We landed last Sunday in Lisbon, and made our way north to Braga with 3 duffel bags, 2 suitcases, and a dog. We rented a temporary apartment for 5 days to get through the closing process of our new apartment purchase. This has been one crazy roller-coaster week! The following is a compilation of my (Roger’s) daily Facebook posts written with all of the emotion of the day. (Photos to be added soon.)
Saturday, Oct 6:
Step 1 – Be sure Murphy was safely delivered to American Airlines.
She’s on her way! The whole process was very smooth and the flight staff was very kind. Everybody was surprised at how calm Murphy was. When we weighed her in the kennel she jumped right in and curled right up. Then we had to get her out of yen to take her to a different area before she jumped in and they zip-tied the doors shut. We are very concerned, but only because we are nervous parents. They put stickers all over her box and as soon as we were out of sight she curled right up and went to sleep.
Spoke with an AA captain. He assured me that there wasn’t a switch that would turn off the heat in the cargo hold. I’m feeling better.
Confirmed! The Murph is on board, calm and doing fine!!!
And… 7 hours later, Sunday, Oct 7th:
We successfully rented a car, actually a Van, and we are all headed North to Braga.
Landed at the Air B&B that is just down from our new place. This is temporary home until we close on Wednesday. Murphy is chillin’ while we bring in the bags.
Our first meal in our new home city. Can’t believe the bill. Note the three items for .80 each? That’s 3 glasses of wine!!!!
Monday, Oct 8:
A very active day. Thene got her financial number, took care of some business at the bank, we walked past the building where our new apartment is. Now it is time for dinner. We will sleep very well tonight!
Tuesday, Oct 9:
For friends and family who have been trying to send us text messages, we are still trying to figure out communications. We can received text messages via Facebook Messenger, but other than that we cannot receive any text messages From the United States on our old numbers. We will get that rectified A\as soon as we turn our magic jacks back on. Just waiting to be sure all of our Portuguese communications are working 1st.
Wednesday, Oct 10:
And then, things started to go downhill:
Have you ever read (or watched) “Under a Tuscan Sun”? Well, we are starting “Under a Braga Sun”! Our initial “tour” of the apartment seemed normal enough, but a lot of that changed when we did the walk through today!
For those of you who may not know, certain items that would obviously belong with a home in the USA are not necessarily part of the sale in Europe. The kitchen cabinets, for example. Believe it or not, these are negotiable. We knew this going in and asked that the kitchen to be “furnished”. This meant that the cabinets, the cook-top, the range hood, the oven, and the counter-tops were included. Dishwashers are quite rare and our apartment did not have one. Interestingly, Europeans have their washing machines in the kitchen (usually where a dishwasher would go) and that is not usually included.
Anyway, we had anticipated all of those other items. What we had NOT counter on was that the sellers took the water heater (yes…the one that heats all of the water for the apartment) and all of the light fixtures (yes…the ones attached to the ceilings and walls)! I am happy to say that this caught our agent off guard as well. Before you ask, he’s a really nice guy and as you will see, he’s really gone out of his way to help us with a lot of things that are not at all related to the purchase of this apartment. But I digress.
Now you may be thinking, “So…you didn’t close; right?” Well, because these items were not included in the contract, had we backed out, we would have been in breach and lost our deposit which was a significant amount. Besides, we were in a bind. Where were we going to live? And despite these issues, we liked the place. It’s spacious and in a good location. In addition, it would seem to be something of a good investment. Our realtor told us that we got this unit at a steal. A similar unit in the same cluster of buildings was selling for $70k more. If we flipped it “as is” we could make around 25% profit!
So we decided to proceed. Rogerio (our agent) told us that he had an old water heater (I know! Who just happens to have a spare water heater?!?), and some light fixtures that we could use until we get ones that we want. He also offered to help me install everything. As most of you know, I certainly have experience in renovations, but of course I no longer have any tools and things here are a little different (most notably the electricity).
So being cut from tough Norwegian/German/Irish stock, we saw this as our opportunity to make everything our own! Now is the perfect time to paint the ceilings and pick out the fixtures that we wanted. And we decided to gut the kitchen and renovate with IKEA. While this would most certainly be an expensive option back in the States, it is SURPRISINGLY cheap here! And when the time comes for us to sell, if the buyers do not want the new items, we’ll just take them with us!
The closing itself was really very odd. All parties (the buyers, the sellers, and the bank – the sellers still had a mortgage) met at the notary’s office where the contract (which was surprisingly simple – very little legalize) was first read in English to us and then in Portuguese to everyone! When was the last time you read your mortgage contract? Yeah. Us either!
