1st July 2021: Manatees are Zen (Faunia, Madrid, Spain)

Madrid has two zoos, the traditional one which can be traced back to 1770, and a second one which opened in 2001. They actually belong to the same business group anyway so probably the whole point is just to charge more – and to expand the installations. They operate as independent entities. On the first of July, due to a number of circumstances coming together, I visited Faunia, the newer installation. The standard price for a ticket is around 28€ – but there are plenty of different discounts. I paid 18.90€ for a random Thursday discount that they’ve got.

Though it promotes itself as a “Nature Theme park”, Faunia is little more than a modern standard zoo. Of course, it is much better than the old zoos, and the animals are well-kept, an organisation in ecosystems or areas is not that much of a novelty any more. There are different areas: farm / petting zoo, night, lake, jungle, temperate forest, African forest, Australia…

Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), the largest lizard in the world, endemic to some Indonesian islands. They are venomous.
Tufted capuchin (Sapajus apella), an omnivorous primate from South America.
Red panda (Ailurus fulgens), an animal that is so different from everything else that it has its own family name all by itself. It is native to the Himalayas and the south west of China.
American flamingoes (Phoenicopterus ruber), long-legged wading birds famous for their pink colour that tend to live in flocks.
Ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta), a group-forming species endemic to Madagascar. They are attitude-laden and fear-lacking little fellas who love to sunbathe.

Fennec fox (Vulpes zerda): a small fox with large ears which lives in the Sahara and the Sinai Peninsula.
Southern tamandua or lesser anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla), a species of anteater from the forests of South America and the Caribbean, which feeds on ants, termites and bees.
Kangaroo Rat (genus Dipodomys), tiny nocturnal rodents from North America that can jump over two metres
Butterflies – don’t expect me to be able to ID them, but my money is on Antiochus Longwing, a south American small butterfly
Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), a found in marshes, rivers and lakes in throughout sub-Saharan Africa. They are opportunistic and aggressive predators which ambush their prey in or near the water. And they can gallop. Look that up.

Arapaima (Sudis gigas), a giant fish native to the Amazon. They eat smaller fish, crustaceans, fruits, seeds, insects and any small land animal that they can catch on shore. Furthermore, this is an air-breather. It is a top predator that can become invasive if placed somewhere else.
Redtail catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus), another carnivorous fish from the Amazon. Never trust a catfish, they can literally eat you by accident (or on purpose).
Caiman (family Alligatoridae), reptile predators originating in South America. They are large and aggressive, but they tend to hut fish. Did you know that
Penguins (family Spheniscidae) are a group of aquatic flightless birds. Most live in the Southern Hemisphere, and they feed on krill, fish, squid and so on that they catch underwater. Contrary to the myth, not all penguins live in the cold, a lot of them live in temperate climates.
Coral reef, with clownfish (family Pomacentridae) and sea anemones (order Actiniaria) living in symbiosis.

Meerkat (Suricata suricatta) aka Timon from the Lion King.
Red-necked wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus), similar to but smaller than a kangaroo, and also friendlier. They, of course, originate from Australia. The Faunia webpage says that you can go into the pen and walk among them, but I didn’t try.
Yellow-banded poison dart frog (Dendrobates leucomelas). It is an amphibian which lives in the humid areas in the north of South American. They secrete toxins from their skin. Do not pet, much less lick.
Blue viper of the white-lipped island pit viper (Trimeresurus insularis). Beautiful, venomous, aggressive and feisty, this snake is originary from Indonesian islands.
Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica), it is really there. It is another venomous snake, and it has the longest fangs among snakes. And yes, it is really there.

