Daily Archives: September 20, 2012

Day 71: Rest day two in Madrid

It was nice to sleep in a bed again and have wifi in the room. I skyped with my family again, and got to see Xavier with an eye open at last, for a moment before he returned to sleep.

Breakfast was late again, the staff must be getting very frustrated trying to work in this environment. The longest I have waited for a lift was about 10 minutes but at least I wasn’t holding breakfast trays while I was waiting.

I met Suzanne and Brett in the lobby at 10:15am and we caught a taxi to the Madrid Zoo because this Zoo is one of the four Zoos in world that has, wait for it…….


I made this totally chance discovery when I was given a book of discount vouchers on the tour  bus yesterday, and it fell open on the Zoo page – and it had a Panda on it. So we checked and yes they did have Pandas.


Shellbe, one of my daughters, loves Pandas but when I spoke to her on Skype this morning I didn’t say anything, because I was prepared to get to the Zoo and find that either they were asleep inside their enclosure and you couldn’t see them or for some reason they were not on public display today.

We got to the Zoo just as it was opening, and there was already a line to get in. We looked at the Zoo map, I was really excited, and got to the Panda  enclosure as fast as my legs would carry me.

There are four pandas at this Zoo: Mum and Dad were gifted to the King of Spain by the King  of China, and the two two-year-old brothers Po and Dede were born at the Madrid Zoo, on the 7th of September 2010, weighing 250 grams at birth.

To start off with we just saw Dad eating bamboo in separate part of the enclosure, and the other three were sleeping in a corner. Then one of the boys came out and walked around, then followed by mum and brother. We watched them for awhile, completely enthralled with them.

Just chillin’

The brothers

As Suzanne had to leave the zoo at 12:40 we had a quick look at some of the other animals, such as Red Pandas, Giraffes with two babies, lions, elephants, and Zebras with babies.

The enclosures were generally really good, the only one that I thought pulled the short straw was the Leopard, who was not only in a fairly small cage but also appeared to be by himself. There were also lemurs and flamingos and some storks.

We decided to return for another look at the Pandas before we left, and I am so glad we did as we got to see the brothers climbing a tree, playing, and also in the water just below where we were standing, it was awesome and magical.

Panda playing in a tree

One of the brothers was lying three metres below where I was standing, lying on his back splashing water on himself, and paddling with his feet. He was also watching the spectators to gauge our reactions.

Cheeky panda

With great difficulty we dragged ourselves away and went to the front to wait for Suzanne’s shuttle, which we had pre-booked at the hotel that morning. After 15 minutes we rang and guess what – it was waiting outside our hotel, even though the reception person at the hotel  had rung and booked it from the Zoo, and Suzanne had waited in line for nearly 30 minutes to get this done. Luckily a taxi turned up dropping another passenger off so we grabbed it and Suzanne got to the airport with time to spare.

I went back to the city centre to check out the perfect gift shop but it was still closed, so I suspect it is not open in the weekends. Hmm . . . it will have to be plan B for the present for this child.

I had lunch, and then the rest of the early afternoon was taken up with laundry, catching up with the blog, and packing. I had dinner not far from hotel and I found a shop where I bought three presents. It’s always a risk trying to pick for someone else’s taste but at the very least even if the present is disliked the recipient knows you were thinking of them in Madrid.

Once again there were a number of beggars. One young man approached us on the Saturday night asking for money for food. I was a bit sceptical as he looked fairly well fed, but we gave him the benefit of doubt and gave him a couple of Euro. I must admit that I am generally more generous with buskers than beggars.

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Day 70: Rest day one in Madrid

As parts of the renovations at the hotel are taking place in the restaurant, we all got breakfast delivered to our rooms. Nice plan, but as mentioned last night there is only one very slow moving lift! My breakfast was due at 8:30, so when it got to 9am I rang up to find out where it was, as I was waiting to eat before Skyping with my kids.

The poor hotel staff looked really harassed, it must be really hard work with four floors of people and only one lift! It was good to chat to Lizzy, Shellbe and Dan (Xavier slept through it again) and then next I skyped with Kelly and Daniel. Skype is such a great invention.

I was given a book of discount vouchers, and made a discovery about what I never expected to be able to see on this tour (all will be revealed tomorrow). I went on a city tour, and we saw:

1. The Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace of Madrid)
2. Barrio Salamanca
3. Plaza de Colón
4. Plaza de Cibeles
5. Museo Del Prado
6. Santiago Bernabéu Stadium – the Football stadium of the Real Madrid club, can seat 85,000
7. Plaza Mayor – one of the main shopping main areas

The Markets we saw are nothing like in Barcelona or other cities we have been to. Instead of being crammed in and packed under a tent type awning it was a much more sedate setting, more like Moore Wilsons than the Wellington wharf or Porirua market on a Saturday morning.

The markets

We had lunch in Plaza Mayor square, it reminded me a bit of St Mark’s Square in Venice – crowds, buskers, lots of tables, souvenir shops, and instead of mask shops there were football merchandise shops. We also had a tour around the old town.

Plaza Mayor Square in Madrid – note the paintings on the building

There was a really big demonstration about planned government cuts to spending, the city was full of protestors. There were at least 100 buses that bought them in and took them out. We had to get off our tour bus as it could not go through the middle of town. They were all wearing t-shirts and chanting, and although there was a significant police presence it seemed to be a peaceful protest.

Suzanne and I on a bear statue in the square

We did a bit of shopping, I am at the stage of having to buy presents, I have been hoping to see suitable things and buy them the time, but I have not had a lot of luck. I saw the perfect present for one of my children but the shop was shut, it said it opened again at 5:30pm. I went back again from the hotel later – 30 minutes each way – but the shop was still not open, so maybe does not open on the weekend? Even though it was in the main strip.

A new busking act

A group of us (Scott, Michele, Dan, Brett, Suzanne and I) had arranged to meet for dinner at Botin’s Restaurant, said to be the oldest restaurant in the world. We had the choice of going at 8pm or 10pm, as they have two sittings a night. I’m sure you can guess which time we chose!

It was fun, very touristy, not fine dining, and you felt a bit like you were on a production line, as whatever you ordered arrived within five minutes of ordering it. But it was fun and the food was ok, and we can say we have been there.

Scott, Dan, Michele, me, Brett at Botin (picture taken by Suzanne)

Afterwards Suzanne, Brett, Scott and I sat out in the street area near the hotel, and people watched for awhile.

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