Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Antwerp is an easy day trip from Brussels. Trains run every 30 minutes (and sometimes even more frequently), it only takes about 45 minutes to get to the Central Train Station in Antwerp, and my open round trip ticket was just under 7€. What more could you ask for?

When we stepped out of the train station, faced with the streets lined with jewelry shops, my boyfriend suddenly had sweaty palms: had I entrapped him to come with me to Antwerp, with unsavory ulterior motives? Not to worry. Though Antwerp is the diamond capital of the world, we weren't going to be taking advantage of that on this trip. And boyfriend, as lead navigator and sightseer, was very careful to steer clear of the diamond district throughout the rest of the day. Besides, I wonder if the shops can really beat Blue Nile, given the weak dollar. But that is another post for another day, and since we didn't go into any shops I can't make any comparisons.

We continued straight away on the street from the train station, and after just a few blocks we were already at one of the main shopping streets, Meir. After days of gloomy ugly Brussels, this street was a sight for sore eyes.

Soon enough we arrived at one of the main squares, the city square, which reminded me of the collection of ceramic facades my grandmother had hanging in her kitchen:
There was another square nearby, Groenplaats, complete with flower market, sprawling cafe terraces, and 3 guys and 1 girl giving away free hugs:We resolved to return here later in the afternoon to enjoy some big glasses of Belgian beer.

From Groenplaats we could also see the main cathedral, Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (Cathedral of Our Lady):But we were very bad tourists and did not visit it. Well, first we went in, but when we realized that you had to pay to enter, we decided to come back after lunch so that we would have more time. And then we went to lunch (at Dock's Cafe - another post entirely), and after lunch I declared that a waffle was in due order:This chain is everywhere, and at 1.60€ for a plain waffle you can't go wrong. The batter is different from the "Belgian waffles" we have back home, as it is sweeter and finer, and the sugary topping is almost caramelized by the time you get it. You can also get other toppings on your waffle, such as whipped cream or chocolate.

And then after my waffle my boyfriend decided that a beer at one of the cafes was in due order...and then by the time he was finished with his 1/2L beer, the church was already closed. Oh well. Yet another reason to return.

So far I've mentioned 2 Belgian specialties, waffles and beer, but of course we had to have a third to complete the holy trinity:Honestly? Pretty durn good. While at the cafe, I couldn't help noticing the numerous passerbys carrying that infamous paper cone in their hands. But where were they coming from? The large statues of fries flanking the exterior of this shop, Fritkot Max, on Groenplaats should have tipped me off:While waiting in line, I scrutinized the various sauces available:But without little sauce cups it would have been too difficult to try them all. As much as the "samourai" sauce intrigued me, I didn't want to contaminate my fries with something I might not like, and I stuck with boring old plain ketchup. We shared a medium size cone (2.20€), and the fries had disappeared before we even made it out of the square. I didn't use that little fork that comes with the fries - why bother to be dainty when it comes to fast food? - but I admit that it would have come in handy in dealing with those last ketchup-covered fries.

And finally, I must post the photo that makes my boyfriend laugh every time, of a bizarre statute outside of a medieval museum on the Atwerp waterfront, which he angled just so with the lightpost in the background:
I'm sure there is more to Antwerp than beer, waffles, fries, and perverse statues, but I had an excellent day even without doing anything touristy. One day I might even return and do a proper post about Atwerp's cultural and historical attractions, or at least to try all of Fritkot's sauces if I'm feeling really adventurous! That's me, living the wild life. ;)

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The Late Bloomer said...

I loved this post! Makes me want to visit Antwerp too, I don't know anything about this city...

Etienne said...

If you ever spend a weekend in Brussels, I would definitely recommend at least one daytrip to either Bruges or Antwerp - there is not enough to do in Brussels for a weekend, and both of these towns blow Brussels away. Even going there for just an afternoon is worth it, given the short commute.