Afterward, Rogerio accompanied us to the government office to turn on our electricity (which was not on in the apartment, not that you could tell because there were no lights), gas, and water. Not exactly real estate agent stuff.
Later we returned to the apartment to get some measurements. Now, you would expect one, maybe two keys with your house. Three if you include the mail box. Our place came with SEVEN (one of which looks like a high security lock similar to what you might see in a prison, that is to say, the key was very atypical) and so far, I can only account for four. One would also expect the keys to (oh I don’t know) WORK!?! NOPE! They obviously worked earlier in the day, but when we returned, the front door key (the weird one) wouldn’t work.
We must have tried for at least 30 minutes before we finally threw in the towel. So in addition to everything else tomorrow, we are having a locksmith come out to change the front door lock!
I cannot say what the condition of the place will be by Thanksgiving, but we’ll keep you all entertained through it all. Stay tuned for more news in the days to come!!!!
Thursday, Oct 11:
Quite a mixed day today. So far, Roger has been with a locksmith for several hours trying to get into the front door of the apartment. Not sure what the prior owners did, but they seem to have scuttled the lock. Now we’re into checking the warranty to see if we can cut the door.
On a brighter note, while it poured rain overnight, there is no rain today, and it’s a nice cool temp. I spent an hour or so choosing our bedding and towels, assuming of course that we can get into the apartment today.
It took almost 5 hours, but we finally made it into the apartment. Turned out the previous owners had had issues with this door as well, and probably just failed to mention it. The locksmith did an amazing job even though the door will need to be replaced. He manage to repair the damage done to the frame and at least give us an operational door until we can get it replaced. Believe it or not, the man only charged me €50! I insisted on paying him more, but our agent said that it would be better for us to pay him what he asked and to give him a bottle of wine. So I am going to find the best bottle of wine I can for this man! In addition to the good news about having a functional door, we now have power!
Friday, Oct 12:
So, today was a big day. We got our bed delivered from IKEA and after many backbreaking hours (mostly by Thene) we finally got it assembled.
I discovered the local laundromat which was very nice but involved a bit of a learning curve.
The really exciting part of the day was when I installed the water heater. This particular model was designed to mount to the wall. You can imagine my surprise when, as I was tightening the fittings, it fell off the wall! Naturally, it contained 80 liters of water (20 gallons) so it weighed around 200 pounds! Fortunately, Thene was in the apartment to help me disconnected the lines and ease it to the ground.
Tomorrow will be a trip to the hardware store for a better mounting solution. Unfortunately, that means cold showers for tonight. Viva la adventure!
So…my beloved is currently in the shower and while this would normally bring a smile to my face, I am confronted with the impossible. I want to run to her aid and yet I know the blood curdling screams are of her own choice to face the nearly subzero shower water tonight rather than wait for me to finish the water heater install tomorrow. Of course I myself already braved the arctic blast. Fortunately I have cardiac medication to get me through!
Saturday, Oct 13th:
Say what you will about diamond rings and fancy dinners. I gave my wife what she REALLY wanted for her birthday. HOT WATER!!!! Only the best for you, Babe! Happy birthday!!!!
Just opened a bottle of mouthwash an guess what? No childproof cap!!!!
Not posted to FB: The day was busy, but nice. We did some additional shopping for the apartment, and spent about an our with the kitchen remodel guy at Ikea to spec out and price a new kitchen. We still have to get contractors to blow out the walls, move the door, and fix the ceiling, but they can provide the cabinets, appliances, and install for a very nice price.
Thene’s birthday dinner was a very nice Italian dinner at the Ikea mall (Braga Norte).
Sunday, Oct 14th:
And finally…. Thene gets a bit more of a birthday-style day….
After sleeping in until 9:30 a.m. (excellent blackout blinds!), we headed by car southwest to Matosinhos where another furniture store is located. We wanted to take advantage of our final day with the van to locate more options (beyond Ikea) for living room furniture. Conforama was a good stop, and there were several other shops in the same strip.
During the trip, we were in contact with Tom and Laine Berning, friends we’d met in Porto during the May visit. We knew they lived near Matosinhos and thought we might meet up for a drink. Instead, they invited us over to their apartment, and we had a late lunch, and learned so many more things about construction, household appliances, kitchen options, and life in Portugal.
The day ended on a high note by building out two temporary chairs from Ikea (30 euro each), sitting (finally) in our living room, and continuing to design/re-design our kitchen remodel. Tomorrow, Rog has appointments with several contractors to get some bids. Leave it to us. We’ve made lemonade out of lemons!
And thus endeth Week 1.