July 2009

18 July 2009, Saturday

Hi Little Girl,

We are now back in Wuustwezel, and with all of the recent travelling that we did, we decided to lay low today and stay close to Marcel and Melanie’s home. After breakfast we visited two different toy stores to look for a few gifts. The first store proved to be the better option for us because the second store was so packed with toys from floor to ceiling, that we could not even walk around. After our afternoon out, we stopped by a fritter stand, picked up some frits and sausage, and make our way back to Marcel and Melanie’s house to enjoy our snack.

We finished our day by enjoying a nice dinner and some wonderful ice cream. This was a nice relaxing day for us, something we really needed because we have been on the go so much recently. This is a really short post, and I didn’t even take any photos today. But, tomorrow we have some great things planned on our trip to Brussels.

Keep being your great little self. I love you!


17 July 2009, Friday

Hi Little Ladybug,

Today was our last day in the cottage, so we started our morning giving it a thorough cleaning. Melanie originally planned to have your daddy keep you busy in the morning so that the girls could get some real work done, but was pleasantly surprised to find you willing and able to help, and eventually put you to work cleaning couches and mopping the hardwood floors.

Once we were finished, we packed up the van and began our journey back north to the Flemish side of Belgium. However, our first stop was only a couple of blocks away from the cottage, at the Chauffre brewery to pick up a couple of souvenirs. We also told Marcel that we wanted to briefly stop in the nearby town of Houffalize, which we did: Marcel drove us the town, momentarily idled the car near the city centre, and then drove away. Apparently subtle hints are the first things to get lost in translation.

While we were still on the French side of the country, we stopped at the Castle of Alden Bissen, a beautifully restored tutonic castle in the heart of Belgium’s cherry country. The castle features several gardens with immaculately trimmed hedges, two vast courtyards, a moat, and an otherworldly main square: to protect it from the elements, it is protected by four, massive butterly-wing-like parasols which act like a delicate sunroof, casting a golden glow on the court below it. You spent most of your time there walking (and, occasionally, rolling around on the grass) with the dog, doing your best to bond with her.

We again headed north, next stopping on the Flemish side at Silvermeer, a ginormous park in the city of Mol. Silvermere is sort of like every possible recreation area you’ve ever seen – Technicolor plastic kiddie park; metal grade-school playground; military-grade obstacle course; water-park; paddle-boat lake; etc – and put them into a single wooded area, and you’d have the right idea. We first entered the park near its white-sand beach, and we literally had to hold you down to prevent you from stripping down to your panties and diving into the synthetic surf. Instead, we hastily crammed some chicken nuggets into you (and frituurs, sausages, and beer into the rest of us) before letting you run wild from one play area to another. You ecstatically climbed castles and slides, rode a tricycle through a pretend gas station, played on a lay-down swing, and scurried your way through tunnels.

One very cool area was a giant geodesic dome with a number of rope ladders and tubes leading to a tall tube slide, which you climbed through with the help of Daddy. There was also the tallest tube slide I have ever seen, probably five stories tall from base to tip. We watched a boy climb to the top and ride it, and he literally fired out of the bottom of the slide like a bullet, sliding for a good six feet across the sand on his back before finally coming to a halt. After significant negotiation, I eventually let daddy take you to the top to slide down it, but fortunately for everyone (but daddy, I suppose) the kid who went down the slide before you did so on a damp towel, which can effect the decelerating of your descent enough so that (a) you had a pleasant trip down the slide and (b) your daddy actually got stuck midway up and had to “sckootch” his way down.

At six o’clock we called it quits, but not before deciding that we would return to Silvermeer next week to play all day (and next time we’re bring bathing suits, too!). We drove the rest of the way back to Wuustwezel, where we had another delicious dinner (complements of Melanie) before we headed to bed, tired from a long day of driving and playing.

Here are some more pictures from today’s fun:

The beautiful landscaping at the castle, You dreaming at the castle gates, Some castle pictures, You and the dog resting at the castle, The courtyard with the butter-fly-like parasols for protection, Our princess in the castle, Playing at Silvermeer You and daddy walking up to the huge slide… I can just barely see you next to the small tree/bush in front of the slide, Marcel resting at the end of the day. Love you, Ladybug.


16 July 2009, Thursday

Hi Little Girl,

Daddy’s standing in for mommy again today, which was our “around town” day: we drove around southern Belgium, close to the cottage, and visited a few little towns.

We started by visiting the so-called “smallest town in Belgium”, Durbuy. It’s a little hiccup of a shopping town in the middle of the Ardennes region surrounded by all sorts of X-TREME sporting sites offering river kayaking, mountain repelling, and cliffside ziplines, among other activities. At Durbuy, we strolled down narrow roads and watched vacationers in yellow kayaks (which you initially misidentified as “water bananas”) make their way down a nearby river. At one point, one poor soul fell out of his kayak, and grew increasingly irritated as his partner giddily paddled away. “What a booger!” you (correctly) observed.

