Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gaasbeek and Hallerbos

On Wednesday we were blessed with yet another sunny day. We packed up and went to Gaasbeek Castle - a gorgeous military outpost built in 1240 to protect the city of Brussels. It is only about 30 minutes from town so it made an easy jaunt.
When we arrived we were immediately taken with the expansive grounds and manicured gardens. Even though the castle is in the middle of nowhere it is lovingly and meticulously cared for. The green grass sparkled and we were pumped to see the castle.
Unfortunately when we got to the cash register to buy the tickets to visit the inside of the castle the woman looked at Brady and Connor wiggling out of their strollers and said, "It really isn't good for children." Huh, ok. We took that sign and instead just played in the surrounding gardens. Since the day was another glorious one, the kids didn't mind and loved running around.
Brady and Connor especially loved the rocks in the gardens. Connor is obsessed with scooping up the rocks and throwing them. I am trying to break her of the habit. If you ask her about rocks, Connor repeats "No throw rocks and no shoes off!" It cracks me up because those are the two things I lecture her about. She loves to pull her shoes and socks off in the stroller and throw them out. It is a miracle we haven't lost one. I have had a handful of times on the street where she has dropped one shoe and a stranger runs it back to me. So I suppose it is good she knows this "No" chant about the rocks and the shoes. But she is funny because she gets a serious look in her eyes and waves her finger as she says it. And then she prompty throws rocks and kicks her shoes off. We still have some work to do on minding!
It was ironic that we weren't allowed in the castle because 10 minutes into playing in the gardens we saw this group of children not much older than Connor and Brady all dressed up like kings and queens and getting the grand tour. We tried not to be bitter and instead just gawked at the cute little children in their royal garb. The weather that day continued to smile on us and it felt magical to play outside without the restriction of coats or added layers. On our way out we saw a cafe near the Gaasbeek Castle exit. We thought we should probably fill our kids' grumbling bellies so in we went. We were surprised to find in the back a huge courtyard full of playground equipment and farm animals. A kid's paradise! Connor and Brady played together on the playground, climbing all over and sliding down every slide in sight. Connor has no fear even of the big kid equipment which makes me a little obsessed in spotting her.
The animals were unique. This bird rested on a nearby picnic table and a billy goat came right up to Connor trying to take her lunch. It definitely scared her, and us! I am not sure farm animals wandering free in a lunch cafe is a perfect combination.
After lunch we decided to walk on the wild side and try to stretch nap time out enough to make a quick visit to the nearby Hallerbos Forest. The "Carpet of Bluebells" only happens for a couple of weeks every April/May and we heard rumor that the flowers were peeking through. We took the kids into the forest and the sounds of songbirds and the smell of wildflowers enveloped us. It brought me back to the days of bird spotting with Apa.
Thousands of bluebells indeed lined the forest floor. The contrast of the purple with the dark tree trunks and the sun-drenched leaves made for quite a view. The kids were tired, but they humored us while we snapped picture upon picture. I am pretty excited about the photos I took, especially the ones of Brady and Karen. At long last we drove two tired toddlers back into Brussels. We weren't sure Brady would make it back to his house before falling asleep so Karen and Brady came to our apartment and Connor napped in her crib while Brady fell asleep in our bed. Karen and I enjoyed the adult time together with the kids asleep. We recounted our wedding stories, anticipated upcoming travels, and looked at photos. A great day any way you slice it! Click here for additional photos from our day at Gaasbeek and Hallerbos (full album)

1 comment:

Dallas said...

Your pictures are gorgeous. I'm glad you found the right area in hallerbos.