Thursday, November 10, 2011

Antwerp In A Weekend

Living in Europe there are so many places to visit that are only a few hours away by car or train.  Finally, as our unofficial trip planner, I just had to pick a destination and plan a weekend trip.  So Antwerp it was this past weekend....

Friday afternoon we threw our bags in the car and we were off - hoping that traffic would not be too brutal.  Four hours later we arrived in Antwerp.  For the day and a half that we were there my eyes felt like they were at an all you can eat buffet...I'm surprised that I didn't trip in fall considering my gaze was constantly focused on the buildings and architecture that we wandered past.

The architecture is amazing and the city feels older than Frankfurt, but I assume this is because Antwerp was not nearly as heavily bombed during the war.  I'm not sure about the historical facts.   The Barbo Fountain above sat in the middle of the Old City plaza, which seemed to be teeming with people at all hours of the day.  One of the most spectacular buildings in this plaza is the Our Lady's Cathedral  The Gothic cathedral is open to visitors for 5 euros and I could not resist, especially considering the Peter Paul Rubens special exhibition going on inside as well.  Not only was I walking through a incredible and giant cathedral, but it also felt like a art museum and cemetery as well. There are frescoes all over the walls and ceilings, there are antique robes, statues, and amazing wood work, as well as hundreds of paintings as part of the permanent collection and then the Rubens paintings on loan.  The floor is a checker-board of old graves, which was interesting as they were everywhere and impossible not to step on - so not exactly like a cemetery.

We did not have enough time to see everything on our short list, but we were able to walk over to the Steen Castle and - my favorite building that I saw - the Central Train Antwerp Train Station.  Yes, the train station.  We saw it from far away one night walking back to the hotel and it looked wonderful all lit up.  So Sunday morning we walked from our hotel to the station and it was breathtaking.  When I walked in the doors, I felt as though I was taken back in time.  I do not have the words to describe this space accurately or how it made me feel, but it is amazingly grand.  No trip to Antwerp is complete without seeing the Central Station - in my opinion.

The food was delicious - especially at Appelmans and at Dock's Cafe and I'd highly recommend either restaurant.  Dock's Cafe was a bit more fancy & expensive than I anticipated, but worth it, plus the atmosphere and decor are interesting.

So my first attempt at trip planner/tour guide turned out well.  We found delicious beer - yes, Non-Alcohol for me - and several flavors and varieties for my husband.  Of course, I also found the delectable world famous Belgian chocolate - a bag of which I am still nursing!  I never had the chance to enjoy Belgian waffles so I guess this means we have three years to make it back to Belgium, maybe Brussels or Bruge next time...