Barcelona #6: Zoo Redux

Imagine my surprise when my Traveling Companion wanted to try the zoo again. We made an earlier start of it, used a less circuitous route, and really found it this time. Arriving in the early afternoon, we found the zoo to be almost completely deserted.  Admission was surprisingly high (16€ each). One of the many reasons I loved going to the St. Louis Zoo when I was in high school (other than the obvious reason that I had friends who worked there) was that most of the zoo was free. It was the best people-watching in all of St. Louis.
The Barcelona Zoo has pony rides, a children’s train, and even golf carts you can rent. They also have a candy store and several spots to buy a beer.  They have both kinds of camels, fighting flamingos, meerkats and too many parrots. Many animals behaved in a way that made us think that they’ve been fed by people looking at them; most turned and looked at us, and others walked right up when we approached.
The genuine treat of the day was that they have three kinds of vultures: a large sociable colony of Griffon Vultures, a pair of Black Vultures, and my Traveling Companion’s favorite bird ever, the Bearded Vulture. 
The gorgeous solitary Bearded Vulture we saw had taken up a spot in its new enclosure where it could survey its entire cage and still see all the way to the tables of the snack bar. I took three pictures of it, and despite the fact that I could see its face almost the whole time we were there, its head is completely turned away from me in each shot. This bird lives on skin and bones and marrow and tendons, with a pH of 1 in its stomach.  They have been observed dropping bones from a great height to break them open.
The Griffon Vultures had just been fed, and there were beheaded rabbit carcasses strewn about their enclosure.  Griffon Vultures are very expressive birds, with downy tan fuzz on their heads and on their long, curved necks. There was also some gentle squabbling over the best spot on a perch and plenty of cantering over the ground. These vultures have a ruff of long, thin feathers which float about their thin necks like a fancy collar, and long flat feathers that hand around their legs like culottes. Certainly this is the best-dressed vulture I’ve ever seen.  We observed several individuals spreading their enormous wings to stretch.  Suddenly one lifted into the air and had a quick flight across the enclosure; in the large Doñana Aviary next door, the Eurasian Spoonbills rose in agitation. The other species were quiet, unmoved by either the swoop of the great vulture or the excited circling of the spoonbills.

Barcelona #5: Barcelona 3, Me 0

Finding the zoo was pretty easy. A change of train lines, from the L3 (green) to the L5 (yellow) was required. Emerging from the station we located the Parc de la Ciutadella, where the zoo lives. We found a sign and followed the arrow…to another sign, with an arrow pointing back to the first sign. It was funny. We distracted ourselves by exploring the gorgeous neo-baroque Cascada fountain and laughing at the fact that we could see the fence enclosing the zoo but not the entrance. Settling upon a direction, we circumnavigated the walls of the zoo, emerging at the entrance roughly 100 meters from where we entered the park. When we attempted to buy tickets, we were informed that the “animals are closed at 5,” by a woman who blinked at me furiously, as if to remind me how stupid I am.
My Traveling Companion announced that we needed to go back to the hotel. I insisted on Plan B: we could go to the MUSEU MARÍTIMDE BARCELONA.  One of my books calls it “the most fascinating museum in town.”  Another says, “These royal dry docks are the largest and most complete surviving medieval complex of their kind in the world.”  The third book describes it as “excellent…well worth the visit.”  The fourth, “one of Barcelona’s finest Gothic structures.” Nowhere did it even hint at what we were told when we entered the building, which is that it is closed for renovation for two years.
At this point I had lost all credibility with my Traveling Companion, to the degree that he wanted to take a taxi back to the hotel. I insisted on the subway (having at my advantage the view of the subway station and knowing it was on the L3 (green) line).
I dropped my Traveling Companion at our hotel and told him I was “going shopping” before dinner. Shopping is something I find difficult in all circumstances, and I am no better at it with the anonymity of being a foreigner. I did manage to buy some tights (which I badly need back home but have little need for here), and a pretty lilac linen scarf. I asked clumsily to wear the scarf out of the store despite the fact that linen season is still months away. I had not traveled much more than another block when I realized my mother would have liked it, and it made me sad.
My Traveling Companion suggested dinner in the hotel: a fine idea after a day of failures.  The restaurant is on the roof, with a limited menu and one charming staff member in attendance. I drank local beer and we stuffed ourselves on ham, followed by sandwiches and ice cream. At the end of the meal I asked my Traveling Companion what he thought we should do tomorrow, our second to last day. He suggested the zoo, but with a different Plan B.