Brussels, Belgium to Ait Ben Hadou, Morocco: Travel Day

Ty has been eager to get to Morocco for a couple of years. So we planned 9 days of exploring in Morocco this year.

Leaving Brussels was relatively smooth.

Security was a breeze. Why can’t we get family lanes in the US?! We enjoyed a snack break in the lounge before getting on our flight.

Ryan Air is very bare bones. You don’t get any drinks or food unless you buy it. They don’t even have pockets on the back of their seats. But it was just 3 hours long, and we had electronics and snacks, so we were just fine.

We got through customs, with some weird flirting over pens. I’m still confused by it, but who argues with a customs official!

Ty checked us in for the rental car, and here’s where the day starts going down hill. The desk agent sends us out the doors, up the stairs, and to the tower. Well we go out the doors, up the stairs, and there is no tower. Just a giant, wal-mart size parking lot. With no rental car signs, or employees in sight! We walked from one end of the giant parking lot to the other. Across to the other corner, in the blinding hot sun, before we finally found someone who knew where we should go. It was INSANE! How is this a large well established city?!

We were able to get out of the city with minimal fuss. Thank goodness for Ty’s maps.me app. It’s a marriage saver! (One of our worst fights, may have been Ty driving and me trying to follow some Mapquest print outs in El Salvador. Nothing like trying to tell your driver, turn after 3000 yards. πŸ™„)

There were these interesting lanes in the city. A full size lane, a half size lane next to it with a bike/motorcycle lane sharing it. I tried to get a picture to capture this.

It is so different here, definitely a good culture shock.

Our destination was estimated about 3.5 hours outside of Marrakech. So we anticipated a long drive, hoping to keep most of it, prior to the sun setting. After about an hour, R was getting a little car sick, so we found ourselves a cafe/hotel. Right as we pull into the parking lot, she starts getting sick. But she’s a good puke and rally kiddo.

We got back on the road as soon, as we ate, and the kids started listening to an audiobook. The scenery was beautiful, but the buildings are very basic. Mostly mud structures along the road. Sunset was later than we expected, about 7pm.

Then we hit road construction. These roads were so bad, rough sections, lanes would go from two to one, with no warning. There are no lights, no paint, and limited signage. Giant trucks would come zooming around a corner, into our lanes. We were also climbing a pass, so the road, was very squiggly. It was basically, a nightmare situation for someone who gets car sick. I was not as prepared as I should have been. We had one air sickness bag from the airport which didn’t work out so well. Poor R was covered in it, after that second ‘event’. So we had to strip her down to her pants, and try and clean up the car as best we could with a few wet wipes. By the third ‘event’, we were scrambling to find any spare bags we had.

Leaving the restaurant maps.me estimated about two hours left of driving. However, when we hit the construction we drove for another hour without our ‘estimate of arrival’ changing at all. πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ So what was going to be a 3.5 hour drive became a 5+ hour drive. Poor R, just kept asking when we were going to arrive, and I had to keep saying about 2 more hours. It was a long, long evening.

(This was a screen shot from the worst of our route!)

We were so thankful to arrive at our hotel! L thankfully fell asleep about an hour before we arrived. So Ty carried him in and put him right to bed. R, we had to wash off in the shower, because she was covered in vomit. Only after we had showered her did we realize they forgot the towels. I tried to dry her off with one of Ty’s t-shirts. Then we bundled her into bed. The room was quite cold, since they don’t have the heat on until you arrive. She went to sleep with her scarf and hat on her head.

My surprise was a rock hard bed. It was the hardest bed I have ever slept on. It was one step above a park service bunk. But we were exhausted, and it felt good to lay flat. That’s about the best I can say. πŸ˜‰

Morocco, you will be an adventure!

Bruges, Belgium: Adventure Day

So we typically like 3 days in a city, anything after that we usually have too much down time. Knowing this, Ty found us cheap train tickets to Bruges, for the day. It’s apparently the “Venice of Belgium” πŸ™‚ To us, it’s what we think Amsterdam will look like. It was beautiful, everywhere you turned!

We took the morning a bit slow. The boys played some epic Uno, while I got some laundry done, and R has been obsessed with these French Donald Duck comic books that are in the apartment. We left the apartment about 9, and the train took almost 2 hours, which one station change. The odd thing was, at no point did anyone ever check our tickets. Honor system I suppose…

Bruges is a beautiful town. It was fun just to walk around and see the buildings.

Photo overload! We came across another small Christmas Market. Lunch was a few bratwurst, a hamburger, and a hot dog. Before we walked to a playground. I managed to get myself a beer from a local brewery! It was very good, and strong.

Our final sightseeing item was the windmills that used to surround the town. There are now just 4 left. We were all pretty tired by this point. We’d been walking for hours. But we plugged on, and we’re rewarded by watching a barge coming down the canal and a drawbridge lifting up.

