It's a sunny afternoon and I am strolling around lovely Cacilhas, in the south bank of the Tejo. I just got to Rua Elias Garcia, in the upper half of the district. An older spot in the neighbourhood, where some noisy construction works are taking place. Looking uphill, it's a sloping street, between the housing and the vegetation that gradually increases, so I prepare myself for a climb. It takes a few minutes to spot an escape to the right, near a tiny square mid-way between the houses. It's Travessa do Castelo, where the wind really picks up and makes the tall reeds rustle.
Around this time I was halfway through my visit to Cacilhas. You can also check out the first part of the trip, where I have a riverside stroll on the eastern side and pass by the Lisnave complex, just before getting lost around frontier between this district and the also lovely Almada!
The street leads to Castelo de Almada, nowadays used by the GNR (the national guard) as a station. But the main highlight here is the view. Close by are the fields along the slope, where people are working. Over to the left, the housing starts showing up, ending in the Tejo waters. You can't see Lisboa, but you can spot Seixal, Barreiro, and Samouco between the tallest buildings. I quickly move on around the castle, to try and reach the Tejo. The street makes a slight curve and slowly heads down, and as I walk towards its end, a kind of low-pitched breath grows louder and louder, resonating on the walls. Through the small gate ahead, I see its source: the deck of the 25 de Abril bridge appears in the distance, continuously run over by waves of cars. Its sound extends as far as here.
The bridge, and the Cristo Rei sanctuary, stand as in a postcard, behind a landscape of orange roofs, light-colored houses and treetops. I just entered the welcoming Jardim do Castelo, located in a open area with cobblestone and green lawns, populated by some trees. Surprisingly, there is no one around to walk its paths, enjoy the bandstand, the playground or the nearby church. The air is very refreshing, specially after the climb of before. The blue drinking fountain works fine, so I have some water and head to the miradouro. The garden's lawns stop at a restaurant which is closed right now, right before a vantage point with benches, and here you are offered some amazing sights.
I take a sit and stare for a bit. To the right, there are the riverside hills covered in lush green; at the top there's Casa da Cerca, surrounded by trees and big lawns. Below, a nearby road leads to another viewpoint with a cafe, and from there you can reach the panoramic lift, or go down a zigzagging stairway that accompanies the rocky cliffside below me, disappearing in the treetops. At the base of the lift there is a lovely garden, and the riverside extends to the left, where some warehouses pop up from within the vegetation. The Tejo river is the biggest presence in the landscape, running down the bridge, bathing Lisboa along the horizon.
Leaving the viewpoint behind, I leave the garden to enter a narrow street, passing by a small museum just before reaching a new square, by the Almada city hall. It is a cosy place, presenting colourful facades and a cine-theater. There are many visitors like me, wandering about this area. I turn right again, to get to the downward stairway I saw before. Passing by some curious ondulated stairs, the Miradouro Boca do Vento is in reach, and from here there is another fantastic perspective of the riverside. I finally start going down the stairs, down the hillside full of vegetation, and by this point I'm back in the district of Cacilhas.
Acompanying my way down are loads of messages painted along the stairs, too many not to be read. Some are more decipherable than others, more poetic, passionate or carefree. Under the many trees and plants that freely grow around, the stairway also leads to an old, abandoned building. There are many others around here. A series of old windows under the foliage, showing Lisboa, has an odd appeal to them. Old palaces and industrial warehouses by the riverside, without a floor or a ceiling, these decrepit sites are nevertheless impressive in their size, their somewhat grotesque beauty, and surely hold a lot of history. By the end of the stairs, the river is at my reach, and the refreshing breeze is the first to greet me.
Small waves crash flat against the stone, while groups of fish gather near a tiny sandstrip. A pair of sailboats slowly sails away. To the left, another view of the lift and the inviting garden. On the right there is a hidden cafe, a recent and trendy place by the looks of it. The bell of orders rings on occasion, the waiters go back and forth to meet the many costumers at the esplanade. It's a very laid-back spot, giving the costumers a relaxing afternoon watching the river. I follow between the tables, and soon the street, Rua do Ginjal, goes straight ahead for several hundred meters. The river shines from the sunlight, and gives off a scent of freshness. The stone walls of the old buildings by the river are full of graffiti, scribbles and paintings of varying taste. It feels like a real open-air gallery.
Sometimes I cross paths with a family walking by, or resting against the walls. Some children are eating peaches next to a colorful videogame character. The Tejo is very calm. More people start showing up as I get closer to Cais do Ginjal, the docks I arrived at a few hour ago. The pathway then connects to the platforms of an old quay, nowadays left as parking spots for cars. A few fishermen gather around this spot, calmly talking, waiting for the fish to bite. Meanwhile the visitors walk by and enjoy the sights. At the last stretch of the road, the abandoned warehouses begin to be replaced by small businesses, a workshop, then a restaurant, a cafe, and I finally get there.
At the same time as me, a cacilheiro approaches the station, and soon a big crowd comes out from it. The boat will leave shortly, back to Cais do Sodré, and it's the one I have to take. The vendor I saw before is still here, proudly selling fruit to the new people flooding the area. I pick up the pace, entering the boat as the town gets busy once again.
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