The crowd floods through the train dock gates, unweaving towards the exits, left and right. Then, outside the train station, there is a mixure of sensations. The sun shines, a pleasant breeze blows and the seagulls cry above, reminding of the closeness of the sea. Down here, the commotion of town and Avenida Marginal, filling the area with the sound of engines. The traffic lights momentarily stop all of the fuss, and in those instants it's the people that come in surges over the pedestrian crossing, under the shopping mall. In the village of Cascais, the settling of autumn hasn't changed the usual routine.
I start walking on the sidewalk that follows the main road. Looking beyond the avenue, I get the silhouette of the fantastic seaside. There's the railway that follows the coastline like the road, with the yellow carriages waiting the next departure. Big, rich mansions and restaurants with priviledged views are behind them, just before the seaside pathway. The strong splashing of waves against the wall sometimes reaches it. The sea seems a bit rough today. I should be closer to it when I get back to the station, by the end of today's hike. For now, I am headed towards the huge Estoril Sol Residence, projecting itself over the road.
Under the large windows of the blocky modern building, growing on a small slope, there is a peaceful green area, with an ambiance in tones of green, brownish burgundy and blue. Its pathway is geometric, zigzagging between the wall of trees on the left and trimmed grass on its right. Long benches at each flowerbed offer some rest to the passer-by, but people are happy just to stroll about or jog. This small corner of green is then replaced by something else further up. The open metal gates allow a glimpse of a trail, leading inside the woods, growing densely in all directions. I head in to slowly explore Parque de Palmela.
The rain of the past few days has left a mark on the place and its atmosphere. It feels humid, the scent of plants is very vivid. The trails - dirt tracks, gravel and stone slabs - show puddles and traces of minuscule streams. Leaves and seeds of different kinds are scattered on the forest grounds. The bushes and trees form a thick landscape of wood and foliage, growing very high. The sound of cicada and various birds hangs around, echoing, with only the distant airplanes to interrupt them. With a thin river canal, a few open lawns and exercise equipment, most of the park is a true forest. And taking advantage of that there is also an adventure park, strangely silent. The woods sit inside a sort of enclosed valley, and offer a great escapade to the city around it.
A thin trail allowed me to leave through one of the sides of the park, leading to an ordinary residential street. Now on higher ground, I leave the upper part of the forest behind to enter the neighbourhood. I take one of the smaller, older streets, where the welcoming houses are generally a few stories high, some decades old, well preserved and colorful. The road describes a hump, and for a moment the scenery changes. Openings on the rows of buildings reveal more of the region's lush hillside. The sun casts an oblique light that hits a profusion of housing and rooftops, ondulating with the highs and lows of the land. The landscape is like an abstract canvas, densely speckled with a mass of white and orange shapes.
The next 20 minutes or so were spent wandering without aim, getting lost around these streets. It feels like the outskirts, with a mix of old and new houses, narrow roads and rough yards. The only movement comes from those who come home, and those who leave. Slowly, I start leaving the hillside to get inside the dense city once again. Big apartments become more present, but the quietness remains. Schoolyard racket, echoing all over a small square, somehow makes me realise I should head back down the district, to return to the sea. I check my map, and after a quick hesitation I start heading down to the second half of my stroll, toward the seaside of Cascais.
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