European excitement right there!

The windmills were beautiful.

We saw all the windmills and trudged our way back to the train station. It was lovely but our legs were tuckered out!

We were tired and the train was extremely full so we had the kids piled on our laps. But we made it back to Brussels uneventfully. Grabbed some last minute groceries at the market and some burgers and nuggets at the to-go shop. (I’m so ready for some vegetables!) It was a welcome sight to get back to our apartment!

We all walked over 11 miles, and again we are so impressed with how well the kiddos are doing! Everyone earned foot massages with bedtime tonight. πŸ˜‰

Brussels, Belgium: Adventure Day 2

So we spent a bit of a chilly night in the apartment. I slept in my down vest for part of the night. Ty quickly realized we had no hot water, which is everything for this place! No hot water means, no heat in the radiators. So it was about 30 degrees outside and we had no heat…

I’m sitting at the table, wrapped in a comforter, with my hat on, while having my morning tea. Just a wee bit freezing!!

Ty messaged the host for a bit, also messed with the water heater a bit. But nothing was working. So we bundled up and headed out for adventure for the day. It was also quite cold outside today. A damp, foggy cold.

We took the train to the Atomium museum. It was so foggy we could only see parts of it at a time. Also, strangely enough, it was extremely busy! The line to buy tickets was about 30 minutes long. Then there was another longer line to get into the building. So we weighed, waiting in line for over an hour to have limited visibility, vs. maybe never being back here again. We decided to leave and have waffles instead. πŸ™‚ But we took a few photos first of course!

The subway system here is very impressive. Clean and for Ty, easy to navigate. I enjoy that almost every stop has some sort of artistic element to it. This stop had these beautiful sculptures along the walls.

We hopped off the subway for a playground lunch stop.

Then we made the best discovery, it was a Christmas Market!!!

We walked through all the streets that had booths set up. We managed to find ourselves a few ornaments. That’s our usual go-to souvenir. Then we came across the carousels. Europe has carousels like no where else we’ve ever seen. They’re usually wooden, creative creations, just incredibly put together, and maintained. The kids finally chose their rides, R wanted the crane, and L wanted the flying man. Both were incredible! I’ll try and post a video, so you can see all the options.

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I got myself a hot mulled wine, then the kids enjoyed a teeny, tiny city playground. We then went in search of some ‘real’ food. Pasta, a raclette sandwich, and a hot dog, before we treated ourselves to a churro.

It’d be fabulous to end the post here, however it’s real life. We’re now exhausted, it’s late, and we still have to walk home. Thankfully, the subway stop is right in the Market, so we take off from there. But the walk home from our stop was still about a mile from our apartment. R was toast, she was so exhausted, and her little feet were killing her. L though, is a machine. He has so much energy it is incredible! He was racing around, and playing games, while I was pulling R along. We did manage to walk through some beautiful areas though.

All in all I think we walked about 9 miles. The best part was, when we got back to the apartment, Ty messed with the water heater and he got it back on! So we had heat for the night, and it felt wonderful.

Brussels, Belgium: Adventure Day

Another day of everyone awake by 6am. Oh well, it’s better than when L woke us all up by 2:30am. The nice thing about vacation is we all just take our time getting up. Reading books in bed, snuggling under covers, maybe watching a travel show. I love vacation mornings like this!

Ty is our amazing trip organizer. I did help research places to go in city, however he’s the one that makes that happen. He downloads each city in maps.me (this is an amazing app, that doesn’t use data!) then he marks each location we want to visit and then he becomes our navigator extraordinaire. I’m usually in charge of snacks, layers of clothes, and child well-being. We make a good team! πŸ™‚

This morning we headed out, extremely bundled up because we knew we weren’t really going to be inside today. We had all the layers on (I was wearing 7 layers on my top!) but it made for a comfortable day.

Near the Grand Palace we came across two guys juggling in the crosswalk for money. L loved this idea! He decided he wanted to come up with an act to make some money. So he found himself a stick and started doing some moves with it. Then he convinced R to sing with him. So she was singing Oh Tannenbaum in German while he was tossing this stick around. πŸ™‚ It was wonderful. However, we were the only people to give him money. He decided it was due to the fact he only had a stick. He was determined to get something more useful when we went back to the apartment. Love this kids entrepreneurial spirit!

We walked through a few beautiful churches, the Notre-Dame du Sablon.

