Before I start this post I should warn you, this contains a graphic description of a potty training incident. Consider yourself warned…
There are so many great places within driving distance to visit and explore that we just haven’t taken advantage of yet. So this weekend we decided to head to Bruges, Belgium for the night. Each time we go on a new outing whether it’s a day trip or vacation we learn something new. So this time we decided to try the ferry from Dover to Dunkerque then drive up to Bruges. As we planned our night away we really tried to minimize cost, the more affordable these small trips are the more we can do. So to be prepared we packed a cooler with snacks, drinks, sandwich ingredients and a few treats. With the three kids it seems that someone is always hungry for something and the better prepared we are the better everyone’s moods are. I even baked muffins Friday night so we could have breakfast on the road.
We got up early Saturday morning, threw the kids in the car and were on the road by 6:30. Now Kellen is getting so big, he is officially potty trained now, he does need to be prompted and reminded but he only wears a pull up while sleeping. Knowing that we had a 2 hour car ride ahead of us and that he would probably fall asleep we were fully intending on him wearing his pull up for the car ride. Well as usual Kellen had a different plan. He was determined to wear his big boy underwear so with much nervousness I put a pad under the cover of his car seat and loaded him in. We were off, the drive to the ferry terminal in Dover is about 2 hours and we made it right on time. The drive was happily uneventful, the kids fell asleep, we didn’t hit any major backups and sun was coming out, can’t ask for much more. This was our first time in Dover, as you head into the town you can see the white cliffs of Dover so that was fun to see next to the beautiful water. These ferries are about double the size of the ferries we are used to in the North West, the route itself is about 2 hours long and they load them full of people cars and a lot of semi-trucks. Our first learning was to find out you can’t stay with your car or even return to get things out of the trunk during the trip. In a panic to get upstairs we grabbed a few random items and forgot most of our snacks or any entertainment for the kids to make it through a 2 hour trip. Being on a boat did provide its own entertainment, we walked out of the deck where Kellen got blown around for a bit before heading back inside. There was also a kid’s soft play area that was small but perfect for the little ones to run a little bit wild.
Here is where the graphic part comes into play. On Thursday Kellen started running a fever he didn’t have any other symptoms other than being really grumpy. By Friday he seemed better but poor little guy had an upset tummy which resulted in frequent bathroom visits, being newly potty trained we had a few accidents but that is to be expected. By Friday night he seemed to be doing well, nothing to make us cancel our little weekend getaway. So as we boarded the boat he went to the potty then we had some snacks and just in case went to the potty again, all seemed normal no concerns. We then headed to the soft play area. I had Ella playing on my lap while Kellen was in climbing around the play course. Suddenly Kellen pops out and says “I, I, I…” he didn’t seem to know what to say and was kind of upset and pointing down. I look down and see that the poor guy had an accident, not only an accident but diarreah. I grabbed his hand and we ran to where Jamie and Patrick were sitting, I think I threw Ella at him and grabbed my bag. We then hurried to the changing/handicap bathroom, it was closed, so we ended up in a stall in the women’s bathroom. Poor Kellen was upset and kept saying “look there!” By the time we got into the stall his legs were each coated, he was a mess; even his crocs had puddles in them. So here we are a total mess, in a tiny bathroom stall, with only a packet of wipes. I think as a Mom you must just go into auto mode. I proceeded to methodically wipe him down inch by inch. We went through an almost full packet of wipes and his crocs got washed in the sink. Needless to say he wore a pull up for the rest of the weekend. It was one of those moments that are so ridiculous you will always remember them. I’m just thankful that I always carry a full set of backup clothes. By the time his crocs were dry Kellen was over the incident but I still have the occasional flashback.
Finally we arrived in Dunkerque and we were off, it was only about another 45 minutes to Bruges. For some reason unknown to me Jamie chose to enter the coordinates of our rental instead of address. Our 45 minute zip into Bruges turned into a 90 minute tour of Belgium, at one point we drove into a town that was so charming we wanted to stay and explore but we with the kids we just needed to get where we were going. After we turned around we noticed a sign now entering Belgium, hmm… we pulled out the map and it turns out we were so off track we actually drove into the Netherlands. But eventually we found the right place, unloaded, got settled and headed into Bruges. We’re lucky to have 3 good car sleepers so for Jamie and me it was actually a really nice tour of the area. Belgium feels nice, the houses are set back from the street, everything was orderly, and the people are cruising around on bikes everywhere. Jamie even commented, “This is weird, everyone looks so happy.” I have always heard about the number of bikes in Amsterdam and other European countries but this was the first time I’ve really seen how much easier a bike can be. The bike lanes are not right on the street but instead next to the sidewalk, so as a rider you aren’t in fear of getting run over but instead have your own space, traffic signals and you have the right away. Everyone seemed to be on bike; young or old, male or female. The entire area was flat so a quick pedal to the store or into town looked not only practical but fun. There are canals through the city, the buildings are ‘Flemish gothic’ (according to our tour guide Jamie) and the people were so friendly. On Saturday night after dinner outside next to a canal we were looking for the best bus route home, Jamie asked a driver and he said jump in I’ll take you, he literally drove us right up to our rental not even just a bus stop.
On Saturday afternoon we walked through the city making a point to sample the chocolates, fries and waffles as we went. Kellen had fun dashing from chocolate shop window to chocolate shop window to check out all of the crazy shapes and displays. The chocolate was beautiful. One window would have a full scene with chocolate boys surrounded by treats, the next would be rows of truffles, and of course there were plenty of racy chocolate figures available as well we tended to pass by those without comment given our crew. I think we ate more chocolate in 24 hours then we normally do in a month. It seemed you were always walking by a shop no matter where in the city we were and once Kellen got a taste that was all he wanted to eat all weekend. There were also waffle stands that were my favourite. I’ve always been a waffle lover, I’ll take waffles over pancakes any day, but these were different. They were thicker and almost doughy, and then covered in a chocolate sauce and whip cream that was the perfect combination. I bought one to sample and once I had the first bit I didn’t want to share with the kids (for the record I did share). Just in case the last two were too much sweetness there were hot salty fries waiting for you. I think Ella may have liked the fries the best; they are the easiest for her to hold on to. That night we had dinner outside next to a canal and the entrees came with fries as the starch. It was a very nice restaurant and I got a basic roast chicken, salad and fries. My chicken was perfect the salad was nice and fresh after my afternoon of chocolate and waffles but then instead of each of us getting fries on our plate they brought out a big bowl full of fries for the table. The traditional way to eat them is covered in mayo but they served the mayo on the side. I think every fry got eaten and everyone left dinner happy and full.
On Sunday we went back into town. It turns out there was an annual antique fair going on that day, the largest in Belgium we were told. So a large area in the city was lined with tables and people hunting for antiques. We explored courtyards and of course snacked as we went. We took a tour of the city by canal; I think this was the highlight of the weekend for Jamie and me. There were these really cool old homes that backed up onto the canals. The old bridges and the architectural detail you would only see from the canal side of the buildings. After some more exploring we started our journey back home.
Aside from ‘The Incident’ on the boat it was a lovely weekend away. We got to see a new city, the kids had a lot of fun, it was affordable and we ate too much. We learned that while the ferry is much cheaper than the tunnel it does take significantly longer once we factor in loading and unloading time. If you do take the ferry be prepared, you will not have access to your car. There is a long list of destinations that really are within driving distance that we have hardly started to explore.