It is the beginning of the afternoon and a soft wind blows. Avenida da Liberdade tapers under the rows of almost grey, naked trees and their tangled branches, and it reflects the city's breathing on the first weeks of the year. The blowing of vehicles roaming up and down is only tamed by the traffic lights along the road. Stippling the winter ambiance, there are dense sharp sounds, coming from nearby works, construction and restoration. Dead leaves, of an ochre brown, form a veil on the black and white cobblestone, stepped on by the passerby as they walk past the kiosks and stores. The sunlight is bright but cold, the star seems to want to hide behind the avenue buildings.
I planned to take my hike from Avenida, through the Campo Santana and Anjos neighbourhoods, and ending on Graça, hopefully by sunset time. For now, I take one of the crossing streets that turns into a tiny square: Largo da Anunciada. It hosts Igreja de São José, a XVIIIth century herbalist shop, and a classy old milkshop adorned with beautiful mosaics. Connecting to a street with lined up restaurants and esplanades, it sees some movement. Tourists stroll by, as I do. Straight ahead, in a divide that interrupts the housing facades, at the lowest point of a sloping hillside, sits a yellow, tram-like cable railway - a funicular. It is covered in grafiti, like the narrow housing walls that enclose the climb.
A pair of thin railroads follow the street uphill, named Calçada do Lavra. The elevator sits still, waiting for its departure time. I follow the small stairway; hanging high above my head are short balconies, pots with plants, and a maze of electric cables. Everything describes a curve to reach the top, a tiny dock from where a snippet of Lisboa can be seen. A small arch marks the exit of the tiny station to the street outside. I know there is a great garden with a better viewpoint not far from here, and I am curious to check it out this early in the year: Jardim do Torel.
Just a few meters away, a green metallic fence and a gate between rectangular stone pillars announce the entrance to the garden. A small plaza of gravel, between vegetation and a stone wall, is centered by a sculpture fountain, with water at the heigh of a knee. Immediately one can see how the garden's ground starts going down, following the gentle hillside. In between the trunks of tall plane trees and pines that offer shade, Lisboa reappears, in thousands of irregular blocks crammed over hills and valleys. A soft echo of the city hovers over its rooftops.
I stay near the fantastic viewpoint for a bit. There are quite a few people on the wooden benches, sitting on the grass, enjoying the passing of time, the sun, the vistas. Glimpses of some popular landmarks pop up between the sea of buidings. The ambiance is very welcoming, but I have to move on with my stroll, and get back to the surrounding neighbourhood. Behind trees and fences are a few mansions with their private gardens. The yellowish leaves that still hang from the trees form a beautiful ceiling over the road. Still very close to Jardim do Torel, the housing opens up, and I spot the statue of Dr. Sousa Martins, standing above the housing and the lawns of Jardim Braancamp Freire.
People are admiring the urban garden sights, resting on the benches or walking their pets. A pleasant fresh breeze blows. There are quite a few visitors about, taking photos or happily chatting; some stop to read the homages to the figure in bronze, or the memorial plaque describing the historic events that happened in the area. These are regular points of interest, but the abundance of animals living here is something to behold aswell. The greeting of roosters had surprised me when I approached the square, and is hard to ignore. As I walk up the historic Campo dos Mártires da Pátria, the park really begins to seem like a farm.
Roosters, hens and ducks hang out leisurly, from the statue to the busy avenues up above. A few ducks take some benches for themselves, while the majority of the animals stay inside the green, pecking, sitting under hedges. The pathways take me forward, sided by wide trees and mowed lawns, coloured lettuce-green under the sunlight that still manages to pass through; there are also some tanks and fountains of bright turquoise scattered by, and flowerbeds with colour. A tiny kiosk by an esplanade serves some drinks. A group of elderly are playing cards.
Closer to the avenue crossing Campo dos Mártires da Pátria, the urban commotion ramps up. Waves of cars and people take turns crossing, the streets pulsate with movement. To get to Miradouro do Monte Agudo, the Graça neighbourhood is my next stop, so I'll have to cross the busy side of Lisboa once again. I look back, and the animals remain undisturbed. The winter sun is getting low, leaving oblique splashes of light on the grass.
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