Monday, January 29, 2007

Our IKEA Adventure

So once the girls are home from school for the day, it's lunch, then quiet time, and then...??? It's easy to feel cooped up right now. The weather's cold and cloudy/rainy, the days are short, and the apartment, though well laid out, is still smaller than the upstairs of our house at home.

This afternoon I told the girls if they wanted to go to IKEA, I'd take them. They know from visits to Grandma and Grampa's near the Mall of America in Minnesota that IKEA has a very cool kids-only playground. They said "yippee" and got ready.

We walked to Franklijn Rooseveltplaats where all the buses arrive and depart, and found bus 502 which goes out to the 'burbs, specifically Wilrijk. It took about 45 minutes to get to IKEA (pronounced EE-KAY-uh here) and we went through a beautiful, ritzy neighborhood called Berchem which reminded me of nice areas around Capitol Hill in Washington DC--gorgeous townhouses.

The girls wanted to stay in the playground area, so I showed the attendants my passport and gave my cellphone number and the girls hopped in. How cool, I thought - they're in heaven and I get a whole hour to shop in a store I like. Just in case they balked after a half hour, I went straight for the kitchen accessories section and found what we needed for the apartment: soup spoons (we've been eating soup with espresso spoons) and a kitchen scissors (only one euro!). Didn't find the cheese knife (how can any apartment in this city not have a cheese knife???) but I've seen that at HEMA, which is such a nice store you really don't even need IKEA.

I went through checkout before learning that I should've bought a plastic bag for 10 cents, so went back to get that, then got the girls out of the play room where they were coloring and watching a Princess Jasmine movie in Dutch. I got the feeling they would've stayed much longer, but it was time to get back, already 5:30.

We went out to the bus stop and just missed the 5:39 back home, so had to wait til 6pm. Even a year ago, that would have meant certain disaster, but the girls are just old enough that they can start to go with the flow a little bit, lucky for me. It was my fault for not checking the return schedule.

At one point, as we whiled away 20 minutes at the bus stop, JieJie said "I wish we lived here Mommy." I said "really? what do you like about it?" thinking she meant Belgium, thinking how wonderful this experience could be for a kid, thinking the furthest I'd been from home at her age was Brainerd. She said "well, if we lived right here we wouldn't have to wait for a bus!" Oh....duh.

So the bus came, we headed back into town, then we caught a tram that went within a block or so of the apartment, and around the time they usually go to bed we sat down to dinner.

I learned that trips to IKEA are probably not a good fit between quiet time and dinner, but I would much rather have an adventure like that than stay in the apartment all afternoon, griping at each other about not jumping on the couch for the 23rd time! Let's hear it for De Lijn, bus and tram service of Flanders! Heck, I'd hop a tram just to see where it went if the weather gets yucky again.

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