Since we’d not gone to bed until 4AM, I didn’t feel too bad about sleeping until noon. I made myself wake at 11AM, hoping that I’d still be able to sleep again tonight and avoid putting myself into a weird sleep pattern. It was a lethargic start, with less than clear heads. Risa questioned if I was OK to drive, but I don’t think I drank that much – and stopped drinking well before midnight.
We were now headed north towards The Netherlands, and our path took us straight through Antwerp. As with most of Belgium, I didn’t know much about the town, other than a feint memory about diamonds – was that Snatch? I read up a little about Antwerp, and learnt a few new things – it’s one of the cocaine capitals of Europe, a major fashion hub, and of course, there are diamonds – and it was Snatch.
As you could guess, it was quite late in the afternoon by the time we’d arrived in town. Thankfully being a weekend it was quite straightforward finding a park, just outside of the old town. We tried to lose ourselves on the walk into the centre of town, but we didn’t find anything too fascinating and quickly ended up in a large market area. We smelt the sweet smell of curry long before we saw the Nepalese festival set up. We were both craving curry, and were surprisingly hungry. But, it wasn’t to be, there wasn’t much food available for sale.
But, our stomachs weren’t neglected for long. Keeping the Belgian frites tradition going on, we searched out the best frites in town for a late afternoon snack. We found Frites Atelier of Amsterdam by the queue of people outside – fortunately they were all crowded around the poor lady that was offering tasting samples. I grabbed a table, and Risa ordered some fries – plain with garlic mayo and curry mayo for me; beer stew for Risa. These chips and sauces were out of this world good, especially the stew that Risa ordered. This has set the new benchmark for fries, and one that will be quite difficult to surpass. They were crispy, but not dried husks. The sauces were also fresh, and not tasting like something out of a 50L drum. Plus, it had a really pretty interior.
We made a detour to look at what was labelled as one of Europe’s most exquisite shopping malls. I can’t compare it to what else is out there in Europe, as I mostly avoid shopping malls, but it was quite elaborate – though, nothing compared to GUM in Moscow.
Risa wanted to visit the Central Station, which again, was described as being one of the grandest in Europe. And, again, we haven’t been going to many other rail stations to be able to confirm that claim. It was very, very large, and the interior was quite opulent, with enormous ceilings, gilding, ornate decorations, and all the shades of marble. Plus McDonalds.
I still wanted to see the main market place, which was at the opposite side of the town. We power walked back through the high street like Olympians, as we had only a limited amount of time on our parking ticket. It shouldn’t be surprising, but it was much like the other cities we’d visited in Belgium, with tall, skinny colourful and decorative buildings lining the square. They also had that same blocky/jagged facia, which seems lazy, but looks great.
The enormous gothic cathedral was already closed, so we couldn’t go inside. It was also a little too large to see from the square. Our necks were craned admiring the detail in the tower.
Risa wanted to visit Antwerp because of a story she heard as a kid, about a boy and his dog – Nello and Patrasche. I’d never heard of it, but it sounds like a typical depressing story that would be popular for children in Japan (like the movie Grave of the Fireflies). I won’t regurgitate too much, but this boy dies cold and hungry outside the church with his dog. And, to celebrate, there is a statue, with children running/jumping/climbing all over it.
And, speaking of children climbing all over a statue, there is an enormous statue of Saint Bavo tossing a hand of a giant outside of the town hall, which seemed to be a favourite place for stag/hen parties to gather for group photos. Supposedly the name Antwerp is derived from this
There were pretty parts of Antwerp, but it didn’t have the charms that Bruges, or Ghent had. Though, maybe we would have felt differently if we’d have visited first – and not have been worn out from a big night, and eager to return to the car before the rain got serious.