Sunday, April 23, 2006

Antwerp, Belgium

Fred and I spent the day in Antwerp today. I'm still awed and fascintated at the idea of spending the day in another country. Seems odd, seems strange, seems impossible. But then again, this is a pretty small country and we went to an even smaller country. It took us about 2 and a half hours to get there. (Sort of like going from Columbus, Ohio to Cincinnati, Ohio with really bad traffice - Hey, Julie! Patty told me you read my blog. Thanks. I need a bigger readership.)

We went through some bulb fields which was pretty fabulous. Acres of beautiful colors. We need to make sure to get there this year again.

We've been to Antwerp several times now. Like maybe five. I went there initially with Fred when I was here for a visit, before I moved. Then I think I was there on a layover coming back from Duffel. We've been there twice because Fred's niece moved there with her boyfriend. They sell really large men's shoes, where my size not always in stock. My size is the smallest. It's a 47 in European sizes and a 12.5/13 in American.

I've never been that impressed with Antwerp. It's a nice city and has some nice parts, but it always felt a little bit like the plain sister of the fabulous country where I live(d) - like Canada (Did that sound mean?)

But this time, when we were walking around, it felt different. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the route we took when we walked around. Maybe it was not touring Ruben's house again. We walked by the water and I thought, This place is charming.

It's not somewhere I'd like to live, necessarily, but it's a nice, small European city.

We were there for the opening of the gallery of his niece, Jacqueline and her boyfriend, Maartin. They bought a house in the center and made a gallery out of the ground floor. They have three more floors above the gallery. It's a very large space for what sounds like a decent price. The shoe store is down the block.

The art was okay. Some of it was a little derivative. It looks like the artist was copying the style of Van Gogh or Degas in some paintings. It's pleasant and colorful, but nothing that I had to have. It was unfortunate that there were some tromp l'oeil paintings in the back of the gallery. They made the work of the featured artist look a bit amateurish, and they were, predictably...distracting.

The Central Station and the big square (Grote Markt) are both pretty beautiful. There are also lots of nice along the main strip and what looks like a castle or two near the water. There are some interesting shops and nice statues here and there.

I was surprised by Antwerp. It's not on my "recommends" list, and it's not a city like London where I sort of feel like I'm getting used to it and it has a "Wow, it's really cool that I'm getting familiar with this city" feel to it. Still, I enjoyed it. I saw it with "new eyes." (I.e. I recommend going in the spring.)

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