Yes, we did it. We finally took a roadtrip. After 3 months here in Germany, we finally left the country. Thank goodness we took the MINI. Our old VW Golf TDI with over 183,000 km on the odometer is in a coma as of this morning. (That deserves its own post…) Anyway, last Friday, we FINALLY got out of the house. SIX hours after our original departure time. A neighbor suggested that we wait until after 7pm to leave because of traffic. I think he may have said it because we were putzing around the house and backyard and obviously not ready to go well into the afternoon.
Anyway, once the car was packed and all travelers in their assigned seats (dogs, too!), we finally got on the road and headed west. About 2 minutes after we got on the highway to head out of Mainz, Bella piped up “I have to go to the bathroom!” I looked at David who was driving with “that look”. She didn’t have to go right before we left but had gone to the bathroom shortly before, or so I thought. Anyway, we pulled off at the next exit, which was about 10 km from our house, and pulled into a McCafe. 30 minutes later, after a visit to the “loo” and a quick bite to eat, we were back on the road. Our target: Brussels. ETA: 3.40 hours. Yeah, right. That’s without needed rest stops for both humans and dogs. David drove the first half and at about 10pm, I took over. That’s also when we hit rainy patches on the highway. Figures. He gets great weather, I get the cruddy road conditions and the freaked out dogs in the backseat. Actually, it wasn’t so bad. I love driving the MINI and it was good to test out the new sport tires.
REST-EAT-RELAX-EAT SOME MORE: We finally made it to our rental apartment/B&B at around midnight, after driving around for a few minutes looking for the right street and building. Once the car was unpacked, David gave the dogs a quick walk outside while I got Bella ready for bed. She slept thankfully in the car, but once we got into our apartment, she got her 2nd wind and didn’t go down again until well after 1AM. Since this was a holiday, we took our time waking in the morning. David was awesome and woke up early. We’d brought some things to eat with us and smartly, purchased drinks (water, juice) at one of our rest stops. He found a little grocery around the corner and we had a nice little European breakfast/brunch. Bella had cereal and milk as she’s not a fan of olivepaste on bread.
After we ate, Bella played a bit in the living room area and we turned on the TV. BIG MISTAKE. Although we have cable TV at home, we still don’t have it hooked up because we need a new TV (ours is not multi-system and here in Europe, only works as a great screen for DVDs). So we all got sucked into the Belgian TV programming which was mostly in French or German, sometimes in English. Bella was eager for “kids shows” which is anything animated. To her, Sponge Bob in German is just as funny. I think it’s even better if she’s watching it with her favorite guy, her papa. While they watched TV for a bit, I surfed the net to find different things we could do in the hours that we had left in the day. While Brussels has some great museums, there aren’t a lot targeted for kids. But we came to Brussels for a holiday and to relax, not to stress ourselves out by completely filling our days with activities. And since she loves museums, I knew that we had to at least visit one Brussels museum.
When we finally left our apartment in Schaarbeek (Brussels neighborhood), here’s what our tentative leisurely afternoon activities looked like:
- Take dogs with us on a car ride. Try to find the museum area and figure out where to park for a future visit today or tomorrow.
- Keep an eye out for grocery stores since they would probably be closed on Sunday.
- If time allowed, drop dogs back off at apartment and try to visit the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences’ Dinosaur Gallery. It’s Europe’s largest dinosaur exhibit. (Bella LOVES dinosaurs!). Our pal, Karen, also suggested the Scientastic Museum. We’ll have to go there next time.
- Grab dinner somewhere…
Here’s what really happened.
- Drive around downtown using GPS. Our Navigon has some nice features, one of which has nearby sights listed and sometimes even the opening hours. Like a lot of downtown areas, there are a lot of one-way streets and if you miss your turn…
- Get lost a bit. Yes even with GPS, you can get lost. Usually this happens when “the voice” doesn’t tell you to make a turn until too late.
- Park next to a huge park, across the street from the Austrian embassy, because Bella has fallen asleep and the dogs need to walk. I found out while surfing the Navigon that we were near where we needed to be for some of the major museum parking, Jubelpark. The park was the Parc du Cinquantenaire, a huge historic park.
- Remain flexible. Semper Gumby. When she awoke, she was Grumpicita. Definitely not museum behavior. So we decided to go with the flow and visit the park because heck, it’s huge and we still had about 90 minutes left on our parking meter stub.
- Hang out at the park: people-watch, admire the flowers and architecture, eat a waffle from one snacktruck, grab a gelato from the other snacktruck. Belgian waffles from Belgian snacktrucks are especially tasty when they are really warm and it’s chilly outside.
- Avoid other dogs if at all possible. The latter is because we haven’t learned how to say in French, German or Dutch “Can our dogs sniff your dogs and say Hi? That will keep them from barking incessantly and make everyone happy.” The sad part is that not all European owners keep their dogs on leashes, trusting that their dogs will always be well-behaved. NOT SO. I was walking the boys away from Leila, a particularly nosy, large and unleashed shepherd-mix. She jogged away from her owners a second time and headed our way, again. Poor Charlie couldn’t get away fast enough and I couldn’t pull him and Rusty aside because Leila kept coming at them. If Leila’s owner hadn’t shown up when she did, Leila might have been able to sink her teeth into either of them. Thankfully, neither were hurt.
- Return to car and head “home”.
- Grab a take out pizza from a local pizzeria around the corner from the apartment. (FYI: That was an awesome 4-cheese pizza!)
Not bad for our first day in Brussels. We might have to come back and try this again!