Hey there! Do you remember us? we are Nathalie and Sébastien, French travel bloggers from Borderless Travelers where we share our adventures from all over the world and all of our tips and tricks to make the best out of your trip. We’ve teamed up with Hedgren to give you a glimpse of our the adventures with our faithful Hedgren connect backpack. Today we’ll tell you about Portugal. We were completely blown away by this amazing friendly country and we will tell you everything about the reasons that made us not wanting to leave...
Even though we live in the South of France, making Portugal not that far from home, we had never been there. We heard a lot about how great this country was but didn’t know much about it and were very excited to get to know it better. The first glimpse we had of the Portuguese culture was on our trip to Cape Verde back in 2013, which is a former Portuguese colony. Right after setting foot on these beautiful islands we were instantly charmed by its peaceful way of life and its culture so having the opportunity to discover more about the Portuguese culture was pretty exciting for us. First, we went to Coimbra (“cou-eem-bra”), a very nice student city which is located in the middle of Portugal. We paid a visit to Audrey, our French travel blogger friend from the blog “Bom dia Portugal”. She spoiled us with a private tour of the city center the day we got there. If there is one thing you need to know about Coimbra is that you definitely need flat shoes to wander around! There are A LOT of stairs and slopes all around the city which can be quite hard to keep up with if you are not used to it. The good news is that it’ll allow you to work out for free. And a lot of slopes also means amazing views over the city ;)
The main attraction of Coimbra is its marvelous University which dates back to the 13th century. We had the opportunity to take a private visit with a French-speaking guide and it was truly an amazing experience. We learned a lot about the history and its usage. Did you know the University has its own autonomy (guards, court, prison), a little bit like the Vatican. Our favourite part of the tour was the huge library which is considered to be one of the most beautiful libraries in the world and, having been there, we definitely understand why! Everything was designed to preserve the 60 000 ancients books the best way possible. For example there’s not much sunlight coming through the narrow windows, the temperature is always regulated, everything is made of wood to absorb the humidity, a colony of bats live in there in order to feed on potential bugs (unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to see them) etc etc
Next stop : beautiful Lisbon! Due to unfortunate circumstances (we missed our coach for Seville!), we ended up staying for 5 days in Lisbon and it was just enough time to deeply fall in love with it! The city is vibrant, eclectic, colourful and intriguing. We loved spending time strolling around. We stayed at the Destination Hostel Lisbon, a great, fun place to meet new and interesting people! Our favorite part about Lisbon was the Alfama neighborhood which is the oldest of the city. It has an awful lot of charm and authenticity with its narrow streets, big white walls, orange trees and paved stairs (yes, stairs again!). If you get deep enough into the neighborhood, you’ll even have the chance to stumble upon places where no cars are allowed and kids can run around freely under the supervision of some old ladies peeking and talking with one another from their balconies. Another good thing about Lisbon, and Portugal in general? The food! Whether it was in a fancy trendy restaurant or in a small family-owned place, we ate extremely well. Luckly Portuguese people are very welcoming and friendly and we ended up chatting with a lot of them. It’s the best way to get tips about places to see and eat. Among the many Portuguese specialties we definitely recommend any dish that comes with bacalhau (cod fish), the chanfada (goat stew) and the ginginha (cherry liquor). You won’t regret it!
Last but not least, let’s talk about Sintra, a beautiful small city which is located a 30-minute drive from Lisbon. Even though it’s packed with tourists, it’s a must-go place in our opinion. This used to be the favourite holiday spot for the wealthy people of the 16th-century, who like showing of their wealth. Therefore, you will see a lot of castles spread around the city surrounded by nature, giving the place a fairytale kind of vibe. Very pretty! We didn’t have much time to explore so decided to go to Quinta da Regaleira, a huge property which is rumorued to have been built by Freemasons back in the day. Among the beautiful imposing buildings and the statues spread all around the big yard, the Well of Initiation is definitely worth checking out. It’s a 27-meter underground tower that contains spiral staircases. Once you get to the bottom of it, look up; its shape is supposed to provide a direct link to heaven, making it quite spiritual. We confirm, you’ll get an odd feeling looking up from down there.
Sébastien and Nathalie
More about our trip to Portugal on our blog right here