The other day I went for a stroll, starting in Alcântara and going up to the lovely Jardim 9 de Abril, in the parish of Prazeres. I wanted to discover some of the nearby streets too, and took some notes so you too can have a sense of how it went out. I hope you enjoy it, and that it makes you want to visit these neighbourhoods of Lisboa sometime!
I started at the crossroads of Avenida de Ceuta and the 25 de Abril bridge accessway, where the buzzing movement is constant. This is an entry point for the Alcântara town, immediately west of the Prazeres neighbourhood. It is always very crowded and noisy. I notice that the Alcântara-Terra train station, located on the right side of the large avenue, is going through renovations. You can hear the sound of works taking place behind the sheets and scaffolding that cover up the inside area of the station. On that same side, there is a cosy little square, with large trees that cast some shade on wooden benches. All around there are restaurants, bakeries, and other stores. People sit on the benches, wait for the bus, or stay close to the doors to escape the sun. As I hear a plane overhead, I go across the square.
I keep going up, through a lively street, away from the busy area. This is Rua Prior do Crato, formed of cosy, not very tall housing. All of the ground floors along the street seem filled with stores. There are cafes, clothing shops, grocery, electronis, jewellery stores, hairdressers, a little of everything, all the way up. At the top, there is a glimpse of green and a lovely lilac, from the blossoming trees. I walk towards them, as a few cars and buses go up and down the road, while people are hanging at the cafes. A man is particularly concentrated on his crosswords.
The trees I saw before grow in the garden of Praça da Armada, another square where the housing opens up to provide a bit of fresh air. It seems like a quiet place, but it is big enough to hold an event like the Arraiais dos Santos, the traditional parties of portuguese June. Close to the restaurants of modern look and the inviting esplanades, there are still a few things arranged for the occasion: colorful ribbons, drinks stands, a few canopies. I get closer to the small garden. It has a children's playground of bright colors, and is covered by the large trees. The sound of 3 or 4 birds singing manages to be heard above the passing cars. Only a old couple and a man taking a nap take the benches. The ground is full of fallen lilac petals.
On the other side of the street there is a new road that goes up, now inside the area of Prazeres. I take it, and the array of restaurants continues, this time with more foreign flavours. Italian, mexican, nepali, are some of the options here. There are a lot of stationery shops too as I approach a new opening. The street becomes a brigde for a few meters, above Avenida Infante Santo that leads to Santo Amaro docks. I keep going up into the new street, and notice a facade fully decorated for the Santos days, with ribbons, plants, paper decorations of many colors.
Making a turn to the left, I climb a narrow stairway, reaching Rua do Olival. A group of french people is sitting on some stairs, listening to music that livens up the otherwise quiet neighbourhood. Heading uphill, I look at the houses. They show signs of age, but their walls still show lively colors under the sun. A lot of balconies have plants hanging, making the street more welcoming. I can hear some birds nearby. After a few meters I find a tiny street, full of even more green, with a mosaic reading 'the most flowery street'. The number of lush canteiros with flowers and plants covering the entire walls really is a treat to enjoy. I continue forward, and cross paths with a mailman on his route.
At a new intersection I notice the Jardim 9 de Abril's trees, and begin going down to reach it. Today, it is just as peaceful as when I first discovered it, full of vegetation and fresh air coming from the viewpoint over the Tejo. There is a slight wind, too, that helps with the heat of the sun. Some are sitting under shade, others are catching sun, laying on the trimmed grass. The green and lilac trees in blossom are very tall, their trunks and benches growing freely in curvaceous, romantic ways. At the center there is an intimate natural refuge, wooden benches in a circle under a ceiling of lush, green branches of a tree. It offers a welcoming escape from the sun and the city.
There is a particular silence here. The wind makes the overhead leaves rustle. But sometimes there is the sound of a bell, coming from the Cais da Rocha station below, and then a train passes. The viewpoint offers a fantastic view. Below, after the train tracks, sits the Lisboa harbour. Its landscape is formed of large cranes and machines, stacked containers and several ships, fitted together in a irregular, angular manner, like toys. Behind the docks, a rare sailing boat drifts away. In the distance, the always present 25 de Abril bridge, the Cristo Rei, the Margem Sul under a clear sky. Getting back on this side, closer to the garden, the avenue is busy as always, and the imponent stone stairway under the viewpoint shines in the sun. Taking advantage of the view there is a small lounge-bar, where the waiters are still preparing the tables. I sit on a bench and watch the pidgeons strolling along the gravel paths, full of lilac petals, as they find the bits of bread that someone left here, cooing. Another plane flies over our heads, and I decide to stay for a while.
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