Brussels

Whatever Kyle and Sofia had definitely caught up with me. Leo got sick before me, but luckily he got over it in less than 12 hours. I’m not as sick as I was in Bruges, but I’m still pretty sore and exhausted. Even so, we still got to see some of the Brussels Christmas Market. It’s huge!

The market has at least 1 Ferris wheel and two carousels that we saw. I think there is one more Ferris wheel somewhere. The carousels are really unique and awesome. We saw some of the light show at Grand Place. The first night we ventured a little too far from the hotel and the kids got upset because they were so cold. They’re definitely not a fan of the cold weather. Neither am I.

Today is our last day of vacation. Normally I feel sad at the thought of returning home. I love living in Portugal though, and I’m excited to get back. This is our first time leaving our cat, so I’m ready to get back and see him and our dog. It also doesn’t hurt that we have a trip planned to Disneyland Paris is less than 2 months. I think that will be easier. Trying to do this trip without a stroller for Leo was too ambitious. And I’m definitely ready for above freezing temperatures.

Today we’re planning on staying close to the hotel. Luckily that’s easy because our hotel is in the center of everything. We just went out for less than an hour and now we’re back at the room to rest and thaw out. I’m sure we’ll venture out at least one or two more times. We have been seeing horse drawn carriage rides that we would love to take if we can figure out where they are.

The go to language in Bruges seemed to be Dutch. The go to language in Brussels is definitely French. Everywhere I go people greet me with “Bonjour.” I should have looked up a few phrases in French before we came here! I wish I could learn French too, but I really need to become more proficient with Portuguese first.

We took the train from Brussels to Bruges, and then from Bruges back to Brussels. We’ll take the train again tomorrow when we head to the airport. The trains in Belgium are extremely easy to use. They’re comfortable, really easy to navigate, and seem to be on time. That’s good because we will have a long travel day tomorrow. I’m excited to come back to Belgium again. There is so much that we still want to see. But next time we will definitely try for Spring or Summer 😂

Bruges

Our flight out of Lisbon ended up being delayed for 1.5 hours. So far any time we try to leave Portugal is not very good, lol. We missed our original train from Brussels to Bruges, but luckily they come every hour so we were able to make the next one. We were tired but wanted to see the city so we ran out for a few minutes.

It was 28 degrees and I haven’t been in below freezing temps in over a decade. The kids have never been in weather this cold. Turns out Bruges is not like Portugal. Things mostly close here once the sun goes down. Probably because it’s so cold. 🥶 We got a chocolate covered waffle on a stick for the kids and then headed back to our apartment.

The next morning Kyle was feeling pretty sick, and the kids didn’t want to go back out in the cold, so I went out for a bit by myself. Bruges is a very cute town. I see why people like it. The architecture is beautiful. I booked 4 nights here and that was way too much. We could have done a single night, or even just a day trip from Brussels. I guess it worked out though because our second night here Kyle got worse and Sofia got sick too. They were up all night throwing up. The next day they felt better but were exhausted. That brings us to today. The minute Leo woke up he threw up, and my stomach is feeling pretty bad too. Looks like today is our day. Hopefully it will pass by tonight because tomorrow we are back on the train to Brussels.

The only things I cared about doing in Bruges were The Christmas Market, having hot chocolate at The Old Chocolate House, trying waffles, and trying French fries. I’m not sure about the Christmas Market this year. It’s definitely not bad, but nothing like the videos and pictures I have seen of past years. It was nothing special. We didn’t get to try the hot chocolate or fries. Our first morning here we had some waffles at House of Waffles. I got a waffle BLT with egg and it was delicious. It was kind of pricey, but I’m glad we got to try it.

I’m still trying to figure out the language situation. Obviously the official language is Dutch, but I’ve had a couple of languages spoken to me. I opened the door open for someone and they said “merci.” Another time was “danka.” When someone had to reach in front of me they said “excuse me.” How does anyone know what language to speak to other people? I’m not sure what language to even use to ask if someone speaks English. When I go into stores about half the time they just start out speaking to me in English. The other half of the time they say “hallo” and I try to say it back but I must butcher it because they immediately switch to English.

Unfortunately Bruges has been kind of a wash. We were all pretty sick at some point. Kyle and I each got a few hours to explore on our own. It’s a very charming and beautiful town. A lot of the food here reminds me of comfort food in the US. I could definitely see coming back to Bruges, but I would rather stay in Brussels and take a day trips to some of the places around. When Kyle was sick but Sofia wasn’t I had planned on taking a day trip with her to Ghent, so maybe we will do that one day.

I think we will have to come back in a few years. We missed out on a lot from being sick and this is our first trip without strollers. It’s nice not to have to lug them around, but also makes us really limited in what we can do. The kids are not fans of waking around in the cold, which is understandable. Tomorrow we are on to Brussels. We only have two days there so we will have to make the most of them!

PortAventura Spain

Today is Sofia’s 4th birthday and we finally made it to Spain! We flew into Barcelona a few days ago and have been staying in Salou to have easy access to PortAventura. Getting here was a bit of a pain. Our flight was delayed by over an hour and then our train was cancelled and we ended up stuck in the Barcelona train station for over 4 hours. Turns out there was a strike just on that particular line. The train station was really hot and pretty miserable, but we made it.

We went to PortAventura on Saturday and today, and yesterday we hung around Salou and went to the beach. I’m glad we came, but I wouldn’t repeat this trip. Salou is okay, but there is nothing special or unique about it. It feels super touristy and I hear more English than Spanish. It doesn’t feel European, it actually kind of reminds me of some of the touristy cruise ship ports that all look the same. It’s also really loud here and people stay up until 6 partying, talking, and laughing in the streets. I feel so old saying that it’s too loud, but it’s definitely too loud here, lol. At least for sleeping.

It has been really nice hearing Spanish again because I understand it. And when we ran into some issues in Barcelona I knew exactly how to say what I wanted to say. I have understood a lot more than I expected to. I can’t wait to get to that level with Portuguese. I have been taking Portuguese lessons two times a week and definitely want to keep it up.

We already knew Portugal was home, but this trip has really cemented it for us. I know comparing 11 months in Portugal to 6 days in Spain is pretty unfair though. We will have to go to Valencia to get a better idea. Valencia is where we planned to move when Spain was at the top of our list.

We were only in Barcelona to spend the night and then for a few hours in the morning. We went to the Lego store to get a few toys. I will definitely be back in Barcelona one day when the kids are older. For now it’s just a bit too much. I remember writing before that big cities tend to overwhelm me. I love them, but there is a lot going on. That’s definitely true of Barcelona, even more with toddlers. It’s just too stressful being in a huge city that I don’t know, not knowing if the kids are going to run off or step into a busy street.

Salou was a great city to visit right now, even if we didn’t love it. It’s flat and easy to navigate with wide sidewalks. Since the sidewalks aren’t cobblestone it’s a lot easier to push a stroller here. There is a pedestrian only area that leads right to the beach.

PortAventura was a lot of fun. They have Sesame Adventures and the kids spent most of their time at the huge playground there. We’re really going to miss that playground. Today wasn’t busy, so Kyle and I even got to go on some rides. Tomorrow we’re taking a train back to Barcelona for an early morning flight the day after. Fingers crossed it all goes well. Next up is Belgium in December to see the Christmas markets. Until then we are going to really enjoy being home in Portugal.