WP_20150812_16_31_09_ProAnother day in Portugal, another visit, this time after we’d been to the airport to drop off our daughter. We’d been to the ‘Park of Nations’ (Parque das Nacoes), some years ago, but hadn’t managed to see everything at this site of the 1998 Expo.

For one, we hadn’t ventured into the large park which sits on the River to the north of the many exhibition and conference buildings that dominate the place, so that’s where we began. It was worth it. The park, beautifully landscaped in a series of wave-like mounds which afford a rich variety of settings, is a contemporary design which seems to work- as playground (kids love hills), performance space, running route and chillout zone. The riverside setting is especially impressive, with views towards (and under) the long Vasco da Gama bridge. Even the seats carry through the wave theme and the planting is subtle and mainly naturalistic, giving the feeling that you’re in the country, despite the ‘designed’ nature of the place. It looked pretty well looked after, too, which couldn’t be said of some of the other places later in our visit.

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After some tea and cake (how very British), we walked back along the riverside and then took the cable car that takes you along the riverside, harbour and to the aquarium. The views were great and took us over some gardens we would look at later.

After landing we discovered another couple of gardens we’d not seen before, beginning with the exciting water gardens: the long cascade was superb.

Taking in a space dominated by tall palm trees, a lovely rill and curious camel (only a full size replica), we ventured to a terraced garden that seemed promising. How disappointing to see the lack of maintenance on this splendid location especially the water gardens at its very top, which were empty and obviously neglected. The rest of the gardens looked reasonably tidy, but once the whole ensemble must have been brilliant. Maybe this is one example of how austerity has hit the country? Unfortunately, we found further evidence of this, such a shame for what was once a great emblem of the country’s investment in its future.

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For our next and final visit was to those gardens we’d seen from above, along the the riverside. I remember these gardens being a series of themed spaces, all I think, with some water features. Again we were initially disappointed to see the wooden bridge entrance closed due to safety risks and other areas, though accessible, were decidedly run down with hard landscaping in need of repair in various spots. The planting, however, seemed to be lush and varied, and passing the area a day or two later I saw piles of timber and other materials stacked, ready for use, so maybe some (overdue) repairs were about to happen.

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Despite the disappointment, I tried to understand the public investment challenges facing the country and overall, feel this modern day playground- apparently hugely popular with Lisbon livers- is still a great addition to the city’s green spaces.

Old School Gardener

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