The last few days in Lisboa have been very hot and today is no exception. The sun reflects upon the pathway and the water, forcing me to narrow my eyes as I walk towards the stone steps at the riverside. The Tejo is like a plain, very blue, and wrinkled with calm waves. Seagulls hover around or float in the water. Further offshore, a few boats, and then the backlit south coast. Here, near the ferry terminal of Cais do Sodré, there is the usual mixture of those who stop to enjoy this atmosphere, and those in a hurry to catch the bus, the tram or the train. At 15h30, I arrived a bit too early for the boat to Seixal, so I stay for a few minutes outside, hearing the vents in the stone breathe with the waves, watching the coming and going of the boats.
The ferry is already in sight when the waiting room starts filling up in a big hustle. A flood of people leaves the boat, another one goes in. The trip lasts about 20 minutes, passing by Cacilhas, and the entire east side of the Almada district. The Seixal docks are at the northeastern tip of the district, at the entrance of the Seixal canal, formed by the Tejo. The crowd walks on firm land once again, and a cool breeze blows. The area in front of the pier gets busy for a moment, and then then the large square settles down, nearly empty. But there are some people around, spending their time by the river, sitting on the riverside wall, waiting for their ferry, or at the small sandstrip nearby. The waves wrap the gravel up.
I move on, in the direction of the old village. Walking around a shipyard, I can hear the sound of tools, workers are repairing two boats, the type I crossed the river in. After a couple of roundabouts, the starting point of Baía do Seixal appears at my right, with small sailing and motorboats scattered around the waters. The beautiful bay extends over a huge area at the north of the district, and I should follow along it for most of the time. Apparently, the district is going through a period of renovation; near a real estate stand, a building yard seems very active, and further ahead other works are taking place. The avenue opens up at the first houses of the village. They have a XIXth century art-nouveau design, some of them in bright palettes.
I approach the riverside path, getting a closer look at the wooden fishing boats in the sandstrip, the lined up cabins, the piers in front of the Praça Mártires da Liberdade, where a 'barco varino', a traditional river craft, is just arriving from its trip in the Tejo. The square is more of a garden, with grass beds and big trees, a couple of children playgrounds and a quiet ambiance, where one can escape from the sun. Around it are some cafes, stores, the Casa dos Pescadores which hosts many events. A new sandstrip comes up after the two piers, in a half-moon shape, called Praia do Seixal. People lie in the sun, a fisherman works on his boat. These days, the avenue along the sand is being used as an open-air gallery, showing dozens of urban-style paintings.
Deciding to leave the river for a bit, I walk towards the village itself, to get to know its streets. They follow the curve of the riverside, beneath a gentle hillside. Safe for the main avenue with the big, renovated housing, they are modest, without any more ostentation than one or two square gardens. I go through narrow facades of old, simple houses. They mostly have faded colors, exposing the concrete underneath faded paint, but there are those that constrast vividly in bright yellow, green, red, turquoise, sometimes with tile work. In a small square of patterned cobblestone, I pass by the church, the parish council, an arts and crafts atelier, of which there are many. The streets are empty, except for the spots where renovation works are taking place. There is a big silence here, and the only apparent movement is that of the hanging clothes in the balconies.
As the church bell rings, I head vaguely to the exit of the historic center, at the opposite side of where I first entered. The names of cafes, restaurants and bars close to the riverside, and also the worker unions, associations, squares and statues, everything evoques a certain way of life in profound communion with the river and the sea. The maritime activity and the resources of the Tejo have been at the center of the local development for long centuries, and it really shows. I leave the town by the 1º de Maio square, where the river waters become the background once again. Ahead of me is a big avenue and a pleasant pathway by the Seixal bay, which is truly the strongest presence in the area.
My trip to Seixal isn't over yet! Next up, I will be sharing my long riverside walk, and also my turning back to the ferry terminal, around the countryside of Seixal. The rest of my latest hike comes soon, see you there!
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