There's nothing as sublime in life as being surrounded by butterflies. Red ones, some a beautiful shade of green, large Mexican turquoise butterflies, orange fritillaries from the Orient.
A modest zoo in Nijar (Almería) holds these and many others inside a reserve, a large greenhouse with a garden, a pond, flowers, some benches, soft piped music and a wonder of butterflies.
The butterflies dart about, except for the big Mexican fellows – they’re called Blue Morphos, who seem to flap so slowly as they spin through the air, they could be swimming. It was wondrously relaxing. I felt like a character from Alice, perched on a mushroom and (figuratively) wearing a felt hat and smoking a hookah.
On hand were three women to explain the story of the Mariposario de Nijar. They speak Spanish, French and English. They look after their charges, providing bowls of sugar-water and a soft spray to keep the atmosphere moist. One of the women is an 'educator', who looks after the young children who visit, keeping them both out of trouble and armed with paper and crayons. Another does brief tours around the greenhouse, here showing a butterfly laying eggs, there showing a couple mating. Outside, in the gift shop, a Frenchwoman showed me some charming butterfly-themed pottery. I would have asked them more about the butterfly zoo, but I was too enchanted, and instead asked to borrow a crayon.
The Mariposario is just outside Nijar, on the spur off the motorway. Open every day. The entrance fee is 8.50€ and down. They say in their leaflet: 'The butterfly is like Happiness. If you seek it, it will remain beyond your reach; but if you sit quietly and wait, it will come and settle on your shoulder'. Nice. Go visit!