April 15, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Madrid, Spain, Travel, Travels in Spain

Yesterday, I found myself surrounded once again by the congregation of kitties that infest the village of Patones de Arriba. Around every turn, you will see them hiding inside a dilapidated building, beneath the overgrown thicket, or peeking at you from the top of a crumbling wall. While I’ve seen my fair share of pussycat-infested pueblos, this one certainly takes the prize.

The miniature town of Patones de Arriba cozily nests in a mountainside crevice near the northern border of the community of Madrid. It’s a slate wonderland filled with slate roads, slate houses, and, well, cats, all which perch on layers of flakey rock that jet out from the earth.

The size of the village surely wouldn’t take up more than just a few Madrid city blocks, and its peculiar placement doesn’t make for the most modern of lifestyles. As a result, most of its inhabitants (kitties excluded) have relocated to the newer (and unfortunately far less charming) city on the valley floor, aptly named Patones de Abajo (Lower Patones).

Despite not being the most ideal of homes, Patones de Arriba (Upper Patones) makes for a mighty fine getaway – for Madrileños, in particular. Only about 45 minutes north of the city, and so entirely different than any other place you’ll find in Spain, it’s just the place to go for a heavy dose of fresh air and an equally heavy lunch. However, don’t expect to see many people there, and certainly not many foreigners. So few, in fact, that yesterday the bartender at El Rincón de Patones knew just who I was. “You’ve come here before, haven’t you?” she asked. Once again, my American-ness had no one fooled.

Like the amount of cats in this town, the number of times I’ve visited Patones is countless. And no trip ever feels the same. On scorching summer days, the hillsides are crispy and dry with shrubbery, and the slate sizzling like a skillet from the unforgiving Spanish sun. When fall arrives, the fresh colors of seasons past transform into shades of amber, ruby and gold. During winter, the pueblo’s ethereal quality will give you chills as its stone walls of grey, brown and rust, sweat dew from the moisture of hovering fog. And then, on a spring (primavera in Spanish) day like yesterday, the city comes alive with tangles of green vines, fragrant blossoms, and the buzz of insects elated by the nectar of a new year (and me not so elated by the bugs).

Just as the seasons change, so does the crowd. Some days the pueblo brims with Spaniards enjoying a day out of the city to fulfill their craving for mouth-watering cordero lechal (lamb fed only milk, which, my father proclaimed as one of his top five favorite meals EVER). On other days, like yesterday apparently, you will only find me, a couple of friends and some guys donning old school military uniforms while filming a movie about deep Spain. (We are hopeful that if you look closely in the final film, you might just see three Americans swatting at flies in the background.)

Then, occasionally, there are days when there’s not a soul around. Except for the cats – herds of cats – frolicking, napping and playing in their own private slate playground.

2 Responses to “Patones, pussycats and primavera”

  1. Erin in Costa Rica Says:

    “pussycat-infested pueblos” LOL!
    Seriously though the town looks amazing and just like the type of place I would love to visit. Sans the dogs of course 🙂

  2. Erin Says:

    Haha – perhaps better with the dogs. That would be hilarious!

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