Patones de Arriba, Spain – July 30, 2011
My Spanish instructor suggested I travel to the small village of Patones de Arriba. To get there, one must first go through the slightly larger town of Patones. The city of Patones is on a valley floor, right next to some relatively large hills. Up in those hills is where one can find Patones de Arriba. It is difficult to see one of the villages from the other town due to the difference in terrain.
The road from Patones to Patones de Arriba is even more narrow than the way in the French Pyrenees to get to the Col d’Aubisque! I was delighted there was not much traffic.
After leaving Patones, I made my way up to Patones de Arriba. The narrow road rises about 400 feet in little more than a kilometer (0.62 miles). On my way up, I did not encounter any downhill traffic.
In the town of Patones, looking up the draw toward Patones de Arriba.
When I first arrived, I found myself in a dirt parking area. I stopped and parked there because I saw a do not enter sign up ahead. It stated that only authorized residents’ vehicles could enter the village. So, I got out and began my walk into Patones de Arriba. After maybe a couple of hundred meters (656 feet), I noticed another, smaller, cobble-stoned parking area. I turned around, retrieved my car, and moved to this new-found parking area. It was directly next to the el Chiscon Restaurant, so I could not have gotten much closer to the start of the village.
As is the norm, I was there very early, probably about 09:00. The streets were empty. It is a tiny village. As best I can tell, the population is 378; however, that figure most certainly included the town of Patones on the valley floor below. If I had to guess, I would put the village population at around 75.
I walked uphill along Calle Azas to the east. The street, as well as all the houses and buildings, consist of stones from the local area. That gives the village a unique appearance. Within about 200 meters, I was on the outskirts of the town. Looking to the north and east, across the small arroyo, I could see the ruins of several houses and buildings. That early in the morning, the sun was starting to come over the nearby hill. The lighting was perfect for the many photos I took.
I hiked over to the ruins. About mid-way through the ruins, there is a sign that talks about the landscape of the Patones region. It also marks the trail-head of several trails that head north, some of which go to the Atazar Reservoir. I continued a little higher, maybe 100 meters (328 feet) or so along the trail. There I turned around and sat down on the walls of one of the ruins. The view, once again because of the light, of the small village and valley floor, much farther away, was excellent!
As I understand it, when Napoleon invaded Spain, he captured the small village of Patones. However, he did not win Patones de Arriba because he did not even know it was there. It is tough to see from Patones on the valley floor.
As I walked through the village on my way to the ruins, I did not see any other people except for one couple out hiking the ruins as well. Other than that, the streets were empty. As I look back at my photographs, I am amazed that there are no people in any of my shots. That is very unusual for my travel photography. I always like to try to capture the life of the place I am visiting by capturing the people in their regular routines. The residents must have slept in that day.
Coming down from the ruins, I made my way back to the main square, Plaza del Llano. There is a beautiful old church there, Saint Joseph, which dates from 1653. It is no longer a functioning church. It is now an education center, Centro de lniciativas Turisticas, Educativas, Culturales y de Ocio (The Center of Tourism, Educational, Cultural, and Leisure initiatives). It cost 1.50€ (US$1.83) to go through the center. Inside, one can get a map of the village that delineates some of the things to see in the town. I thought the center was undoubtedly worth the cost.
While I was waiting for the center to open, the la Barra del Rincón (Corner Bar) opened. It is directly across from the center. I sat outside and enjoyed a café americano and a tarta de chocolate! The tarta was so rich that I could not eat the entire thing. The cost was only about 5€ (US$6.10), and believe me; it was worth every centimo!!
Saint Joseph’s Church.
Once I obtained my village map, I began to explore. The first stop was the old washhouse and a new fountain. These are both on the southwest edge of the village. It was interesting to imagine the scene in years gone by, of the activity that would have been at the wash house as part of the daily life of the village. Next, I found the “bread oven.” It is still part of an occupied home but is typical for what would have been in virtually every home in the past. I imagine the bread that would come from such an oven would taste great.
I did find a couple of small shops; however, I did not find anything I wanted to buy. The village seems to be dominated more by restaurants than shops. I did not eat there. I had lunch later in the day in the town of El Atazar.
Departing Patones, I did not pay close attention to the GPS. I ended up in the town of Berrueco, Spain. I turned around and got on the correct road to the small village of El Atazar. It is literally at the end of the way. Regardless, the drive of roughly 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) was beautiful. For about half of the distance, the road passes through the forest, well above the el Atazar Reservoir. Periodically there were stopping areas from which I could take a photo or two.
Arriving at the dam end of the reservoir, I drove across the dam and on toward the village. I made it to the town at about 14:20, the perfect time for a Spanish lunch. I parked by the church at the main square and seated myself at an outdoor table at el Bar-Meson el Athazar. The server brought me a small bowl of olives (typical at most any restaurant in Spain) and asked what I wanted to drink. I ordered a vino tinto, of course. When she returned with my wine, I ordered some calamari. I must say, I think it was the best calamari I have ever had! It was piping hot. I added a little salt and then just sat there, enjoying life. It was a very comfortable 85 degrees outside.
After I ate my calamari and drank my wine, I walked around town just a little. There was not much to see. Regardless, this day of small villages was one of the best travel days I think I have had in Spain.