Last weekend we had a fantastic time in Brussels supporting my husband who was running the Brussels marathon. With my parents, toddler and ‘resident athlete’ in tow as we headed to the Eurostar, we were destined for a lovely weekend of chocolates, frites and iconic cityscapes.
Of course we had a hiccup going through security at St Pancras Station. As my mum’s handbag was picked apart for concealing a mini iPad, my toddler’s pram somehow tested positive for explosives (ironically I felt a bit relieved to learn that was the problem, for a moment I thought I stood accused of making my child a drug mule for a trip to the Continent.)
But once on the train, with toddler happily running up and down the “family” carriage on Eurostar and occasionally stopping to lick the carpet, we all relaxed. Unfortunately some passengers seemed shocked and dismayed to find themselves in the family car, but so it goes. The bonus was that the baby changing cubicle was close by and relatively clean.
Although I had ambitions to check out the Brussels metro and tram system for child-friendliness, we had loads of kit and many people so a rental car with baby car seat seemed the best option. When I got behind the wheel my toddler called from the backseat, “oh no, mummy drive!” which I assumed meant that he would prefer that I was in the back seat with him, as opposed to any comment on my driving prowess. (I am a really terrible driver actually – did he remember this from previous occasions?)
When we were finally awaiting daddy near the finish line of the marathon in the scenic Grand Place, toddler clapping hands to cheer the runners on, the journey was completely worthwhile. Until my husband came into view, literally collapsed on us and said “I’m totally f**ked,” before finishing the last hundred yards. Umm, I’ve never run 42 kilometres but really, in front of the baby and my mum? I forgave him and luckily our toddler has yet to run around yelling the F word. Watch this space.
Thank you to our many lovely friends in Brussels who welcomed us, from Marcus serenading our toddler with Nirvana on his guitar to Auntie Jacqueline and Auntie Vanessa giving him cuddles. It was such a nice break, even if I did put on two kilos from binging on frites, mayonnaise and red wine.
A final word of warning to families considering a trip to central Brussels, taking a pram over cobblestones is a complete misadventure, best avoided.
Written by Jen Corlew