So today, we dropped the girls off at school for a "long day" (they stay til 3:30) and it was my turn to play tour guide. What do you show someone who has only a few days to see Antwerp? I took my parents to the big cathedral, which we toured, then to the Grote Markt, then down the Hoogstraat and down in the little medieval streets between the Grote Markt and the River Schelde. We stopped for some nice asparagus soup before walking down into the Grand Bazaar under the Groenplaats to do two things: visit the Lijnwinkel (tram store) for two 10-trip passes, and get some dinner fixings for tonight, since we were going out to the JMU final dinner and they were going to be dining with and then babysitting the girls.
An amazing thing happened on the way to get JieJie and MeiMei from school--for the first time ever, I got checked by the Lijn police!!! I had just said to my mom yesterday, "watch, I'll get checked this week when I haven't been checked at all since we got here." Sure enough, the spot-checking finally worked its way around to me, and I'm so glad I had my pass handy!! The doors opened at our National Bank transfer point from the 7 to the 8, and all of a sudden a man was blocking my path out of the tram, speaking Nederlands in a very assertive way. I realized he wanted to see my pass, which he reviewed and handed back. Mom and Dad had their Lijn cards handy too, so it was no problem, but man, the experience definitely made me want to avoid ever being caught without my tram pass!! Our three-month passes expire Saturday, so when we head for the airport bus on Sunday, I will have to remember to pay a fare or else.
When we picked up the girls, JieJie seemed for the first time to be blending English and Nederlands almost thoughtlessly. She dropped something and exclaimed "whooey!" just like her teacher does! Then she told me there was a two-wheeled "fiets" at her school before realizing to whom she was speaking and correcting it to "bicycle." She used the Dutch name for something else on our way to the tram stop. I am willing to bet money that if we were here for just another month, she'd go through the looking glass.
The final dinner tonight was at die Siechel on Venusstraat, the place where the American Club met in February, and it was a great evening. Our students were dressed up, everyone looked so nice, and there was a real air of celebration there tonight. We were presented with the group photo (our girls are right there in front with school uniforms on) and a beautiful coffee table book about Antwerp. And guess what? We ate chocolate. Duh.
Tomorrow is the last Wednesday of the month, a day when all museums in Antwerp are free, so I believe I'll be taking my folks to the Nautical Museum in the Steen and/or the big art museum.
My big excitement today was that the Brabo fountain in the Grote Markt has been turned on, so I finally get to see what it looks like with the water shooting out of it. It's kind of gory when you look at where the water gushes most: the hand of the giant that Brabo is getting ready to throw has water spewing out of where the arteries would be in the wrist, and the giant has like eight spigots in the stump of his arm where his hand was. Ewww! But still, it's a great fountain and I'll bet it's a popular place to cool off in hot weather, because it doesn't spill into a pool, it just splashes right onto the cobblestones, which are arranged in a concave area that drains back toward the base of the fountain.
Not sure how many more times I'm going to be able to write before we head to Estepona, Spain on Sunday, and I have no idea whether I'll have any internet access there whatsoever. If the blog goes quiet for a while, it's because we're on vacation. Tune in in late May for the Estepona story and (I hope) tales of our visit to the Alhambra. Vamos a tener un buen viaje por seguro!