After being in semi-lock down last year, my sibling, who loves Christmas lights, asked me to accompany them to the Real Jardín Botánico, the botanical garden in Madrid. The Botanical garden was founded in 1755, adjacent to the planned museum of Natural Science, which would later become the art gallery Prado Museum. Today, it is a research centre. The garden is divided into four terraces, a main building (Edificio Villanueva), and a back terrace, and it serves as museum of live plants of sorts.
For the last few years (at least three that I’m aware), the botanical garden has spiced up its winter downtime with light shows and displays. This year, the display is called “Lit Nature: Explorium”: Naturaleza Encendida: Explorium by the company Let’s go. The topic is ocean explorers and exploration, spread throughout the three main terraces and an extra exhibit in the building.
In order to have flexibility, I got us Premium tickets in case we needed to cancel last minute, which had the extra advantage that spared us from any queues, as we had full-access between 18:00 and 19:00. We also got to see the extra exhibit without paying extra. I drove up to a mid-way train station that allowed me better schedule flexibility – and my sibling lives close-by so it gave us the option to have dinner afterwards. I took the first train and we met at the botanical garden station at 17:30. We wandered around for a little while we waited until twilight faded, and we got in, avoiding all the lines – I did a bit of astronomy maths when planning this, regarding latest sunset and shortest twilight.
The exhibit is organised so you are free to wander around each terrace, but you can only cross from the lower to the upper terraces upwards, you cannot backtrack, in order to control capacity and people in each area. It only felt a bit crowded at a couple of points, mostly around the checkpoints, as it was very difficult to hear the staff.
The whole display has thousands of little blue LEDs to get you on the ‘ocean’ scenery. The first terrace sets the mood – there are Christmas-tree looking build-ups and different types of colour-changing sculptures: turtles, pufferfish, and sea horses. The second focuses on laser and smoke, and reflection displays, and some serious-looking grouper. On the third, where the building stands, there is a little pond from where a few gigantic tentacles rise, and jellyfish hanging from the trees. The exhibit in the building itself is similar to the projections done by Team Lab.
We wandered around for a couple of hours, and believe me or not… the lights went out at some point! This was like climbing up (rope-way-ing up, to be honest) aaall the way up to see Nagasaki’s lights from Inasayama and getting caught in the clouds, but fortunately shorter (≧▽≦).
We left the botanical garden and took a train back. There were a few places to grab a bite around the station, so we ended up at a cosy Italian place and shared some stuff – too much to then grab some dessert though. When we left it was so cold that my car gave me the first heart attack of the winter by bleeping and showing me an orange alarm in the dashboard that means “the roads might be frosty” but scares me to death whenever I see it for the first time in the winter season. I drove off home, had a shower, went straight into work at 23:00 because how was I going to manage a free Tuesday evening without consequences?
Final waking distance: 8.50 km (though I really think that the wristband confuses my stress-driving with activity.