We stayed in Leuven this past weekend. The weather was quite nice, so we enjoyed spending quite a bit of time outside. Friday the kids learned there was a bouncy house set up in the courtyard behind the library (our porch overlooks the library) and begged to go play. They bounced there for a while and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
On Saturday, I finally had the opportunity to buy a bike, so now all 4 of us can use them to get around town. Leuven is really bike-friendly, and it is actually easier to get around on a bicycle than it is in a car. In some areas, particularly outside the inner ring of Leuven, the sidewalks are even divided so part of it is for bikes and part is for pedestrians.
The streets inside the city ring are a little too narrow to accommodate this, but it makes my mama-heart feel a little safer to have an extra 8 inches of space between my kids and the cars.
Once we paid for the bike, we brought it home to do a bit of repair work on it. We managed to find the Belgian version of Craigslist for all of our bikes and I’m so glad we didn’t have to buy new ones! The kids wanted to go bounce at the library some more, so we took our bikes and tools over to the library courtyard and the kids played while Todd worked on the bikes and I tried VERY hard not to be a helicopter parent. (Do you ever feel like you’re becoming the worst version of yourself)? I wanted to be sure they didn’t accidentally hurt any of the smaller kids while they were jumping.
Once the bikes were repaired, the men-folk needed haircuts, so we rode the bikes to the barber shop. Isaac LOVES his new, older, look.
After haircuts, we decided to head to the park as it was sunny and beautiful outside. We went to Domaine Kessel-Lo, which is a local national park. The park is huge! We only saw a small portion of it, so we will have to go back again to see what else we can find. As I was looking on Google to be sure I noted the correct park, I saw all sorts of cool things we didn’t know about. There were lots of kids there, but it didn’t feel ridiculously crowded and there was plenty of room to get to do the things the kids wanted to do. The kids climbed on 3 different wooden playscapes all located close enough to one another to make it possible. All of the climbing/play structures we saw were wooden. There was an area where large, downed trees had been stripped of limbs and left for kids to scramble across. There were some really cool swings.
After the park, Todd and I were in need of a bit of refreshment, so we then headed to Vlierbeek Abbey, which happens to have a restaurant area. We were able to score an outside table, so we got a light snack and some drinks.
The abbey had lots of open, green space, which the kids miss living in the city. (It’s not easy to go from a 1/2-acre yard to no yard). We glanced briefly in the church. The walls were very white and it felt a bit between – somewhere between the beautiful old churches and the modern churches. It did have a great pipe organ up on the balcony and stained glass windows, but no exposed rafters. As I said, it felt “between” eras to me.
We also walked through the cemetery adjoining the abbey. There were a lot of really large tombstones, but many of the dates were from the late 1990s, so it wasn’t as old as I expected it to be. I found it interesting that a smallish plot sometimes had up to 6 names on the tombstone. I am curious about how that worked, but there wasn’t really anyone I could ask. The sign near the entrance might have explained, but it’s written in Dutch.
We rode home before dark (the kids don’t have lights on their bikes yet) and set up a game of Settlers of Catan on the porch. It was our first night to get to use the seating area out there and it was perfect!
Sunday morning, Laine wanted to go on a bike ride. Riding through Leuven can be a little intense with the cars, so we decided to follow the bike trail that runs along the canal. We didn’t have to go too far before we rode to Wijgmaal. We stopped there for lunch and found a Formula E (electric cars) race on the television. Isaac was thrilled to learn about a different type of car and statistics about all of the racers. Todd and I were amused that almost none of the racers competing were representing their own countries of origin.
The restaurant/bar also had several new games, so we played a couple rounds of Rummikub. Todd won the first game. The second game was a draw.
We stopped home for a brief respite before running one more trip for errands. We stopped in Todd’s office to print something for this week’s homeschool lessons. Then we popped in to another new-to-us grocery store on the way home. Interestingly, I think it was a Polish shop! I didn’t understand any of the language written on the packaging (not that I can do that in most of the grocery stores) and their offerings were somewhat different than I’ve seen in the other stores. Nothing bad or weird, just different. I bought lunch meat at the counter – I was trying for salami and ended up with something closer to summer sausage. So, if you thought I’d mastered grocery shopping by now, fear not, the adventure continues!