Monday, November 5, 2012

And the Children Beg...NO MORE CHOCOLATE!!! (Bruges, Belgium)

Thankfully our trip has been getting better with time.   Although today, we started the day off a little rough... ok, rough for Liam.  Ever since our trip to Italy in April where he ended up with stitches, Liam is ├╝ber sensitive to any kind of cut or scrape.  So Liam's umbrella has been with one of our baby sitters for a while.  And it was raining pretty hard out this morning.  I had brought his rain coat with us and we've used it the last two days but it's been really cold and even though he's been wearing it with his fleece underneath, I felt that he really should be wearing his winter coat.  So he had no protection from the rain.  I sent Josh into a cheap touristy store to buy Liam an umbrella (the rest of us had our own) - and expectedly (not because of Josh but because of the shop), it was of majorly cheap quality.

We sat down to eat breakfast and in the process of Liam handing over his umbrella to me, he got his finger caught on it and of course, it started to bleed.  A lot.  And he freaked out.  A lot.  The owner of the restaurant asked us what happened and she went looking for a bandaid.  What she came back with was a huge piece of gauze and some medical tape.  That will do.

Liam with his boo boo... you would have thought someone had cut off the whole finger.  DRAMA!

In typical Liam fashion, the whole day he milked this cut (though he did eventually give up the gauze and bandaid.  He even said he couldn't wear his gloves because of it.  Ahhh Liam... always the drama king.

We stopped on the way to the train station at a store selling Smurfs. For those that don't know, this is the Smurfs' homeland.  Peyo, the inventor of the Smurfs was born and raised right here in Brussels (or the outskirts of).  There is also a Smurf store that apparently is by Centraal Station that we could not find.  Regardless, Aidan wanted to stop and check out the Smurfs that they had in this store - in the end, he didn't find one he liked and since they sell them all over the world, I don't think we are going to be lacking in opportunity to ever find them again.

The train ride to Bruges was uneventful.  Once again a full train, we finally managed to find 2 seats near each other and just had the kids sit on our laps.  The only interesting thing was the guy sitting next to me had his train ticket on his ipad and it absolutely sent the train conductors into a tizzy - we're talking a good 30 minutes of back and forth and taking of passport information, etc etc  Apparently while airports now take electronic tickets, trains still do not, at least not those in the Belgian system!!

We arrived in Bruges to sun!!!  Yes, sun!  Still cold but at least it was nice to whip out our sunglasses for a little bit.  We grabbed a bus that said Centrum since that's the direction we figured we wanted to go and when it started to look crowded we jumped off.  We were still about a 10-15 minute walk from the center but that's ok.  Surrounded by tons of shops and restaurants, we took the time to do a little bit of exploring.

First off, of course, was a toy store. Right after arriving in Bruges we saw a toy store and of course had to go in.  One Ninjago and one Beyblade later we were on our way.  Liam insisted on carrying his own bag all day with his Ninjago, often times taking the package out of the bag.  Constantly asking us when we were going back to the hotel because he knew he wasn't allowed to open it (too many pieces) til we got back this evening.  Remember this... it will be important later.

Our next mission.... lunch.  We wandered along the streets looking for somewhere not too touristy to have lunch.  Meaning the place that said lunch tourista was out.  We settled in to a semi touristy type place on the edge of a shopping district and enjoyed some beef stew, mussels and shrimp.  Everyone was happy and with full bellies we made our way along towards the center of town.

The town / city was cute.  It reminded me of the buildings in Amsterdam (as did Ghent the day before) which are unique compared to other parts of Europe that we've been to.  Cobblestone streets add to the quaint feeling that while you are in a city, it actually feels more like a large town.  And like back home in Boston, pedestrians rule the day - oh how I've missed that.  If you try to cross outside a crosswalk in Barcelona you are likely to be killed by the maniac driver that will not stop for you.  But here, here you crossed where you like and to hell with the cars - there were too many pedestrians to enable them to go that fast anyways.

