My Ideal Day in Portugal

buckle up, it's really boring...

Two weeks ago, in my newsletter Two Years in Portugal: A Reflection, I suggested that my readers AMA (ask me anything). I received lots of questions, some I will answer in another letter, but today I want to focus on this request from subscriber, Kate:

Could you share your ideal day with us in Setúbal (or anywhere in Portugal for that matter)? What do you do? What do you eat? Who do you see? Where do you go?


Before I sketch out my ideal day for you, I want to give you a Milo update. For those who missed my last letter, check it out here for context. Thanks for all the emails, comments, and good wishes for Milo's (and my) speedy recovery. This little dog is a wonder—he is doing really well! Walking without issue, although he still has some pain when he jumps off the sofa—something I try to keep him from doing. Soon, we'll be going to the park for short walks. 


What is my ideal day? I had to think about that for a bit as I wasn't sure what it would look like. And when I considered this, I was reminded of how boring I am. It's okay—I'm okay with being boring—I like simple things like walking, reading, coffee, and people-watching. 

But to articulate this in a bit more detail, here's what my ideal day looks like: 

I'd wake between 7:00am and 8:30am, letting my body tell me when it's time. I don't use an alarm clock unless I need to be up early for an appointment. I rarely sleep past 8am as Milo will let me know that he needs to go out. Not waking to an alarm clock feels luxurious—I've spent years creating a life that allows me to work when it's best for me, not some arbitrary and outdated holdover from the industrial revolution—no time clock to punch for this gal!

After waking, I dress and take Milo to the park. We both start our day with fresh air and a brisk walk around the park, checking out the ducks, trees, and dogs—from a distance. Milo is anxious, and other dogs make him nervous, but he does have a few dog friends, like Freddie Mercury (yes, that’s his name). Milo is selective.


After dog walking comes coffee. I feed Milo, then I start the coffee-making process—usually while listening to the BBC World Service in case there's anything I really need to know (I keep my news intake to about 15 minutes a day). I’ll listen to a podcast or meditation while sipping my coffee as my brain starts to come fully online.

By late morning, say 11am, I'll either catch up with emails, read, or write for a while. Ieat breakfast around this time. Once I’v caught up with a few tasks, I'm ready to head out for another coffee or lunch date with a friend. I’m fortunate to have a few friends in town that I knew in San Diego (more are coming!), and other friends from all over. There’s always someone up for coffee or a nosh.

For lunch, I love going to Bloomy Market. Bloomy is a cute little vegetarian/vegan café attached to the historic indoor market, the Mercado do Livramento. After lunch, I might pop into the market and buy some produce or maybe a plant for my flat.

Lunch, or even coffee, with friends in Portugal can be an hours-long affair. I love it. We sit and chat, eat, and next thing I know, two hours or more have passed. Once we finish, we either say our good-byes or my lunch-friend and I will head out to explore the back streets of Setúbal on foot or maybe take the ferry to Troía.

Sometimes instead of lunch in town, I'll head to Lisbon to see friends. We'll wander around doing much the same I'd do in Setúbal: look in shop windows, stop for coffee, and chat for hours.


There's always something new—a café, attraction, or oddity to search out. Often it starts with me saying to a friend, "have you heard about the new <insert place, here>?" Sometimes we might stop for a coffee after lunch at Casa da Baía, a hidden gem with a delightful mural in the courtyard and a little market featuring local food and wine from Setúbal.

I love to wander around looking at the shops, the traditional services—is that a shoe repair? If so, why are there so many teapots in the window? I try to understand, in small bites, the community where I live and the things that make Portugal so…Portuguese.

Paying attention is the subtext to everything: every walk, every errand, every coffee date.

Being on autopilot when you're not in your country of origin isn't possible. Sure, in small ways, and sometimes, but most of the time, you need to be present just to understand what you are seeing.

After lunch, in the late afternoon, I'll take Milo out for another walk, and when we return, if it's sunny, the warm rays are hitting my bed at about that point. This signals nap time! Just a brief one, and not every day, but on those days, it's divine.


In the evening, I typically, stay in. I'm in a lot. With COVID, plus my natural tendencies, I just like being at home, cooking, reading, writing, and occasionally falling down the YouTube rabbit hole. Despite my homebody predilection, my friend Mark and I have become concert-going buddies. We're enamored with the Luisa Todi Forum where you can see concerts, performances, theater, opera, etc. for about €10 a ticket.

We go once every six weeks or so, but it’s always an enjoyable and often confusingly fun evening. We saw an opera once, kind of half opera, half performance art—and in Portuguese. We had no idea what was going on, but that was part of the fun—so what if we don't know what's being said?

Not understanding the words allows us to access the performance with our other senses.

By the time the performance is over, it's usually 11pm or so. Mark and I chat about the evening doing our best to decipher what we just saw, as we walk toward our respective apartments. Then we reach the point where he goes one way and I go another. I get home to Milo, take him out, make some tea, and settle in for bedtime.

See? Boring! But I like this life. It's easy, flexible, and on days I don't need to work, this is what I want to do. I guess my ideal day is my typical day and it suits me fine.

What about you—what’s your ideal day?

—> If you enjoy life: examined you can show your support by sharing it—and if you want, you can buy me a coffee. Thank you—it keeps me caffeinated, inspired, and writing!