Monday, May 31, 2010

Antwerp, first time around.

Antwerp is big enough that wandering it thoroughly will take a few trips.  We stuck fairly close to the centre, weaving up and down the streets in the area.  I had hoped to stumble upon the Guess Jeans store, check out the Centraal Station, and other than this we had no real goal other than to wander and see what there was to see.  So without further ado, here are a few things we saw:

One serious car-park.

Outside Centraal Station, in the Astridplein (the square outside the station.)

Do you know what I find funny?  I saw people with full Starbucks cups when we were around the Centraal Station, but did not see the Starbucks.  In looking at the photos I'd taken of the station later, guess what I saw?  Do you see it?  Take a look.

Modern platform.  Reminded me of Gare du Nord in Paris.

Facing back toward the 'old' station while on the modern platform.

One thing I found about the centre: it was quieter than I thought it would be.  It was Saturday, and the weather was decent, but I found the quiet odd for a bigger city.  Perhaps later wandernings in other districts will show us where the 'action is' but it seemed fairly sedate where we were.

Next time we'll probably look inside the Cathedral.

One street-performer said: "We've got good weather today ...for Belgium."

If someone can explain to me why I keep seeing 'street saints' or ... well I'm not sure really what these guys are, but I've seen them before in other parts of Belgium, just chillin' on the outsides of buildings.  What's the story behind this sort of architectural detail?

And finally, there was The Chocolate Line, which is a higher-end chocolate shop placed in a historic building (once served as a palace for Napolean, A King of the Netherlands, as well as Leopold II.)  I'm always interested in chocolatiers who try to push the envelope of flavour, and noticed "fried onions", "black olive", "wasabi", "safron curry" and "hammam tea" among others.  Curiosity piqued, we purchased and shared several.  My overall impression is that the flavour pairings are generally successful, though at times the ganache texture is slightly off (this is a matter of how the ganache is worked and left to set.  This said, these were very slight qualms, and overall the quality of the chocolates here is certainly worth sampling.  I still think Marcolini is a bit above The Chocolate Line for overall quality of product, but they are doing their own thing here, and it's different, and worth tasting.  If you have never seen a chocolatier at work, it's also worth visiting for the windowed open-kitchen, where it's possible to watch some of the work being done, not to mention the whimsical chocolate sculptures on display.

Last of the discoveries for the 'initial wanderings in Antwerp' was the building which seems like it was something classier before it became a mall (either this, or it is one fine attempt at making malls seem classier.)

This mall featured in the atrium, (just below this lovely ceiling) a substantially sized and very pretty champagne/cocktail bar.  I am all for booze and shopping combined.  I very much liked how there was a wall of playstation 3s within view of the bar, offering free-play of various games.  How civilized, I thought, that mom can have a flute while keeping an eye on jr.

Today I realized that this is not the first time I've thought it's great when you can stick your kids somewhere within view while you have a drink.  After having had the up-close-and-personal view on many friend/family parenting experiences, I wonder if this appreciation for children's entertainment combined with the parental pause de détente avec un verre means I'd make a horrible mother, or just a realistic one?

Aaannd that was my time in Antwerp.


Anonymous said...

That starbucks must be REALLY new, because the last time I was there a few months ago, it was definitely NOT. Also, I think you're just being realistic when it comes to parenting with a glass in hand. If anything, I think un petit verre would make for a more relaxed mother, which is a good thing. :)

Jessica of Hey, Mons! said...

I was staring at the outside picture of for like 30 mins and then realized the starbucks was in the other one. That Starbucks just open on February 24th. (yes I am a crazy person about Starbucks that's why I know the date. I'm from Seattle so that's my excuse).

Mons Ben said...

Thought I'd say hello on your blog too. Replied to a comment you made on mine.

As you may or may not have read from my blog, I loved Antwerp. A lot. Not the most beautiful of places, but a great feel to the place. Some fantastic little bars and restaurants, and very friendly locals. Maybe being English helps. I think us Brits and the Flemish have a lot in common.

Will resist the urge to say something sarcastic about North Americans (almost wrote American then remembered you're from Canada. Totally different world!) being obsessed with Starbucks. Oops, couldn't help myself.

Jessica said...

For me, it's the frappuccinos! The rest of SBucks could cease to exist, because really there is better coffee out there, but man... a frappuccino now and then is a very good thing. :)

I loved where you've come from, (Bristol) when I visited it!

Mons Ben said...

I'm proud to say I don't even know what a frappuccino is. I'm guessing it's a milkier capuccino. Hang on, that's a latte isn't it? I do know that coffee in Belgium ain't the best. Spanish/Italian/German coffee my personal favourites.

Hey, when did you visit the wonderful capital of the West Country? Yes, Bristol is great. Will almost certainly return there when I leave Belgium.

Jennifer said...

So jealous! I LOVE Antwerp - it's such a cool city with amazing food.

Jessica said...

Ben - Frappuccinos are like an iced latte, with a flavour shot and finely crushed ice. Think coffee milkshake but less creamy. I adore portuguese coffee, as well as italian and spanish. Never really had german coffee...