I am watching the Tejo through the water speckled windows of the cacilheiro. The surface of the river, a bit rough from the wind, is showing a kind of blue that is almost green. The passing boats leave long white trails that take a while to fade. The one I am in moves steadily forward, pushing the water out of the way. The engine makes the chairs tremble lightly, and serves as background ambiance for the conversations of the many foreigners heading to Cacilhas. It's a short trip.
This is the beginning of a rather big stroll I had not long ago, in the riverside district of Cacilhas. I walked for a few hours and took a lot of notes, so the description of my visit had to be halved in two parts. You can read about the second part of this trip in the following story, where I go around the district to find a fantastic viewpoint and riverside street!
Immediately upon leaving the quay, there is the voice of a woman loudly presenting her baskets of fruit to the waves of people stepping inland. She is just one of the vendors that set their stand nearby. I look around the area, a crossroads between the docks, a square with cafes and esplanades, and metro and bus stations. People walk in all directions, and I go left, by the riverside near the bus zone, heading towards the red lighttower. A rare wind brings the fresh scent of the river. The water itself is very quiet here, you can't hear it moving against the walls, there is only an occasional crack coming from the floating platforms. This spot offers a great view of Lisboa, from the Santa Apolónia cruise terminal, to Cais do Sodré, to Belém, the Alcântara shipyard and the 25 de Abril bridge, with all of Lisbon's riverside in plain sight, and its hills in the background.
Meanwhile, my boat has already set sail to Cais do Sodré. The crowd has dispersed, and a gentle quietness fills the place. There is nothing to distract me from the warm sun, and the light humming sound, coming from an electric generator, as I reach the lighthouse of Pontal de Cacilhas. A couple is sitting under its shade, while at the edge of the sidewalk three men speak sporadically. The base of the lighthouse has an inscription, a quatrain by Manuel da Fonseca. I follow along this side of the river, passing by the quays and two museum-ships of the Navy Museum: the Barracuda submarine and the D. Fernando II e Glória frigate. Then, I reach the long avenue that accompanies the entire Margueira shipyard, the almost mythical old location of Lisnave.
The walk along the avenue takes some time. Slowly approaching, the huge, bright red gantry imposes itself over the landscape. Behind the shipyard fence are different sorts of equipment, buoys, ropes, boats, machines, spread around sectors of large open areas and big warehouses. The site has been inactive for decades now, and gives off a sort of deserted atmosphere. Once or twice I see a few people, almost hidden among the big, empty buildings. The entrance to the complex would seem a bit eerie if it wasn't for the sunlight. Nevertheless, the old shipyard is very impressive to look at, and its size alone reminds you of its historical importance. The avenue itself has a cycling path all the way through, and series of trees that accompany the road. There is some housing here, the local fire station, and the green hillside with occasional flowers.
There isn't much traffic. A cyclist passes by me as I reach a more pleasant part of the avenue, with lush vegetation, big eucalyptus that spread their leaves and seeds on the ground and their scent in the air. A high-end restaurant is located here. Eventually I get to a crossroads, where the large road spreads out among different neighbourhoods. I know I'm at the edge of the district of Cacilhas, so I turn right, hoping to get back to its central area. Crossing a few streets of the suburbs. Walking up the town's sloping hill, I get a bit lost around the frontier of Cacilhas and Almada.
The area has a typical urban vibe, not too tall housing, and small businesses and stores appear from time to time, most notably workshops of different sorts. I somehow get to Almada's urban park Comandante Júlio Ferraz, a very welcoming green spot in the middle of the city, and then find Rua D. Sancho I, as a group of kids with yellow hats walk in line to enter a bus, probably going for a holiday camp. Taking another detour, I reach the Dom Afonso Henriques avenue, and decide to follow it. It is a central street, connecting the two districts, very wide and full of movement. The tram passes right at center, while cars move up and down on each side. Some trees pop up from time to time, to add some green to the mostly-white facades of the buildings, under which are stores, cafes and restaurants.
The road leads down and so I follow, noticing again how strong the sun is today. Between the balconies to my right, I catch a glimpse of the Lisnave gantry in the distance. Ahead sits the Gil Vicente square, where the white and blue tram is about to arrive. The square seems built around the tram stops, with small pools on each side of the trails and lines of trees on the other side of the surrounding road, pointing to the center. I continue to walk forward, to a new avenue called 25 de Abril. It goes down gently and makes a slight curve as it approaches the river.
Finally seeing the water in the distance, I changed direction to make my stroll a little longer and reach the docks in the opposite way. At this point I am halfway through my trip, and the best sights are yet to come! Catch up with the next half on the riverside pathway of Cacilhas!
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