Family Time and Preparations in Portugal

The last 5 weeks were a mixture of family time and preparations for our trip. It was lovely to spend some time with my parents, brother and nephew in the beautiful Silver Coast. Of course being August we shared it with millions of tourists!


It felt like we were up and down to Lisbon every 2 minutes for endless vaccinations – the nurse yesterday at our final session yesterday declared Lauren to be the most vaccinated child in Portugal! We also managed to fit in plenty of homeschooling, using the British curriculum until we (finally) get the French school books we are anxiously waiting for.

We also had chance to catch up with our lovely friend Denise, watch a partial eclipse at sunset, go to the beach, lots of swimming, go for dog walks, visit Lauren’s future school, and have a very large number of coffees. Lauren also had a special ‘Uncle day’ with my brother (I’m not allowed to know what goes on during Uncle days, but I know they involve history and treats) and a day out at the incredible Oceanarium in Lisbon (thanks Rick).

Last night we had a farewell family dinner, tonight will be farewell beers, then its off early tomorrow to Rome!

The Ennis family.  A rare photo where everyone is behaving.








Hi I’m Lauren


Hi I am Lauren and I like Nature, animals and pets. I love doing Ballet and gymnastics and most sports.

I like eating pizza, meat, pasta, puddings and lots of vegetables. I don’t like any kind of fruit!!!

I am feeling very excited about going round the world but of course there is usually a silver lining to every decision you make. A silver lining means there is the good and the bad. To me, my silver lining is that I had to leave all my friends behind in Mozambique. I have lots of friends there because I lived there my whole life. I miss them all a lot and will also miss my family in Portugal.

I am most excited about going on the container ship for a month at sea. It is an Italian ship so there is going to be lots of good food, there are 5 courses for dinner!!! Wow! I know that I have an enormous appetite but that is a lot of food !!

I’m not really worried about anything because I have had all 8 vaccinations so that I don’t get a disease and die.

I hope you enjoy our blog.



Lycée Français Charles Lepierre – Lisbon

Review of the French School in Lisbon, Lycee Francaise Charles Lepierre.

Lycee Francaise Charles Lepierre French

Yesterday we went to visit the school we hope Lauren will return to after her year of on the road schooling, the Lycée Français Charles Lepierre, in Lisbon. The kids aren’t back yet, but teachers were, all looking slightly frazzled as they prepare to receive their over 2000 (!) kids back for ‘La rentrée’ next week.

First impressions? Its huge. Compared to the lovely Maputo French school with around 600 kids, LFCL as those in the know call it, is enormous. With separate sections for preschool and various other groupings of 3-4 years, with separate playgrounds and buildings, it seems to be run with military precision. The director of elementaire was too busy to give us more than 5 minutes, but they were a productive 5 minutes, and with a very French roll of the shoulders and twist of the hand, he gave us permission to faire un petit tour of the primary school buildings and the grounds.

There seem to be 7 or 8 classes for each year, as opposed to the 2 Lauren was used to – she seemed a little overawed but also excited at the prospect of so many kids.

The school is heavily oversubscribed, caused by Lisbon’s increasing popularity with French nationals, and more generally with digital nomads and celebrities (Madonna visited the school recently as she has moved to Lisbon, and is reported by the Portuguese press to have enrolled her son at the school). No guarantees were given about admission, but we were told French nationals have priority, then children coming from the French system – which will include Lauren as she will be doing the full curriculum for her year by correspondence, through the French education ministry. If she doesn’t get in, we may consider moving to Porto, which also has a French school.

Lauren was particularly interested in seeing the canteen and the library – in the former she loved the hi tech conveyor belt system for stowing the trays and in the latter she was delighted to meet Joana the librarian who not only showed her the library but gave her 5 books to read – 2 of which have already been devoured. So much for packing light!

Extracurricular activities include a vast array of sports and arts – Lauren is particular interested in the Surf classes held every wednesday.

Overall I have mixed feelings about the school – there is no doubt that the fairly academic and structured French system suits Lauren, and there is no doubt that it is one of, if not the, best schools in Lisbon. The various teachers we met on our petit tour were lovely, stopped to talk to Lauren (and did talk to her as well as me, which was nice) and were interested in our plans and very welcoming.

