It is early in the afternoon. At the Algés beach the sun is shining strong, and a fresh wind distracts from the heat. I'm here with a friend, we came on a stroll to enjoy the clear weather and decided this spot would be a good start. The area has the usual atmosphere of an urban sandstrip, with the quietness of the Tejo waters and the view of the other bank cohabiting with the movement of the nearby roads and the sight of the VTS tower. The beach sits in a curved bay, limited by pontoons, and the high tide, gently crashing against the sloping sand, is looking like a pool. In the background we can hear the sounds of the Algés nautical center, quick buzzes and strokes that I can't decipher.
We head for the pontoon in front of a mexican restaurant, to the left, to get a different perspective of the site. In the sand below, a kid runs back and forth with a bucket, near the water. Up here by the pathway, two teenagers pass by, blasting out a modern beat with a portable speaker. The pontoon extends for a few dozen meters, a large platform that starts cracking midway and ends in an aglomerate of blocks. A few people are lying, or sitting on the stone, and we do the same. An amphibious boat slowly enters the quiet bay and heads for the sand, on the other end of the beach. It climbs the dune, lifting up smoke and disturbing a few people for a moment. We then leave the beach and head in the direction of the Algés train station. The street leading to it has a wide sidewalk on one side, a pleasant palm tree corridor where people are jogging. Ahead sits the station, a lush roundabout and a viaduct over the train tracks, to the right.
We make a turn, passing under the viaduct, and reach the walkway and cycling road of Avenida Brasília. It goes on a straight line for five hundred meters. Across the road are the neighbourhoods of western Belém, of old and new housing, sharing their space with big clumps of trees. On this side of the road, we pass by the huge area of the Pedrouços docks, seemingly deserted at this time. We keep going, hoping to find a way to get to the riverside again. After a while, we reach the Fundação Champalimaud entrance, a very pleasant area with ornamental trees displaying their green, white and yellow leaves over wide lawns under the huge building. It has a modern, curved, clear design, very imposing but also very open, with a large corridor at its center and ellipse wholes in the walls that allow the river breeze to breathe through and the sun to invade the site.
We go in, passing under a clear tube connecting two sides of the buiding, reaching an ample patio with a soft slope. It suddenly feels like a futuristic scenario, almost inhumane. The landscape is completely white, with a few notes of green from the few trees that grow out of the artificial soil. There is a weird sound in the air, like a fan, humming softly. Directly ahead, two huge sharp pillars rise against the sky, like an adoration to some unknown god. After some contemplation we go up the slope. Behind the pillars there is a lovely reflecting pool, where seagulls freshen themselves up. There is a great view of the Tejo, of Trafaria in the distance, and we also find a riverside path right below us.
We try to find our way to the new pathway and reach it past the cosy cafeteria with esplanade. It's very quiet here, with little to distract from the river. A few trees here and there, some benches and some fishing rods aligned with the high wall, the fishermen waiting. The path makes a smooth arch around the Champalimaud buildings and gardens, until it becomes one of the pontoons of the Pedrouços quay. The refreshing wind is constantly blowing around here. We take a sit to enjoy the sights. From here we can look at Algés again, its beach, and the housing spreading over its hills. A few seagulls hover by the foundation's facade. At the edge of the pontoon, a couple is lying under the shade of a small light tower. In the distance, offshore, there's the silhouette of Farol do Bugio. Below our feet the swell of the river crashes softly, while seagulls caw overhead. There's the murmur of the busy road, and sometimes a passing train. And the wind blowing on my ears.
After a little break and some cherries, we turn back and follow the riverside pathway in the opposite direction. Torre de Belém is right around the corner, and behind it there's the 25 de Abril bridge and the Cristo Rei. In the Tejo are two sailing boats, and a few seagulls calmly floating, until a new amphibious boat comes to scare them away. Once again we cross paths with the fishermen. The fish aren't biting. A tiny sandstrip marks the last few meters before we reach the fort-like building of Museu do Combatente. Around the corner, the pathway leads directly to Torre de Belém, with a large garden to the left, and the memorial monument a few meters away. It sits centered with the fort, with walls covered by the names of those who fought in the overseas war. Two soldiers guard the place, while a fire burns right under the massive triangular structure that stands above everything else.
There is a large concentration of tourists from the memorial to the snack-bars by the riverside, around the tower and the garden. People are walking by, sightseeing and enjoying the tiny sandstrip, checking the many souvenir stands, sitting on the riverside benches or standing up in line, waiting on the walkway to enter Torre de Belém. The garden, a large open lawn under the sun, has fewer people. A few vans are parked nearby, and some men seem to be assembling equipment for an upcoming concert or live event. We walk across the grass to reach a path with benches, closer to the avenue. Here, further from the river, some are sunbathing, others resting under the shade of large trees. We sit for a moment, watching the crowds of people come and go. The sky is clear, the sun hasn't stopped shining strong. We could go for an ice-cream right now!
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