It is summer already but Lisboa is still waking up to cloudy mornings like these. The sky is a light grey colour, and the air feels warm. By midday, around the Martim Moniz square, the roads are constantly busy with cars, buses and trams, sounding their engines, lining up and breaking up with the changing lights. On the sidewalks, some stores are only now preparing for the lunch hour, the waiters setting up the esplanades. People go up and down, talking in different languages, looking at the buildings' facades, or joining in the huge lines at the tram and bus stops. The landscape around is that of a cluster of buildings, houses and apartments of various colours, stacked together, climbing the hills of Lisboa. Up there, the São Jorge castle and the Graça viewpoint have a perfect view of this central spot of the city.
The square itself manages to provide an escape from all the fuss. At its lower half, only occasionally someone walks across the flat pavement, or goes by through the curious fountain evoking the historical medieval siege from where the legend of Martim Moniz emerged. Most of the people are sitting beneath the canopies or the trees that separate the square from the roads around it. In the upper half, where most of the snack-bars and esplanades stand, there are paths of synthetic grass, leading up to a wide fountain of peculiar waterspouts. They make the whole place more pleasant for those sitting at the esplanades and on the benches.
I cross the square to reach Rua da Mouraria, in front of the Senhora da Saúde church. The street is paved with typical cobblestone, ornated with triangles, flanked by the church and several stores, cafes and pastry shops. The sound of dicussions inside can be heard just by passing by. In a wall by the Mouraria shoping center, a man is pasting posters with a broom. In front of the center's atrium there is a small sculpture of a portuguese guitar, celebrating Fado and announcing the beginning of Rua do Capelão. A group or tourists is here, a small crowd listening to their guide, telling the audience to 'absorb the essence of the neighbourhood'. They move on, and soon after I do the same.
From Rua do Capelão I go up the sloping streets of Mouraria, streets that show their medieval origin with unpredictable directions, turns, widths and extensions. Immediately there is a feeling of quietness, and of a lively community. Many windows and doors are left open, from stores and houses, the voices inside coming out to the street. Many balconies are ornated with plants, running down the walls that show pictures and texts about the many fadistas that were born in this neighbourhood. Ribbons hang across the facades, giving a bit more colour to the light-colored housing. Filling up the patios are sets of tables, chairs and stands for the Arraiais dos Santos held during June. In one of them, a family is gathering for lunch, talking loud and light-heartedly. For a moment, there is a strong smell of charcoal. A church bell rings, interrupting the singing birds that sound above the neighbourhood.
Sometimes a few tourists appear, walking around at a slow pace, absorbing every charming corner and image that the area offers. I start going uphill, where the streets widen up a bit, and the housing is more mixed up. Old buildings sit next to new appartments, and only occasionally there is a degraded house, waiting to be renovated. The traditional lives with the contemporary. Like before, I can hear the sounds of people, moving things, preparing for lunch. There is way less people outside in this part of town. The elderly are locals, and the young are foreigners. In front of the gates of a more refined villa there is a picturesque stairway leading down, with light smoke coming from below. As I take it, feeling the smell of a grill, someone is playing guitar above my head. Going down, the sounds of Martim Moniz slowly become louder. A voice asks if there is sardine. 'Há sardinha, carapau e peixe!' One of the men laughs while I look ahead to the busy square. The clouds finally begin to let go of the sun, and it's getting hot.
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