In brief: We love to traipse amid greenery in the wildly diverse parks of Lisbon. Here are three nice ones we visited on Sundays and the “green thought” each prompted.
Even in the worst moments of a lockdown, the government has allowed people some time to get outside and exercise – for some good mental health. The best of the excursions are the chances to prowl amid greenery in the small parks and even wilder parks within the city. As the poet Andrew Marvell marveled in a less sunny moment, “a green thought in a green shade.”
Here are three very different kinds of green space we have explored during the last few months, pre- and mid-lockdowns…and our accompanying green thoughts.
Jardim de Estrela
Our buses had motored around this substantial park several times on our trips from Saldanha to the old city. Peering through the windows, we vowed to take a closer look some time. Our visit to the Casa Fernando Pessoa museum one Sunday morning proved that moment, as the park is just a few minutes walk away.
The park of 4.6 hectares dates from the mid-19th century, occupying a pentagonal space within the Estrela neighborhood.
Crisscrossed by many lanes in a formal English style, it offers several kiosks and cafes as well as spaces for kids to kick a ball around.
In fact, from noticing people on the streets and in the park, it seems that a requirement of living around here is having young children, or a dog substitute. Oddly, many of the people were speaking French as well as eyeing their wandering young ones.
The gentle bustle did not distract from the pleasantness of the grassy spaces, huge overarching trees and the margin of shrubs and plants.
Estufa fria & Eduardo VII park
Back to the north, stretching gradually up a long hillside from Marques de Pombal circle to NOVA university, is Eduardo VII park.
The park is a mix of wide, very formal lanes, tennis courts, ponds and pools, with ritzy restaurants and cafes scattered within.
Its name honors a visit from Queen Victoria’s son, Edward. We walk through it regularly for exercise never failing to admire its panoramic vista down toward the River Tejo and views north toward the airport. We have enjoyed drinks there at the pond.
Surprisingly hidden, in a dell at its northwestern corner, is a huge botanical wonderland called Estufa fria, or cold greenhouse. When we visited on a recent Sunday (before closure due to lockdown), entry was free.
Just outside is a large pond with a host of resident birds that is open at all times. There we met up with some geese, ducks and gulls (the ones most aggressive at grabbing any food tossed out for the birds). What was an Egyptian goose from Africa doing here, we wondered. But we also saw this moorhen, seemingly a bit out of place within the city and a garden pond.
Inside, among very few visitors, we found a great variety of sturdy, formal pathways set among the many plants, both at ground level and also rising to the roof among walls of ferns.
The cold greenhouse was indeed cold on a wintry day, as we walked the paths with our friends, masked as required.
On one climb to the top of the estufa, we learned that we were actually within a basalt quarry dating from the 19th century. The quarry was later repurposed as a nursery for plants to be used on Avenida da Liberdade.
The plants literally outgrew their original intent before the space was reset as a greenhouse – an oasis for residents and other visitors. Here one exuberant leaf stretches to the filtered roofing of the estufa. Later, a hothouse was added for more tropical flora.
Walking any of the trails can feel, at times, like exploring wilder nature: we could turn a corner and discover a lovely vista – or some profuse display of flora and delicate pod-like flowers such as these.
At times we delighted in the lush expanse of the greenery, and at times we marveled at some of the more than 300 species growing.
Some were flowering even in winter. Others just showed off splendid leaves, charming enough to snag our attention, like this lovely effusion which greeted us along one of the paths.
A similar surprise is what we felt when we suddenly discovered this nymph in an intimate pose, placidly tending to her foot.
The statue is said to be a young girl putting on her stocking, but we felt she was much more mythic and luminous than that mundane thought. Near her sits a large event space for weddings and such, but our sylvan nymph seems ever preoccupied and indifferent to such crowds.
When in Lisbon or Eduardo VII park, don’t miss the pleasure and calm of the Estufa fria.
The big one…
We’ve now walked through here perhaps a dozen times, and still not seen all of it.
Monsanto hill is more of a forest in the city, though in some ways a very developed one.
The imposing hill offers about a 120 meter climb to the top, with the option of selecting hours of trails that wind around the place – both for hikers and cyclers.
Depending on where you are, you even find different ecologies from side to side, from pine forest to deciduous terrain and more.
Plus different uses as well, such as:
- Sprawling military base and communications equipment fenced in at the top
- A former panoramic complex of with vistas over the trees and dining places, now a wreck
- A viewpoint looking out toward Lisbon and the north
- A target range
- A bioreserve
- Athletic fields
- Grassy picnic grounds and playing areas
- A line of towers marking the progress of the old aqueduct
You can get a flavor of it from the short piece we did after a Sunday summer walk (click here to read) or from these photos taken on a fall trek along the 8 kilometer blue trail with our friends.
(To enlarge any picture above, click on it. Also, for more pictures from Portugal, CLICK HERE to view the slideshow at the end of the itinerary page.)