Tuesday marked my first departure from the Netherlands, in a trip out to Belgium with my Romanian sister-in-law. She's lived in Dordrecht for nearly 10 years and made the perfect ambassador (she's also been an angel in getting acclimated here) exploring a new city and country. She chose the city of Antwerp for the excellent shopping and seafood, which is about 90 kilometers from Dordrecht and less than an hour train ride.
Antwerp has a rich history in trade, art and architecture with evidence of human settlements going back as far as the mid-2nd century. The city was named in the 4th century and translates to "on the wharf". Though, I prefer the folklore claiming the name originates from a mythical giant called Antigoon who terrorized locals attempting to cross the Scheldt River.
Architecturally, Antwerp is stunning - with enormous buildings, towers and cathedrals from the 16th and 17th century. The streets are paved with rough cobblestone and flanked with kilometers of cafes and chocolate shops. If you venture near the Meir shopping street, you'll find just about any fashion and home retailer imaginable (very dangerous, you've been warned).
When we arrived, the city happened to be celebrating the 450th anniversary of their Town Hall with an exquisitely-quirky art instillation called Flower Power. Artist Anne-Mie Kerckhoven placed over 173k potted flowers and herbs carpeted just outside of the building. It was, in a word, delightful.
We ended the day with a giant pot of steamed local mussels and framboise beer, both excellent.
If you have an opportunity to spend a day in Antwerp, it is certainly worth the trip. And while it's on "the beaten path", I'd say it's with good reason. The city somehow manages to feel charming, medieval, artistic and modern - but naturally and without pretense.
What are your favorite local get-aways or day trips? I'd love to hear where you venture for a little change in scenery.
Until next time, be well!