White-cheeked turaco (Menelikornis leucotis), originary from forest in the highland regions of Eastern Africa.
Grey crowned crane (Balearica regulorum), a large bird from Sub-Saharan Africa.
Roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja), a wading bird from South America, with a very characteristic beak, hence the name
Macaws (genus Ara), endemic to Central and South America. They are “seed predators” which means they destroy the seeds to eat them
Scarlet ibises (Eudocimus ruber), another colourful bird whose original habitat is the coastal areas of South America. They use their long beaks to prove for food in mud or under plants – they eat a lot of small crustaceans, which gives them their particular colour

I guess it is worth a visit, but that’s just about it, if you consider it from a shallow point of view – because when you start getting deep into things, everything gets ridiculously expensive. Because the thing that does differentiate Faunia from other zoos is the fact that it offers “hands-on experiences.” Some of these are about 5 or 6€ and include a short talk inside one of the pens – such as “meeting” the pelicans or the penguins.

For example, the Pelican interaction consists in walking into the pen and seeing the birds from afar sitting on a bench while one caretaker explains basic biology facts and the other tries to get a pelican to eat trouts for a bit of a close-up “feeling”. Pelicans are large water birds spread all through the world but Antarctica. Their most important characteristic is the large throat pouch under their long beak, that they use to “fish” – they fill their pouch with a billful of water and keep whatever they can digest. Faunia has pink-backed pelicans (Pelecanus rufescens) great white pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus)

There are however other more expensive interactions, on the range of 40 to 50€, and one of them is the one I did – the interaction with the Manatees. Faunia has three West Indian manatees of the Antillean subspecies (Trichechus manatus manatus). Manatees are aquatic mammals – they breathe air and they spend all of their lives in the water, either salt or freshwater in South America. They don’t have natural predators, so they lack predator-avoidance responses, which makes them very tame and friendly. Unfortunately, they are critically endangered in the wild, mostly due to human-related deaths: hunting, habitat destruction and collision with ships. As they are herbivorous, they eat fresh and saltwater algae and plants, they are sometimes called “sea cows”, and eat plants and algae – males are called bulls, females cows and babies calves. They are sturdy and they can weigh between 400 and 550 kg, measuring up to 3 m in length. They have a long spine with pectoral flippers that have five fingers, but no rear flippers. Their body ends in a paddle-shaped tail. The neck is not visible and the head is stocky. They don’t have ears, their eyes are small and their snout is short, with nostrils that can be closed when they are underwater. They have a prehensile lip that they use to gather food and for social communication and interaction.

And they are adorable.

The manatees in Faunia are named Bruno, Fiona and Pelusa (“Dustbunny”), with the latter being the two-year-old daughter of the other two, born in the park. They live in the tank located in “The Jungle” area (La Jungla), sharing their space with catfish, arapaima and pirapitinga (the good-rep fish in the piranha family). For the interaction, you are asked to bring your bathing suit, towel and pool flip-flops. I arrived at the meeting point early and waited eagerly for the staff to come pick me up. Then I was guided into the inner area of the Jungle building, up a metal staircase and I changed into the neoprene suit.

As we waited for the other people to be collected, I saw the manatees swimming around, already anticipating the food. They had mulberry leaves, endives, and banana pieces for treats, and lettuce of different kinds as their main meals. The interaction itself is a kind of training for the animals. The trainers go in with an acoustic signal, and the animals recognise their own names, and each goes to the trainer assigned to them – you also get assigned a trainer so you don’t mess up.

There are two parts of the interaction. First, you get to feed “your” manatee whatever you are given. Normally, there are two people per manatee, but as this was in the middle of the week, even if in summer, we were lucky enough to only be three visitors – which meant your own personal manatee. Mine was Pelusa, the baby, and she was way more interested in the mulberry than the endives. During this part you keep your FFP mask on.

For the second part you “go down” with a snorkelling mask and even if you’re still on the platform you get to feed “whomever comes to you”, seeing the interaction from within the water. To finish up, you give your manatee a small branch for them to eat and play with, and they are released, you change back into your clothes and leave. My interaction took about one hour, and I was lucky enough that I had an “infiltrate” who took pictures from the “underwater tunnel” that crosses the tank. I also bought myself one of the official pictures that the resident photographer takes, because I really, really wanted a good picture.

All in all, it was awesome, and it even felt that the manatees came to wave bye-bye as I left through the tunnel.

