"" Writer's Wanderings: Brussels To Antwerp

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Brussels To Antwerp

Antwerp train station

A leisurely breakfast this morning, repacking a few things and we were off to the train station for our ride to Antwerp to meet our river boat. There was a man who was there to help passengers with information and Bob introduced me to him. Seems my husband had made a new friend and the man had shown him where he could find an ATM and then get change and possibly a few other things along the way. I don’t think the man smiled much on his job but I thought I noticed a slight quiver at the corner of his mouth.
Grote Markt

It’s always a little nerve wracking to find the right platform and train when the announcements and signs are not in your own language. It was easy enough this time however since you could pick out the name Antwerpen and Centraal to know we were in the right place. Apparently the train that had just pulled out was the direct one with no or few stops. Ours had many but that was okay with us as we had all morning to get there and since the train went slower, we could get a better view of the countryside which turned into farmland and then back again to city as  we neared Antwerp.

Antwerp Central Station is amazing, large and bustling but not so much that we felt lost. I stopped to snap a picture before we went outside to determine our mode of transportation to the river boat—Uber or taxi? Since the taxis were already lined up by our exit and we were unsure of where an Uber might pick us up, we chose the first one in line. I also thought that a taxi might be more familiar with the are where our boat was docked. The last river cruise we’d taken, the driver couldn’t find the spot to drop us and we managed rolling suitcases quite a ways before we reached our destination. I was to discover that the taxi wasn’t much more informed. He was good enough though to get out of the cab at the address we’d given and cross the road, climb the embankment and make sure the boat was there. It was a little walk and we rumbled over cobblestones to the River Empress and watched as two other taxis actually found an entrance to the area and drove right up to the boat.

We dropped off our luggage since the rooms were not ready yet and left to walk to the historic area called the Grote Markt for lunch. It was a bit of a walk and much of it was a matter of threading through some construction going on. The center fountain of the area was also surrounded by construction fencing. To say the least, it was a bit of a disappointment. What wasn’t a disappointment though was the place we found called Balto’s where we ate lunch. I had the most delicious grilled chicken sandwich and Bob had a bowl of tomato soup and yes, we tried another Belgian beer. This one was not vanilla and much more tasty.

Close by was the huge Cathedral of Our Lady. You can see its spire from most anywhere. Rarely do  churches charge admission, usually it is just a requested donation. This one charged 10 Euros and that was the senior rate. The inside was massive with towering pillars and lots of side chapels. There were numerous works of art and many from the painter, Peter Paul Rubens who lived in Antwerp and others were of his contemporaries. A crypt below enticed Bob to visit but I looked at the steps and said I’d wait for him.

The cathedral reminded me of others we have been in where important people have been buried beneath the floor. It’s a little unnerving to me to walk across the grave markers but there is no other way to get around. It also sported a huge pulpit like the cathedral in Brussels and had an spectacular choir area of carved wood. There were at least two pipe organs and a long spiraling staircase for the organist to climb to get to the keys. It was a fascinating walk through time dating back to the 14th century.

On our way back to the River Empress, we stopped at the castle along the waterfront. It’s called Het Steen and is used as an information center for tourists now. We did get to walk through a small part of it, mostly courtyard area.

If legs and feet and thighs had a voice they would have been screaming out for rest. In fact, I think I did hear them. Both of us were hurting by the time we made it back to the river boat. Thankfully our room was ready and we spent the next half hour unpacking and trying to decide where to put things. It is the smallest room we’ve had in a long time and the room, as well as the rest of the boat, is covered with more mirrors that I’d like. Sometimes it’s disorienting. We looked at each other and laughed  when we each caught the other looking up at the ceiling. “Whew! No mirrors up there at least.”

Safety talks, orientation and dinner followed after a short respite with our feet up. All told, we had again walked more than 10,000 steps, a total of almost five miles. At least Antwerp was less hilly.

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