After Durbuy, it was time for lunch, so we got back in the van and headed to La Rouche. It’s a scenic town that straddles the River Outhre that holds a rather sad place in history as the site of the WWII’s Battle of the Bulge, evidence of which still exists in the form of an abandoned tank and a monument to the Allied soldiers who eventually liberated it. Nowadays it’s another picturesque tourist center with winding roads filled with street-side cafes, high-end shoppes, and souvenir stores. We worked our way up and down the streets until we were hungry, eventually stopping at a French-inspired pizzeria. You and daddy shared your own cheese and ham pizza at a little table, while the rest of us shared a different pizza that seemed primarily composed of salt… yuck!

After lunch, we split into two groups: Nana, Melanie, and mommy headed into the town to go shopping (but unfortunately found nothing! So sad!) while you and daddy decided to visit the ruins of a castle in the center of the city. There, you explored many different abandoned chambers, made clay sculptures using medieval tools, and watched a French bird show featuring hawks and vultures, before finally deciding that visiting castles was hard work. Your daddy agreed, and treated you both to more “lever-pressed” soft-serve, which is rapidly becoming a post-castle tradition.

When our two groups finally met up, it was a hot and bright 90 degrees out, so we ended our day in La Roche by letting you run through the town’s fountain with several other boys and girls. You were quickly and thoroughly soaked with water and joy before we finally got back in the van and headed home to the cottage. That should have been the end of the day, but when we got back to the cottage, you realized that the small raised patio in the back yard looked just like a little stage, and so you spent the rest of the evening performing a one-(wo)man show for anyone who cared to watch. It included selections from Mama Mia! and Annie, as well as a selection of popular children’s tunes. In between performances, you would morph into either a restaurateur or a podiatrist, offering your audience (imaginary) ice cream sundaes and (painfully real) foot rubs while the star of the show (also you) changed costumes. Perhaps it’s the fresh country air out here, but your imagination has been in overdrive ever since we’ve been in Belgium. You are amazing!

Here are some more pics from today,

Waffles-on-a-stick, A charming little street, Smiling for the camera (just too cute!), Drinking your special drink (strawberry slushie), You and Melanie at the river, Walking up to the castle ruins, Creating a clay toy at the castle, Dancing in the castle, You and daddy… Good night, Miss DeVille. We’ll get your close-up tomorrow.

~~Daddy (and Mommy!)

Note: Our internet service has been sketchy at best, and we also lost our voltage convertor. So, although I have not been able to post as much as I had hoped, I am still journalling the journey. I will definitely post all pages that haven’t yet been posted, when we return home. Keep checking back though… who knows what will happen next!

15 July 2009, Wednesday

Hi Little Girl,

This morning started off a little differently than the rest of the days so far. To start off, you and daddy enjoyed a slumber party last night, and Nana slept in the other room with me. I heard you two talking for quite a while, but noticed that as soon as he said good night to you (and you said good night back), you went right to sleep. When we awakened today, we got dressed quickly, packed up some food and got on the road. After driving for a little while, we found a nice place to pull over, lay down a nice blanket, and eat a picnic breakfast. Because of our remote location, hardly anyone drove by, and you were able to run and play in the grass. Nice way to start the morning.

After our picnic breakfast, we hopped back in the car and headed toward a new destination, Germany. I noticed that on the way there, you and nana took a little nap, which was good because once we arrived at our destination we were up walking all afternoon. We headed toward the Mosel River, a favorite place of mommy and Nana from many years ago. We drove for about 1.5 hours, and eventually pulled off the freeway into the mountains surrounding the river. Once we were there, we looked at all of the vineyards lining the river. You awoke about his time, where-upon I told you that we were in Germany. Your response, “Really? Wow, it’s nice here.” I definitely agree.We meandered our way through the river valley, finally coming to a little town called Bernkastlel, located right on the river’s edge. The picturesque little town was the perfect place for us to walk around, window shop, and meander through the city center. You loved the opportunity to dance and play while we strolled through the village. Daddy and mommy of course took lots of photos while we were there. We finally settled at a nice little restaurant and enjoyed a drink and a little food. You provided some entertainment during our meal by singing and dancing for us, which in turn received lots of laughter and applause. After our meal, we finished our stroll through the village, with just enough time for daddy to buy an authentic beer stein (something he really wanted).

Our next destination was a riverboat that meandered its way up and down the Mosel River, taking us by other little towns and castles located in the river valley. You loved the boat ride, making sure to enjoy all of the scenery while aboard. For the adults, we loved the peaceful journey through the river, admiring the grapevines lining every inch of mountainside possible. We were all amazed at the fact that the grapevines meander up mountainsides with slopes that at times are greater than 70 degrees (90 degree would be totally vertical). It is truly awe-inspiring to know that the grapes on those vines are eventually picked and turned into wine… delicious, yummy wine. By the way, mommy made sure to buy a bottle before we left, and I cannot wait to try it later on our journey.

