From 2000-2002 my husband's twin brother, Charles, and his family lived as expats in Windsor, England. We visited them each year during Spring Break. The first two years we left the girls at home and took Will with us. The third year Dorothy Anna (Dots) joined us as well. At the time she was 4 and Will was 10. What follows is taken from the texts of emails I sent home while we were there.
Wednesday, 13 March
Robert woke up early and ran twice around Hyde Park (in the rain). The rest of us slept in until 8:30 or so and then dressed and caught a taxi to Waterloo Station to board the Eurostar train to Brussels (we stopped at wonderful little bakery around the corner from the hotel and bought some pastries for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch). Our train left promptly at 10:30 and was not crowded, so we were all able to spread out and relax a bit (Will and I even napped).
My college roommate Margaret and two of her children were waiting for us after we cleared customs, and we loaded up in her diesel van and drove to their house. Margaret and her family have been living as expats in Brussels just over a year. She knows her way around well but also has a GPS system in her car which she claims is the best investment she's ever made. Their house is in a beautiful neighborhood about 10 minutes from the center of Brussels and 5 minutes from her children's international school; they have a nice park directly across the street from their house. Their house is lovely, quite roomy and modern and spread out over 7 split levels, with a beautiful garden out back.
In the afternoon she took us on a driving tour of their neighborhood and school, and after serving us a great meal of chicken enchiladas, salad, chips and hot sauce that evening, she drove us to the Grand Place for Belgian waffles. The Grand Place is a beautiful old plaza with winding streets and many shops and restaurants. We enjoyed walking around there, even in the rain.
Thursday, 14 March
After an hour on the train, we arrived in Bruges, and (surprise) it was cold and rainy. Despite the weather, Bruges was a charming, picturesque little town, with old buildings, narrow winding streets and pretty canals and bridges.
We meandered the streets for a bit, stopping in shops selling lace, tapestries and chocolate (Belgian specialties).
We visited a church where a Michelangelo mother and child is displayed. The sculpture was beautiful, one of few such pieces by Michelangelo outside of Italy, and in a serene setting, much like Michelangelo would have envisioned when the piece was commissioned, I imagine.
We ate lunch in a restaurant called Cafe Michelangelo just across the street from the church. Dorothy Anna has been quite the good little traveler, but I think several late nights had caught up with her because when her lunch arrived, she began to cry and exclaimed, "But I just wanted an ordinary grilled cheese!" The rest of us enjoyed our meals of hot soup, croques monsieur (delicious grilled ham and cheese sandwiches) and pommes frites (French fries - a Belgian invention).
After lunch we wandered the streets a bit more before succumbing to the allure of hot Belgian waffles and an escape from the cold and damp.
We took a (warm) bus back to the train station and arrived back at the house around 6:30.
Margaret had booked a sitter for the evening. Marc called Domino's and ordered pizza (in French) for the children's dinner. The adults returned to the Grand Place for a wonderful meal of mussels and pommes frites at Chez Leon, touted as the most famous restaurant in Brussels.