The train back to Paris, originating from Amsterdam, was packed. The weather had turned foul again and, frankly, I was happy to leave Belgium and head back home. Which was not the original plan. Normally, I would have travelled from Antwerp to Lille to spend December 24th and 25th with the kids and their parents, but they too were out of the country, travelling.
The best part of my short trip was the hotel. Mere steps from the train station, it was warm and welcoming with a nice bar, a large dining room with a fabulous breakfast buffet and a cozy spacious room, silent as a tomb. I stayed at the NH Collection Antwerp Centre. I appreciated that it was warm and welcoming because the train from Paris was delayed and then, once underway, it broke down and we had to disembark at Brussels train station and wait for a replacement. By the time I arrived in Antwerp, it was cold, dark and raining.
On my second day I returned to Kloosterstraat and Steenhouwersvest Streets. I had gone on the first day, but it was hard going as I battled high winds and rain. With a drenched street map and upended umbrella (this is, after all, northern Europe in winter), I made my way to a sweet little bistro I had visited on my previous trip 9 years ago, a place called Chez Fred where I had eaten a delicious beef stew accompanied by a bowl of fries and washed down with a dark Leffe beer. I found the place, crossed the street and hurriedly headed to the door only to find it permanently closed. Shuttered. I’m betting it was Covid that killed it. Hungry and disappointed, I headed back to the hotel.
The next day I returned to those two streets when it wasn’t raining. They are lined with funky, chic, quirky shops: vintage clothes and furniture, art galleries, modern furniture and design; antiques, books and jewelry. I enjoyed popping in and out of the shops and chatting with the owners.
Antwerp is in the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium, known as Flanders, which sometimes makes me think that I’m in Holland. Luckily for me, they all speak fluent English and/or French so there are no communication problems (contrary to the language problem I encountered in Spain.)
I had every intention of visiting the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, re-opened after an extensive (and expensive) renovation that lasted over eleven years, but I waited too long to buy myself a ticket online. My friend from Chicago had sent me a timely article on the museum just the day before and I was “stoked” about going there. By the time I did get online, all the slots were taken.
Well, I’ll return to the museum I visited nine years ago, I said to myself, and walked up the street to the Plantin-Moretus Museum.
I won’t describe it a second time, so here’s the link from when I visited it the first time –