What did Smeagol (aka Gollum) and King Carlos III of Spain have in common?
They both loved fishing!
But their techniques must have differed greatly. Before he was cast into the fiery pits of Mordor, Smeagol splashed and squirmed around muddy pools, diving in and out to catch the wriggly things with his own slippery fingers. King Carlos III, however, was probably far less inclined to get even his feet wet. Why else would he have ordered his minions to build “the Royal Fisheries”?
Las Pesquerías Reales can be found just outside La Granja de San Ildefonso, the Palace and gardens which were constructed by the Bourbon Kings during their stint in Spain (they must have been very homesick, the gardens are a replica of Versailles). But what exactly are “Royal Fisheries”? I was asking myself this question as I set off to visit them yesterday morning.
The answer is, not what I expected. The fisheries turned out to be a picturesque walking track along the Eresma River. It’s paved with giant flat stones, with occasional platforms that jut out over the rapids, and there’s a weird contraption at the top of the river that is supposed to assist trout migration (in some feat of fish biology/water engineering genius). The people track begins at the Pontón Reservoir (also known as ‘the mirror’, see photos) and runs upstream for about 5km to another big dam next to Valsaín, a town which is famous for nice bread, cute little farm animals roaming free, and wood fire ovens (for roasting aforementioned farm animals). It then continues further (towards the “Ass’s mouth”), but I did not.
Apparently the river is home to trout, carp, and Iberian mullet. I didn’t see any, not one. The rapids were pretty fast and the water looked bloody cold. Perhaps fish go south for winter too.
Anyway, whether you’re into fishing or not, the real selling point of the route is the scenery. From several vantage points you can get a good view of some of the highest mountains in the Guadarrama Range, including “the King’s Seat” (which is officially called “the Bun of Aunt Andrea”). Yesterday, being mid winter, it was still bitterly cold, but both to my relief and disappointment, recent rains had washed away much of the snow. It was actually a perfect day for walking, with little wind and not a cloud in the sky. The winter sun did its best effort at thawing and succeeded – the river was high, and everyone out walking seemed to be in good spirits too.