Sunday, April 26, 2009

La Hulpe

Last Monday the weather was picture perfect and I was so happy we had planned another Brussels outdoor adventure! This time we were off to La Hulpe - a park and chateau only 20 minutes away. The La Hulpe Chateau, owned by the Solvay company/family, was built in 1842 and overlooks nearly 550 acres of woods and ponds on the edge of the Soignes forest. The parks are open to the public everyday for FREE. It was rumored as a beautiful place for "walking and relaxation," and not to be missed. Although I am not sure how much "relaxation" is possible for the moms of two busy toddlers, we were so glad we didn't miss it on this beautiful Spring day!!! There were massive trees of rhododendrons and azaleas surrounding the castle, which is not generally open to the public. That was no problem though - the grounds were wonderful enough on their own. This is one of my favorite shots: we saw this older man entering the park with his canvas in hand all ready to paint a masterpiece. Quintessential Europe!
I wish I could say that the children were as well-behaved as the glorious day beckoned them to be. Unfortunately at the start of our visit they were both a little cranky and whiny. If they were out in the grass, they wanted to be in their strollers; if they were in their strollers, they wanted to be out and running around. Some days you just can't win in the toddler negotiation no matter how hard you try. After a little while they settled in and really enjoyed the grounds, but for a while there we thought we were going to have to leave prematurely! Although, truth be told...I know why Connor was in a funk. And it was totally my fault. With the start of Spring I was pumped to pull out the sweet white shoes I have been waiting all winter to put on Connor. Dresses and girls clothes just go better with bright, shiny white shoes. Well Connor has been wearing these white shoes, kids size 7.5, for a couple of weeks now. They are already snug width-wise and I knew they were a little long (gotta love the way kids feet grow). But it wasn't until Connor fell hard on the gravel and in the grass for the fifth time in five minutes at La Hulpe that I realized it was the shoes and not Connor's balance that were the problem! Oops. You think I would have put one and one together a lot sooner. I went up and pinched the end of the shoes and there must have been over an inch of space. She was tripping over those long shoes! So lesson learned - you can't will the shoes to fit, and my daughter needs size "wide" shoes!
Since it was the very beginning of our walk when I discovered the shoe fiasco, and I didn't have any extra shoes on me, I just decided that since the park was acres and acres of soft grass as far as the eye could see that I would just let Connor run around in her socked feet. Poor little thing, she got soaked through and through - socks, tights, dress and all - in the dewy, wet grass...but once she got going she didn't seem to mind one bit. This photo (below) had Karen and me on the ground in stitches! Brady and Connor were nicely sharing the bowl of coveted American Cheerios. I think a few too many hands must have reached in at once because before we knew it the O's were on the ground. And without missing a beat both kids were eating them right off the ground! We were laughing too hard at their reaction speed and Cheerios focus to intervene right away.Solvay's Chateau de la Hulpe was for sure one of my favorite spots of all in Brussels. Even though we had a lot of obstacles to our visit (cranky kids, big shoes, Cheerios on the ground, AND flattened stroller tires). Nothing could have spoiled that clean, clear, fresh day. My favorite memory will be of Brady and Connor chasing between Karen and me as we lifted each approaching child into the air and tickled them until they shrieked in a field of green. On days like this I remember this truly amazing gift of spontaneous, unscheduled daytime with Connor. It was a perfect spot for a Monday morning since we practically had the entire place to ourselves. I definitely will go back to La Hulpe one day soon!

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