Then we walked to the Notre-Dame de la Chapelle. I don’t have any pictures from there, but they had this wonderful exhibit/find and seek activity for kids. It was just a brochure I grabbed at the front, Bruegel, The Great Escape. Ten characters from the famous Flemish painter, Pieter Bruegel the Elder escaped from his paintings and were scattered around the chapel. They had a sheet of the characters to be located. Then a copy of the painting they escaped from an a description of the artwork. It was such a fun way to explore the church, looking for details. Also, a wonderful way to learn more about Bruegels paintings and to explain to the kids, the characters and why they look like they do. It’s always wonderful when we come across gems like this unexpectedly.

From here we walked to the world famous, Peeing Boy statue. πŸ™‚ Ty scoffed at me for wanting to see it, but to me it’s like the Mona Lisa. It will be smaller and less impressive than expected, but you still have to go see it. Funny, how these random things become famous!

This was also the first time we hit the tourist district! So many people here. The statue is also surrounded by waffle shops, and tourist trinkets. Therefore we had to partake in both!! These waffles are incredible, taste and cost! But we went all out with fruit, sauce, and fresh cream.

I’ve been talking about finding a new scarf this trip. So my kids decided they needed these scarves. They’re hilarious but so soft. But hey when in Europe why not! L seems to think his is like a stuffed animal, he kept mentioning how he was going to sleep with his. Which he did!

R has been posing in photos since she was little. It continues to crack me up! Meanwhile L’s ‘smile’ face, totally scrunches up his eyes. I LOVE them!

The kids of course got hot, when we did a playground stop, so look who ended up with the scarves. πŸ˜‰

After binging on super sugary waffles, it make perfect sense to go to the local Chocolate Museum. Why not?! The displays were a bit lacking, and could use some maintenance. However, the demonstration on how they create their famous pralines, was very entertaining, and delicious!

We walked around the Grand Place a bit, while making our way home.

Making several playground stops along the way of course. Big cities have them so often, you just never know when you’ll discover them. Our kiddos even got to play with a few locals. R felt stuck on the teeter-toter because she didn’t know how to tell them to stop. πŸ™‚

We had walked about 8 miles by this point, it was a long day so we were all moving a bit slow. Ready to be home.

The apartment however, smelled like grey water, and was freezing. We snuggled under blankets, while Ty messaged the host. I think he figured out the grey water smell, but the heat still hasn’t kicked on. We at least found a space heater for the kids room.

Some warm baths/shower then we struggled to get out of the house for dinner. We had been in the restaurant for about 2 minutes before L’s eyes started to close. I took him back to the apartment while R and Ty went in search of a quicker dinner. Burgers and fries again, but it tasted good. We were all happily snug in bed by 9pm. Let’s blame it on jet lag, the extensive walking, and the lack of good sleep for the past week.

Frankfurt, Germany to Brussels, Belgium: Travel Day

We’re off to Brussels! We woke up at 6am so we had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast and packing, while trying to keep our kids voices quiet in the hotel, this morning. We’re all looking forward to having an apartment in Brussels so we can have more room, and not be so noise conscious.

The train was comfortable and had wifi. It did rock quite a bit so we didn’t want anyone reading or watching any shows. I typically have no issues with motion sickness but even that train had me feeling a bit uneasy. So after some card games, and lots of hot wheels playing, the kids settled down to listen to a Laura Ingles audiobook.

We arrived in Brussels around noon, and immediately loved the city. It’s very large, but unlike Frankfurt, there is lots to see, and it’s a beautiful city.

We ate some, not as good as American, bagels sandwiches for lunch. The bagels, were more like bread in texture. However, Belgiums win for toppings, Ty had chicken, with Brie, and apples. I had prosciutto, with lettuce, hard parmesan, and soft sun-dried tomato’s, drizzled in balsamic! 🀀

We walked on to our Airbnb rental, where with minimal confusion on how to meet the host, we were let into our apartment. (I swear Airbnb, no matter how wonderful it is to stay in a house vs. a hotel, the initial meet up to get into the rental is never flawless.)

The temperature in Brussels is around mid-30s so we added on the extra layers and headed out to find the Senckenberg Museum, their natural history museum. I hate to say it, but we’re becoming museum snobs. We love a good natural history museum. There’s something for everyone in our family to enjoy. However, this one fell a bit short. The exhibits were a bit sparse, oddly arranged, so the visitors had to clump up, and frankly, the museum smelled. It was an odd mixture of glue/body odor/dust. However, on the bright side, spending a few hours learning and being warm inside a museum, is never a bad thing. We always walk away having learned something new.

We closed the museum down at 6:30 and walked back towards our apartment. There’s this beautiful little square just down the street from us, so we stopped there for dinner and groceries. It was supposed to be this amazing burger place, again we’re spoiled American’s, we know good burgers! These were decent.

Seems like I’ve been complaining a bit on this post, but we’re still having a great trip. I think it’s just worthwhile to point out that every moment of this trip isn’t all sunshine and roses, but thankfully it’s all super minor.