But it’s so big. It’s such a change from the lovely school in Maputo where even I, a long-time avoider of PTA and committees and social events at school, still knew most parents and teachers by sight and Lauren knew all of the kids. I feel like Lauren will be just another small fish in a highly competitive and enormous pool, and while part of me thinks that is exactly what she needs, another part of me wants her to stay in a cosy, comfortable environment for a few more years. But that’s just me being an overprotective mummy, I am sure she will thrive and be finding her way around the place in no time, if we manage to get her in. And if it doesn’t work out, well we can simply choose a different path.


Goodbye to Mozambique


Lauren's despedida cake
Lauren’s despedida cake

Despedida is a Portuguese word meaning farewell or goodbye. It’s generally used as shorthand for a farewell party. Between us, we had 5 (!) despedidas, as well as many personal goodbyes to the people who have made up our lives in Maputo. Lauren left before me, to spend a month in Portugal with my parents while I remained behind to sell furniture, finish my final work contract and generally ensure a smooth exit from Mozambique.

Lauren’s despedida started off on the last day of school with a special goodbye to her teachers and classmates at the French school where she has been incredibly happy.

School children at Maputo French School

Then in the afternoon, her party was held in the park at the end of our road, and we had an awesome cake, giant jenga and darts, and lots and lots of kids and adults. Her very first nursery teacher came, as well as her adored form teacher from the French school and a lot of close friends who have always been there for me during the ups and downs of being a single working mum in Maputo. It was a lot of fun, until people started to leave and it hit hard that this was the last time she would see many of her friends, schoolmates and teachers. Particularly sad was her goodbye to our nanny and housekeeper, who has been with us since she was born, and who has helped me raise her to be the wonderful, kind and mature child she is today. Another big goodbye was to Lauren’s cat Luke, who is being fostered by a kind friend until we are settled.


Once Lauren was happily settled in Portugal, I had a series of wonderful but also sad despedidas, with former colleagues from the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Irish Embassy where I worked as an economist for four years, with a bunch of other economists with whom I have shared the many frustrations and crises of recent years, and then a final despedida on my very last night with friends, sundowners under the massive fig tree by the beach at the fabulous Southern Sun in Maputo.


It was a great way to close this chapter in our lives, and I am sure we will see many of our friends again in the future.

Choosing Our Own Path

Why we chose the name of our blog.

We chose choosing our own path as the name of our blog after a few attempts to reflect the idea that we want to do our own thing, both with the trip and more broadly with life.

The sani pass in lesotho
One of our more interesting choices of path recently – the Sani pass in Lesotho…

Eventually Lauren’s excellent first suggestion of ‘’ got shortened to ‘choosing our own path’ because that’s exactly what I intend for us.

My life has so far hardly been conventional – my family moved from the UK to rural Portugal (and it was *properly* rural back in 1989!) when I was 13, and I finished my schooling there before an attempt at conventionality (Economics degree followed by working in London as a Management Consultant) for a few years. An unexpected redundancy paid off my student debt when I was 26 and focused my mind on whether I really wanted to be part of the London rat race for the next 40 years. Nope.

I signed up for VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) and was posted to Mozambique, mainly because I spoke Portuguese already. This started a 15-year love-hate relationship with the country. Over that time I worked at grass roots level and policy level, for NGOs, private sector firms, the Mozambican government, and international donors.

Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique
Stunningly Beautiful Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique

I chose to have Lauren on my own because frankly, my choices of potential father material were always deeply flawed. A perhaps unconventional option, but one I believe paid off. We are incredibly close and she is just amazing.

The most important thing in my life.

Lauren has grown up surrounded by extreme poverty, and deeply aware of my desire to contribute to development for the less privileged. But she has also been protected by living in a lovely Maputo bubble of international schools, nannies and drivers. Many of her friends have swimming pools and huge houses. But even our small apartment was in a high-end area, right next to the president’s palace (which unfortunately came with the added ‘benefit’ of regular attempts at foreign national anthems by the military band when the president received visiting foreign dignitaries).

I want Lauren to grow up knowing she is incredibly lucky to have a family that loves her, enough funds to never worry about food, housing or school, and protection by a generally benign state by holding a British passport. I hope she will benefit hugely from this years’ trip, and it will help to forge in her the ability and determination to choose her own path in years to come.