Day 2: Antwerp- A City of Churches and Rubens
It was a hot sunny day here in Antwerp with temperatures in the mid 90's, but it's beautiful here so we couldn't wait to get started on our day of exploration. De Kathedral in the historic center of town is stunning both inside and out. Inside the cool interior the sunlight streamed through the beautiful stained glass that was everywhere you looked, but all eyes inside we're focused on paintings by Rubens. he paints in such a way that the paintings look almost lit.
Our next stop was a 16th century church, St. Carolus Borromeus in Hendrik Consienplein Square. Unlike the cathedral with classical music piped in over the PA system,this church had a more relaxed vibe about it with New Age music playing.
Feeling hot, we paused at a cafe and watched people climb a fountain to pose for family photos while people set up for some sort of festival in the main square. Feeling cooler we visited the Plantin Moretus which is a print museum. Inside they had many firsts such as the first print of a plant introduced from South America in the 1500s, the first world Atlas, miniature books, and a map of Europe and America with most of America west of the Mississippi, missing. I love old maps and globes, and miniature books. My mother has a miniature book in her family treasure chest lovingly wrapped in Saran Wrap and I realized today I have never unwrapped it. Now that I have a better appreciation for printed manuscript, I'll check it out at home.
The afternoon was the highlight of the day - a guided tour led by the Laurents. Joachim was in my class back home this year. Both of his parents grew up in Antwerp and his sister Eline is about to enter the eighth grade. The first stop was an old wooden escalator from 1931 that led down to a pedestrian tunnel under the river. It brought back memories for David of one he had seen as child in Boston. Since it was so hot out, Sint Andries church known for its alter piece was a welcome refuge. We noticed a curious display of shoes leading up to a wheelchair and a suitcase with a sign, "What will you take on your last journey?" We wondered if random people just added their shoes until Eline noticed that the whole display was in chronological order starting with baby booties.
What made our tour so special was that in addition to spending some time with a great family, we were able to visit some hidden alleyways and places the average tourist would never see.
We stopped at Da Groote Witte Arend for refreshments in their atmospheric courtyard. One building on our tour with an an interesting story was built between 1250 - 1501 was the Vleeshuis (butcher's hall) which today is a musical instrument museum. The outside brick work looks like strips of bacon. Our tour ended at Desire de Lille where David and I enjoyed a freshly made Belgian waffle topped with whipped cream, ice cream, and chocolate sauce. It was incredible and we learned the restaurant has been in existence since 1903. In the evening, it was much cooler and the squares were alive with people listening to music. Many thanks to Krista, Johan, Joachim, and Eline for a great afternoon today.