Danny's birthday came in the midst of such transition for us. One week earlier or one week later - whole different story, but that day, that week, it was so crazy. But he was such a champ about it and we really made the best of it and tried to make some fun memories. So here we go, how we spent October 14, 2015 in Madrid, Spain, Danny's 26th birthday!
Danny wanted to have donuts for breakfast since they are so everywhere here and he has been thinking about and talking about them non-stop. Unfortunately, that morning ended up being kind of hectic for us, and we ended up rushing to school. We intended to grab donuts on our break at class, but that too slipped by the wayside when one of the schedulers approached Danny at the break and asked him to (strongly) consider a prospective student to begin teaching - oh and it had to start that evening or else the client was probably going to go to another academy.
At lunch, Danny ate some (intentionally vague because none of us really want to know how many) hot dogs with our friend Phil, who was also celebrating his birthday that day, in the break room, while myself and our other classmates looked on in...bemusement.
After lunch, we finished our afternoon of class and Danny went to teach his new student (and his very first English class!) from 4:30 - 6pm. Once he finished with the lesson, we met our new landlord to go over the contract and sign our lease - yahoo! Afterwards, we met our friends Phil and Diana at a tapas bar around 8pm for dinner, and stayed until about 11pm. Phil lived in Madrid last year, and invited many of his friends, both American and Spanish, so it was a lively group, and we enjoyed our time and had a good variety of tapas.
On Saturday, Danny finally got his donuts at Panissimo, a bakery that we walk by on our way to and from the Metro in our new neighborhood everyday. It takes a lot of willpower to smell its sweets and turn away, so this was Danny's chance to have a try at its goodness. He picked out three sugar donuts, and I picked out a few croissants, and we ate them on the bench across the street before we took the Metro to the zoo.
A Metro ride and a bus ride later, we were at the front gate of the zoo! It took quite a while, but we got to see a new part of Madrid, and the zoo itself is located in a beautiful, wooded, and green part of the city. We were a little conflicted about going to the dolphin show, since we don't feel great about places like SeaWorld, and tend to agree with the opinion that large animals like dolphins and killer whales belong in the ocean, not in captivity, but we decided to attend the show anyways. All of the controversy aside, we enjoyed the show and had great third row seats. Dolphins really are amazing creatures!
After the show, we headed straight to the pandas! After my mom told me that the Madrid Zoo has pandas, I knew we would have to visit at some point. We first saw the father sitting in a tree, and then saw the baby and mother in another enclosure. The mother was eating (bamboo, of course), and the baby was playing in the water and being absolutely adorable. So, so cute. We have approximately 40 pictures of the pandas, but I'm sharing just one, because, well, let's be reasonable. How else am I going to convince all of you to come to Madrid? If I show all of the pictures, you won't have any incentive to come see them for yourselves!
There are 6,000 animals at the Madrid zoo, so that's why I can't really remember what all we saw and in what order. We only took pictures of the highlights, and I'm not even going to share many of those, because really, who likes to see someone else's pictures of the zoo? Besides the (really cute) panda picture, this is going to be minimal.
A major highlight beyond the pandas was the lemur walk-through. At the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, where we had a membership and where we have visited umpteen times, there is wallaby walkthrough, where you can interact with and walk around in the wallaby exhibit. We always really enjoyed that part of the zoo, so when we realized that the lemurs were the same way at the Madrid Zoo, we were partially pumped and partially...weirded out. I mean, don't lemurs swing around and hoot and holler and act like monkeys? Wouldn't that be a wild experience, not a peaceful and nice one like the wallaby one at home? There was only one way to find out.
Turns out the lemurs, at least in our experience, don't really care too much about the humans. They were just kind of hanging out and doing their thing, and every once in a while, they'd happen to be walking/crawling/sitting near one of the people, which everyone found really exciting, but since the majority of their lives are lived on exhibit, I think they're just used to it and don't think anything of it. We still thought it was pretty cool though!
Danny and I have, separately and together, visited a couple of zoos overseas where rules are a little bit...lax? I wouldn't necessarily say that the Madrid Zoo is one of those, however, we did see a few things that were rather unsettling. For example, many of the animals are clearly used to being fed by zoo visitors. Case in point:
See the bears perched at the edge, looking for handouts? People were throwing bread, popcorn, apple chunks, whatever they had packed for lunch, it seemed. In some of the enclosures there were signs that requested people not feed the animals, but this seemed to be for the more 'important' animals (i.e. pandas, giraffes, elephants, etc.). We were a little surprised by this, since we'd only seen visitors feeding the animals (without zoo permission, of course) in Asia where there's often less presence and supervision of the zoo staff, but at least we got some great views of the bears!
We had a picnic lunch of PB & J's during the sea lion show, and smoothies to reenergize ourselves in the afternoon - we stayed for about five hours! It rained periodically in the afternoon, so we ducked under trees as necessary, but overall we had a great day at the zoo.
Once we arrived back in our neck of the woods, we had dinner at the same place we had breakfast - Panissimo! Danny's request of course. He had mini pepperoni pizzas, if you will, and I had a sandwich. And finally, we had Oreo cheesecake at home to complete our birthday celebrations, as well as a belated singing of "Happy Birthday!"
So there it is! Danny's 26th birthday celebrations - his 27th year has officially begun! May it be full of tasty food, teaching English, and exciting animals (and maybe a few other things too), just like his birthday!