Collado Villalba: Close to a squatted town in Madrid | The traveler


In 1848 there were 84 neighbors. Today, 63,000. Two railway lines (Avila and Segovia), the A-6 highway and countless urbanizations have turned Collado Villalba into the capital of Guadarrama, a satellite city of Madrid at the foot of the mountains. Digging a bit, you can still find vestiges of its cattle past, meadows dotted with fabulous ash and holm oaks, ravines, old bridges and roads by which the kings went to the nearby monastery of El Escorial. It was worse for the next town, Navalquejigo, who abandoned him and today he is lost among chalets. We discover the villa of the sculptor Benlliure and other well-kept secrets that await alongside Collado Villalba.

A lot of pasture and few cows

The last 150 cows of Collado Villalba (in 1978 there were still more than 600) graze in the dehesa boyal, a beautiful meadow that has resisted the advance of asphalt and brick and around which the neighbors run or walk in the early morning. There is a 3.5 kilometer signposted perimeter circuit and, in the northwest corner, a forest of centenary holm oaks. The stream of La Poveda passes through there, which is a refuge for amphibians, birds and monumental ash trees.

The Council Stone

On the opposite corner of the pasture the old Collado Villalba huddles around the Town Hall and the Council Stone, a granite rock where several steps were carved in 1724 and the aediles used to meet to the sound of a bell. In the highest tier there is an inscription that attributes this room of full cave paintings to a certain Sanz, mayor. Next to it, on Anacleto López street, a superb pavement is preserved, worthy of a Roman road. And here and there you can see splendid old houses, like the modernist Villa Genarito where the sculptor Mariano Benlliure used to spend the summer, today a school. The name was because his wife, the typical Lucrecia Arana, became famous playing Genaro in the zarzuela The white cross. The garden is a shady pine forest, but the plinth of the house is strewn with majolica sunflowers. Artist’s whims. To access the farm you must first call 918 50 01 63.

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Waikiki in Peñalba Park

Another relic of the old Collado Villalba is the Peñalba park, a summer farm from the first half of the 20th century populated by tall pines, cedars, firs, strawberry trees, labyrinthine hedges of boxwood and cypress and an aviary full of goldfinches, greenfinches, pardillos, partridges, pheasants, ducks and geese. There is also a bar-restaurant with a terrace, The Peñalba Castle, from where you can contemplate all of the above, savoring some potatoes with squid legs and tamari sauce. For short, this is called a Waikiki.

Risen Navalquejigo

Every hour a suburban train passes through Collado Villalba that goes to El Escorial. Five minutes later, he stops at the station Las Zorreras, from where you only have to walk another five to settle in Navalquejigo, a town that was dying throughout the twentieth century, engulfed by the urbanizations that were emerging around it. In 1997 squatters were installed here that still keep the old houses standing and the orchards carved around the 13th century church and the 18th century pillory. The owners of the surrounding chalets are not very happy about this resurrected Navalquejigo, but it is the gardens embroidered with arizónicas, and not the squatters, that have decimated the pastures halfway between Collado Villalba and El Escorial.

The Camino de las Ventas del Escorial

In the town of The Blacks, three kilometers from Collado Villalba, next to the Herreño bridge, starts the road to Ventas del Escorial, the same road followed by the kings to go to the monastery of San Lorenzo. We will go on foot or by bike along this beautiful dirt road, admiring the Monesterio ruins (a hunting lodge of Felipe II), the bridges over the Guadarrama river and its tributaries, the Guatel Segundo and Guatel Primero streams, the reservoir that forms the latter and the meadows dotted with fighting bulls and centenary ash trees.

Homemade kebabs and Russian cuisine

After walking or pedaling, we can recharge our batteries in Interviews Casa Isidro (918 50 14 11), which, as its name suggests, is a restaurant located between the Avila and Segovia railways, with a large terrace and delicious paella. Something more exotic than a paella in the mountains? The homemade kebabs of the Sahara (910 86 57 13). Even more exotic? The snacks, the bitochki and Stroganov’s blinis. Its brief decoration is also very Russian, almost Soviet. Along with the pasture, El Gallinero offers the typical roasts, but also dishes such as the monkfish trunk with risotto nori seaweed or oxtail with port wine. More options to eat well in Collado Villalba: everyone goes out talking wonders of the El Corral de los Vacos restaurant, the deer that roam around its farm and its meats, especially the old cow ribeye. Fusion cuisine and grilled is what you expect at El Sueño de Laura, and pots and roasts in a wood oven, at Kandrak.

Towards the Covacho waterfall

East of Collado Villalba, in the first foothills of the Sierra de Hole of Manzanares, a piece of the Guadarramaian landscape hides practically intact. If we start walking from the urbanization The Mirador de la Sierra, along the Guija road, first asphalted and then dirt, we will arrive in an hour at Covacho waterfall, a corner of unprecedented greenery and freshness that forms the Peña Herrera stream in the granite sunny of the Cerro de la Lechuza. It is advisable to reserve this visit for rainy seasons, when more water carries the stream. Although there are always walkers to ask, the route is clearly described on the hiking website wikiloc.com.

Returning from the waterfall, almost where we started walking, we will discover Sunset Fontenebro, a fantastic place to have a drink watching the sun go down behind the mountains. Nor is it a bad plan to have some craft beers in Leoncia, which is a factory of the same, in the P-29 polygon.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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