February in Portugal: Clinics, Customs, Couples, and Carnaval

It’s the shortest month, but February has had the longest list of goings-on in my small Portugal world. Not everything has been fun but it all has been educational.


I finally got sick. After 125 healthy days in my new home I came down with the flu, and then I got strep throat, putting me out of commission for nearly half of February. I have private Portuguese health insurance but I don’t have a doctor here yet, which makes getting an appointment at our local health center a bit more complicated.

When I started running a fever near 102°F and saw white spots on the back of my red, inflamed throat, I recognized the signs of strep throat, which I’ve had many times. A friend here told me I could walk into a local lab/clinic in town, without a doctor’s orders, and request a throat culture for strep. I was skeptical.

I went to Unilab in Lourinha first thing the next morning. There were already people lined up and I had to take a number. I’d already done an at-home COVID test (I brought eight COVID test kits with me from the U.S.) and it was negative, so I requested only the throat culture when the receptionist called my number five after only a few minutes. I had to use a translation app to communicate because nobody spoke English. The receptionist asked for my name, local address, local phone number, email, and passport. I’d forgotten to bring my passport but had a digital image on my phone, which she accepted. I showed her my insurance card but she didn’t take it. The throat culture cost 17€ and I paid her in cash.

Five minutes later a technician took me into a room, swabbed my throat until I gagged, and told me — in Portuguese — that I would need a doctor’s prescription if I required antibiotics. No, you cannot get antibiotics over the counter in Portugal. Turns out Unilabs also offers a range of exams by doctors. I had a prescription for antibiotics filled before I moved to Portugal, just to have on hand. I also brought plenty of over-the-counter cold, pain, and fever meds with me, so I was all set as far as medications and did not need to see a doctor.

Total cost of treatment was just the 17€ for the strep test I requested on my own. This would’ve gone down much differently in the U.S., where I’m guessing my internist would’ve billed my health insurance at least a hundred bucks for an office visit, and a lab would’ve billed something around 50 bucks for the throat culture.


The antibiotics worked their magic and my throat cleared up in time for me to take my planned trip to Malta with friends from the U.S. for my 63rd birthday. One benefit of living here is cheap and easy travel within the European Union. There was no Customs or passport check in Malta, or when I landed back in Lisbon.

I appreciated being able to step off the plane, walk through the terminal, and go right out the exit doors at Lisbon’s airport without standing in the passport line I expected as a U.S. passport holder with a residency permit receipt (I’m still waiting for my resident card to arrive in the mail from SEF. It can take up to 60 days). I actually was afraid I’d missed some checkpoint, and doubled back before finally leaving the airport to go find the Uber pickup point outside.

A roundtrip flight from Lisbon to Malta is $88 on Ryanair. I took an Uber from the airport to the Sete Rios bus station in Lisbon for 9€, and a bus from Lisbon to Lourinha for another 9€. Because it was dark when I arrived in Lourinha I took a taxi (no local Uber here) home for 5€. This was much cheaper than spending 80€ for a driver from the airport to my house, and will be the way I do it from now on.

Of course I met a Portugal connection at a gin bar in Malta. Of course I did. Diogo (foreground) is from central Portugal, where his family has owned a restaurant and bar for 50 years. You know I’m going there, right?
On the balcony of a Lisbon Airbnb before leaving for Malta.


Valentine’s Day is a U.S. observance but it has gained traction here as Dia dos Namorados, which translates to “Day of Lovers.” I still marvel at how surprisingly racy this Catholic country can be, with Dia dos Namorados promotions for sex toys and lubricant popping up on my grocery store’s online shopping app. (OK, so that might be because I was signed in to my profile back in October when I used a translation app to search for “shower curtain rings” and instead got results for anal pleasure rings. Ooops.)

I began online dating here in January, and was pleasantly surprised by the abundance of international profiles on Tinder and Bumble. Both dating platforms appear to be popular with over-60 men in Portugal who are looking to date and not just hook up. Both are also apparently popular with men in their 20s and 30s who want to hook up with women in their 60s. Ick.

