In the Land of Chocolate & Diamonds

Trip Start Apr 20, 2009
Trip End Jul 20, 2009

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Where I stayed
Toon & Elly's Flat

Flag of Belgium  , Antwerpen,
Friday, June 19, 2009

I have been visiting with my friend Toon and his girlfriend Elly for the past few days here in Antwerp. The first day, I went around on my own and did most of the "touristy things"  while they were at work: I visited the Rockox house (which is supposed to be the oldest house in Antwerp), the town market square with the town hall and a fountain depicting the hero of the city. Legend has it that the giant Druoon Antigoon who controlled the River Scheldt and would levy heavy tolls on all the boats who passed. If anyone refused to pay, he would cut off one of their hands and toss it into the river. One day, a Roman centurion named Silvius Brabo killed the giant, chopped off one of his hands and threw it in the river. Thus the city of Antwerpen got its name! (Hand-werpen; werpen means "to throw") It was also quite amusing to watch these two dogs running in and out of the streams of water pouring from the fountain - jumping up on all the rocks and running about, trying to lap up the water that was falling on their faces, and getting completely soaked and falling on the slippery ground...
The cathedral nearby turned out to be worth the visit, as they had a special exibhit of tryptics and paintings that had originally been in the church aisles that were on loan from the museum. It was neat to see it all together, similar to how it would have looked back when it was first built. Then I walked down to the Schelde River and saw the Steen - which has to be the tiniest "castle" that I have ever seen. I think it honestly looks bigger on the pictures in the tourist map! I still had some time to kill before I met up with Toon & Elly for dinner, so I headed down to take a look at the fair that is running for the summer. The food and games seemed priced normally, but the prices for the rides seemed quite steep... €3-€5! The only one that I think I would have bothered to even pay for was called Statosphere, one of those big swing rides that goes in a circle, but really high up. It went even higher than the ferris wheel and mabe higher than the tall spinning hammer-type ride! I figured that it might be nice at night, getting to see all the lights below and spread out around the city. Maybe some other time...  : )
One the way home, I walked though the city park, where they have tons of rabbits just hopping about all over the place. I thought that it was really nice and think it could be fun to spend an afternoon on the grass, reading a book and having a nice little picnic, with little rabbits all around. I saw this one boy, probably about 3 or 4 years old chasing one as fast as his little legs would carry him and of course never catching up because the rabbit would just hop right away, but he never tired of chasing it - so cute and precious!

Yesterday, Toon and I went to Brussels last minute. (Long story short: we were going to spend the day in Antwerp and go to Brussels tomorrow, but I am having a problem with my braces and the only orthodontist appointment I could get was this morning, so we decided to just switch our plans...) We ended up walking over to the town square, which is the first one in Europe. I must admit that I was auite surprised to hear that... I even bought some Belgian lace! I couldn't afford anything much of course, but I got a very small piece that I can put in one of those glass tray tables and make my own nice souvenier. Saw a gorgeous 2-tier, floor-length wedding veil and was blown away! It was just beautiful... Good thing I am not getting married or I would have been soooo tempted to buy it! HaHa!!
Then we met up with one of his old college friends, but neither of them had been in Brussels for a long time and many things seemed to have changed, so it took us awhile to get our bearings and find our way about. We sat in one of the typical little Belgain bars, where I actually had a beer - Kriek lambic, but still a beer... Then we went and saw Menekin Pis - a fountain on a side street corner of a little naked boy just endlessly peeing... A few times a month, certain groups are allowed to dress him in special outfits, but he didn't have one when we were there.
Then it was high time for me to have a Belgian waffle! I chose one topped with banannas, whipped cram and chocolate sauce. They piled that sucker pretty high, but I was not to be deterred! I managed to eat the whole gorgeous thing - while walking! - and didn't drop any of it! I couldn't have been more proud of myself...
We didn't really do much "sightseeing" other than that... But I did get a ride on a merry-go-round and found a signpost directing me towards Paris, which is my next destination. Then we ended up going up to the projection room of the city's big theater and I got a personal tour and some film reel to take home, since Toon's friend used to work there as a projectionist and had run into one of his old co-woerkers while we were in the area. I was treated like a princess It was fantastic and something I could definately get used to... (I'm just kididng - halfway...)
We joined Elly for the evening to see the opening of a photography art exhibit, which was quite nice. It makes me very interested in just taking up photography as a hobby. Maybe I will take a small class or read a book on it when I get back home. There was also a TV station who was giving away bottles of beer that they had made during a program about Belgian fermented ales. I am not sure if I am actually going to try some or leave it here or bring it home for someone...

Today, the first priority was to fix my braces! The top wire had shifted and come out from where it was attached on one side and was sticking out on the other side and gouging a hole on the inside of my cheek. So we got that fixed and now I just have to get my travel insurance to reimburse me when I get home...  After that, Toon and I stopped by the fashion museuem and saw a display of paper dresses, after which I decided it was high time for some Belgian chocolate, so we bought a box and enjoyed sitting on the square and relishing every bite! Dangerous stuff, let me tell you! We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around and shopping - I finally managed to find a nice dress to take home that isn't costing me an arm and a leg.
Then we went to the Diamond Museum. Antwerp is the diamond capital of the world and has the biggest diamond museum in the world also. After a day of shopping and chocolate, what more could a girl want?! Maybe the diamonds sparkling in the cases... hahahaha!!
Maybe someday. : )
Guess I should get going, this entry has gotten quite long. Until later!
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