Sheila and I just returned from a trip to Portugal. (We helped a family member move across the ocean and get settled into an apartment.) When this opportunity came up, we jumped at the chance to help out one of our favorite people on the planet and to get on the international road again. Let’s be honest – we enjoyed quite a bit of sightseeing in between hanging curtains and shopping for dishes.
This overseas trip had its quirky (but solvable) challenges, generally not faced in the USA. Lucky for you, we did the research, so you don’t have to. (with no bodies found anywhere) Take a look:
A washcloth (called facecloths in some areas) seems to be a USA item, since no European hotels or B&Bs have ever provided them for us and the staff always look at me like I’m nutso bonkers when I explain what Sheila is looking for. Very few stores seem to carry them either, including some home furnishing shops we checked out. Pack one (or two) in your suitcase.
Universal adapter: we in the USA have different shaped electrical outlets than people in most of the rest of the world. SO, when we travel we need to have outlet adapters. They don’t convert the electricity, but when we insert the correct adapter into the European outlet, we can then plug our electrical items into it and charge our laptops and hairdryers. Some places require a converter for the electricity flow as well. Check with the destination residence to see what is required. This adapter worked well for us in Portugal. They are sold online thru Walmart and in Europe in FNAC stores, among others.
Jet lag: It takes time for the body to adjust when changing several time zones during a flight, because our sleep patterns/circadian rhythms are interrupted. For each time zone crossed, experience tells us that it takes a day to return to feeling normal. So…five time zones crossed in a flight (in general) translates to five days of recovery. So what are the symptoms most people complain about?
- Inability to concentrate (brain fog)
- Extreme fatigue
- Stomach upset
Yes, it’s real. I got into the car two days after our return and sat in the driver’s seat, intending to drive us to the grocery store. And stared at the dashboard. I couldn’t figure out what all those icons were for. Seriously. Sheila took over the wheel and I didn’t drive until a couple of days later, when my brain had returned to normal function. Sheila’s symptoms were sleep and headache related and she never did experience the brain fog that so clearly affected me.
The Caribbean has its own variety of currencies. Canada and Mexico each have their own as well. Take the time to learn the exchange rate in the country you’ll be visiting and plan your travel budget accordingly. For the most part, it’s better to use a multibank ATM to take out your needed cash for purchases. The rate at a multibank ATM is better since the banks in that network agree on an exchange rate. A regular ATM will charge more. Exchanging your home country physical cash for the local cash inside a brick & mortar bank will generally get you the worst rate of exchange. The differences are not huge, but if every dime counts, there’s an app on your phone that will reveal the rate of exchange for any given purchase. Be aware that it often changes daily as a result of global conditions.
The Chocolate: Dad used to say that you could tell about the quality of a country’s food by their desserts. If you go by that rule alone, Portugal has terrific food. Well, it does, in addition to the desserts in the multiple cafes that seem to be on every corner in the cities. The chocolateries compete with each other for the fabulous bars and barks and truffle-type offerings. Most also serve hot chocolate that is perpetually ready for the eager customers in line.
Our favorite chocolate spot in both Porto and Braga is Chocolataria Equador, where the delightful shopkeeper (shown here in Braga) expertly used her phone translator app to navigate our conversation and sales. The cocoa beans are imported from Ecuador and the chocolate is then handcrafted in Portugal. Oh, my, yum! Not only is the chocolate superb, but the fillings in the bars are inventively added to create exceptional concoctions. Worthy of multiple trips to the shops…you know…for just one more bar.
Any questions? Ask away in the comments below. Travel the world and enjoy!