The 5 de Outubro square appears before me in near backlight. Sunlight pierces through the rigid silhouette of the rooftops and the church, to scatter randomly around the space. Up until now, the weather had been going back and forth, between cold antecipation and strong wind gusts. But as I walk around the walls of the religious building in shadow, passing by a small stone patio and the monument to the Unknown Soldier, the autumn breeze allows tiny leaves to levitate briefly above the road, until a new blow throws them elsewhere.
Here at the center of Santo Amaro, in Oeiras, it feels much more agitated than around Jardim da Quinta dos Sete Castelos, where I just came from. Vehicles passing by are constant, and people are more present. At the entrance facade of the church, it feels a bit warmer. The place is welcoming, although the street is packed with parked cars. Kids are playing in a nearby stairway and the cafes around the square gather a small crowd, speaking joyfully. Directly in front of the church's gate, between two houses, there is a thinner street on a slope, and above it the sight of buildings rising behind a lush forest. The historic center of town grabs my interest and so I head down, wandering a bit more.
Calmness settles. There are charming esplanades here, small stores and residencial houses, in buildings that are clearly from another time but have been preserved and renovated. Not far ahead, I find a massive sea of treetops, made of rounded hills of irregular size, pulsating vividly as the wind blows through their branches thrown at the sky. With a sudden, stronger push, the leaves make a loud whistling sound, like a million little paper maracas. I will eventually walk under the shade of the municipal garden, but before that I want to pass by another one, located just a few dozen meters from here, near the Town Hall and the Palácio Marquês de Pombal. One of the many great gardens of Oeiras, the palace's beautiful gardens sit here.
Exploring them completely would be enough for a full day, but today I am just going to follow the pink wall that surrounds it, along the entire perimeter, enjoying them from a distance. Above the wall, the trees are enormous living hand fans, moving under the commands of the strong wind. Through them you can spot the palace itself and the charming lawns that grow beneath it, where two people are strolling about. Dividing the whole area in two halves, there is a river canal, where the thin Ribeira da Laje runs. The waters run slowly, gently through the stone, passing under a little bridge that the man and woman are crossing now. Ahead of them, the park gains a new atmosphere, made of geometric sections of grass, flower-beds and a fountain.
The wind picks up intensely and I am forced to interrupt my gaze. I have to continue walking at a fast pace, trying to stay warm, hiding under my coat and skarf. Going around the back of the garden, behind the palace's cellars, I pass by a couple avenues for a few minutes, until I get back at the Jardim Municipal de Oeiras entrance gates. It seems to be completely in shadow. Adding to the almost eerie sight that it offers at this time of day, there an 80s pop song playing nearby, resonating around the cold tree trunks and street lamps. I step in, for the last stretch of my hike.
The afternoon is reaching its end. For the first meters, the sun can't pass through the treetops and reach the trails, and the cold is very noticeable. Then it manages to spread a little warmth over some of the trees, brightly contrasting with the faded colour of the park. I cross a small bridge, under which a group of ducks is quacking low. On this side, the park is limited by a tall stone wall, where vegetation climbs freely, almost like it wants to leave and reach the housing above. Two kids are playing with a ball near a children playground. Over our heads, the treetops seem to create a tunnel, spreading along the canal.
Little by little, the trail offers small ambiances and corners. Adding to the tall trees and open lawns, there are fountains, animal areas, and a romantic arched pergola that marks the beginning of the final path. A thin strip of green follows the river canal, passing under the railroad bridge of metallic frame, sitting on pillars of stone. At the garden gates, the river meets the rising sea tide, and now it runs backwards, in regular waves. As the sky turns into a canvas of warm pastel colours, I climb a staircase leading back to the train station of lovely Santo Amaro de Oeiras.
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