I made it over – barely. I spent a nice and very quick month just outside of Charleston, South Carolina with dear friends of mine. They have what is practically an estate by Southern California standards. A 3 story house of which the 2nd floor was mine. I arrived on Friday, January 30th and left on February 28th. Seeing that Portugal is on a more restrictive lockdown then SC, I maybe should have hung out a while longer but I’m not sure about the rules regarding the start of my Portugal visa and how long I had to get over here and get things started??? Need to check out more YouTube videos from other expats. Regardless – I’m here! My friends dropped me off at Charleston airport about 11am on Sunday, the 28th. I had a JetBlue/TAP Portugal flight booked. I wanted to avoid having to change planes in Europe so that I could avoid whatever rules the intermediary country had imposed with regards to COVID. I was able to book my luggage all the way through, which was a big help. In “normal” times, I would fly LAX to London Heathrow no matter where I was going beyond the UK as I prefer to fly Virgin Atlantic. That always requires me to go through customs to collect luggage at Heathrow and check it in to my further destination.
As in most airports, things are pretty dead but that means you get through security without problems but there’s almost naught open. Charleston was better than Newark in that regard. I was able to find a place for lunch in Charleston that had decent food. By decent I mean more than just fast food. Another good thing about the current “situation” is that flights are pretty bang on time and you have plenty of space on the airplane. I checked in 2 bags and had another one with me on the flight. Three bags is all I brought over – plus my “purse”. Which held some of my electronic gear. Smooth flight to Newark and I had 5 hours to wait. Surprisingly, it didn’t seem as long as it sounds. Newark airport was running at a bare minimum. Only a food court was open in my terminal and given my low carb diet, I was able to wrangle a taco salad – didn’t eat the high carb, seed oil, deep fried, shell it came in. There was also a Starbucks there and my friend had given me a gift card which I used to get some caffeine. When we were allowed to check in – I lost my tooth paste at security. What a rookie move! I forgot to put it in the checked luggage. It was a bit larger than the allowable 3 ounces. Oh well, I got some later in Portugal. They have Crest & Colgate here, too, in case you are wondering. I think I even saw Sensodyne at the super. I hung out at the bar – those who know me know I like my tipple. Spoke to a young guy that is in medical school in NYC. He was going to visit his Spanish girlfriend in Valencia, Spain and was taking the route over through Portugal. He, along with the rest of us at the bar, did not have a mask on and was chatting with those around. Hmm. No one got crazy or out of hand about masking up. We were about to all get on a plane, in a tube and share air. But I digress.
Flight was pretty darn smooth. I had rows to myself. I’d say about 1/3 of the plane was occupied so there was plenty of room for people to spread out. Food on TAP was abysmal but the comfort of the seats and the entertainment selection was fab, as well as the service. I would fly them again if I wanted to come straight through and avoid other countries from the US to Portugal or back to the US.
Arrival turned out ok, but, I had the WRONG COVID TEST! I thought I purchased the correct test but the customs agent pointed out that I had an RNA test and not a PCR test. The horror! Luckily, he was cool about it and advised that I need to be careful of that next time. All my other documentation was in order and he let me through. I still felt so bad about it. Back in South Carolina, I drove a ways from where I was staying to get the test I thought was the correct one, so that I would be in compliance. Even after driving down from Lisbon to the Algarve, I was still feeling bad about that.
My shuttle for the rental car came about 20 minutes after I exited the airport and I was on my way down South in a short time. I was pretty tired by the time I got to my place in the Algarve. If I haven’t already mentioned, I bought a place on a vineyard but, it’s not ready yet. Due to the delays with permits and work around COVID, there have been delays for everything. However, the vineyard has other accommodation on site and I’ve opted to stay here for a while. I booked 3 weeks here. I’ve booked myself an appointment with a local doctor – I’m a type 1 diabetic and need to make sure I will have prescription for insulin ongoing – so this step is very important for me. Prior to getting approved for a visa, I needed to have proof of private insurance, which I acquired through the people that helped me get my Portugal property.
As is advised through the Portuguese health authority, I have been self isolating for 10 days – symptom free! There are still curfews and other restrictions here but now I feel I can explore further than the supermarket a couple miles down the road. I hope to hit the beach tomorrow and be able to explore the Algarve a little further as things get better – and I know they will.