Today we did not rush although I was awake from about 6 until 7:30 then fell back to sleep for another hour. We ate breakfast in the apt and then headed out to the train station. Just to be upfront – I walked according to the Fit Bit -23,525 steps so far today. Hard to believe this couch potato did that but I did and am still able to walk. Took a few days but it appears the legs are ready for anything. Queen Maeve might have to wait for another time but you never know.
We got the train to Antwerp. Great deal for seniors – 6 euro round trip on the same day. Took an hour to get there and on the way we chatted with a Brit who is a graduate student in urban planning. He is in a one year program in London and sounded like he came from up around Liverpool. The time flew by.
Arriving in Antwerp we went to the Visitor Center and I was asking about where the hospitals were that were used in WWII for victims of the bombings and war casualties. They showed me where two hospitals are that were there back then. The military hospital has been torn down although I am not sure that is where Aunt Pat was anyway. They also told me what the person I had contacted before told me about where the old site of the movie theatre bombing was so we could check that out. They assured me there was plaque on the building.
We walked out of the stations and found the building where the theatre had been. I knew it was long gone and replaced with modern buildings. It is actually a movie theatre and a mall kind of place. BUT there is no plaque. They are doing work and I am sure they just took the darn thing down. I was very disappointed. We walked through the building and out three of the doors but nothing. Took a picture of the building as it is now. Aunt Pat wrote about the theatre being bombed in Dec 1944 and they were three days getting everyone out and they took care of many of the wounded. They worked for 48 hours straight during that time and then more hours. It had been a theatre of the kind like our Proctors at home – there were at least 3500 people watching a movie when the bomb hit.
From there we went and found the Rubens House and got tickets and went through. Really lovely old 1500’s house and lovely paintings and other items through out. We got little books that helped us since most was not in English although I think they have figured out that having everything in Belgian does not encourage English speakers to take your tours. Since that gets put in travel books about their sites. The woman who sold the ticket assured us things had changed since an earlier version of the travel books. She saw my Rick Steves book.
We quite enjoyed seeing everything. It was snowing out which made things quite lovely. Not sticking but nice anyway.
Then we headed for something to eat. We found a cute little health food cafe and got sandwiches. I made the mistake of assuming the ham and cheese would not have mustard on it .. Wrong… so I ate what I could but I cannot stand the taste or smell of mustard. The bread was very good organic… I had some food with me that I nibbled on to make up the difference.
From there we headed for the Cathedral which closes to visitors at 3 pm and it was after that but we went in and just could not freely wander around since they were having a Mass. We did walk in the back and took some pictures. It is a lovely old building and so huge. Always hard to imagine how the designing happened and the ability of people way back then to know about all the necessary math and physics that goes into building something that huge and not having it fall down. They have such beautiful art in the Cathedrals. Lots of Ruben’s and other masters.
From there we wandered down to City Hall and took the tour. They are celebrating the 450th Anniversay of the hall and it will close for five years of renovations. It was a nice little tour of the history of its start in the 1400’s and how it had been torn down, burned and rebuilt several times until this current 450 year old version. The people were very nice and we enjoyed it.
From there we went down by the water front and first went up on a bridge to nowhere but a great place to take pictures on the river. And then over to what is a castle on the water. It is just called the Castle since most of it is gone. There is a statue out front of a giant intimidating two traders. There are problems with the rising water in the Scheldt River because of rising seas and storms so they are working to makes things safe along the river for the future. At the Castle there was a plaque commemorting the Canadian 1st Division which made me happy. They lost so many lives freeing the people of Belgium and the Netherlands they deserve some recognition.
Then we started our walk back to the train stations. It was getting dark and we were both pretty darn tired. We stopped and got some street food – Belgian Waffles – His with whipped cream, mine with chocolate. They were good to eat as we walked along.
The Meir Street I guess you would call it, really got to me when we first arrived. It is totally pedestrian walking area but the stores are all the high end ones and better mall ones that we could see at home or in the big cities. And people were all carrying bags from various stores. The economy is obviously doing well in this part of the EU. Very well dressed people and tons of young people out shopping with groups of friends. I like the little old areas with more local shops personally. If I want to shop at GAP or H&M I know where to go to find them. The childrens clothing stores have such lovely looking outfits and not the normal stuff you see around. Just gorgeous stuff.
I read that Antwerp has about 25% ethnic minorities and immigrants. Eastern Europeans as well as Middle Easterners and Africans. It is a wonderfully diverse city and you can hear languages from all over the world. The common denominator language in English since there are so many others you could not learn them all. But I heard French, Spanish, German, Italian, and various middle eastern languages. It is fun to try and figure out what I am hearing.
We got the train back to Gent and walked the 1.5 miles from the station back here stopping to get a brick of Cheddar cheese along the way. Not interested in eating out again tonight. Planning to slow down a bit. Have to pay what we owe the land lord tomorrow and Monday noon we move down to a hotel near the train station and will do some museums there and then tuesday going to Bruges. Weds we move on to France which will be an adventure in itself with several trains, changing stations in Paris and finding the train to Rouen. But until then we will continue to drink in the culture of Belgium.