The next morning we slept in a bit and then headed out to move the car before we got a ticket. We found a better place to park near the train station and then started exploring. We passed the train station and spent a long time looking at the yachts and the fishing boats in the harbor. There is also tons of fresh fish being sold for extremely cheap off trucks lining the harbor - we got some to sample for lunch. (OK, Andre, Callie and I tried some, Griffin and Zander wouldn't touch it).
Then we headed over to spend some time at the aquarium. It was very, very small but had an impressive shell collection, seahorses and lots of cool fish. I particularly liked this orangey and black one because, not only did it have blue and shiny eyes, it also seemed to have little vestigal legs. Callie made friends with one other fish - as you can see it is smiling at her.
After lunch we headed back out to hit the beach. I have really been looking foward to some beach time. I figured it would be deserted out there. Boy oh boy, was I wrong. THIS is how the beach looks in Oostende on March 1st. As you can see from the masses behind Andre' - it is simply packed! The sand is wonderful, the softest I have ever felt. I wished it was a bit warmer because I really wanted to lie down for a nap on that sand. Besides the beachcombers, there were also a ton of people walking or riding on these cool bike like things that you can rent along the boardwalk. Well, it is not really a boardwalk like in the US - but I don't know what else to call it- It is really more like a long sidewalk along the beach - but it doesn't have any touristy trap shops etc... There is one casino - but that's it. There were sailboats, kites and giant ships. There was even a car-carrying ferry boat that would take you over to England for the day (sounded fun - but we are planning to hit England on another trip so we skipped that!)
So, supercool Mom that I am, I had come prepared to do a really amazing craft I read about in Family Fun magazine - sand hands. You are supposed to collect shells, make a handprint and line it with the shells and then pour plaster of paris in the molds on the beach - voila - a personalized beach keepsake. I made a special trip to the local arts and crafts store to find plaster of paris (here they just call it plaster) and brought it along. Finding the shells was easy - the North Sea was tossing out tons of beautiful ones right at our feet. Zander and Daddy dug on their castle as Callie and I looked for treasures. Then we made the molds and lined them artistically with our shell choices. At this point, 3 things happened. 1. Griffin peed in his pants, making it so Andre' had to leave to take him home for dry pants 2. Zander decided to bury himself in the former moat of the castle. And 3. I realized it was going to be very difficult to do this project. You see folks, you need to mix the plaster with water to make the goop. Well, that's not really an issue in the summer when you just stroll on over and get a bucketful - but this is winter, and the water is frigid. Andre' (before he dragged a reluctant Griffin away) gave me a tip - dig a hole above the waveline - then move back and, when it fills with water, use it. Sounds great in theory, and probably for agile runner man, easy in practice. I, however, had a bit of difficulty - either my hole was too shallow and it got washed away, or it had too much dirt, or (more than once) I misjudged the wave or was too slow and couldn't get myself out of the way in time. It took me about 10 minutes to get a decent bucket of water for mixing and then (I am not making this up) I realized the bucket had a leak! I had to do it all over again in our other bucket (luckily leak free) and, no, it was no faster - took about anothet 10 minutes. I realize as I re-read this you are probably thinking - so what? 20 minutes? Well, my kids were hoping I would maybe, like, play with them??? But I get on these kicks and I don't want to quit - besides - I worked hard to find and create a gorgeous sand hand! Finally, I managed to mix the plaster and pour it out. I never remember working with this stuff before and man, it is messy! I really could have used another adult or maybe just more talent and grace with not splattering. In the end, I was covered with white splashes and my resultant sand hands were less than perfectly shaped, that is for sure. Also, then I needed to clean up the bucket and stuff - but how? I ended up giving up and simply wading into the water - what's a few frozen toes, right? Well, I stood it long enough to rinse the worst off, but that sand bucket will never mold properly again. I would say in all, it was fun - and definitely worth doing again - when other adults are around for backup and - definitely - in the summer!!!! (Maybe we'll try it on Long Island with Lina and Livi) Special thanks to Andre' who, when we got home, saved my jacket from complete ruin.