Friday, May 31, 2013

BRU: Daytrip to Bruge

Monday began with instant coffee and water.  We got dressed and tromped down to the train station for breakfast of croissants and a bacon and cheese Panini.  We didn’t choose to eat the hotel breakfast because my tweens don’t eat what other people assume is simple, efficient breakfasts.  I refuse to pay 7 Euro for something that doesn’t give them something they will enjoy.  We are on a field trip afterall.

We took the train to Bruges.  The weekend trips were half price, but this was full price for three of us and free for the other two on a Monday.  It was a smooth easy ride to the Bruges train station.  We walked into the info office to collect a map of the town.  We found the boat trip first and were pleasantly given an orientation to the city by water.  There was a rain shower during the tour, but the boat ride included umbrellas for everyone.  We found the Markt and Belfry tower right away. We walked through the information center there and sent a postcard at the postal center.  We ate frites and chicken nuggets at a self-serve place on the corner.  Then we moved on to the VisitBrugges app tour.  It took us winding from churches to bridges to Spook houses.  We made one wrong turn and mistakenly found a super market at just the right time to buy 2L of water and 3 Kinder chocolate eggs with toys inside that we didn’t find on the November trip to Vienna and Budapest.  Our tour ended at the Burg where we found chocolate to eat and expresso to keep the caffeine headaches abated. 

On the walk to the Markt again, we found a heavy, liege waffle booth for a snack and a street performer who pretended to be a statue-top-hat-suited man.  While lounging in the Markt square under clear blue skies, my oldest tween asked the information center representative for the pronunciation of Beguinage.  On the walk to that site we found a lace shop where we bought a handkerchief with our daughter’s initial on it and pieces of art which showed the places we visited in spring colors.  Before reaching the Beguinage, we found the De Halve Maan (Straffe Hendrik) Brewery which we knew about from TripAdvisor.  The space inside the pub area was comfortable for us and our kids, so we adults tried 2 of their beers without doing the tour.  The chemistry of the brewery would be fun to use in a field trip, but this was just the right thing to do for our trip at this time.  After finishing our beers, we found the Beguinage and walked thru the daffodil strewn garden peacefully.  We walked through the Minnewater park on our way back to the train station. 

Found tourist map (free) at station and quite worth it, b/c it had all streets and sites plus we used the Bruges app for scavenger hunt walk 3.5 miles after the boat ride in the rain.  Boat 3.4 € twins each & 7.6 € adults 30" ride in 3 languages with umbrellas.  It was good to recognize some places afterward on foot. Highlights of boat were touching underside of bridges & less crowded boats early in the day. If on foot during rain we would have got soaked.  The houses over the water and other architecture were better seen from water.  Walked to Markt & found wc at info center. Then frites & everything fried across to the next corner for lunch.  Then we started app tour, but only went wrong way during tour to and found grocery for water & cultural experience (we visit international groceries often just to examine where stuff is made).  We ended at Burg and found chocolate to eat w/ coffee. Drank & ate in the Markt.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

BRU: Adventures in Brussels

Sunday in Brussels started with chocolate croissants from a nearby bakery that the daddy collected after an early morning shower.  Instant coffee was made in the room with the hotpot near the stove.  We walked to the Grand Place and found the flower market.  Along the walk to Mannekin Pis, we found a light crunchy waffle.  After visiting the land mark we walked past the TinTin mural through the Les Galeries Saint Hubert.  The shops weren’t open, but we walked by St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral and heard church bells chime 11:30.  We found the Belgian Centre of Comic Strip Art.  The space was wonderful art deco glass and light infiltrated everywhere.  The tweens loved the visit b/c they are already fans of TinTin for over three years.  We found a restaurant that served pizza, soup and lasagna for our lunch at Pizzeria Sole d'Italia.  We walked back towards our hotel and past through the Parc du Jardin and the steps of Le Botanique.  The building was wonderful and the blooming trees and flowers were brilliant.  I actually got color on my face during the day to encourage my freckles.  I’d worn a fleece and rain jacket, but ended up with only the fleece during the afternoon walk.  The Konigsstraat was a major street that connected to our Rue de Palais hotel street.  The siesta was a welcome break.  Yes, we got a siesta.

Now, two weeks later, G1 has specific memories of the Comic book museum which surprises me because he is usually the one all about the food, but he adores Tintin.

Later, we took the tram along this same trek to find heavier waffles with full service.  And a walk to the lights of the Grand-Place and to do some “I Spy” hunts around the guild buildings’ facades.  The tram ride back was simple and easy, but we weren’t able to find a ticket office so had to pay more on the tram.  I did a Google search for travel info for Bruges and found the VisitBruges app to download to my phone.  The wi-fi services on most of the adventures were non-existent and I had to do most of my work at the hotel after-the-fact.  I was able to identify an Aldi super market grocery store nearby, but decided to abort the walk as the need for groceries was not so great.  The second night was done.

Walk downhill most of the way to grand place to waffle stop on our way to Mannekin Pis.  We found lace stores too.  Spring in Brussels was beautiful.  Along our adventures we found a WC in a fashion clothes mall a block away from the Grand Place. 
Comic book museum had a who's who of Tintin.

Trees were trained to grow in boxes or in a complete strait line (espalier).