As a zoo, as I mentioned, Faunia is a very standard one, with very few things that would make it special if not for the interactions. It could do with some more shades, because just after lunchtime it became really hot. Most food kiosk were closed due to COVID measures, and there were several vending machines. There were a lot of kids doing “urban camp” activities, and I got ran over twice – one of them pretty painfully to be honest.

Aside from the animals, there is a roller-coaster, also down due to COVID and a “dinosaur canyon” with dummies and animatronics that have really seen better days.

T-rex skeleton reconstruction

Furthermore, queuing to go in because the VIP entrance is blocked for… no really VIPs as there were none, and waiting forever at the entrance kiosk to get the Experience passes and then for the photos, were a drag. As a conclusion, going once in your lifetime, getting to do an interaction or two might be a good idea, but this is not somewhere I’m dying to come back to – though I am open to explore other parks from the same owner, such as the traditional zoo or the aquarium.

I mean, some of animals, such as this goose, had a very clear opinion about the park, too.

Goose attacking one of the Faunia signs

Walked distance: 12954 steps / 8.06 km

Pricing: Ticket: 18.90€ + Manatee experience 38.90€ + Pelican experience 5€ + Professional picture 11.90€ + digital upgrade (three-month access) 1€ = 75.70€. Way too much to plan another expedition any time soon.
Saved: We parked outside so we saved up the 5.50 € for the parking lot, and we took our own food.

15th – 17th June 2019: Cologne (Germany) for the Gazette

Getting from Madrid to Cologne was stupidly difficult and expensive so in the end I took an early Saturday-morning flight to Frankfurt and then I booked train tickets (an ICE and a suburban train) to the hotel area in Cologne. My plane took off at dawn (literally) and landed at 9:40, so I thought about booking the train at 10:30.

On a whim of distrustfulness, I decided to get the train for 11:00, which was lucky. While we did land on time, it took us an eternity to get to the terminal, and in the end I arrived in the station just past 10:30. Since I had a bit of time, I grabbed a Frapucchino and a bagel for some ridiculous price, but that kept me going until the evening.

I reached Cologne and went on to the commuter to the venue area, where my hotel was, a short walk away from the station. After checking in, I dropped my things off in an amazing room, and had to do a double take – for a second I was not sure they had given me the right room, because it was way too nice for the price I was paying.

After changing clothes, I grabbed my bottle of water and off I went towards the city centre to visit the Cologne Cathedral, Kölner Dom. The cathedral has been a World Heritage site since 1996. Its construction started in 1248, but was halted in 1473. The building remained unfinished until the 1840s, when the work was picked up again, following the original Medieval plans, and the church was finally completed in 1880. While it was badly damaged in WWII, it withstood the bombings and ever since then it has been in a constant state of small and not-so-small restorations and repairs.

From the Cathedral I walked towards Cologne Zoo or Kölner Zoo. Although it had been drizzling before, at that point it was sunny again, and the walk was nice.

I decided to go to the zoo because it was the only thing that seemed to be open for long enough to mean value for money. The weather had warmed up and the bunnies were roasted *coughs*. I got to see some animals I had never seen before, such as Przewalski’s horses, snipes, or a grizzly bear. The zoo has a huge enclosure area, a petting zoo with domestic animals (and cheeky cows), an aquarium and a terrarium with both reptiles and creepy-crawlers *shudders*.

Then I walked back to the hotel, stopping by the supermarket on my way – and here I discovered my undoing. The triple chocolate cookies which wrecked my trying to eat healthy stroll. I shall try to find them again in my next Germany trip though. However, I have to say that I had learnt from my being stupid for MIYAVI in London and not eating well through the weekend.

I was exhausted, so I think I was out at 22:00, which helped being awake at 7:00 the next morning. Thus I just headed off for the venue, E-Werk, and settled to queue.

While The Gazette is not a band I usually listen to, I really wanted to check them out, and this was the opportunity. They’re fun live, but not a band I need to follow up on, either on CDs or concert-wise, so while I may consider attending another concert if it happens close to me, I won’t spend too much money on them. Also, I had purchased “VIP” tickets which included a handshake with the priority entry – that ended up having to line up all day, anyway.

