Thursday, December 18, 2008

Brussels Bus Tour

What should you NOT do with a 19 month old on a rainy day in Brussels? You should NOT opt to go on a city bus tour for 90 minutes! I know because I tried this – not the smartest move. It has been on my “to do” list since arriving in Belgium to take a bus tour, you know those double decker operations that sometimes have a hop on, hop off option. I thought it would help me understand this city I now call home and to not be so intimidated by the layout. So yesterday seemed like the perfect day to do this since we had nothing else planned. It looked ok outside from our windows (normal Brussels grey skies), but when I got outside with Connor and stroller and gear I realized it was raining and colder than I expected. But given we had our hearts set on doing this – I pressed on undeterred. When we got to the bus the operator said it was 15 Euros – cash only. I had 12 Euros, ugh. But he told me not to worry about it, took the 12 Euros and helped us load on to the bus. It is so strange how few places take credit cards here. And of course the ATMs only give money in 50 Euro denominations – which when you use 50 Euro bills the cashiers grumble to have to make so much change. Oh well.
Connor and I climbed the stairs to the upper level of the bus. My stomach sank when I realized the tour was via headphones versus over a loud speaker. Those headphone sets with the plug in and the channel and volume buttons were “toys” just waiting to be manipulated by Connor. As the tour got started you can just picture this mental image:
- An INCREDIBLY wiggly toddler!!!!
- Headphones with wires to plug in and unplug and buttons to push while Mommy tries to listen
- Me trying to hold Connor while TRYING to reconnect the headphones she had pulled out of the plug while the bus jiggles over cobblestone streets (like threading a needle in a popcorn popper!)
- Juice spilling all over the seat and Connor pulling every item out of the diaper bag
- Not enough snacks to keep Connor busy (what was I thinking??!!)
- Rain and foggy windows making it difficult to see much anyway
- Traffic slowing down the tour
- Only one other passenger with us on the bus – a Chinese man seated right next to us taking endless photos of random statues in the rain?!?! (My apologies to the Chinese tourist – I have become one of “those moms” I thought I never would become!)
I gave up altogether on the headphones after the first 15 minutes of trying to keep Connor safe and secure amidst the wires while listening to the recording on a moving bus. Motherhood won out. I spent the next 90 minutes singing and playing peek-a-boo and praying that the tour would end soon and deliver us safe and sound. When we made it back to our warm, dry, spacious apartment I felt like I had been through an obstacle course – but then I just looked as sweet Connor and all the stress of the past 2 hours went away. We played and ran and laughed together.
Later that night I surprised Kirk with a store-bought Bouche de Noel (famous French holiday cake) for dessert. You know we may be traveling glamorous places and having amazing adventures, but I write this to say – most of our time here is about enduring a lot of new, strange transition all the while learning the new stages of parenthood. It is fun and hard all wrapped together.

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