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An atypical sun shines above. The light spreads, hitting proud apartments behind me, covering the untouched turf below, and scattering throughout the city streets leading downhill towards the riverside. I watch how it comes and goes, how the occasional passing clouds change the entire landscape, all from the high place I stand on. Just atop the neighbourhood of Restelo and close to Ajuda, in Belém, there's a little mountain worth checking out. Lush and welcoming, it's a refuge from the surrounding city and a fantastic viewpoint over the east of Lisboa. It is called Parque Recreativo dos Moinhos de Santana.
Here, at its highest point, sit the windmills that give it its name; with no sails, painted white and blue, they stand indifferent to the breeze. Around them grow the tallest trees and flowerbeds thriving in shades of green, contrasting with the dark cobblestone of the floor. Beyond this natural balcony, the park's hillside describes a wide cone, ending on a wall by the road on the eastern side, and growing back up against the Ajuda graveyard on the other. The view spans from there to the 25 de Abril bridge, the Tejo river, and to most of the Belém district, getting lost among the housing. After some contemplation, I head down, following one of the trails that seems to snake around the park.
The sound of riverside trains manages to climb up here and you can hear the rumble of the highway nearby, but the mind gets lost on the nearby scenery. The dense vegetation gives way to a sloping lawn, where two girls are laying down, enjoying the sun. The trails lead to tunnels of blossoming trees and bushes, sometimes with wild fruit, splashes of red, yellow and blue on the green canvas. The singing birds become more noticeable. By the lower entrance to the park, an ondulating lake brings a touch of freshness. The shallow waters bubble with tiny fish and swimming ducks, leaving trails through the veil of yellowish leaves covering the tank.
The image that remains is that of a charming garden that offers peace and quiet to those who come by, either going through the district or looking for one of its many little atmopsheres. I leave the green behind to meet the urban commotion. The roadways go straight down the hillside, buildings in the distance look like toy blocks, coloured like a child would when trying out a new set of crayons. Its near lunchtime now. People are arriving and leaving, a stream of young students goes down the sidewalk in small groups, carrying their backpacks and sometimes a football aswell.
Strolling down the avenues, I take a look at the housing. In between the tall residencies and offices, I spot a few gardens and squares. Even though this is a busy neighbourhood, it doesn't feel grey or enclosed, and instead seems an airy and lively place to be. Eventually I reach Museu de Etnologia. The building is a parallelepiped in faint beige, encircled by a a green strip, where melros hop by. Along its edge, autumn leaves gather in bunches, and then get thrown against my legs when the wind decides to blow harder. Somewhere else, a noisy machine blows the fallen leaves away.
The museum's south facade presents a kind of atrium, a very sunny viewpoint over the city. A man is laying down against a column, taking a sunbath, and a few more people are here too, strolling by the vivid green grass, or sitting on a bench. Looking ahead, behind the wire fence, there is a slope of low vegetation just above Estádio do Restelo. It is only possible to see the tall spotlights, and you can get a glimpse of the blue stands around the football field. Further away the city spreads once more, reaching the Belém riverside and its monuments at regular intervals.
The visions of the Tejo river and Belém continue over by the embassies neighbourhood, to the right, where a collection of rich mansions display the respective country flags in the wind. As I walk by, the streets would seem surprisingly quiet if not for the loud lawn-mowers that echo around. A small staircase leads me to a wooded square, connected to Capela de São Jerónimo, a little known chapel worth discovering. I approach the ancient construction behind a series of pines, enclosed in a lush little forest. Around the white stone walls there is a round clearing that ends on a stone wall. People sit on the benches or the entrance stairway, in pairs, looking over the treetops.
Once again I am treated to an amazing sight, visions of the riverside emerging from the dense leafage. Before continuing my charming hike down Belém, I decide to stay for a while. The river shines brightly, peacefully, while the sun shifts the tones of the woods and the city, at the whim of the clouds.
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