I have to say that the line was the most organised I’ve ever been to, but unfortunately the venue staff was averagely unfriendly

On Monday morning my paranoia had me early at the station, and that was good because apparently my suburban had been cancelled, and being early I was lucky enough to be able to catch a completely different one, but I was able to make it to Cologne station without any further stress and catch my ICE. As the station is located next to the Dom, I was able to say good-bye.

I also had quite a few nice views from the plane.

Note: there’s a longer comment of the concert over at SemiRandom .

21st January 2018: Zoology at the Zoo (Guadalajara, Spain)

This was just a stroll down the Zoológico Municipal de Guadalajara, the local town zoo. I just thought I could look up some of the animals I came across and see if I learn any interesting facts. It was not as easy as I thought!

Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra): it is a semiaquatic mamal that is fortunately not threatened. It lives near rivers and coasts in Europe and Asia. It mainly eats fish. They are pretty smart and playful, but they are also very territorial, so they usually live alone. They have webbed claws for swimming and catching fish. Mother otters teach the kits to fish by a game of “catch and release” the fish.

Peafowl (Pavo cristatus ): technically “peacock” is the male (colourful) and “peahen” is the female (brown). The male has long tail feathers that he displays when he wants to impress a female or another male. In India, it was used as ‘guardian animal’ as it screams when tigers approach and it can eat young cobra snakes. Now, that’s pretty cool, and here I thought he was just a pretty tail!

Fallow deer (Dama dama): Fallow deer are native to Europe, and have been introduced to many other places. The bucks (males) are very aggressive and competitive during mating season, and they use their horns to fight. The does (females) do not have horns.

Iberian red deer (Cervus elaphus): The imagery of the red deer has been so powerful in the human psyche that some it can be found in paintings dating 40,000 years back. Normally the males and the young create big family groups. Males create smaller groups that cooperate.

Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia). Also called arrui, it is an African mountain goat which lives in arid mountains and canyons and graze grass, bushes and lichens. They were artificially introduced in Southern Europe and became a bit of an invasive species. However, the truth is that they look super chill and zen.

European mouflon (Ovis orientalis musimon): It was originally a mountain creature but it moved to the forest when humans started bothering them. They thrive in rocky areas, though. They tend to live in herds with a lead female.

Wild boar (Sus scrofa): This is the omnivore animal by its own right. It can and will eat anything – from fruit to berries to even baby deer (O_O)!. Many old Indo-European cultures considered the boar a symbol of warrior virtues. In Greek mythology, the hero Herakles had to capture a boar as one of his Labours. In the east, it is considered a symbol of determination and even recklessness.

Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus): Unfortunately, the Iberian wolf is a vulnerable species and culling is still legal in Spain (•̀ω•́ ). The Iberian wolf is brown-grey and had a characteristic white area around its mouth. They also have black vertical lines along the front legs, and other dark marks on the leg and the tail. They are predators and prefer hunting big animals, especially deer. Wolves are social creatures, they live and hunt in groups.

Something really cool about wolves in general is that when they run, they place their hind legs on the footprint created by the front paw. Talk about coordination. Wolves have a very bad reputation in Spain, but there have not been confirmed attacks on cattle, much less on people, in recent years. Pictograms of the Iberian wolf have been found in archaeological artefacts from the tribes that lived in Spain before the Romans.

Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae): Yay for another non-threatened animal. Emu originated in Australia, and are the second-biggest bird in existence after the ostrich. They are flightless, and they eat plants, grasses, insect and arthropods, depending the seasonal availability. Because females can lay several clutches of egg in one season after mating with different males, the male takes care of the incubation, and the chick-rearing. According the mythology of some aboriginal tribes of what now is called New South Wales, the sun had been created by throwing an emu egg into the sky.

Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx): Native of Europe and Asia, it is widely distributed, which lowers its conservation concerns. The Eurasian lynx is mainly a nocturnal predator, and tends to live solitarily as an adult, although hunting areas may overlap for several individuals. They can hunt small animals, but they are known to prefer bigger prey, such as roe deer and common deer. Conversely, they may be hunted by wolves.

