On Holiday in Antwerp (Antwerpen)

We Shall Return!

A Quick Glimpse of a Cool City

A few years ago I went to Paris and Antwerp as part of my MA course. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Paris many times and love it. On this occasion we were travelling “student class”, which meant a very early start, a long coach journey to Paris and a hotel a long way from the centre. Years ago this wouldn’t have been a problem, but now I have fibromyalgia the journey left me extremely fatigued so I didn’t enjoy Paris as much as usual. And by the time we were in Antwerp I had to sleep each afternoon, but I did see enough to want to return!

This year I finally persuaded He Who Does Not Knit that we should go to Antwerp, so we rented an apartment and took the Eurostar.

Traditional biscuits from Antwerp in the shape of hands

Winkels in Antwerp!

Antwerp is in Flanders, the Flemish speaking region of Belgium. Flemish is similar to Dutch. We could guess the meaning of some words (koffie – coffee, brood – bread, wafel – waffle, bier – beer, kathedraal – cathedral, kerk – church, huis – house) but were mystified by winkle.  We saw many signs directing us to winkels but were non-the-wiser. It turns out a winkle is a shop!

We were self-catering, so we went to a few food winkels and bought these … . Multi-coloured carrots! It was a shame to eat them, but they tasted fantastic.

Multi-coloured carrots bought in Antwerp, Belgium

We found a charming wolwinkel, Julija, which is beautifully laid out and stocks a good range of yarn and fabric.

Front window of Julija yarn shop in Antwerp, Belgium

We also found the International Magazine Store (tijdschriftenwinkel – fortunately the name was in English) near the cathedral …

ront of the International Magazine Store, Antwerp, Belgium

where I bought some holiday souvenirs.

Selvedge is a real treat for anyone who loves textiles. I first came across Marie Claire Idées when I lived in France and was delighted to find it for sale in Belgium. Yes, it’s in French, and no, my French is not really up to translating properly these days, but it’s full of inspiring ideas and beautiful photography.

Front cover of Marie Claire Idees and Selvedge magazine

And whilst bimbling around Antwerp we saw several comic strip walls …

Comic Strip Wall

and found my ideal address!

Street sign for Wolstraat, Antwerp, Belgium

Waffles, Chocolate, Coffee & Beer

We also ate waffles, both savoury (smoked salmon and cream cheese) and sweet (chocolate of course).

Two types of Belgium waffle, one with smoked salmon and the other with chocolate

We found many cool koffiehuis and visited a few bars to sample the local bier. One of our favourites, Het Elfde Gebod (The Eleventh Commandment) is near to the cathedral and is full of religious statues.

Statues in Het Elfde Gebod, Antwerp

Handmade and Machine Made

We visited the spectacular Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (Our Lady’s Cathedral). This took 169 years to build; imagine that, working on something that would not be completed in your children’s or grandchildren’s lifetime, let alone yours.

We visited Rubenhuis (Ruben’s house and studio), MoMu (the Fashion museum) and Museum Plantin-Moretus (Museum of Printing). This print and publishing house was established in 1555; you can see the world’s oldest printing press, type pieces as well as wood blocks and copper plates for illustration. You can see where type founders, compositors, printers and proofreaders worked, centuries before the industrial revolution.

Printing presses at the Museum Plantin-Moretus, Antwerp, Belgium

There were many, many more museums we could have visited.

We took the train to Bruges and were lucky to see this lady making bobbin lace. Making lace is a slow process, even though she moved her bobbins incredibly fast.

Post cards featuring lace bought in Belgium

He Who Doesn’t Knit loved his first visit to Antwerp; he didn’t really want to leave. And, since I think he has realised it would take a least a year to sample all the beers, I think we shall return one day!

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