Our little family has been home in Madrid for a few days now and are fully enjoying the normality that comes with it. Sleeping in our own beds, the girls in school, slowly getting back into a rhythm at work.
Coming home is always gratifying and we promised ourselves to take it easy this weekend.
This morning, however, as we woke up to blue skies and the stunning views of the Sierra de Guadarrama, the mountain chain that lies just north of Madrid, we just couldn’t resist. “A hike would be fun,” my husband said.
We had heard great things about Patones de Arriba and the surrounding hiking trails. It took us a whole 10 seconds to start researching the best restaurants in town.
Patones is nestled on a mountainside crevice 60km outside Madrid. Established in the 16th century, the city was governed by “kings”, or rather hereditary sages that acted as mayors and justices of the peace. Nowadays, it encompasses Patones de Arriba, the ancient hillside village, and Patones de Abajo, the modern and far less charming settlement on the plain below.
Avoiding the typical “I’ll just double park for three hours while I have lunch” system secretly in force among the madrileños (yes, it’s happened to us), we choose to leave the car in Patones de Abajo and hike up the dirt path to Patones de Arriba.
Carrying the almost-4-year-old uphill was not particularly fun. I find myself lost in thought about ancient people whose choice was to settle down on such inhospitable place. “No wonder they created Patones de Abajo…” But when we get to Patones de Arriba, I’m stunned. Unique and unlike anything I have ever seen in Spain (or anywhere for that matter), the whole town is entirely constructed in black slate, from buildings to pavement. Quaint, charming and a perfect spot for long games of hide-and-seek.
By now, we have worked up our hunger (who needs an actual hike?) and settle for lunch.
The dining room at El Rey de Patones is warm and cozy, filled with rustic details. The female-dominated staff all have bright smiles on their faces and guests are welcome to walk through the kitchen. We are lucky to get a table by the wood burning stove, manned (womaned?) by the restaurant’s owner, Maria Jesus.
A selection of pates and meats, including the sought-after local specialty cordero lechal (suckling lamb). In other words, I’d landed in the worst place to be while detoxing. I settle for cod fish while I painfully watch my husband savors his wine and steak. By the time our waitress, Maria Jesus’s daughter, brings us a bottle of homemade dried fruit liquor and gives us a list of the homemade desserts, I am ready to cry.
With our bellies full and a few of us happy with their desserts, we do manage to walk around and explore the ruins of the ancient city. We make up stories about the people that once lived here and sunbathe on the eras, old stone platforms that were once used for threshing.
In all, a perfect day trip. But I’m still dreaming about those desserts…
If you have a car, take the A1 (Madrid-Burgos) to exit 50 (Torrelaguna). Once you drive through Torrelaguna follow the M-102 to Patones. You can drive up to Patones de Arriba and park just outside the city. On weekends, especially during the warmer months, it gets pretty crowded. Park in Patones de Abajo and walk uphill to Patones de Arriba, building an appetite for lunch.
Alternatively, bus 197 leaves from Plaza Castilla. There is only a few buses per day, so be sure to check the schedule.
El Rey de Patones
Address: Calle Azas, 13, 28189 Patones de Arriba, Madrid
Phone: 918 43 20 37
It is best to make a reservation! Ask for a table by the wood burning stove for a fun experience.
For different routes and information on the different sights, check this guide, published by the Patones city hall.
**We are sharing some of our post links over at Walking On Travels. You can find plenty more travel inspiration (and great photos) in their weekly Friday Postcards posts.