Signs of fall!  Makes me miss New England!

While walking along we came across a mini fair.  And by mini I mean there was a french fry vendor, an "arcade" (and by arcade I mean 20 machines where you move the claw to try to grab a toy) and bumper cars (I should also note that in typical European fashion these bumper cars did not have seatbelts).  The boys absolutely insisted on enjoying the "fair".  6 euros later Aidan did not get a toy - and was incredibly disappointed when we refused to fork over more money.  Liam had a blast on the bumper cars and will NEVER be allowed to drive any car of mine...EVER!

I can crash these cars???  Sweet!!!!

Oh shit, but they can crash me too!

Looking like a pro ;)

My plan was for us to climb the Belfort which is something like 300 stairs but has amazing views of the city.  Too bad the line was about 45 minutes long.  Soooo we didn't do that.  We walked around the area known as the Burg which is essentially the center and includes the Belfort.

Walking towards the Burg

The Belfort... all 300+ stairs of it...

More of the center

Close up... love the buildings!

Walking away from the Belfort

Checking out the Ninjago guy...

Lots of horse drawn carriages with tourists... lots and lots of tourists

Walking further away

Not sure what this was but it was a pretty square and the yellowish building to the left had tons of gold on it (and was built in the mid 1500s)

Close up of yellowish building

Beyond the center were the canals.  Now I've heard that Bruges is often compared with Amsterdam and Venice because of it's canals.  I'm sorry but I just don't see it.  Amsterdam and Venice are in a completely different echelon than Bruges when it comes to their canals.  Yes, this was pretty and of course, I took token pictures along side them, but no, not even close.
I know I'm biased, but he's gorgeous... love him!!


Interesting drainpipe

A Josh sized door!!

More canals

Of course they are looking at Josh's camera and not mine...still handsome boys (notice Liam is still holding the Ninjago)

Starting to head to the bus to then go to the train... this is the street where disaster happened!

 You could tell the end of the day was near when we lost the Ninjago guy.  As we worked our way back to the train station, suddenly Liam realized it was gone.  He had been walking with it less than a minute earlier so guessing he dropped it without realizing (he was holding the bag separately).

As expected, he freaked out.  We backtracked but to no avail, less than a minute had gone by and someone must have grabbed it off the ground and kept it.  Too bad.  Liam was devastated and carried the plastic bag around as a "memory" for a good hour after it happened.  We finally convinced him as we got ready to board our train back to Brussels that it was time to say goodbye to the bag.

The last we saw of the Ninjago (who happened to be Kendo Zane in case anyone was curious) before he was lost.

It was about this time that the kids also finally begged off chocolate for the rest of the trip.  We've been in to at least 3 chocolate stores per day just getting a few pieces here and there and eating most of them right up.  Even I, an admitted chocoholic, will agree, perhaps enough is enough (though I did just eat one last piece for the night).  And so for a 5 and 8 year old to say they've had enough, I think that says it all - we've eaten a lot of chocolate this trip!!  I still think they might not be my kids though because my kids would never ever tell me too much chocolate!  I think we have our fill to take home with us and we definitely have eaten our way through Belgium.  For sure, we will remember this trip based on just the chocolate alone!

We did well for the ride back to Brussels.  We made it to the train station about 30 minutes before our train, stopped at Starbucks (seriously I think there are more Starbucks in Belgium than any other chain) and made it to the platform right as the train arrived early.  We grabbed some seats (which was a bonus since we had to scrounge for them on our outward bound trip this morning) and made ourselves comfortable.

Then it was back to the hotel room for room service once again (I think we were all pretty exhausted from the day at this point) and Subway for Aidan (between that and Starbucks, an addict is born).  Tomorrow is our last day in Belgium and it's been a really great trip overall with some really cool places to see.  But I'll be glad to get not just back home to Barcelona but also to the warmer weather.  OMG, too cold for me despite my New England blood... definitely has thinned over the last 3 years.  Yikes!!


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