Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"Losing it in Belgium: or... the real truth of family holiday"

Steve and I figured this ("Losing it in Belgium") would be the best tag line to summarize the family's holiday vacation. It was a vacation with plenty of good things in it, but it was also (and perhaps this is just the norm for ALL of us) a time of loss. Loss, you ask? Yes. Loss. Any loss in particular, you ask? Well... lets see. Things lost?: travel time, appetite, cash, travel plans, expectations, sleep, phones, skin, way,luggage, temper and teeth. I am sure I left something out of there, but... if I were to elaborate just a bit, it would look like this

1. Travel Time: see earlier blog post reporting on the outbound trip from London to Brussels (where we saved 50 pounds, thereby losing us 9 hours of vacation time each way... ie 18 lost hours in total)...the eurostar from London to Brussels takes only 1 hour 45 minutes. Sigh.

2. Our stomaches: on the way to Brussels (before boarding the bus), Steve bought a bag of samosas for us to eat during the day. They turned out to be the greasiest samosas in the history of time... oil was dripping out of the bottom of the bag onto our clothes and gear. There was a nice grease stain all the way down the leg of steve’s favourite jeans. We are all feeling a bit off samosas now...

3. Our Cash: on our first day of vacation, Steve has his eyes off his wallet for just long enough for someone to relieve him of both his euros and british pounds. Ouch. At least the thief was kind enough to leave the credit cards.

Christmas Eve with wifi and Stella
 4. Travel Plans/Expectations: Alex was sick. Really sick. Sicker than he has been in his life. Sick enough that he was unable to move from the bed, which meant that the rest of us were held back at the hotel. So much for the plan to visit Vimy Ridge, stroll along the canals in Bruge, or roam around Flanders. Instead, we hung out in the lobby of the hotel. Because we were too cheap to pay the 15 euros for internet in the hotel room, we made use of the free wifi in the lounge. Of course, this meant getting kicked off and having to re-sign back on every 30 mintues... thus a whole stream of lost emails and blog posts. Still... we were not deterred in our desire to maximize our use of the ‘free’ wifi! So we just sat around the Christmas Tree in the lobby humming our own Christmas carols (with a Pint of Stella).... Steve and I took turns wandering out (sometimes with Duncan, sometimes alone), leaving the other parent to hold the fort in the hotel lobby.
5. Our Sleep: See above. Alex, sick and dozing in and out of sleep, kept shouting out during the night that he couldn't sleep, and it was not fair that the rest of us were sleeping when he wasn't [note: uh... nope... the rest of us were sharing his state of wakefulness]

6. Our Phones: Plural. Steve's was the first to go. Well... not the ‘whole’ phone. Steve watched with horror as his phone dropped to the ground and bounced near a grate. The back popped off, but he managed to find both front and back and pop the phone back together. It was several hours (and several unsuccessful phone call attempts) later that he realized there was no longer a battery on the inside. I guess it is laying somewhere at the bottom of the grate. As for mine? I think it fell out of my pocket in the bathroom at the Customs Control leaving France.

7. Our Way: yes... we ‘lost our way’. Or rather, Steve lost his way, trying to take the train to the airport to pick up the rental car. He got on a train going the wrong way, and ended up instead in Leuven. He says that this 'loss' ended up being one of the happy moments of the trip, since the train went right past the Stella Beer Bottling Plant.

Dinner with Sophie
8. Skin: It was only Duncan who lost skin... We had a great dinner at my friend Sophie Moonen's house, and she introduced the kids to Raclette. Yum, yum....Duncan now knows to hold the little heating pans by the handle, and not to touch the metal directly. A lesson we all learn at some point. He also learned that you can eat an entire meal while holding one finger in a glass of ice water (which you can see him doing in this photo!).

9. Integrity: well.... that was sort of by accident the first time!  We were running late to get to Sophie's for dinner, and hopped on the metro without having a valid ticket first... there wasn’t a gate there, or a ticket booth, so... well... no excuses. Our integrity was compromised (though we weren’t caught!)

At the Metropolitain Police...
  10. Our Luggage: on the way home, at the Gare de Nord bus depot, a thief got the best of us, and, just as we were boarding the bus, made off with Duncan’s knapsack.  Of course, it was a knapsack I had carefully backed that morning, ensuring that it had everything he needed in it for the 9 hour bus-ride-from-hell that lay ahead of us: his laptop with powercord, ipod, his DS, and a bag containing all the DS games we have purchased over the past 8 or so years. ... oh yes... AND the treats I had purchased just before leaving, so we would all have snacks to eat on the 9 hour bus-ride-from-hell that lay ahead of us. Thieves are smart. When you are about to board a bus, and you are robbed, there is not much more you can do but just get on your bus. grrr...Here is a photo of Duncan at the Metropolitain Police station back in London, where were were trying to report the theft.

11. Our regularly Scheduled Route: Once we got home, we discovered that the Northern Line (which goes to our house) was down for the week for maintenance, so we had to find a bus to get us home from Victoria Station.

I know there are a few more bizarre moments mixed in there, but my fingers are getting tired of typing.

So.... what do you do with a vacation like that? As the British would say, "Stay Calm & Carry On". It was like the Mastercard commercial on TV... the list of expenses followed by the tag line, "Memories? Priceless!" I guess that about sums it up (in a dysfunctional and sick sort of way) A mixed of hysteria and hysterically bizarre/funny.

In short... just another normal family vacation!


  1. Hello,

    I am going on your holiday with you in June. Can you tell me what I should pack, or how I should prepare? Will we be having the same kinds of adventures. Right now I am planning on taking a long walk and fortifying myself for what lies ahead in June. Can't think of a family I would rather travel with. You believe in adventure.




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