Delayed Christmas and New Year

Since we were away on the actual holidays, we had small celebrations once we were home.

We opened Christmas gifts on Friday night after we got back, which was only fitting since it was the Epiphany.  We did stockings first, per usual, and then the gifts that we couldn’t fit into our luggage. 

One of my gifts was a Google Home so we’ll see how it stacks up with the Amazon Echo (I have a regular Echo and 2 Dots).

Then the following day we were supposed to recreate our traditional New Year’s Eve dinner with our good friends from Richmond and with our former nanny, Zeny. Unfortunately an ice storm south of us derailed our friends’ travel plans and they couldn’t drive up.

We had all the steaks and other accompaniments, including the turkey that was already brined and ready to fry, so we went ahead with everything except the lobster (which we hadn’t bought yet).  We missed our friends but it was still a nice dinner. This is the first time we’ve missed this dinner in 20 years.  Even when we went to Asia for the holidays we made.sure to get back in time, landing late afternoon on New Year’s Eve but still managing to pull it off with the help of our friends.

Posted in Christmas | Leave a comment

Farewell, Europe

We were up bright and early (perhaps not so bright) on New Year’s Day to catch our flight back home.  No time for breakfast as we all preferred to get more sleep.  We also knew that we could eat in the airline lounge and that we would be well fed in first class.

A short walk across the street and down a few flights of stairs and we were on our train on the way to the airport.  Ben was quite excited to see that it was a double decker train, which he had seen on our last train ride.  Ted put a damper on Ben’s plans to ride on the top, however, declaring that it was too much of a hassle to climb the stairs with luggage.  So we dutifully trooped to the lower level when we boarded.  Except for Ted!  Off he went to the upper level, leaving us behind.

Once we got settled in our seats I turned to the kids and said, “You know, Dad doesn’t have a ticket because I have all of them.”  And then as if on cue, the doors flung open and the quiet of the train car was broken by Ted crying out in a sing-song voice, “I need my ticket, Kaaaaate!”  I’m not sure why he singled Kate out since she couldn’t help him, but I quickly jumped out of my seat and gave Ted his ticket.

Twenty minutes later we arrived at Brussels airport.  Airport screening was very strict for obvious reasons, and you need to go through security almost immediately after getting off the train.  Thankfully, because it was an early flight on New Year’s day, the line wasn’t too long and we were soon at the United ticket counter checking in.  Ted always insists on getting paper boarding passes because he thinks it’s safer but for some reason the barcodes on ours were printed out incorrectly and we couldn’t go through any security gates.  I opened the United app and tried to use that, but that wouldn’t work either, so we got in the line that was actually manned by a person.

Once we were through that second checkpoint, we had to walk through all the duty-free shops to get to the gate area.  As we walked in, something in Kate’s bag set off the alarm so she had to get her bag hand-checked.  They couldn’t find what set it off so the nice woman waved us through and just told us that if our bag set off the alarm at the exit, to explain that we had been checked on the way in.  And of course, we set off the alarm on the way out.  Ted, with his always sound advice, said that we should just keep walking (which is what you would expect a guilty party to do).  The rest of us disagreed with Ted and stopped to explain what happened when we entered.  They accepted the explanation readily, and didn’t even check Kate’s bag.

We didn’t have as much time to kill as we anticipated with all the little snags we encountered along the way, but we still had about 30 minutes in the Brussels Airline lounge.  Too early for beer or wine though!

After a bit, we went down to our gate where we encountered yet another security line for boarding.  There was a separate line for Global Services and First Class passengers, however, so we were able to use that and bypass the security line altogether.  They almost didn’t let Ben through though, not realizing that he was with us.  We straightened that out quickly, and then tried to use our defective boarding passes again, which again didn’t work.  I gave the app another try and again it failed but this time I realized that it was because I was trying to scan the boarding pass for our flight from Newark to Dulles, rather than the Brussels-Newark flight.  Classic move by me!  Pulling up the correct boarding pass worked perfectly (imagine that)!

Finally on board, we settled in for a long flight to the U.S.  Ben enjoyed the slippers once again, as well as the food and his first taste of port as part of the cheese platter served after dinner.   Shortly after dinner, we all turned our seats into beds and went to sleep, waking shortly before we landed.  Ted had asked for one of the clima-cool pillows to give it a try and liked it so much he walked off with it (shhh!).  Good thing he didn’t try one of the mattress pads or he might have tried to walk off with that too.

Entry into the U.S. was a breeze since all four of us have Global Entry so we just have to scan our passports and fingerprints at a kiosk for immigration and get to skip customs altogether.  The regular United lounge was right next to our next gate so we decided to use that lounge instead of the International First Class one.  It was very crowded so we grabbed seats in the big TV room and watched football to pass the time (and eat, of course).

Soon it was time to board for the short flight from Newark to Dulles, where we had our regular car service waiting to take us home.

It was a wonderful family trip with great memories.  It is harder every year to get all four of us together on a trip like this, given the varying schedules and interests as the kids get older, so I’m glad we were able to pull this one off.   It was also a last hurrah to United’s Global Services, as Ted did not travel enough to be renewed next year.  We were all spoiled by this level of service and all the perks it came with so although he and I (courtesy of Ted’s million miler status) will be 1K next year, it won’t quite be the same.  It was good to be able to treat the kids one last time.

Posted in Brussels | Leave a comment

New Year’s Eve

We rested up at the hotel for a bit, then headed down to the executive lounge for drinks and appetizers.  

We then headed out to Grand Place again to watch Ted’s favorite light show, after which we looked for a place for dinner. 

We ended up eating at a restaurant inside one of the guild houses, and we were seated on the uppermost level with a great view of the square. Unfortunately for Ted, who was anticipating being able to watch the light show over and over again, the one we saw earlier in the evening was the last one of the night.

This guy almost smacked Kate as he leaned back, so she decided to copy his pose.

After a leisurely meal, we again strolled through the Christmas market and then back to the hotel to get warm. Around 10:30 we went back out to join the crowds at Place de Brouckere for the fireworks.  It was crowded but festive, as we danced along to the DJ spinning tunes who was shown on video screens.

We were all bundled up but the crowds and the dancing kept us warm!

At the stroke of midnight, there were fireworks, and some of the crowd around us started popping champagne. We joked that we would all smell of booze when we boarded the plane the next day.

After all the fun, we went back to the hotel and finally got to bed around 2 a.m

Posted in Brussels | Leave a comment