She’s In! We are moving to Lisbon!

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We finally got confirmation that Lauren has a place for next school year at the French school in Lisbon. She has been on the waiting list there and in Porto since early this year, and the response has always been that they were full, until we finally got a notification that she has a place, just as I was seriously starting to contemplate a move to France!

I want to keep her in the same system she has been in up until now, as it suits her, gives her three languages, and also has a great deal of flexibility, eventually leading to the IB in either French of English, giving her plenty of options. The possibility of doing another year ‘online’ is also attractive, as who knows, maybe we will manage another trip before she leaves home :-).

Speaking of ‘home’, we at least know now where we are headed. Lisbon, capital of Portugal and a hot destination for digital nomads right now. Rents have gone through the roof, and its scary what a simple 2-bedroom apartment can cost these days. My image of doing the odd consultancy and living an easy life has been replaced by the need to rake in some serious dough to afford both the city and the school. Not to mention the surfing lessons she seems dead keen on…. Oh well, I’ve had a year off, can’t exactly complain!!! Better start polishing that CV, its been a long time since I had to go actively looking for work.

Of course, the main upside of a move to Lisbon is that we will be close to the rest of the Ennis family. Lauren is already making a list of all the yummy things she wants my parents to make for her (she is a child that thinks with her stomach) and the cool things she can do with my brother on their mysterious ‘uncle days’ (I suspect there may be food involved in these plans also). Being close to her cousin who is now 5 is also a main draw.

For my part, I don’t feel at all ready to ‘settle back down’ but I must admit I am looking forward to working again. I’ve done the odd bit on the road but miss the intellectual stimulation and satisfaction of working hard and doing a good job and feeling I’ve contributed to something bigger than me. I’m ready to re-engage. I have mixed feelings about being back in Portugal, I spent my adolescence there and it wasn’t the happiest experience (but then whose adolescence was?!) but then that was a small village nearly 20 years ago, not the buzzing capital city in 2018. Hopefully we will have lots of visitors.

But first, we have a third of the globe to cover – Xi’an next to see the famous terracotta warriors, then Beijing, then through the Gobi desert to Mongolia, where it seems we will be sleeping in the wild in a Ger, then on to Moscow, Brussels, Lisbon…..

Surprise!

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Pre-christmas Ennis family selfie….

Apologies for the radio silence, but it has been in a good cause.

We were supposed to embark on the next leg of our adventure – a cargo ship from London to Montevideo – last week, but while we were in Iceland we got news that the dates had shifted, and we would actually sail on the 18th December as opposed to the 12th.

This gave us options – hang out for another week in the UK, spend more time in Ireland, or pull off a big surprise to the folks back ‘home’ in Portugal.

With help from my brother, we managed to fly from Ireland to Portugal and surprise my parents, casually walking into a café where they thought they were meeting my brother for mid-morning coffee.

Lauren and I hid down on the beach until they arrived, which was no great hardship with December weather like this:

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Finally we saw my Dad’s car pull up, and we raced ninja-style across to a spot where they wouldn’t be able to see us, then crept up the stairs behind them and into the cafe.

I wish I’d got a picture, as the realization slowly dawned that their much-loved granddaughter and daughter had just walked in, when they thought they weren’t going to see us for another 7 months. They were literally speechless – dad got out a ‘what the….?’ and mum not even that, and as Lauren loves telling people, their mouths ‘were actually hanging open’.

We spent a lovely 5 days at ‘home’ (as much as anywhere is home these days), including a trip to our favourite Indian restaurant, innumerable toast and coffees, a few walks along the beach or cliffs, some sunshine and some rain. We also put up the Christmas tree together.

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Winter sunset at our local beach bar (credit: my brother).

Really it was just lovely to see everyone, including my nephew who is growing up into a lovely lad thanks a great deal to a devoted father. We will definitely miss every one of them over the next 7-8 months until we return to Portugal, despite the wonders of skype, whatsapp and email. Christmas will feel particularly strange, as we will be mid-atlantic and unable to even call. But an Ennis Christmas rarely deviates from a much-loved pattern so we will be able to imagine the champagne for breakfast, the charades, the complaints and eye-rolling from mum about the ridiculously big turkey the men bought, and the perfectly cooked result after she works her magic.

We got back to the UK yesterday, to a snow-covered country tearing itself apart over Brexit.

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We will be glad to get away again next week, aboard the Grande Amburgo, or ‘great hamburger’ as we have re-christened it.

 

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!

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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!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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