Parc de Brussels largest park in country was where we found the tram to/from Grand Place.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

BRU: In Search of Napoleon

Friday flight to Brussels from Chicago was brilliant. We arrived Saturday before noon and traveled by train to Brux Noord train station where we exited the east door of the station to Allard Str.  We walked with our bags one block to Brabant Str and turned LEFT to Rogier Str.  This path led us through the Morrocan neighborhood and away from the street adjacent to the train station where women stood scantily clad advertising human degradation.  The Rogier Str was a steep climb to Rue de Palais where the tram lines run.  Then we turned left for a downhill path to the Wellness Apart Hotel.  The hotel had plenty of space for 2 adults and 3 tweens.  Adults were on the bedroom on the backside of the building. The tweens were on pull-out beds in the living room.  The couch and chair in the living room were difficult to use at this point, but we were able to use the dinette table and 2 kitchen chairs. The galley kitchen had a frig and stove.  We put our power strip here for charging phones.  The wi-fi was best at this spot in the kitchen.  The shower, water temperature and water pressure was fine.

 Quote for the day came from the Daddy,
“I didn't think it would be this many hills.”

I was able to see from the plane a castle with a moat and rectangular mirror pond, and then a village with an old church in the center. There were many Turkish, Arabic, Dutch, and French signs. The weather is same as Chicago.  Butte lion with 1st action packed narrated movie at the historic Waterloo Battlefield site. 

We left the room right away for the train station again to Brain A’llued for a taxi ride to the Battlefield of Waterloo.  The tweens enjoyed the scavenger hunt activity and the climb to Butte du Lion.  They enjoyed the panoramic indoor replica of the battlefield circa 1815.  We toured quickly through the “wax museum” and the lessons there were interesting from authentic uniforms, and various archeological evidence collected over the years on this site.  We walked back to the bus stop near a gas station and waited successfully for the city bus which took us back to the train station.  There was a short wait for the return train trip back to Brux Noord.  The walk up the hotel was good for keeping us awake and the Turkish attendants at the hotel directed us just another short walk to several choices of Turkish restaurants.  This is the first time I've ever ordered my Turkish meal in French.  The first night was done.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

BRU: Staying Healthy when Traveling with Kids

     When traveling with our kids, nausea is always a problem so we carry an airplane sickness bag even when not in airplane.  We don't sleep well on the plane, so we have ear plugs, socks, eye cover & usually a comfy sweatshirt to wear.  We always try to sleep on the plane going East to Europe, because generally the plane arrives in the destination city in the morning and there are places to go and people to see.  There is no time for jet lag, we just push through it until we drop.  
     This past trip to Brussels, there was a strategic siesta & we sleep well, but not until the second day.  The first day, we found our apart-hotel (most European rooms don't accommodate 5 people so we use apartment type places as hotels), dropped our bags and headed back to the train station for Brain a'llued, which was near the Battle of Waterloo site where Napoleon met his defeat.  More about the field trip later, but this travel on a sunny day with light sweat shirts and hats kept us moving and in fresh air for the remainder of the first day (the one where we just got off the plane).  The second day was planned for an exploration of Brussels which allowed for easier access to the hotel room, a nap (siesta) and an evening of Grand Place Brussels with the proper lighting.  The third day was a short trip to Brugge and walking/fresh air, so it meant everyone slept hard that night.  We then left on the next morning and stayed up on the plane to watch movies (we don't have cable tv) and take short naps on the West-bound plane.
     When traveling like this, we try to take advantage of every minute to see things we may not ever see again. This is not a vacation.  We do take time to wash hands often & drink plenty of water, then check with each child daily if their urine was yellow, indicating a need to drink more water.  I am a true mom and always asked to know if there were daily visits to keep their system regular or if they need a laxative soon.  It's ok to get anti-nausea meds in another language, and the same goes for diarrhea meds.  Also, we keep track of what we eat in order to protect ourselves -we don't want to get to a once in a lifetime place or site & spend the majority of our trip with food poisoning.  Staying healthy on the trip means we will be healthy when we return to home also.
     And finally, we walked for miles and saw so much, used public transport sparingly--and only then when we really needed to avoid using expensive taxis or injury.  We meet amazing people on trains, trams, buses and boats.  That's what our trips are about, getting out to see the country and meet people, not just relaxing by the pool or in front of the ski lodge fireplace.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

On To Brussels! The Food

Waffles along the street                                                             Waffle Parlor

April in Brussels and Brugge is BRILLIANT!  Our suitcases were not so full of cold weather clothes! There was room for us to bring chocolate back... Yes, we found Belgian chocolate which tended to be more bitter than we'd expected, but smooth and creamy chocolate is hard to let sit on the shelf.  And the waffles were tasty.  We ate crispy, light waffles with various toppings which were good, but the liege waffles were the recipe we promptly looked up when home and made immediately.  We enjoyed Turkish food because our hotel/apart was in the Turkish neighborhood.  My kids were familiar with that food and all went quite well. Let's just say, even though we walked many miles across each city, we didn't loose any weight for all the goodies we ate (frites & mayo included- G2's favorite).

Book Review: A PRETTY AGE By Barbara Mueller

This was a compelling story about turn of the century, rural Kansas convent girls caught up in a drama of abuse and distress and it drew me in to it's mystery. I like mysteries. I know a little about rural Midwest. I know a little about family struggles for power, but I knew nothing of turn-of-the-20th-century catholic convent dramas until I read this complimentary e-book from BookSneeze.  

This story was an easy read even though the characters were a bit chatty.  When I say chatty, I mean that we read a great deal of Sophiny’s thoughts while reading Antoinett’s journals.  The conflict is applicable to today and this book does challenge me to be thankful for my simple life, family and faith.  Complicated is good stuff for historical fiction though. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255