After a long but charming climb, I am at the edge of the Paço de Arcos parish, by the town hall of the Oeiras district. There is a constant buzz coming from the neighbourhood streets and the nearby highway, but in the middle of this restless urban landscape there is a place where one can forget the surrounding city and get lost on a beautiful garden that offers peace of mind and invites to contemplation. Very close to the building sits the northernmost entrance to Parque dos Poetas, and that is where I am headed to begin the second half of my hike around this side of Oeiras.
The park's grounds are located just outside Paço de Arcos, in the parish of São Julião da Barra. They start right in front of the highway roundabout, with an arch of fountains, and a small stairway leading to the first meters of a long pathway, made of rosy cobblestone and marked with petals or leaves. This shape is repeated throughout the park, in different ways, and these ones on the ground read poems from different authors, different times and styles. On either side are small grass lawns, just a snippet of what will come after. A squared atrium sits ahead, where rectangular portals stand fast. They are made of straight silver prisms, simple and unadorned, very effective in imposing a certain timeless solemnity.
Parque dos Poetas is divided in three parts, or 'fases', as they are named. The first one is built on a slope, crossed by the same pathway from before. The garden grows on either side, wide and plentyful. Each poet represented here has her or his petal-shaped little corner, and a sculpted idol based on their figure and the images that their poetry evoques. These are like small sanctuaries, oracles where one can be close to the authors. There are many other sculptures, scattered all around a land of open lawns, undulating in small hills and valleys of trimed grass, great for a relaxing afternoon or a picnic, and a fantastic playground for children. The city and its buzz are never too far, but it is easy to find a personal refuge in here.
Upon entering the middle section the park and looking at the horizon, I can guess this is where it begins to fall down the district's hillside, and surely the sights here are great. On a short plateau, I walk by what seem to be several monuments to authors and poetic writing, in particular the impressive iron pyramid that centres a hedge labyrinth, which is itself circled with a balcony for fantastic vistas. Then, leading down the immense space, there is a sort of avenue along which the poet shrines stem out, like before. Several more architectural pieces populate the hillside, in close bond with the lush vegetation. Well in the afternoon, the park is beautifully illuminated. The urban constructions follow around it, and the Tejo river shines.
The last third of the park is a thinner strip of green, still densely packed with beautiful corners, works of art and fresh grass. It begins with another priviledged balcony over the site, and a children playground. The main pathway, always sharing poems to those who walk by, describes a smooth wave sided by healthy trees, and the hideouts of each poet now have a kind of divide that makes each one look like a small ark, carrying their sculptures along a sea of green. The end-of-day shade is increased by the tall city apartments. A small stream sprouts somewhere near and accompanies the last two hundred meters of the avenue. With short cascades, the water ends its journey in an ample pool by the exit, under the watch of a series of human figures in white stone.
I still have some time to spend before catching the train, so I try to find a way to the Tejo shoreline. Out of nature and back to the streets, I vaguely head down, getting closer and closer to the riverside road of Oeiras, where I am greeted with a loud frenzy of vehicles and people returning from the beach. The Paço de Arcos sandstrip is under the growing shadows of the treetops across the road, stretching, creeping in the sand. Many are still joyfully enjoying the last traces of warm sun. Lisboa appears in the distance. The sound of surf competes with the noise from the road, and that is the background sound for the rest of my stroll.
Passing by the navy lighthouse direction and museum, I make my last stop at the sight of Praia Velha, where the unusual shoreline fountain bursts like a geiser to a height of about 10 meters. The sea has a bright blue colour, and a halo of reddish light lies in the horizon. The sunset is already happening, changing the tones of both of the Tejo banks. A couple of fishermen are atop the coastal wall, waiting for the fish to bite, two ladies talk over the sound of the rolling waves. The water crashes on the rocky blocks along the shore, and boats drift loosely with the swells.
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