California at a quarter of the price.

I love California.  I have lived there several times during my life and I seem to be drawn to the beauty of the golden state.

I love the ocean and the smell of Eucalyptus trees.  I love the hiking trails.  I love the mountains and the fog.  All of these things can be found and experienced a few minutes from my doorstep here in Portugal.

Portugal, however, also has the benefit of being in Europe.  This means it has gorgeous old and historic buildings.  It has winding narrow roads. It has cute coffee shops everywhere, where you can enjoy a coffee for 60¢ and sit for hours people watching.

Portugal, unlike California, is cheap.  A trip to the farmers market can yield pounds worth of organic fresh fruits and vegetables for under $10.   Dinner out with appetizers, wine and dessert for a family of four is usually about $30.    A fabulous brunch is usually under $7.   Really what can beat cheap and delicious?  I argue…nothing.

I meet a lot of Californians here.  They too have discovered all the things they like about home, with the many added benefits here in Portugal.  More and more Californians are retiring here and I have even met some young families who have embraced the California of Europe.

Even surfing is huge here.  The coast of Portugal has a lot of surf competitions and in the winter the big wave surfers flock to Nazare to ride some of the largest waves in the world.

I really shouldn’t be telling you this.  The locals don’t want too many more people knowing about how cool this country is.  Tourism is already up by nearly 40 % from a decade ago.  Just read this and then forget I told you, okay?

Why do the Dutch not let you use the bathroom?

If you travel with kids, or a priest that has to go the bathroom constantly, you need to have toilets readily available.
In Amsterdam, I guess men peeing everywhere was a real problem because they have open urinals all over the streets. They are these gray boxes with four open stalls. The drainage for these stalls goes directly into the canals. We were all fascinated with these things. My priest upon first seeing them stated, “who would use these? Gross!” Fast forward two hours later after he had two coffees. He ran from us and headed straight to an open air urinal. Maggie ran after him to take a picture. He was mortified. We were happy.
We took a picture of him pretending to pee earlier.  A picture I promised never to share.

Anyway, my point is for men at least Amsterdam provides options.  For women, we have to pay for every toilet.  Even some restaurants don’t provide free toilets.   We went to a rest stop on the highway.  We got a Starbucks coffee and went to use the restroom.  We encountered a turnstile at one rest stop.  It was €1 per person and children to use the bathroom.  The only exception was if the kid could fit below a wooden cut out.  None of my children fit, but I refused to pay for Pippa and I made her sneak under.

The Dutch are pretty cool.  They ride bikes like champions.  They are super environmentally friendly.  They eat some sweet food, but why won’t they let us use the bathroom?  Calling it a cut name like “pipi” doesn’t help either.