Wednesday, we pulled the kids for the day out of preschool (which unlike school is available all summer, and we've kept them in just for everyone's sanity, at least it gives them something to do).
First they came with on trip to the embassy to add pages to mommy's passport (did you know you could do that? It looks messy, but is perfectly legal, if you pay the exorbitant fee). Of course, that was the day S wasn't carrying much cash, and the credit card machine at American Citizens Services (bullet proof glass alive and well at the teller windows here) wasn't working, so S had to take 3 little kids on a wild goose chase to find the ATM of the bank we currently use (which we will have to change thanks to a stupid US law requiring foreign banks to disclose account information of US tax payers, but that's a future problem for a future post). After walking a mile, getting cash, walking back a mile, the kids wanted to play with the American toys in the waiting room, but the process of them taping extra pages into the center of the passport only took 10 minutes.
Then, on to the real reason for ditching preschool--the Moscow Zoopark!
Unfortunately, the sort-of threatening to rain did not completely deter enough parents and kids (all schools grades 1-11 finished the school year at the end of May), so it was a bit crowded, but hey, nothing like the last time we went to the zoo was New Year's Day when it was the only thing open in the whole city--and free that one day--it was so crowded then you couldn't move through the zoo for the crowds, worse than the metro at rush hour or Auchan on a Saturday.
The best part about the Moscow Zoo is the price -- 300 rubles per adult (thats about $8) and children under 18 are free! Can you imagine? A Zoo for kids where kids are free? Of course, only "large families" like ours really benefit--most families have two or more adults accompanying their one child/grandchild--but when you pay for two and get three free, it's a great deal!
Not to mention it is a fun zoo, lots more variety than you would expect.
The downside this visit was they have really ramped up the construction which has been ongoing all year. Lots of outdoor exhibits are temporarily closed while they do more landscaping, resurfacing walkways, and who knows what else.
First we let them play a bit in a really amazing play place:
Then we rushed them past some animal exhibits (some we've seen before like the lynx & bobcats, others not, like the giraffe) in order to be on time for the Dolphin Show! K cried later we missed the giraffe. Of course, if she had said that was important, we would've stopped, but how could we know?
As you can see, we got front row seats: (E in blue, daddy, A in pink jacket, K in purple jacket--she is always in purple!, mommy photographer)
The show started with a sea lion, who sat on the rock & waved a flipper and clapped, but didn't feel like chasing the ball in the water today, so she was sent back to her pond before we could get a photo.
The dolphin, though, second up, named Linda, was having a blast. Clearly loved doing the tricks (here she is carrying one ball in her front flippers, and another ball in her mouth, moving across the pond vertically, using only her back flippers):
and loved her treats:
and loved her "strokes":
The third act was a small beluga, who tried doing some of the same tricks as the dolphin, and wanted to please the trainer and show off
but lets face it, a 1-ton whale is just not as graceful as a dolphin:
And as anyone with kids knows, it's impossible to photograph what they are watching and photograph them enjoying it at the same time, though that didn't stop Mommy from trying:
Then, after the show, we saw two of the three elephants outside
who flatly refused to look at their admiring public:
We also saw a zebra and a camel and the nocturnal animals, none of which we had seen on previous trips.
We didn't see the whole zoo, the kids were exhausted from the long march to/from the ATM, so we went home. But at that price, we can afford to go and just see a few things. The hardest part of the trip is getting there and back (two metro trains and a tramvai.) Although on the way home we tried a different route, 1 metro train and 1 longer trip on a tramvai. With a stroller, the fewer times you change public transport, the better.