Portugal May Update

I feel bad for not updating my blog sooner. Ideally I would have liked to have at least posted a weekly update about my whereabouts and plans. I think that naturally I have been very preoccupied with finding an apartment in a timely fashion, so it ended up frequently slipping my mind to write up a blog post when I would have had time and energy to do so. Also, when you are constantly engaged in some activity or another time goes by very quickly, so I didn’t realize how much time had passed between now and my last update. 

Taking off from where I last left things in my last blog post, I did end up leaving Oeiras for Lisbon city. I felt very idle in Oeiras, because I wasn’t getting a lot of replies to my emails and I also got declined for one apartment that I looked at, which I am glad of in retrospect, since it would have been a large investment and my interest was partially due to the pressures of finding something in a timely fashion. It was a good place though. Very big for what I would have paid for it and in a very good condition as well as well situated. The downside was that the landlord only wanted to rent for 12 months minimum and it had no furniture or washing machine.
In Lisbon I was staying at Hotel DAH in Alameda (http://www.hoteldah.com/). It had the best price/value at the time when I was looking for hotels in the city centre. All I really wanted was a safe and clean place to sleep with a shower and Internet access. It turned out having those things more or less, but the Internet was not very stable and would cut out for quite some time. This was problematic as it hindered my ability to search for properties and there actually aren’t that many cafes with Internet access here in Lisbon compared to other major cities. What I ended up doing was figuring out areas that I had heard good things about and then taking the metro there and just walking around and looking for apartments with “to let” (arrenda-se or aluga-se typically) signs in the window. I started off by going to the metro station Saldanha as I remembered Sly Caveat on 2+2 posting that he would recommend the hotel VIP Saldanha as a home base for looking for apartments in Lisbon. The area was pretty nice and I ended up walking around Saldanha until I reached Sao Sebastiao.

Map of Lisbon city centre near Sao Sebastiao

Map of Lisbon city centre near Sao Sebastiao

In Sao Sebastiao they have a large shopping mall called El Corte Ingles (http://www.elcorteingles.pt/informacao/localizacao_horarios.asp) that has free Internet access in the eating area. I ended up coming here frequently with the metro to get quick food on the go (Also not as common as you might think in comparison, assuming you want to eat something else besides a sandwich.) and to access the Internet. Another option for accessing the Internet is to look for a hotspot, such as the one I am currently using (The network is called ZON_FON_FREE_INTERNET and you can pay by credit card. It’s free only if you have a ZON Internet contract.).
I ended up liking the Sao Sebastiao area and decided to focus on finding a place in that area. I think it is best to just find something you like and then focus on that specific part of the real estate market, otherwise it can quickly become overwhelming and discouraging. At least that is how I felt at times. At this point I also started figuring out how to game the search engines a little bit. My strategy was to fire up a couple of the main sites and then filter by date released and aggressively target places I liked that weren’t older than two weeks by first of all checking to see if they were listed at multiple prices and selecting the cheapest one and then making some aggressive bids trying to take control of the negotiation and basically saving time in the process by weeding out people that weren’t interested in my proposal for one reason or another. I ended up getting a viewing for a place I was interested in in Sao Sebastiao fairly quickly and ended up taking the place after negotiating the lease contract. The apartment was favourable as the rent was in an acceptable range, the landlord and real estate agent seemed competent and honest and they were ok with me being a poker player. So in brief, that is how my apartment search went and after roughly 12 days in total of being in Portugal, I was able to find a place. I’m pretty happy with my place, though it is not all upside. I’ve been waiting on Internet since the 1st of May. A guy came last week on Thursday, but said that there was an issue with the cabling and sent me to a place that I believe was in Oeiras (Leroy Merlin next to or in Loja de Alfragide), to buy some sort of protective cable tubes. This took a lot of time, but was an interesting trip. Some of the buses here have some serious G-force action going on when you are standing. The Internet guy should be back tomorrow and then hopefully install my connection. This has had a pretty large effect on the volume I have been able to put in as I have been avoiding playing on the hotspot I’ve been using due to stability issues (I’ve been folded holding the effective nuts on the river, just about to put in a checkraise) and have only really been able to play when at a friend’s place that isn’t super far away, but does require some time to get to.
Another issue I have is that there seems to be some smell issue in the entrance of the apartment which I think is related to old plumbing. It smells like rusty water. The landlord said the smell would go once water is running, but it didn’t go completely, it just improved. This might be reason enough to look for another place at the end of my six month contract should I plan to stay in Lisbon. I will have to see how it develops and if there is something that can be done about it.
I’ve actually experienced a lot in the short time I’ve been here, despite having been concerned with finding an apartment. I could probably fill another blog post like this. I really enjoy being here, even though it was stressful at times due to the uncertainty of how long it would take me to find a place and also due to having to deal with a not overly competent bureaucracy in a foreign language (no offence intended to the Portuguese readers reading this  :)). It’s also more motivating to work in an environment that one deems more worthwhile to live in.
I’m going to end this post with some photos of my surroundings and a video from a dance that is popular here called Kizomba and that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a workshop for. I may be off on some of the picture descriptions as a lot of the times I wasn’t conciously going to places, but wandering around trying to feel out the area and taking pictures of interesting things:
View from hidden cafe

View from hidden cafe

Fountain near city centre

Fountain near city centre

Park in Alameda

Park in Alameda

Port near Cais do Sodre

Port near Cais do Sodre

Fountain near Hotel DAH

Fountain near Hotel DAH

Park near El Corte Ingles

Park near El Corte Ingles

Baixa Chiado area

Baixa Chiado area

Alfma

Alfma

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