"Ring the Bell, Jim. I Ghent these are going to be bad, But you must undOostend we always have a theme for our trip blog entries, regardless of how Brugestal they are."
And so we are off on our trip starting with Belgium. We were a little more nervous going on adventure #2 with babes since she became mobile much sooner than expected and could no longer just sleep whenever and however. That said, she was such a champ on the flight! Considering we had a schedule all sorted out and high hopes that the flight would be super smooth only to be met with multiple delays, we were pleasantly surprised that she took to the airplane bassinet (after 3 tries of falling asleep feeding and trying to move her as gently as possible) and slept on her own. There were a few times she woke briefly and was all WTF but it maybe lasted a minute before she rolled over and fell asleep on her own.
We had a few people ask us for tips on flying with a baby, so here is what we took away:
- we grabbed an umbrella stroller, but honestly, if we were to do it again, we'd probably get our good one to click and connect the bucket seat. It was too much trying to carry both, even though we packed really light and only had one bag each. Once we're out of a bucket seat, it will be an entirely different story. But for now, the stroller is even coming useful in carrying our stuff even if baby wants to be held. Which she does, because she has tooth #4 coming in.
- 100% recommend a stroller travel bag. We were able to fit the umbrella stroller and the carseat (and extra diapers) into this bag which you can check for free. You can already see marks and rips in the bag from our connecting flight when we grabbed it at the gate in Montreal. I can't imagine what would've happened to the seat and stroller if there was no bag.
- no meds for sleep required, but let baby tire themselves out as much as possible, whether it's crawling/running around in an unoccupied corner at the airport, or distracting and playing with them. Ours took to a little boy playing ball and wouldn't take her eyes off him the ENTIRE time. She wriggled and twisted and turned to get over my shoulders nonstop to get to him. So. Friggin. Cute. They even made eye contact numerous times and he would get all shy and run to his parents.
- snacks, have all the snacks. Seriously... ALL the snacks. And a bottle of water (you can bring in water and food for the baby, and it can be over the 100ml cap)
- a few toys/books for distraction
- cuddle. Ours hasn't cuddled much since we trained her to sleep since she just wants to be left alone and do her thing. She doesn't need to be held or rocked, so this was pretty special for me.
- black out shade: the bassinet comes with a little mesh cover with straps, but it lets all the light in. We had just purchased a sun block shade the week before our departure, and this thing was miraculous over the bassinet, keeping all the lights from the food service and all that at bay.
- that said, she was still disturbed by everything at 7am local time on the plane when the whole plane came alive for the morning, so we didn't bother fighting it, and just let her out where she continued to coo until we landed.
- to adjust for jetlag: don't let them sleep too much during the day. Technically, even a 15 min cat nap helps release whatever pent up fatigue they have so just try timing your naps as close as possible to normal, and make sure to wake them after 2 hours max. Ours woke a couple of times in the middle of the night at what would've been her norm, but she rolled over pretty quickly and just went to sleep - even considering we had to go in and change her because she had her "morning" doodoo around midnight. It was a very low key change, no distractions and no play time. Fed her thoroughly and she went back to bed pretty quickly! We did sleep in the next morning and let her go until 9:30 local time even though she generally wakes at 6 because we're selfish and both of us were probably more jetlagged than she was, it seemed. For once. We're usually pretty good in avoiding jetlag so not sure what happened here.
Anyway, after a long line at customs where baby slept on my shoulder for a good 1.5 hours, we got our car (actually, they didn't have our car, so they upgraded us to a hybrid, sweet!), and we were off!
Our first stop was Ghent to break the drive up to our destination and to grab some lunch. What. a. Beautiful. City. We fell in love so much that we decided a few hours weren't enough and are planning on coming back later in the week.
We grabbed whatever parking we could find without wasting time, and stepped into a medieval wonderland. From the cobbled stoned streets to the incredible architecture, every building was unique in its own way and surrounded by canals and art. The canal had flowers all along, and there were people set up throughout - one had a whole booth with a piano painted and played live music.
You do need to keep an eye over your shoulder since there are more bikes than cars and they come in from absolutely everywhere, but overall the tone of the city was laidback and just so so nice.
On a scale of 1 to 5 Beyonces: Ghent gets a whooping 5.
We migrated back to the car since we were crashing and still had an hour drive. We wanted to check in at a decent hour - which took extra long since apparently our Airbnb host never got the message so didn't meet us. They got a nice welcome of us sleeping in the car in their driveway.
We had a late start, and had a few route options as to what we wanted to do in the next few days. We decided to take today easy and just relax and not rush anywhere. We got up around 9:30-10 and I dealt with Babes while Justin ran down the street to a bakery for some breakfast. He came back with a box of pastries and we enjoyed them outside to the sound of our next door neighbours mooing and whatever sound Alpacas make. Full on harmonizing.
We left around 11:30 and went to Oostend, a coastal town that came highly recommended. It was cute, bigger than we expected, and it was practically a giant boardwalk by the beach with a gazillion restaurants and stores to choose from.
We wandered around, checked out the dock, grabbed a beer, wandered some more and decided there wasn't much to do here. This is where we realized neither of us are beach people. We always get super excited by the idea of a beach, but always get super board within half an hour - we've come to the conclusion we're both too ADD and busy bodies to just sit and do nothing. Unless food or beer is involved. This happened in Portugal where we booked 4 days by the beach and spent an hour at most, this happened in California, Australia, literally anywhere we've been with a beach, we move on. Even going to the Caribean, we fill our time with excursions versus just hanging out by the water. So this is what we learned about ourselves today, so with that, we moved on. (to be fair, we didn't bring bathing suits because we assumed the coast would be cold. It was not).
Oostend receives 3 Beyonces from both of us, however Justin would throw an extra Beyonce in if we had made it to the sand castle festival which we decided to abort in exchange for heading out to Bruges.
Bruges, however, also receives 5 Beyonces. We were told it's similar to Ghent, and it was. It wasn't the combination of canals through the old town with the fairy tale churches, but it was a similar old-looking city fully surrounded by a 7km canal that you can walk through the luscious trees and floating swans. The old town itself has stunning architecture and was buzzing with people, restaurants, shops, and music everywhere.
Cars are pretty frowned upon within the core so people just meander all through the trees, not that you'd be able to tell what's drivable and what's not with all the cobblestone. We grabbed some dinner after walked around for hours and headed home to put Chubz to sleep. We ran late (9pm or so) but she was a champ and the quick naps throughout the day kept her going and in good spirits (granted, so did food). Although both Ghent and Bruges received 5 Beyonces, we decided we'll hit up Ghent again on the way to Antwerp on Friday. Although we walked a bunch of it, we felt there was so much more to see and experience, especially since we were both so out of it (justin almost pulled over on the way to the Airbnb. It was the first time he felt he was going to fall asleep at the wheel!).
All in all, both days were good and it wasn't until today that it hit both of us that damn, we're on the go again! It feels great and we are stoked for what's to come :)