There was a funny thing that happened while we were on our journey today. We found numerous reasons to laugh as we travelled to and from the River. Every time we passed an exit sign while on the freeway, we would chuckle. We ended up laughing hysterically with each and every exit, and your daddy made sure to make some funny comments. You see, little girl, we use the word exit to tell drivers that they can use the ramp to leave. The German word for exit is Ausfahrt, and when said aloud sounds a lot like a silly sound. Yes, we enjoyed many a laugh today.

We finished our day by going to a little restaurant that is walking distance from the cottage. Because we had already eaten dinner, we walked there for a nice dessert and a drink (yes, another great beer!) for the guys. After looking over the menu, we made our choices and waited for them to be brought to the table. While we were waiting, Nana told us a story about a time when she was with a group of people in the Netherlands who, like us, ordered some nice desserts, and as each dessert was brought to the table, your Nana kept waiting and waiting for hers. After watching everyone else eat delicious desserts, she finally discovered that the restaurant had forgotten her dessert, so she ended up eating after everyone at the table. It was a story that made us all laugh… until it happened again, tonight. Daddy, mommy, and Marcel received their desserts first, then you, and finally Melanie (she ordered crepes). At that point, Melanie asked the waiter where your nana’s ice cream was, and they looked around and said, “Oops, we forgot.” So, apparently your nana has a difficult time ordering dessert, in Europe.

Here are some more pictures from our day:

The skinniest house in the village, A very pretty entrance-way, Daddy’s wonderful kisses, You being extra comfortable, You and daddy on the boat, Three generations, You on the boat, Our view from the boat, the vineyards behind the buildings on the hills, Marcel on the boat at the end of a long day. You!!! Love you Kiddo, enjoy your sleep!


14 July 2009, Tuesday Dearest Little Ladybug, So, how was your slumber party with Nana? Apparently you tried staying up really, really late. But, eventually you fell asleep, and enjoyed a great night in the bunk-bed bedroom you shared. Once awake, the six of us went downstairs and ate a nice breakfast outside on the patio. It was perfect outside for such a meal, with weather that continued to be just as nice on our journey to Luxembourg. We drove for about an hour, stopping for some groceries on the way, and eventually made it to a beautiful little town on a river in Luxembourg. In the town is a gorgeous castle, and we learned, the most visited attraction in country. The castle is called the Chateau de Vianden, and is the first castle you have ever visited in your life. We enjoyed a nice little lunch on the river before boarding a little train that would take us up toward the castle. After our ride through the town and the neighboring hills, we finally made our way to the castle. It was quite a vertical hike to get to the castle doors, but when we finally did, you said, “Oh no, I forgot my princess dress.” Quickly followed by, “So, where are all of the princesses?” You weren’t too happy to discover that there weren’t any princesses who actually lived in the castle, but you thought about it a little bit and said, “That’s not good.” Sorry little girl, just for you I wish that there was a princess you could have seen. The castle itself was gorgeous. You loved walking from room to room, learning about where the princesses lived, ate breakfast, slept, and danced at the ball. You even tried dancing yourself in the grand ballroom. You seemed so at home. Toward the end of our journey through the castle we realized that we somehow lost Marcel. As a result we spent the next half hour searching for him. Fortunately we finally found him near the exit. We stopped for a quick ice cream created by a very strange ice cream machine… weird or not, the ice cream was delicious. After the castle, we left the town and drove the countryside some more. We stopped at a little town a while later to walk around and enjoy a little drink (Sprite for you, and beer for the adults… we just cannot get enough of this great Belgian beer!). A funny thing happened toward the end of our drinks. I received a text message from a friend back home in Rapid City. She wanted to know what I was doing this afternoon. I replied that we were enjoying some beer in Belgium. Her reply, “Oh my, I guess that a beer at the Firehouse (our local brewery) is out of the question!” Yup! That will probably be the only time in my life that I will be able to say that to someone. After our fun little jaunt we came back to the cottage and enjoyed some of Melanie’s great soup and relaxed for the rest of the night. As I write this, I am out on the patio, listening to music, and you are dancing exhuberantly to the music. You make me so happy little girl. I love watching you learn, dance, and experience life. Keep being who you are!

Here are some more photos from our adventures today, A beautiful door in the town near the castle, You were a little naughty and would not hold nana’s hand while crossing the street. Here you are contemplating your “crime,” Playing with a water fountain, Patiently waiting for lunch, Sitting outside the castle, waiting to go in, Some weapons in the castle, You in the stockade, You performing in the castle, You, daddy, and mommy in the castle, Some very pretty castle windows, You skipping your way out of the castle, Telling your baby doll all about your day. ~~Mommy

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