Saturday, June 04, 2011

Holiday in Europe

This week I accomplished a super-mama feat: I traveled to a different country with a 15-month-old and no one else. Franklin and I (Partner stayed home and worked) took a train to Lille, France, then another train to Kortrijk, Belgium, and then a third train to Oostende, Belgium, where we met up with my father for four days of vacation.

Believe me, it's not easy taking an active toddler and his stroller across three different countries: for one thing, all of the trains had at least two or three steps to climb in order to board. I had to ask for help getting the stroller up each one: "excusez-moi" followed by a lot of pointing and gesturing. It was even worse in Dutch-speaking Belgium: even though Dutch is similar to English, and I can get the gist of the meaning if I listen hard to it, I don't know any words except thank you: "dank u." At least in French I know some basic phrases and words. Every person I approached with "Bonjour. Parlez-vous anglais?" replied with the affirmative. In fact, the only person I didn't say that to and just used my labored French upon, at the ticket office at the Lille rail station, immediately started speaking to me in English anyway--I guess I offended her ears with my appalling accent!

Though I did not know much about Belgium before actually visiting there (the first time 3 years ago, again to meet my father), I think it's a lovely country. Some of my impressions of Oostende, which is on the sea:
  • It's full of old people. It reminded me of Victorian novels when the aged were prescribed "sea air" by doctors to make them live longer. I saw a lot of wheelchairs pushed about.
  • It's full of bicycles. Many ridden by elderly people.
  • It's full of small dogs. As in toy-sized small dogs. I've never seen so many little yappers in one place. I even saw one old couple pushing their diminutive canine in a baby stroller.
The sea was wonderfully warm--if only I'd brought my swimming suit. Franklin loved it when he was fully clothed (and soaking wet; every time I tried to get the camera out, he dashed back into the waves), but thought it the worst thing ever when I took his clothes off; he didn't even want to dip his toes in. He liked walking on the warm dry sand with those tootsies, though.

1 comment:

Gilbrides said...

I am completely impressed you traveled through 3 countries all by yourself with Franklin! I've never even had to fly by myself with children. I have always had help. I am so glad that you were able to meet up with your Dad and spend 4 days together vacation. I LOVE that picture of you and Franklin!!

PS. Every time I have been in another country, everyone has automatically spoken to me in English. :)