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes): The red fox is one of the animals with the widest habitat range in the whole world. It can be found almost everywhere in the northern Hemisphere, including many cities in Europe. It is an invasive species in Australia, where it was introduced in the 19th century. In European mythology it’s considered symbol of deceit. In Asian mythology it has two-faces, some of them are messengers of the gods, some are tricksters and dangerous. Arab folklore considers the fox cowardly and weak. Native American mythology considers it a crafty creature that steals the coyote’s food – in all cultures however, it seems to be intellingent and able to trick other animals or people. Interesting.

Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus): A scavenger bird of prey, it feeds mostly off the carcasses of dead animals. It tends to live in flocks or colonies and makes nests on rocky walls. Even if they have a bad rep, they are very cool animals.

White stork (Ciconia ciconia): Credited with bringing babies from Paris, storks used to be long-distance migrants, which lived in North Africa in winter and returned to Europe in summer to breed. For the last twenty years or so, the storks have stayed, at least in Spain. They are also famous for making nests on belfries and other man-made structures, and because they are considered a good omen they have rarely been chased away – until the weight of the nest has made belltowers collapse!

Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), I think. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. The best thing about the small zoo is the work they carry out recovering injured birds of prey. The birds are nursed back to health and if everything works out they are released into the wild. I really hope this little guy can leave soon! ⋛⋋( ‘◇’)⋌⋚

21st July 2017: Beppu – Hell day~ (in a good way) {Japan, summer 2017}

Beppu is, as I said before, known for having a lot of volcanic vents. It has decided to exploit this as a tourist resource. Beppu is still trying to open up to foreigners. It’s trying, at least partially. So cheers to the nice people.

The main attraction are the Jigoku [地獄] or hells, which are, depending on who you ask, seven, eight or nine. I visited eight of them. They are spectacular hot springs and vents which are too hot for bathing but really interesting to look at. The whole pack is called Beppu Jigoku Meguri [別府地獄めぐり]

I got myself a map, bought a ticket pack and a bus pass, and set off to the bus. Most of the jigoku are located in the Kannawa [鉄輪] District, but two of them are pretty far away, in Shibaseki [柴石] (2 km is far in the boiling summer, if the weather had been nicer, I would have walked back and forth).

I visited the Onishibozu Jigoku [鬼石坊主地獄] (Hell of the Demon-monk) which is a boiling mud puddle and a strong sulphur smell. I did not manage to get any bubble exploding, but the idea is that the bubbling mud looks like a monk’s shaved head.

Second I headed walked into the Umi Jigoku [海地獄] (Sea Hell), which is a turquoise pond of boiling water with a small shrine. It also has a smaller reddish pond to one of the sides.

After this I took a break to have a made-in-hot-spring-water pudding and have something to drink, just because I could. It was delicious.

And there was Onsen Jinja [温泉神社] (Hot Spring Shrine) to snoop around, too!

Third, I dropped by the Yama Jigoku [山地獄] (Mountain Hell), which comes off from the mountain slope and complements that it is not the most spectacular one with having a small petting zoo, where I somehow ended up feeding a capybara. Don’t ask me XD (This hell is independent, so you have to pay extra to come into it).

Fourth, I went to the Kamado Jigoku [かまど地獄] (Cooking Pot Hell) which has a big oni cook to greet you.

Fifth, I found the Oniyama Jigoku [鬼山地獄] (Devil Mountain Hell) which for some reason breeds crocodiles, and what the hell, that was scary for a second. Even if they were behind bards, the crocs would follow you under the water and snip at your shadow and some of them were enormous! Creepy! The hot-spring itself was not that impressive but basically because it was steaming too much to see any of it.

