Saturday, February 03, 2007

Not Going to Brussels

One of my requests, as someone whose main duty on this semester abroad is to look after the interests of my almost-5 and 3 1/2 year olds, is that I be given a copy of the itineraries for any out of town trips. I want to know where the potential trouble spots are.

Last weekend's trip to Gent and Brugge was ideal. Minimal time on the bus, lots of walking tours in beautiful locales, and just one short tour that needed an alternate plan (the Gravensteen in Gent).

When I got the itinerary for today's trip to Brussels, two major alarm bells went off. First, after a 45-minute bus ride just to get to Brussels, the itinerary says "two hour bus tour with guide." This means the girls would be on the bus, having to be quiet, with no access to food or a potty for two hours at the most active time of their day. Not a deal-breaker...I could always just ask to be let off near the town center which I've visited before. But then strike two: an hour and a half guided museum tour during the part of the afternoon when they're used to curling up with a quiet toy, a book or their LeapPads. Basically this would mean spending most of the day away from the group, ambling around Brussels in The Stroller.

It just didn't make any sense whatsoever, so we're staying put and we'll see hubby/daddy at dinner tonight. Our next trip, in a few weeks, is to the Ardennes and Western Germany and we're definitely going because it's a 3-day, 2-night jaunt. More on that later in February.

So what will we do with our day? The weather seems cooperative, so we have a choice between two different spots, both within walking/easy tram distance: Antwerp's famous zoo, with its Art Nouveau gates and buildings, or Aquatopia, a huge indoor aquarium complex. Both of these places are adjacent to Antwerp's Chinatown, so perhaps we'll get lunch there. I would love some good Chinese food, and it's also interesting to see how Chinese cooks adapt their recipes to suit the tastes of the locals. You will find Chinese restaurants all over the world, but depending upon where you are, the dishes are not ever prepared in a truly authentic way unless you're in China proper. The "Ristorante Cinese" in Italy is heavy on noodles. American Chinese Restaurants do a lot of breaded and fried stuff and lean toward sweeter recipes.

I look forward to hearing from John about the tour of Brussels. We've already decided that we'll do a family daytrip there on one of our free days coming up. Frankly, I've got a touch of bronchitis so I'm thankful for the rest too.

Yesterday the girls had a day off of school so we took them by bus to Pirateneiland (Pirate Island), a huge pirate themed indoor play park with plenty to climb on, crawl through, slide down, and bounce around. And since we're not in sue-happy liability insurance land anymore, they actually had some FUN things for kids to play on! And they have an interesting take on what parents might do while the kiddies are climbing around saying "ahoy, mijn hartjes:" there are three kinds of Belgian beer on tap! Stop hovering, mom and dad--chill out by the window with a pint! The bar wasn't open on Friday morning, because that's when school groups come through...I suppose it would be bad form for the teachers to knock a few back while the 100+ kids that they've just spent an hour on the bus with run around like crazy gnomes. Ya think?

Since there's a food theme lately I will of course share what we had for lunch: JieJie had a croque monsieur again (hot ham and cheese), MeiMei had a grilled cheese (croque monsieur with no ham), John had boeuf bourguignon (sp?) and I had a traditional flemish beef stew in (what else?) beer sauce. We all shared a bowl of frites (fries) with the Belgian condiment: mayo. The girls didn't ask for ketchup, and they're starting to say "ja (yes)" and "nee (no)" regularly. Wonder how long it will be before we hear an entire phrase in Nederlands (Dutch) pop out of their mouths.

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