Saturday, 29 April 2017

Antwerpen here we come

Saturday 22nd April 2017

As with any new place that we visit there is always a bit of uncertainty about the second day and what exactly we might go and do – in this case we had a different dilemma – before we even left London we had thought about also taking a day to take a short train trip to see another city in the same country – in this case it was Antwerp.

It was about an hour away by train and we found out that there was a special weekend rate for any train travel – just €17.20 for two return tickets for the whole weekend – too good to turn down, so immediately after breakfast we were off to Bruxelles Zuid to head north.

All I knew about Antwerp before we left was that it had held the Olympics in 1920 and was the second largest port in Europe (behind Rotterdam) – with that we were all set to see the sights – but just for safety we visited the information centre in the beautiful Antwerp station when we arrived.

Imagine arriving by train 100 years ago and finding all
of this to greet you... would speak of the wealth of the city...

....and the outside did the inside justice

The young woman behind the counter certainly knew a lot more than I did and pointed out a number of highlights that we might want to cover in the short time that we had.
We have said before that cities/towns truly committed to giving tourists a great experience put their efforts (and money) into the tourist information offices – Antwerp had done that.

We had a number of interesting sights to see and experience.

Bansky had been here but the exhibition had finished

Up front – the “gold” lined ceiling of one of the shopping centres in the city and almost immediately behind it was the outdoor markets.

This photo just does not give the full visual effect but it was impressive

It is simply lovely to wander around markets in a new place – especially a new country (to us) to see, smell and taste the food and to hear the sounds of people and the city.

We certainly did all of that.

Many stalls had samples for tasting – and not just a miniscule piece but plates of each of their wares; so many foods that Diane would easily have bought and consumed over the next week – if in fact we were residents in the city – knowing that we could do it all over again next week – it was wonderful, just like being back home.

The dishes on the top of the display case are the sample dishes - no half
measures here

Kip = Chicken

What would a market be without flowers and being this close to the Netherlands
there were bound to be plenty of tulips

After sorting out lunch – a roast chicken and rolls – we headed further along towards the river (where we had been directed)

The Cathedral was in our path and as we have done many times previously we went in for a look around – just a small charge and being seniors it was discounted – Diane is concerned about her feeling on this – she doesn’t like that nobody challenges her about her age (makes her feel that people believe she qualifies), but at the same time she likes to save the money.

One of the many museums were closed for a while so they moved a lot of their
paintings to the Cathedral - amongst them were quite a few by Rubens

meanwhile down in the crypt...

...couldn't tell if it was still occupied or not

The statue is supporting a gold cross

One of Antwerp’s favourite past inhabitants was none other than one Peter Paul Rubens – we had spotted his old house on our walk to where we now stood.
Paul Peter Rubens, one of the sons
of Antwerp...

...and his house is well preserved

The cathedral now houses some excellent examples of his work as well as many works of other fine artists.
Besides these art works, the cathedral is a fine work of architecture and a fine building in its own right.

This was unusual - a statue in the pavement

The architecture is definitely influenced by the Dutch style

Time for lunch and we found a spot down by the Scheldt River hoping to see some water traffic – sadly there were just a couple passing by.

Further walking and we came across Het Steen Castle which has had an interesting history but today it is a youth educational centre – and it did have a lovely cafĂ© which was just a bit warmer than the 14-15C outside with the chill wind.

Along the way we we heading towards the Museum aan de Stroom which has a lookout on the very upper floor whereby we could see for miles across the very flat area that is Antwerp and surrounds.

We looked directly down into the basin where many boats had found moorings – we spotted a few craft that, in other circumstances would have attracted more than just our passing interest and certainly a lot that we could only dream about. There were a few empty spots where we could have moored up in Ferndale but it was time to move on and start heading for home.

An unlawful entry in progress??

Walking down along less well used streets we found some more lovely old buildings and finally when we decided that a bit of a rest would be worth while we came across a lovely little pub/bar with outdoor seating for a far greater number than could be accommodated inside and we (Diane) made the executive decision that a drink was in order.
Finding a seat by the window (allowing us to look out) we indulged in a couple of Leffe Blonds each and as we had done earlier at the market, we soaked up the atmosphere and the background music and the general feeling of well-being. This was a pub off the beaten track and it was occupied almost exclusively by locals, but we did not feel out of place.

Sampling the local product - one of our favourites

Sadly we had to leave and the station was found, the timetable was consulted, the platform was waiting as was the train and an hour later we were back in the hotel, almost completely exhausted but having enjoyed a lovely city and it’s inhabitants and it’s sights.

What a smart young woman she was behind the information desk in the station.

Walking distance so far: 15.7 km (previous) + 11.3 km (Saturday) = 27.0 km (Total)

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