Monday, March 19, 2007

Time for a Brain Dump

I finally realized this morning that even when John has to use the computer in our apartment (which he has been doing a whole lot more than usual due to some book editing projects) I can still use the computer downstairs in the extra apartment. The heat's not on since nobody's using it these days, but I brought my jacket, no big deal. The speakers are connected to this computer, so I get to listen to my favorite internet radio show, The Morning Show from Minnesota Public Radio via's The Current. I grew up in the Twin Cities, and worked for a time in public radio, and I still think of all the stations I've heard or heard about in the entire good ole U.S. of A., Minnesota Public Radio's offerings are the best, bar none.

It's time to get you all caught up. We had some company, we had JieJie's birthday, and then I got bumped from the computer, hence the relative silence on the FTJ.

M and R and their boys visited from Mijdrecht the first weekend in March, and we were able to do a lot of the things we hoped to do together here in Antwerp. They stayed at the Holiday Inn Express up by the port area and said it was nice, affordable, and that the boys liked the breakfast. It's also not too far a walk from our neighborhood. The first night we ate a light supper at 't Injaske, where the food is always reliably good, always a great price for what you get, and they have coloring books and stuff for kids to do while they wait for dinner. The next morning we went to Aquatopia. The kids all liked the different exhibits, especially the shark tank where you can walk under the tank through a tunnel and look up to see sharks and rays swimming right over your head. We had lunch, came back to the apartment for a bit of rest, and the boys watched an Asterix movie that we happened to have while MeiMei took a mini-nap.

One other thing we'd hoped to do together was go through the Sint-Annatunnel under the River Schelde, and indeed we found the entrance. It's a bit hidden on the Antwerp side. It was easy to identify once we were nearby, since the ventilation tower matches the one on the other side. It's got a huge elevator, big enough for people with bicycles to use. The tunnel itself is pretty amazing - straight as a particle accelerator all the way to the other side, but you can't see the end from the beginning. Something about the straightness and the length inspired the kids (and the parents as well) to take off running and laughing as we raced toward the other end. We spent some time playing in the park on the other side of the river, then John and R headed to the Holiday Inn to check them out and get their car, while M and I took the kids back to the apartment. It's just so great to be able to spend time together over several months like this, rather than our usual every-five-years cramming all our catching up into a week or so. We hope to visit Amsterdam one more time before we have to head back, and I would also like to meet M in Delft for a daytrip at some point. Phrases like "at some point" scare me though--those are always the things that end up not happening, aren't they?

We hugged M&R goodbye and stayed in that night with the girls, chilling out before the next round of company arrived the next day, our friends T&K from Harrisonburg. They were to arrive Sunday around lunchtime, so Sunday morning was free to do whatever. We decided to head out to Fort Merksem, which at one time was a working fort (not so long ago actually!) which has become a community park with soccer fields, playgrounds, trails and even some peacocks and deer in a little enclosure. It's at the end of one of the tram lines (the 3, I think) and then just a short walk to the park. The girls really liked seeing the peacocks display those amazing tailfeathers, and the park was nice, though muddy.

T&K arrived from the train station by taxi and we settled them into the apartment downstairs. T just had foot surgery and K was coming down with the Flemish Gack (bad congestion--we've all had bouts with it since coming here) so we didn't do a whole lot the first few days, though we got to spend lots of time together, which was the point. We ate out at a few restaurants, one great, one not so fantastic. Dock's Cafe down by the waterfront had been recommended by a chef whose daughter is in JieJie's class, and it definitely lived up to its recommendation. Fantastic seafood, an oyster bar, great decor/ambience, good service, and an enormous wine list, perhaps the most comprehensive I've ever seen - they even had a wine from China! We had a Gewurtztraminer and some kind of red I can't remember. Then later in the week we ate at Persepolis, an Iranian restaurant, where the food was good but not out of this world. Grilled fish, rice, grilled vegetables, bread and dipping sauces, that sort of thing. I had to leave early with two tired girls, and my stomach was bothering me, so I'm sure that tainted my experience.

Coming up: Brain Dump Part II, The Birthday Extravaganza...(gotta go pick up the girls!)

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