Originally, our trip to Belgium was just going to be Brussels. Then, train ticket prices changed, and it became more economical to go to Antwerp from Freiburg. I’m so glad we did. Antwerp is beautiful, and Vinnie and I really enjoyed Rubenshuis. Errol was surprised when he heard the museum celebrating Peter Paul Rubens was on the itinerary:
“I thought you didn’t like the Masters?”
He’s somewhat right. I prefer a lot of other art over paintings of Jesus and his team.
The Rubenshuis is a good example of why one shouldn’t write off a complete genre of art because you saw too much of it one summer as a teenager. Yes, there were some angels and stiff ruffled collars, but the museum was Rubens’ former home. We also saw furniture, jewelry, and sculpture. Rubens found inspiration from the Romans, and Vinnie loved hearing about Hercules killing a lion with his hands. She thought she knew another story about Hercules killing a giant from the Bible. David and Hercules are rather similar.
My favorite times in Antwerp were in coffee shops. All three were cozy and felt very local. In a new place, I try to follow the travel advice a friend gave me in 2003: get off the tourist path to find your restaurants. I never ate at restaurants then, but now that I’m not a super-budget traveler, I can follow his wisdom. Usually it takes just a block or two, but they make a big difference. The downside is these places often don’t accept credit cards. But, ours this afternoon had English National Geographics to page through. It was a nice touch.
The cafe we went to this morning wasn’t off the tourist path but very special. We noticed it when we first arrived and walked through the train station. First, Antwerpen Centraal is the most beautiful train station I’ve ever been to. I can’t forget to say that. Besides beauty, it also has a fun pop-up coffee shop called The Playground. Patrons drink coffee/beer/wine and play games. Vinnie and I played a new board game called Battle Sheep but then resorted to the old favorites of crazy 8 and war before we left.
Vinnie tasted her first authentic Belgian waffle today from a sidewalk stand and fancy hot chocolate yesterday at the Christmas market. It’s much easier (and cheaper) to let your kid indulge when you only have one with you.
After a quick train ride this afternoon, we landed in Brussels. We’ll be back to the boys in Freiburg tomorrow night.