Sixth, I went to the Shiraike Jigoku [白池地獄] (White Pond Hell) where there was nobody to take my ticket. A nice old couple explained that I was to cut it myself and put it in a jar over there. We were talking a little and they asked where I was from. Then they continued on their way and I stayed petting a random cat who decided I was to scratch it right then and there. In this jigokku they also have a small aquarium with several tank of freshwater fish, among them “man-eating piranhas”…

I took the bus then to Shibaseki where the other two remaining hells were. Had the weather been more agreeable I would have walked, but I had the bus pass anyway and it was very hot. As I stepped out of the bus I came across the same couple from before. they explained that they had visited Spain before when they were younger and told me that they were from Osaka. We parted ways to go into the Chinoike Jigoku [血の池地獄] (Blood Pond Hell) which is a boiling red pond. Here I decided to take a foot bath as the area was empty and I was tired.

The final hell was Tatsumaki Jigoku [龍巻地獄] (Spout hell), a geyser you have to wait for, as it has its own timing. Here the old couple brought me a lemonade because they were adorable. And after the geyser it was over, or so I thought.

I had decided to give the aquarium a miss, because I was very tired but when I was taking pictures of the “castle” from afar I decided… I could not miss the chance, so I took the bus again towards Kifune-jo [貴船城] (which is quite new but pretty enough). Unfortunately the bus stopped right at the foot of the hill, so I had to go up and climb all the slope. I arrived just in time to pray to a snake which is supposed to bring happiness to whomever pats it.

After the castle I headed back downtown and took the train to backtrack to Kokura / Kitakyuushu [小倉 / 北九州]. While it is true that I had passed Kokura on my way from Fukuoka to Beppu, the idea was always to spend the minimum time on a train per day, but I wanted to combine Kokura with Okayama and make the following day a “castle day”.

Once in Kokura I checked in and went to see Kokura-jo [小倉城] by night.

11th July 2017: Ueno on the first full day is a thing {Japan, summer 2017}

I headed off to Ueno because I wanted to wander around the zoo. Don’t ask me why, but it was what I felt like doing. First I dropped by the Shinobazunoike Bentendo [不忍池弁天堂] where I got the shuuin and I entered Ueno Zoo through the new Benten gate. The zoo had not changed much, I think, but I saw things I did not remember seeing the first time around. They have moved the petting zoo to something closed, probably to fight off the heat.

I had lunch at the zoo around 1:30 pm, then continued my way towards the upper part of the zoo. There I was observed by a bird of prey and it made me feel like food XD. I stayed at the zoo until 16:30 I did not get to see the baby panda because it is too small to be up and about.

Then I headed off to Shinjuku [新宿] which was a convenient place to meet up with D****e for dinner and an hour of karaoke. I did some shopping as I waited – and for some once, that was not (only) fandom related. I was in Kinokuniya getting myself some Japanese books (because as I passed N4 I have to continue studying). Bummer. We also stopped by a random electronics shop which had a big Yoshiki poster. That’s always nice to see.

27th August 2015: Foxes everywhere {Japan, summer 2015}

Zao Kitsune Mura [蔵王きつね], the Fox Village in Zao is as its name says, a fox village. There is about a hundred foxes running around, chewing your shoelaces and marking territory. It’s like the deer of Nara, in foxy form.

Zao is located close to the city of Sendai [仙台], up north of Tokyo, and here I ended after a couple of bumpy train rides to meet with D****e at Shiroishi station. We took a taxi to get there.

The Fox Village is located in the mountains, about 20 minutes away from the town. There is an outer part which consists on a sort of petting zoo, some baby foxes and the hospital. You’re not allowed to pet the foxes without permission though, because they have, you know… teeth. There is also a badger (for some reason), some rabbits and goats. In that area you can take pics holding and petting the foxes for a fee.

Once you go into the main area, you find yourself in a large yard where there are… 100? 200 foxes? There are different colours of foxes, even if all of them are “red foxes” they have different coats: standard red, white, black (technically called ‘blue foxes’ apparently?), mixed colour (called ‘ice and fire’ or something because why not?).

You’re allowed to feed the foxes from a platform / shed as long as you don’t touch them, and you’re supposed to stay still when they try to chew you cross your path.

