Just an hour’s drive from Madrid is the quaint town of Rascafría at the heart of the Sierra Guadarrama mountain range, where al fresco dining by flowing rivers, waterfalls and shady lakes is the order of the day.
So this is life after lockdown.
Spain officially ended the state of emergency a month ago, and life is back to normal-ish. In Madrid, restaurants and shops are open once again, and although many people are still working from home, several offices have reopened and a lot are back at their desks (including me).
It’s also great to see how cooperative Spanish society has been after patiently enduring one of the strictest quarantines in the world for just over 100 days. Everyone’s wearing masks out in the streets or in public transport, giving elbow bumps instead of the usual 2 kisses, and diligently using hand gel in restaurants, bars and stores. This is truly impressive and deserves a hat tip — especially since Spanish people are known for their penchant for packing bars, being cariñoso (affectionate) and at times a bit too huggy and touchy, and a tad bit chaotic. So it’s really cool to see Spanish society obediently following rules with public safety in mind.
We’re also just approaching the peak of summer, which means that temperatures (and tempers) are soaring in the city. So what better way to escape the heat than a quick getaway to the the lush mountainside of the Sierra Guadarrama, just an hour and a half away by car from Madrid.
‘La Isla’ Bonita
Near the small mountain town of Rascafria sits a quaint little restaurant by a natural enclave called La Isla. Founded in 1958, La Isla merges with the lush landscape of the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park, with cozy shaded terraces by the Lozoya River.
La Isla perfectly captures the Spanish expression, “Somos de cuchara” – which refers to people who like spoonfuls of comfort food such as stewed judiones/ fabes (beans), legumbres (legumes), lentejas (lentils) and garbanzos (chickpeas, as in the ones in cocido madrileño).
Getting to La Isla is like a mini adventure in itself, as you walk amid sweet-smelling pine trees and wildflowers, then cross the river on a wood and stone bridge to get to the restaurant’s entrance. Though there are tables inside (for the colder seasons), treat yourself this summer to one of the shaded terrazas outside with gorgeous views of flowing streams, mini waterfalls and lush vegetation. (And better make a reservation since this is quite a popular spot!)
To highlight my recommendations from our meal — we tried the specialty of the house, the judiones con matanza or bean stew with assorted meats, and it was absolutely delicious (say it with me, ‘¡somos de cuchara!’)
Yet the hands down discovery of the summer for me was the milhojas de manzana y cabrales con salsa de sidra, which is a layered, exquisite dish of apple and pineapple slices lathered with generous amounts of cabrales – a specialty blue cheese made with cow, sheep and goats milk that’s left to mature in a natural cave at a low temperature. This is a traditional Spanish cheese from the Asturias and Cantabria regions. The dish is then garnished with walnuts and grape slices, over a bed of canonigos (lamb’s lettuce).
The hearty mountain meal was perfectly rounded off with a young Ribera del Duero bottle of red wine, aptly named “Arroyo” (stream).
La Isla offers house specialties depending on the season, so I’m already making plans to come back in autumn to try their deer and ratatouille stew and seasonal mushrooms.
Walk this Way
Even if you’re not much of a hiker, it is absolutely worth walking around the Natural Park to partake of nature’s eye candy. This was such a welcome, wonderful retreat for the soul especially after being cooped up indoors for months during the quarantine.
It’s hard to believe that this natural getaway is just a short drive from Madrid. Might I add that now’s a great time to take this day trip, especially when there are not too many tourists just yet because of the Covid -19 crisis.
As a final note – more ¡muchas gracias! – Thank you Spotted by Locals for choosing Kusina Madrid again!
To end on a high note — I’m really grateful to Spotted by Locals for selecting Kusina Madrid once again as one of the Best Blogs of Madrid for the third year in a row. I cannot express my gratitude enough. Thank you!!!
‘Til the next time everyone — stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask, and as always, eat well! ¡Qué aproveche!