eligible to sign up for Colombia’s EPS healthcare system. People like us, who already hold M visas, are allowed to stay enrolled. We don’t know the status for other types of visas; best to talk to an immigration attorney to find out. Healthcare was a big motivator for us to become expats. When we first started germinating the idea of retiring outside the U.S. (at least 15 years ago), we weren’t yet at an age where we needed a lot of healthcare services. But we knew that day would come – and we had no faith (we still don’t) that the U.S. would ever adopt a universal and affordable healthcare system like basically the rest of the developed world. But why Colombia? As our adopted home for five…

We thought we’d had our fill of ornate Catholic churches. And then we got to Ouro Preto.  After spending an unforgettable week in Salvador, Bahia, we flew to Bela Horizonte – the dynamic capital of Brazil’s Minas Gerais state. From there, we took a two-hour bus ride through the heart of Brazil mining country to the magical town of Ouro Preto (Black Gold).  Ouro Preto was founded in the late 1600s when rich veins of gold were found in eastern Brazil’s Serra do Espinhaço mountains. With the ensuing gold rush, Ouro Preto became so prosperous and influential that the city was named  the capital of Minas Gerais Province in 1720. At its peak, Ouro Preto had more than 100,000 people, more than the population of New York City at the time – but sadly,  a large percentage of those residents were enslaved Africans who were brought there to toil in the…

Salvador, Brazil is hard to boil down into a few words – or a blog post. Of the 12 destinations we visited on our July/August trip to Brazil, Salvador is the one that really got under our skin. As Brazil’s fourth largest city (by population) and the capital of Bahia state, Salvador is complex, chaotic, and colorful, with a larger-than-life culture that dates back 500 centuries. This city kept us on our toes and bedazzled us. We’ll never forget it. Salvador is one of Brazil’s oldest cities, founded in 1549. From those early days, the city was an important port for the Portuguese and therefore heavily fortified. Most of the original forts have been beautifully preserved and offer breathtaking views of the beaches, city, and sea. Of the 5 million Africans brought to the Americas for slave labor, an astonishing ONE MILLION came through the port at Salvador. This made Brazil…

Fernando de Noronha was a dream. Of all the destinations on our July trip to Brazil, this magical island was our favorite. Fernando de Noronha (or just Noronha to the locals) is the largest of 21 volcanic islets situated 350 kilometers (218 miles) off the northeastern coast of Brazil. Thanks to its isolation, Noronha is home to a thriving and diverse ecosystem of fauna and flora, both land and sea. As such, the island is a highly protected nature preserve with tough conservation laws. And it’s a little slice of heaven. First “discovered” back in 1503 by the Portuguese, Fernando de Noronha was a penal colony from the 18th century to the 1950s. During World War II, the U.S. military built an airport on the island that provided a transoceanic link to supply the Allies’ campaign in Africa. The airport was transferred to the Brazilian government after the war and still…

Olinda and Recife have stories to tell. Olinda and Recife, sited on the northeast corner of Brazil, are about as closely linked as a somewhat shabby colonial town and a modern, bustling city can be. Olinda is one of Brazil’s oldest towns, founded in 1535 by Portuguese settlers but sacked and burned by the invading Dutch about a century later. The Dutch abandoned the Olinda site and established themselves in what is now Recife, and Olinda never quite recovered – even after the Portuguese retook the area and drove out the Dutch after only about 20 years. Recife grew to become one of Brazil’s most important port cities and the capital of Pernambuco state. Olinda settled into its current-day existence as a quaint, bohemian, and colorful town filled with beautiful colonial-era churches and buildings in various states of repair. After exploring the towns of Niterói, Cabo Frio, and Búzios near Rio…

Niterói, Cabo Frio, and Búzios are a great start to any Brazil visit. Did you know Brazil is so vast that you could fit the entire continental U.S. (at least the contiguous 48) inside its borders? Given that, it’s no mean task to figure out exactly where to focus your travel there. On our first trip to Brazil last October, we started with a deep dive into Rio de Janeiro (posts here and here) and then traveled south to Ihla Grande, Paraty, and Florianópolis. We were hooked on Brazil, but we felt we’d just scratched the surface. For a return trip, where would we go and what would we see? And how long would we stay? The first part of the puzzle dropped right into place. Our good friends Ian and Nicky Mackenzie, creators of the awesome travel blog Above Us Only Skies, were doing an extended house-sit in the Rio-adjacent…

Dominica has stolen our hearts.  In our travels, we have visited at least 15 Caribbean islands – each beautiful in its own way. But Dominica blew us away with its stunning and relatively unspoiled natural beauty, colorful and festive Creole culture, and laid-back,  friendly people. Dominica is a real gem, but it’s one that many tourists haven’t discovered yet (shhh!). Dominica Factoids It’s pronounced Dom-in-EE-ka, and it’s probably not the place you’re thinking of. Like most people, we confused Dominica with the much-more-touristed Dominican Republican when we first heard of it. But Dominica is a world unto itself, a much smaller island situated in the eastern Caribbean south of Guadeloupe and north of Martinique. It’s called the Nature Island for a reason. Dominica is a very mountainous and rugged island with 9 semi-active volcanos, natural hot springs, tropical rainforests, too many gorgeous waterfalls to count, and a river for every day…

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