Springtime warmth fills up the labyrinth of housing near the train station of Alcântara-Terra, at the edge between the Alcântara and Estrela districts. The heat of March is only slightly diminished by the wind, appearing irregularly. Strong sunlight paints the facades bright, and the trees that a month ago were looking dull have already gained a new vitality. A veil of minuscule flowers covers the sidewalks, speckling it with yellow dots. Sometimes, a few birds make themselves noticeable, but otherwise the background sound of the first meters of my walk of the day, towards a hidden viewpoint of tranquil sights, is a cacophony of roaming vehicles, coming from the railroad, bus stops and the crossroads nearby.
As I move to climb Rua da Costa, the commotion also comes from the people passing by or simply those living here. A young couple stands out, sitting in one of the benches with big backpacks, two travellers surely enjoying their discovery of Lisboa. At the base of the street, a little kid plays around with a cat, and further up someone is hanging clothes to dry in the warm sun, in one of the many balconies ornate with flowers. Reverberating throughout the entire street of modest houses and small palaces, the sound of a crying baby. In Estrela, like so many parts of Lisboa, one is offered sights mixing old and new, but just as enjoyable are the little slices of the actual life that people lead in these neighbourhoods.
At the top, and after a slight turn towards the outer wall of a huge park I will discover in the next hour, I immediately meet a gust of fresher air. Behind the tall stone wall rise lush and dense trees, but before I get inside that area there is a great spot I need to check out: it is a hidden viewpoint that is not very often brought up when talking about the sights of the city. Just ahead, the silhouette of the housing breaks, and that is where the lovely viewpoint of Largo das Necessidades sits, an opening to the view of the busy town in a tranquil atmosphere.
This spot is actually a garden, quiet and peaceful, with lawns big enough for a picnic, benches and plenty of shade from big trees. It also has a small obelisk, standing tall above a baroque fountain of clear water. At the moment there aren't many visitors around, just two people playing frisbee on the grass, a group of youngsters listening to music and a couple sitting in front of the fantastic view of the Tejo, the south bank, the rooftops of Alcântara sprawling underneath the 25 de Abril bridge, and vibrating from the intense heat. The sound of electronic lounge music, out of a portable speaker, and light conversations complete the ambiance.
In backlight, the 25 de Abril bridge seems to fit in its entirety in the canvas offered by the viewpoint. The cars form a track of ants, moving quickly on the horizontal deck against the background of clear skies and the sun still up high. The viewpoint's strips of small green lawns extend for a few dozen meters along the open slope, before the housing appears once again to claim both sides of the street. This fantastic miradouro is a great place to stay for a while, and it is very inviting, but my stroll has to continue elsewhere.
The main spot I wanted to explore today is Tapada das Necessidades, which is just across the road; but I want to get inside the park from the northern entrance, and then walk back down along its pathways. So at Rilvas square, past the pink walls of Palácio das Necessidades (the historic site where the first Portuguese Constitution was approved, nowadays the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), I start a long climb up. The wind shakes every treetop, colored mostly in dry yellow tones, and soon the housing takes over.
The street doesn't have much to see, being mostly a row of residences, but it is good exercise. In a few minutes, I will be entering the lush Tapada das Necessidades, and that is where I will surely find some great sights of the natural side of the neighbourhood. See you there!
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