I once read a silly notion, that is spread on the internet. It claimed that the surest sign of a happy relationship is no sign of it on Facebook. I suppose that could easily be spread out to include most forms of social media, and for me, it might be re-written to state the surest sign of a happy life, is no position on the blog.
Yes, I have been gone for a while, but for the most part, it has been because I was happy. I have been writing, volunteering at my local library, writing, taking pottery classes, writing, traveling, and writing. This session of Camp NaNoWriMo, I feel as though I fully embraced the idea of working hard not only to complete a novel in a month, but to do work I am proud of.
Of course that hasn’t been all I have done, and isn’t even why I am writing today. No, with the return of sunshine and warmer weather, I have been struck hard with wanderlust. It is an almost uncontrollable need to get out and do something, and in truth, I’m not sure I want to control it. While we have only had time for day trips on the weekend, I think we are making the most of them. One of the first we took recently, was a trip to Pairi Daiza, a zoo near Brussels.
We first heard about this zoo almost a year ago, as we returned from a trip to Edinburgh. I may have mentioned before, my family loves to go to the zoo, so we make trips frequently, including one to the Edinburgh zoo. It was a spur of the moment thing as we were traveling, so we were not aware of the Panda bears who live there. Unfortunately we were also unaware that seeing the Panda’s required a special ticket, and they had already sold out for the day. I was desperately disappointed, as I love pandas. So, when we were walking through the airport in Belgium, waiting to go through immigration (or customs, I don’t remember which) we were excited to see an advertisement for a zoo. Not only was it right here in Belgium, but the poster had a prominently featured Panda bear. A little research, and we had it confirmed; there were pandas here in Belgie, and we were going to have to go see them.
Unfortunately, life happened and we simply didn’t get around to it for a long time. Until last week. The zoo had just recently reopened for the season, and we were not going to miss it this time. Let me tell you, I am very glad we didn’t.
First off, the drive from our house wasn’t too bad, until we were about 15 minutes away. At that point, we turned away from main roads and were driving through small towns on tiny roads that for some reason Europe thinks should be two lane, even if they barely fit one car. However, as with many of the best things we have found in Europe, the search was well worth it. Eventually we popped out by the parking lot of a large and very beautiful zoo. I mean seriously. It was huge. The parking lot was at least the size of a football field. However, as it wasn’t very pretty, I didn’t waste my pictures there.
Once inside, we took a few minutes to wander through the petting zoo.
Goats, sheep, chickens, deer, and one turkey.
I have no idea what that deer was doing to the turkey, but it almost looked like grooming. He followed him around for a little while, nibbling at his feathers.
Big One had no desire to be a part of the feeding, but Little One loved every minute of it.
We moved on from there where we found miniature mongooses (with the pop up bubble for Little One).
The otters were enjoying a little breakfast.
This random peacock, just chilling by the bird show arena.
All on our way to find the pandas. Now, this building was actually a noodle house and sushi restaurant. Not surprising, the sushi was only okay, but still very cool. The entire area where the pandas lived was beautiful.
For my family, this place felt like home. I know, some people are instantly clicking over to look at pictures of me, and yes, I am a pale blonde who grew up in California, but not too long ago, I lived in Okinawa, Japan for eight years. While Japan and China are in fact very different from each other, the island of Okinawa was actually a part of a trade route, and much of their traditional architecture was more influenced by China than Japan.
Eventually, we passed through this section, and found what I wanted. Meet Xinghui, the panda.
This was a very chill panda. The way he moved, he almost looked like a person in a panda suit. It was very strange. However, as he lay back going to town on his bamboo, I could completely relate to him.
I mean, seriously. This is me watching Netflix.
If I thought he would remain gentle and cuddly, I would completely invite him over and introduce him to the magic that is in the box. If he agreed to be the pillow, I would hand him all the bamboo he could eat.
A little ways away was the other panda, Haohao.
She was a little more active, and wouldn’t stop moving the entire time. It made it more difficult to get a good picture, but we still had fun telling many, many, many ‘How how does she do that?’ jokes.
I’m not even embarrassed by that. I maintain that I am hilarious.
There were a lot of animals, too many for a full breakdown on everything.
Awww. Love birds.
These are just the best pictures, and only a little bit of what they had. The habitats were huge, and I do mean habitats. The only places that came close to being ‘cages’ were the carnivores who were simply separated from the humans very well. Not only did the animals have plenty of space, but several of the animals were out where humans could actually interact with them. There was a viewing area where a large group was feeding and petting a giraffe. (It was too crowded for us to bother fighting our way in, but still cool.)
Along one path we found this guy just chilling.
There was a warning that he might bite, so we didn’t try to get too close. Only a few feet away, his friend was taking a nap in the sunshine.
They jumped around on rooftops, and basically hung around.
There was an area with adorable little monkeys, but there were so many people, taking a good picture was difficult.
One of this guys friends was on top of a roof, and tried to climb into the hand of a passing tourist. Unfortunately, the tourist got a little nervous and dropped the little guy. I guess this is the big downside to having non-zookeeper interaction with the animals.
We even saw baby ducks and baby geese following their moms around the park. Of course, Little One’s picture was better than mine here.
Big One’s favorite animal interaction exhibit was inside this large building.
Once you were inside, you couldn’t really get any pictures. It was pitch black, and using a flash would have disturbed the bats flying around. Yeah. I never wanted a bat flying at my face, but apparently Mama freaking out was fun for the kids. Next time I am sending them in with a flash and seeing how much they laugh then. (Okay. Not really.)
This zoo was amazing. In addition to having lots of animals, the habitats were beautiful. I mean, seriously. Their habitats looked better than my house does. It kind of made me sad. Near the elephants was a temple dedicated to Ganesh.
This place was everything they advertised and more. Not only was it my favorite zoo in Belgium, it might be my favorite zoo we have ever visited. Even with an almost 2 hour drive, we are going back again soon. Woo-hoo for season passes!