Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sunny Sunday in Patones

Patones de Arriba, to be exact, not to be confused with Patones de Abajo, which is much less exciting.
a view from the edge of town
Upper Patones (de Arriba) is a little village filled with fairy tale slate houses in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama near the Jarama River. About an hour from Madrid (measuring distances by time - yes, I am Canadian) you'd need to take two buses (197 from Plaza de Castilla, and then a micro bus from Patones de Abajo), but we went with friends by car, and it was a perfect day trip. A little shout-out to the friends here - thanks for organizing this - what a fun day!

the flat, easy start
Established in the mid 1500s, Upper Patones was inhabited by about 7 people for more than 100 years. Talk about a tiny town! As it grew, it was ruled by a kind of king (hereditary sages, what a job title! Functionally, like a very involved mayor) who solved problems between neighbours and generally kept the peace. During the Napoleonic invasion of Spain, Upper Patones was so remote it is alleged to have escaped being conquered, a near-impossible feat in these days of Google-Earth. (This is apparently not true; there are records showing tributes were paid to French governors, but the original story is more romantic, so we'll just go with it).
Despite this impressive (if faulty) claim-to-fame, the super-cute houses, and the gorgeous landscape (stunning views from the mountains and dark, shining waters - an important and huge reservoir for Madrid), the inhabitants of Upper Patones slowly started moving downhill to settle in... wait for it.... LOWER Patones (de Abajo). I guess maybe they were tired of being in a forgotten hillside village and wanted to be closer to civilization.

Anyway, Upper Patones was abandoned until 1970, when one industrious couple decided to turn one of the ruins into...wait for it... a restaurant! (Are you really surprised? This is Spain, after all - creating food establishments is in their DNA). El Rey de Patones (The King of Patones) was born again, and by the time the 90s had rolled around, the town had been repopulated, and become a tourist destination, not to mention a UNESCO heritage site.

too bad we couldn't jump in for a swim!
There are several hiking routes from Patones de Arriba - we opted for a circular route of 10 kilometres and set off in the morning, ending up at "El Rey" for lunch. The first part of the route is quite flat but takes you through some pretty heavy brush and scrub areas, and it wouldn't be nice after a heavy rainfall. Next comes a manageable ascent (hot in the sun) up to Cancho de la Cabeza. The views are stunning. It was a clear, sunny day and we could see the Madrid skyline. Wow! The reservoir lakes are also impressive, and there's a little pine copse that makes a nice shady resting spot. The ascent doesn't end there, though - there's a bit of a steep go before reaching the highest point on the trail, in that rocky Spanish landscape where one knows one is, and can only be, in Spain.

Perhaps the hardest part of the trail is the descent. Partially through rocky stuff, partially through pine (which smells amazing when it's so hot outside), it's full-on down a narrow trail for a while. Lots of flowers and mountain views, as well as a few ancient slate shepherd huts to check out. Sadly, I only saw two birds the whole day (a wagtail and a magpie) - I'd been hoping for some eagles, but what can you do? The trail continues, up and down, until finally ruins of slate houses come into view and you can almost taste the meat you smell roasting.

I enjoyed the hike and was glad to have worked up an appetite - there was a lot of food! The restaurant was a little pricey but the food and ambiance were both excellent. Vegetarians beware, this town is famous for roast kid (I went with pork, and only tasted the kid - kind of gamey).

thanks for the picture, j!
All in all, a day trip 10 - close to Madrid, interesting history, picturesque, fun hike, great food, and excellent company.

1 comment:

  1. Spectacular views! 10km sounds like a long way, but even with the ascent and descent, you make it sound manageable and even enjoyable. (but then there is the heat to consider!)