Friday, January 25, 2013

Animals full of activity at Madrid zoo

This morning was time for shopping along the Fuencarral, a long pedestrian street. We retraced our steps and continued to Puerta del Sol, the giant square, where demonstrators were readying themselves for a march protesting the austerity measures. There were lots of police but the march was quite peaceful, except for all the whistles the protestors were blowing. From here we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant by our hotel. All I can say is too much meat, which I won't even begin to describe. Another meal left practically untouched by me. Madrid is a carnivore's paradise.

We strolled past the opera house to the Palacio Real, which is a huge palace of over 3,400 rooms, the largest palace in Europe and former home of Bourbon royalty. Now it is used for state occasions as the royals live in the outskirts of Madrid. There was a huge, slow moving, line at the palace that we weren't inclined to stand in. Perhaps another time. The sun was out so we headed  for the zoo.

Once off the subway, we had to walk and walk and walk to reach the zoo entrance. We were a little concerned since it was nearing four o'clock and we didn't know what time the zoo closed. Luckily, we had two hours before closing. Our first stop was the pandas. First of all we saw the twins pacing about outside. They are just over two years old and were quite lively. The way the outside enclosure is designed you feel quite close to them and they would look right at you. They were quite funny making little bleating noises. Mum was munching away on her bamboo in an inside enclosure, while dad was wandering about in his enclosure stopping to relieve himself by doing a handstand against the wall and then peeing. They were fascinating to watch.

It was quite cold by now. Perhaps this is what made the animals active or maybe it was the fact that they were looking for their keepers to serve them their dinner. We were very fortunate to encounter only a handful of other visitors the whole time we were there. The beautiful, snow white leopard was separated only by the glass on his enclosure. He came right up to us several times looking right at us. Every time he heard a zoo keeper's cart he would search for his dinner and then with lithe movements move around the cage on his huge paws.

Our next stop was the white tiger, who was also looking for dinner. He had pools in his enclosure separated by a  narrow strip of concrete, which he would walk along and then very carefully turn around finishing with a hop on one of his front legs. The Eurasian lynx, who resembled a bobcat but was much bigger sat down and watched us as he was waiting for his dinner. The lions perched high on their rocks looked majestically out over the zoo.

We enjoyed a small, very young orangutan climbing ropes, then rolling around in the hay, picking up debris and shaking it in the faces of the two older females. He was lucky they were so passive because he looked as if he was enjoying annoying them. There was a very tiny baby hanging on to one of the females. Near this enclosure high on top of the trees the lemurs chased each other. The meerkats were all lined up along a wall looking for something, probably dinner. The rhinoceros with his huge armour was only a very few feet away from us. His mouth kept coming through the wooden fence to eat some grass. He got tired waiting to get out of the cold and rammed the closed door to his inside enclosure a few times. The elephants had their backs to us swaying back and forth in front of their inside space.

The Malaysian bears were quite funny sitting down to look at us with funny looking frowns on their faces. The black bears were playing quite roughly with each other, while the big Tibetan bears with their huge mop of hair were active and playful in their enclosure.

There were several giraffes, and a zebra chased a bird away. Most of the time we walked around we could see white storks on the ground or in their nests and hear the clack-clack-clacking of their beaks. The storks mingled freely with beautiful pinky orange flamingoes in a pond by the entrance. We were amazed at the size of the Giant Otters swimming in their pond then coming over to us and standing on their hind legs looking at us, making whiny noises and showing us lots of needle sharp teeth

It was nearing six as we walked by the pandas once again. Across the path, we spotted the red panda, who had managed to catch some kind of black bird. He was tearing away at it, while its wings were still flapping. Our last stop was the sea lion pools. One seal put on a little show for us swimming around and then leaping out of the water over a rock. it was a perfect visit to the zoo.

The streets of Madrid were much more lively tonight with many people out walking and shopping. As we walked to dinner we passed another smaller demonstration against the austerity measures. These were the pensioners, who are not getting raises to keep pace with the cost of inflation. Many of these people were dressed in green capes with pointed green hats. Why? We don't know.

We reached the Latin Quarter, which is a trendy little district filled with restaurants. Not really knowing where to go we stopped at a modern bistro with background music being played by live musicians. It was ten o'clock and we were the first people seated for dinner. Gradually, the restaurant filled up. The best part of the meal was sitting on a glass floor right on top of the crumbling, ancient ruins of the old Madrid city hall. A great ending to another day.

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