The area is separated into a small zone for the cubs, an acclimation area for the ‘teens’ and the main freedom yard.

There the foxes have got… well, I’m not even sure of how to call them, so just have a few pictures. As long as you follow the rules and don’t freak the foxes out, you can get pretty close to them, which is amazing. We tried not to disturb them while they ate, either.

The weather was miserable though so you see some dry foxes and a lot of wet foxes. There was a very wet me in-between too. And well, the foxes were fascinated by D****e’s clothing and kept trying to eat her. However, my mission was to ‘take pictures first, rescue her later’.

There is also a little shrine with space inside for the foxes to sleep.

At the end you’ve got a bittersweet feeling because you’re not allowed to take any home (T_T) I just wanted one or twenty…

The day ended with yummy gyutan (grilled cow tongue), a walk throughout the covered Sunmall Ichibancho [サンモール一番町] commercial galleries and some Chupacabra hunting in an UFO machine downtown Sendai.

27th December 2014: A stroll in the cold (Guadalajara, Spain)

I had a couple of friends over for that silly blursday period between Christmas and New Year’s and we decided to get to Guadalajara for a walk or two. Not that there is much to see, but it has a small zoological park. The Zoológico Municipal de Guadalajara had a rocky start, with small cages and sad animals, but it seems to be trying to do better. The main activity that goes on in the zoo is the recovery of birds of prey, and there are some education programs too.

We had lunch in an all-you-can-eat Asian restaurant that I enjoy because it is one of the few places where I can get myself some sushi.

Afterwards, we visited the Palacio de la Cotilla, Cotilla Palace – whose name ‘palace’ is more than overrated. It is a 17th century is a downtown manor in Guadalajara, Spain, formerly owned by the Marquis of Villamejor. One of the rooms, named the “Chinese Room”, Salón Chino de la Cotilla, is decorated with hand-painted rice paper, brought from Beijing, and several Japanese Edo-period paintings which were probably purchased in France from Dutch sailors or merchants.

Finally we took a stroll towards a silly spot in the middle of nowhere that has a Japanes-like bridge over… nothing, really, but it is a cute bridge, in the Parque de las Esculturas, Sculpture Park.

After that we just headed back home because it was dark and cold and pizza could be ordered (≧▽≦).

2nd July 2013: Yet more Odaiba, and Ueno Zoo {Japan, summer 2013}

Once more I headed out to Odaiba [お台場], this time to try and get tickets to the VAMPS Tabata Event and buy the single. The whole idea was that if you bought a CD you got entered into a lottery for a ticket to attend the Tanabata Event the following day. If you bought the three versions of the CD, you also got a poster. They were expecting a huge crowd, but it turned out that crowds of fans on a weekday morning… It was all a bit chaotic because… there were two few people. One can expect staff to get overwhelmed, but this was totally… underwhelming for them, and they did not know what to do about it.

I finally managed to get tickets to ensure my and my friend D****e after the third or fourth round. Once that was successfully taken care of, I went to Fuji TV to get myself some Galileo merch, just because I could, and rode back downtown Tokyo to do one of those things I would ever like to do if I had some time to spare – Ueno Zoo, Ueno Dobutsu Koen [上野動物園].

The iconic image of Ueno Zoo is any of their Giant Pandas. Here’s one getting stuffed:

A secretary bird, which made me remember an old movie and greatly amused me:

And a friendly and bored Hokkaido bear which came to say hello at the glass:

Aside from the animals (I’ll spare you more pics, though I have an amazing close-up of the polar bear), Ueno zoo holds the pagoda of the former Kan-eiji Temple:

After the zoo was closed, I headed for Shibuya [渋谷] where we had scheduled a meeting at the Hachiko Memorial Statue (one of those things you should do in Tokyo at least once), the Chūkenhachikō-zō [忠犬ハチ公像].

Meeting successfully achieved, dinner was acquired in a goats cafe, Sakuragaoka Cafe. Then the goats got dinner too.

Note: There is a longer commentary of the whole Tanabata Event over at SemiRandom