I’ve matched with not only Portuguese men (great language-learning practice), but also with Dutch, German, Lithuanian, Brazilian, Italian, French, Swedish, and American expat men. Many are still at the chatting stage, but some have progressed to dating. Faiscas is a word I learned from my Portuguese language tutor. It means “sparks.” Some dates have had faiscas. Others have not. As I wrote here about dating, I keep my mind open and without expectations, and I focus on having fun. Everyone I meet is either a gift or a lesson, and I try to remember to be grateful for both.

Just as in the U.S., safety is critical when meeting a stranger from an online dating site. Just as in the U.S., I always text a friend here the photos, full names, phone numbers, and even car/license plate pics if necessary, of any online man with whom I have a date. I tell my local friend the location of each date beforehand, and it’s always a public place. Starting a new life in a new country is not the time to let your guard down.

The range of dating behaviors here is no different from the U.S. “Love bombing” may not be a term here, but, of course, the over-the-top behavior does occur abroad. If a man professes his undying love for you after one date, that’s not a good sign in any language or culture. I do believe that dating, like bourbon, requires three tastes before a decision is made about flavor and suitability. But red flags should be heeded, whether in a foreign country or not.


Carnaval in Portugal is February 17-22. The biggest celebration in the country is not in Lisbon but in Torres Vedras, about 30 minutes from where I live. This year the town is celebrating 100 years of Carnaval, and thousands of costumed revelers are flocking here. Instead of dealing with the wild nighttime crowds I checked out the Sunday afternoon parade instead. Event officials estimated 55,000 people attended this first daytime “corsu.” Today is the main parade, and also a holiday. My Sunday excursion cost 32€ for a taxi to Torres Vedras, 8€ for a ticket to watch the parade, and 16€ for an Uber back home.

Source: carnavaldetorresvedras.pt
Source: carnavaldetorresvedras.pt
Ready for a nap

February has been a busy, exciting, challenging, and tiring month filled with new learning and discoveries. My writing schedule has suffered due to being sick the first part of the month, but I’ll be back on schedule in March. Please stay tuned, and thank you for reading.

Feliz Carnaval 
Feliz Terça-feira Gorda
Happy Mardi Gras

The Hot Goddess

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  1. Wow! An action-packed time! Looks awesome! I had to laugh when I saw that the online apps were popular with the 20-somethings looking to hook up with 60+ year olds… immediately thought these were forward-thinking guys seeking a Sugar Mama to coast through the next few years! LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad you recovered from your illness. Girl, I started online dating last month too! Never thought I’d do this but my daughter finally won me over and convinced me. It’s been nothing short of entertaining, I’ll say that. And, yes a learning (about myself) experience. Great post and so glad to hear you are adjusting so well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry you were sick but I’m glad you were able to be seen so quickly and it didn’t cost you an arm & a leg like it would’ve in the US. And so smart to take antibiotics with you!!!! Carnaval looks like it was quite entertaining and sounds like online dating has been too! You’re so brave!!!😊

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy Birthday Nat! So glad you were able to be well enough to have some fun! I was under the weather the whole month of Jan! (Visiting my great niece & nephew aged 10 mos. & 5 – shall I say more?) You had me in stitches with your ooops and ick! Good tips for online dating! Keep smiling my blog friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s so nice to hear your life updates. Natalie  I’m glad everything has been working out for you besides you getting sick, but I’m glad you’re feeling better and enjoying life again, and good luck on the dating. I hope you meet someone really special. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How fascinating to hear about all your different experiences – but especially the medical one. Amazing how different – and so efficient to get that done. I’m so glad you are feeling better and were able to travel and do Carnival. What an incredible and beautiful life!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You must be gaining confidence now that you have mastered getting sick. You have good planning and organizational skills for someone who wants to fully participate in life. I sure enjoy getting to experience vicariously your expat adventure.


  8. not Biden in a wheelchair though 🤣🤣🤣

    Happy belated Birthday, Natalie! You’re right about being in Europe. You feel as if you’re getting a deal being able to just travel to another country, which isn’t far at all. I’m glad to see you had some inexpensive healthcare and a wonderful birthday.

    I also felt the same way about Catholics being in Costa Rica…they have a really neat way of combining indigenous (racy) things with their Catholicism. I think it’s cool.

    Liked by 1 person

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