Lebanon Reporter

August 22, 2012

Brussels is kid-friendly, who knew?

By Ginger Truitt
Reporter columnist

— I recently had the opportunity to accompany hubby on his trip to Brussels, Belgium. Brussels is a beautiful, old city with a rich history. But most importantly, in spite of its association with Brussels sprouts, it is one of the most child-friendly cities I have ever visited!

The mainstay foods are French fries and waffles. Granted, the condiment accompanying the French fries is mayonnaise, but they make up for it by topping the waffles with chocolate syrup. There are chocolate shops located approximately every three feet, and they make the most divine candies you can imagine! And if chocolate is not what you desire (then you might be crazy), the “biscuiteries” or cookie shops, have piles, I mean piles of cookies. Truly, it is a child’s dream come true. Actually, it’s a 42-year- old woman’s dream come true.

Children run through the streets. Even the most well-behaved children are climbing fountains, riding bicycles, and dancing to the melody of the street musicians. Kids seem to be welcome in every restaurant, many of which offer junior portions of food.

The playgrounds in the city parks are surrounded by wrought iron fences, and parents can visit without worrying that their little ones will escape into unsafe territory. A clown paints faces, and a nearby gazebo makes a great place to practice fancy ballerina moves. 

We took a side trip to the nearby medieval city of Bruges. I honestly thought we would never get there, as we missed the train by one minute. The next train was scheduled an hour later, but 45 minutes into the wait hubby realized he’d left something important at the apartment.

While he went back, the kids and I strolled the streets. We stopped at yet another chocolate shop, discovered a new cookie joint, and viewed the Flower Carpet one more time.

When we finally arrived in Bruges, several hours later than anticipated, hubby said, “Let’s go see why everyone is gathered near the street.”

We could hear drums beating in the distance. Our anticipation swelled as we waited with thousands of others to see what would come around the corner. To our surprise, it was a knight in shining armor accompanied by a medieval marching band! I’m pretty sure the handsome knight hoped to swoop me up on his horse and carry me into the sunset, but once he caught sight of hubby he was totally intimidated. Or perhaps it was the fact that he’d have to swoop up two kids as well.

We watched as fair maidens danced down the street, crusaders galloped with banners held high, and the gruesome, bloody head of a giant dangled from the shoulders of six men. Villagers with fiery torches shouted, and a Viking ship rowed by fierce men in horned helmets rowed merrily down the street. The crowd cheered and sang along as yet another fully-costumed medieval band played the Flanders National Anthem.

After an hour, we told the kids we were going to dinner since we had not eaten anything except chocolate and cookies for the entire day. Five-year-old daughter thought hard and then came up with a solution, “Could you just bring me a hot dog? This isn’t really a parade, it’s a story!”

We watched for another 40 minutes, and finally pulled her away. The parade wound through the cobblestone streets, and as luck would have it, we met up with the beginning of it again. The handsome knight gave me a longing glance, but I shook my head so that he understood that I’m completely in love with my own knight from Boone County.

While eating dinner, we were able to view the remainder of the parade, which must have lasted nearly three hours. Then we went back to Brussels and checked into a different hotel because the apartment is not air-conditioned, and open windows invite a large number of mosquitos to feast on you during the night.

At check in, the clerk asked if I’d like to see the children’s play center. It’s a lovely area with building blocks, books and an Xbox game system, and it’s located in the bar so that kids can play while mom and dad have a drink. Brussels is not only child-friendly, it’s parent-friendly, too.

Truitt is an author, speaker and mother of five. Email her at ginger@gingertruitt.com.