Butting up to the Netherlands on the coast of the North Sea is our last location, Antwerp, Belgium. This is a location we had in the back of our minds to visit while in Europe but we weren’t sure on if we would make it. I say that because on the flight to Belgium we had a certain itinerary in mind compared to the one we actually got to explore. So by the end of day one of our trip, we knew we definitely wanted to visit this city and explore all of its water ways.
Taking a train a little over an hour north of Brussels, we got to Antwerp. The thing I noticed first about this city is it’s amazing and gorgeous train station. With being multiple levels high and adorned with a golden clock, it truly was a sight to be seen. This beauty continued itself further into the station and then out its front doors to the new city awaiting us.
From those very doors, what I saw genuinely made me giggle. Across the walk way I saw painting in red with two proud stone lions, Antwerp’s Chinatown. Did I expect to find myself in China while in Dutch country? Absolutely not! But was I mad about it? Heck no.
Much like the swans I told you about, I saw my target and booked it to China! Looking in shop windows full of ceramics, silk screens, glowing neon and menus and menus of my kind of food- I was in a silly little heaven. I even made Jacob promise me that we would come back before leaving for the day because I knew exactly what I wanted to have for my dinner.
But onward we went in search of more of the cities charms. One of those being in another gorgeous center where an age old turquoise fountain stood with the backdrop of those buildings that I fell hard for! We even got lucky enough to not have lots of crowds around us while we took in the sights. I think this had a lot to do with the fact that it was Monday and also a rainy Monday at that.
It’s usually around here in the day where I try to nail down the feeling that I get from a place. I don’t think I mean to always do this but I truly think that our surroundings have a personality all of their own that help tells a story of the past influencing the present. While in Antwerp, this was a hard feat for me to do but I think by the end of the day I came to see it as a quiet beauty, a place of rest almost.
Some of my favorite moments were empty yet inviting outdoor cafes, more adorable Belgium pups, shops with their windows full of plants, churches offering moments of reflection and bikes with baskets…
But speaking of coffee, we were without a doubt in need of more. So with the need for a pause and a moment to fill our bellies, we sat inside of a restaurant that specializes in English cuisine. Jacob ordered his food with a beer to wash it down while I ordered a cheese toastie (grilled cheese) and a coffee.
Unlike my instant connection to the food found in Chinatown from above, I tend to struggle a bit with food while traveling. In my mind I think about the language barrier when ordering but also on the unknown. It can be hard to decide and pick a place whenever you don’t know what all is around you to try and eat. I have this feeling of “what if I’m missing out on something better.” It is something that I want to continue to get better at while traveling because who doesn’t love reading up on food and different cultural cuisine!
Around the corner from our lunch spot was a statue I was hoping to see. This statue is called “Nello and Patrasche” and is of a boy and his dog snuggling under a blanket. So of course this made me miss our sweet boy, Tyson. And it may have, also, made me wish for a blanket for myself because the day was just not warming up anytime soon.
Around this part of the city I remembered one of the things that Antwerp is known for. Antwerp is known to have the largest collection of diamonds in one area so we knew exactly what our souvenirs would be… just kidding. We tucked into a dime a dozen souvenirs shop for Jacob’s last Belgium city shot glass.
Maybe I need to do a travel around the world via his shot glass collection!
Something that I was missing from our day was water. In all of our other locations we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of water around us (or maybe we are surprised because we are from the midwest in the US). But with Antwerp being just off of the North Sea, we knew we could easily get our fill if we decided to do so.
The first promise of getting close to the water was a large and oh so stunning mural of a whale! Followed quickly by the actual water with cross walks to get to the other side of the water or ships sitting on its surface to travel down it.
So far on the trip we haven’t visited any museums. This is something we go back and forth on for whether it’s something we should spend valuable time on or not. But while in Antwerp, we figured we should visit one for the trip. We chose the Museum aan de Stroom and it is a museum that cover’s the city’s Metropolis, Power, Life and Death, and Antwerp’s history as a port city. The draw to going wasn’t just the history story but also the rooftop which offers panorama views of the whole city.
Whenever we found the museum we noticed two things about it. The first was that the building itself was huge with modern touches and a very colorful exterior. The second thing we noticed was that it was very much closed for the day. Completely bummed at my lack of remembering its weekly hours, we turned it around and decided to take in the scenes surrounding the building.
Just down the way was a docked “pirate” ship as Jacob called it. To which he then decided that he was going to get on it for a picture and a laugh. Seeing the ship made my eyes fall onto another beautiful mural that ironically enough had the word “beYOUtiful” painted at its center. I love it when things don’t work out but you still find joy in the process. I think this about life but more importantly about myself and those around us. You never know how a “no” or a “rejection” will end up steering your life.
Before we took our frozen little bodies back to that gorgeous train station, we stopped in Chinatown for a to go order of my most favorite bao- aka the food version of a hug. Then we found our platform and snuggled in for a sleepy ride home to our Airbnb in Brussels for our last night in Belgium.
Thank you again for coming alongside me on our adventures! You’ve heard me talking an awful lot about our cozy, home away from home. Well for me where we lay our heads at night is just as important as the local or foreign streets we find ourselves on. So next week please come back for a cozy read about our Scandinavian home, how travel impacts our married and future adventures in store for Krisscrossing Life!