Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Real Olympic Pool, Now Public

Click on the title of this post and you can read (albeit in Flemish) about the Zwembad Wezenberg, or Wezenberg Pool, which the girls and I splashed around in on Wednesday.

It was time for a kid-focused day, and we had a great one on Wednesday. The weather was dreary and rainy, limiting us to indoor options. Knowing how much JieJie and MeiMei love swimming pools, I asked the assistant program director, here in Antwerp for the week, how to get to the pool he'd mentioned. He gave me great, detailed directions, we packed our suits and towels and were on our way.

I might remind you that we have those wonderful DeLijn passes, so we never have to worry about finding pocket money for bus or tram fare. We just go! We took the tram to the Centraal Station where the #17 bus stops, but didn't see any signs indicating a #17 stop. Luckily I'd peeked at the map and had a hunch that if we went down a road called DeKeyserlei, we might find something. It wasn't there, but we caught sight of a #17 turning a corner up ahead and found the stop on the Quellinstraat, where the school uniform store is also located.

We waited at the stop, the girls asking about the different buses, and a woman asked if we wanted the #17. I said yes, and she advised us to go a bit further up the block. There's a lot of construction around the train station right now, so things are a bit out of usual. She asked where we were from and I said Virginia. She smiled and said she was from North Carolina and that her daughter was at a military base in Virginia right now. Her accent was not North Carolinian in the least, so I asked her what brought her to Antwerp. She said she married a Belgian man 30 years ago and had been here ever since.

We caught the bus and got off at the perfect stop, walked only a block and saw the swimming pool complex. Antwerp hosted the Olympics in the 20's, and this pool complex was built for those games. The whole facility was renovated in 2002 and it's really beautiful and clean and bright.

It was only 2 euro to get in, kids under 6 free (yay!). We paid and got a card that made the entry turnstile work. I was looking for the women's locker room entrance but there was only one door. I wasn't sure whether to go in because I saw men inside...but then I saw women too. Okay, be cool, co-ed locker rooms. Jeez, I keep coming up against how Puritannical we Americans are about these things...ironic when we export the likes of Madonna and Britney Spears (who I hear has checked herself into rehab...are we surprised?!). Anyway. We rented a locker for a refundable 2 euro coin and closed the doors of our little changing room. JieJie and MeiMei were SO EXCITED to be going to a swimming pool!!! We joined one a few summers ago and spend half the summer splashing around, so it's a familiar and fun place for them to be.

After getting our suits on and running through a quick shower, we found the kids' pool and it was perfect. MeiMei is only a yard high but the pool was up to her shoulders for most of it. For a good hour, we splashed, chased, laughed and talked about how great it will be to go to our pool with its mountain views this summer. It was such a great escape from all the unusual situations the girls have adjusted so well to. They deserved a fun day just for them.

After swimming,, we rinsed off (co-ed showers too, swimsuits on...everyone is just so NORMAL about this--why does nudity always equal lust in our culture?! It's really sick.) and went to our changing room. A nice grandfatherly man in his suit and towel stopped to ask the girls how their swim was and they eagerly told him that they aren't scared to go under water and that they take swimming lessons. Again, my American Mom habit of mind was "who is this man and what kind of a perv is he?" and again I realized, here was a nice man who just wanted to be friendly.

We got dressed and headed across the parking lot to a restaurant that I think must have been a cafeteria for the athletes during the Olympics. It's called Colmar and it's part of a chain. The kids menu was 6 euro and included a dessert bar. They both chose meatballs and fries, and for dessert JieJie had rice pudding with berry topping, and MeiMei had a pancake with chocolate mousse and whipped cream on top. They both got a toy to take home and there was a coloring page menu. It was kid-friendly, definitely, but what I had was nice too: Norwegian salmon en croute with Bearnaise sauce and a salad bar with a wonderful selection of toppings. I'd go back, definitely, but only with the kids as a treat for them. It's not a date restaurant, at least on par with the places that are on John's and my list for the nights when we can get away.

We had a wonderful rest-of-the-day at the apartment, just hanging out, coloring, watching tv, whatever, and the girls fell asleep just after 7. Perfect timing, as we had a sitter over so we could take a student group to City Palace Restaurant in Chinatown. Best Chinese food I've had outside of China--AMAZING dim sum!

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