Sunday, February 15, 2004

Madrid, Spain--Day 16

Today I woke up early and headed out to the Zoo Aquarium Madrid which is just outside the main city center, after grabbing a croissant and zumo de naranja (orange juice) at a nearby coffee place. I was happy to see that the Zoo wasn’t too far away, as the past couple zoos in Argentina and Brazil all were a long ways from my hotel.

Sooner than later I had paid my admission and was in the zoo. It was 10:35 by this time, and the Zoo had just opened at 10:30. Perfect! I would be the first to see the hippos! I had my map and found my way to the hippo enclosure, which was right between the African elephants and the white rhinos. Looking at the hippo’s home though didn’t show any hippos! I set up camp (luckily there were benches that I could sit on and watch) and started to wait.

After a few minutes two zookeepers came and I asked them how many hippos there were. Five, they said. FIVE! Who-hoo! That was exciting. All the other zoos have had two, with the exception of the Sao Paulo Zoo, so five was great. But, said one of the zookeepers (or at least this is what I think he said) they are eating right now. Ok, I said, and the zookeepers went on their way and I sat down to wait it out. Luckily I had my book!

About an hour later one hippo emerged from behind from where they were eating (you couldn’t really see them while they were eating but if you strained you could tell that there were definitely hippos there) and so I literally dropped my book and rushed to take its picture as it sipped from the water. How funny they are when they drink! She was making such a silly slurping noise and water was frothing around her mouth. I guess I had never seen a hippo drink before! After a few minutes she went back up the steps to behind where the other hippos were, so I had to sit down and wait again. At least I got one hippo!

Over the next two hours I waited with my camera (the saying “patience has its virtues” really applies!) and eventually all five hippos managed to show themselves. In the time that passed I not only watched for the hippos, but watched the elephants with their huge trunks throwing bits of trees around, as well as the people going by on these silly little golf-cart things. It looked like you could rent them and so people were going around on them instead of walking, sort of like a little safari ride through a zoo.

Finally the first hippo that came out to drink, Sabrina, came out again and walked around the enclosure and finally settled down in the sunshine by some rocks. Soon thereafter another younger, smaller hippo (named Lola) decided to come and take a drink in the water, who was followed by the smallest (and cutest of them all) baby hippo called “La Pequeñita“, translated to “the little one” (she doesn’t really have an official name yet according to the hippo keepers) and is simply referred to as La Pequeñita. Snap, snap, snap went my camera as the three of them walked about, drank water and sat on the ground in the sun. Eventually a bigger female (name Susie who was La
Pequeñita’s mother) and all out huge male with HUGE curling teeth that went around his mouth (Appropriately, Rotweiller is his name) came out and so all five were out at once. Snap, snap, snap. I got some nice shots of all of them individually and some group shots, along with some with a black and white bird who perched itself on both Lola and Sabrina, much to their annoyance.

Sabrina and Lola both eventually disappeared into the feeding area again which left Susie, Rotweiller and La Pequeñita to play in the mud for a bit and then go swimming in the pond. Watching them go into the mud was great because the mud was seemingly shallow until they stepped in it and would sink down, slurp, slurp, and then had to exert quite a bit of effort to move around in it…especially La
Pequeñita. Watching the trio go swimming was nice too, but was really neat was watching them all stand on the end ramp into the pond in which Rotweiller was taking up most of the space and La
Pequeñita and Susie were trying to get past (he was taking a drink) so all three of them were trying to drink at the same time but there simply was not enough room, so Susie had to wait.

I watched them in total for about three and a half hours which turned out to be plenty of time to get some neat pictures and fill up my entire memory card on the camera (I ended up taking over 100 pictures!). After talking with the hippo keepers and taking some notes I headed back towards the entrance to find the gift shop. On my way back though I passed these silly monkeys who were just really funny to watch since there were like sixty of them in this open area and there were about sixty people looking at them as they were looking at us! I also stopped by the dolphin show (which was starting right when I walked by) so I caught that and was impressed by the albeit predictable stunts with that both the dolphins and trainers.

I found the gift shop and then made my way out of the zoo and got a taxi back to my hotel where I got lunch at the restaurant right next to my hotel, transferred the pictures onto my computer, interrupted once by the front desk asking me if I could change my room. Ugh. I had to pack up all of my things and go to the lobby, get a new room, go back up and set up things again in my new (but bigger) room, only to be called about 10 minutes later (in my new room I might add) to ask when I was coming to change my room. Umm, I just did? I told them and they seemed confused.

I then decided to get dinner and found a restaurant called Restaurante Momo, so of course I had to go…thinking of you Mo! Sadly I never made it because I took the Metro around to where it was supposed to be and couldn’t for the life of me find it and decided to get something to eat instead of wander around aimlessly lost all night. So I stopped at a Chinese restaurant which just happened to be right there when I decided not to wander anymore, which ended up being ok. I ordered “Duck with 8 treasures” just to see what these treasures actually meant, and it turned out that it was like duck with shrimp and a bunch of other random things thrown in and I am pretty sure that there was the duck’s skin with hairs still on it. Eww. I ate around what I thought was the skin, paid, then took the Metro back only a few stops to the Gran Via, which is a big main shopping street.

By this time it was around 9:30 pm and I decided that I didn’t want to go back to my hotel just yet but I was absolutely freezing so I wanted to find something warm to drink. Unfortunately the only place I could find was a Starbucks (I wanted to stay away from things I knew on this trip!) and so I went in and found comfort in my chai latte and comfy couch to sit on for a while. When I was done I went back towards the hotel passed a movie theater and decided to see a movie. I went up to buy my ticket for 21 Grams and the ticket man kept asking me all sorts of questions related to my ticket that I couldn’t understand. Where did I want to sit? He finally asked me. Oh, ummm, uhhh… the back? He warned me that the movie would be in Spanish and I reminded him that I did know that I was in Spain. Then I got really confused because Lost in Translation was also playing and for a moment I thought that I was getting a ticket for that. He asked me where I was from and when I said the US he looked at his coworker and they both started chanting Bush, Bush, Bush and not in a good way. I know, I know, I said and took my ticket to wait for the doors to open. I looked at my ticket and it did say 21 Grams so I knew that I wasn’t going to see Lost in Translation so I waited with the others who were standing outside and then finally we were let in. When I got inside I realized why the man asked me where I wanted to sit because they have assigned seats at movie theaters here! I am not sure if all movie theaters are like this (or just this one) but I was ushered to my seat and people made a really big deal of sitting in their assigned seats even though there were plenty of seats in the theater.

The movie was good and I was able to understand it just fine. Afterwards I took the subway back to my hotel which was only one stop but much warmer than walking and now am off to bed!!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.