Before I started work, Jules and I took advantage of our free time to take a day trip to Antwerp, where I'd never been before. To be honest, a lot of the day was taken up with shopping. Even though we stuck to chains, Antwerp has a great reputation as a fashion capital, and I think a little of that must have rubbed off on to the chain stores too, as we both managed to pack multiple purchases into our day. To add to the authentically Belgian experience, we had Wagamama for lunch, which was fun (and tasty). And Jules had Starbucks, so he was happy.
But we did have a little time for some cultural pursuits, mainly wandering around the city on a fairly grey day:
|Grand Place, Antwerp|
|At the train station|
|Inside the train station|
|The Calvary, Saint Paul's church|
The inside, beautifully bright in contrast to the somewhat eerie statues outside, is also filled with treasures from paintings to elaborate wooden carvings. I must confess I missed most of the famous paintings by the likes of Jordaens, Van Dyke and Rubens, but I'd really like to go back again anyway, so perhaps I'll get another chance to see them.
|Interior of Saint Paul's|
|Carved wooden confessionals|
|Me and some ghost monks|
Apart from a trip to Ghent with my sister (blog post pending), our other main daytrip was to the Belgian coast, Knokke to be exact. First things first, it's really hard to park in Knokke. Having hit a bit of traffic on the motorway on our way there, followed by having to circle and then queue for a park, I was kind of dying for the loo by the time we got to the waterfront, which largely determined our choice of restaurant. Leaving Jules to find a seat on the terrace, I charged off into the restaurant and asked a waitress where the bathroom was. "In the tourist office", was the reply. I impatiently explained I was dining there, fighting the urge to knock her over on the the way to the loo, but I made it thankfully. And turns out, our lunch was actually nice. Of course, we sampled the (hopefully) local seafood - grey shrimp croquettes, which seem to be a bit of a Belgian delicacy, followed by a fish soup and a chocolate moelleux for dessert, miam miam!
Lunch was pretty leisurely, lasting about two hours or so, so it was mid-afternoon by the time we finally hit the beach. I would say it's been so long since I've been, but I keep forgetting that I did go in Majorca, so although infrequent, it's not actually been that long. I was surprised really by the fine, golden sand on offer. I suppose if you'd asked me, I would have pictured pebbly or shelly beaches in Belgium for some reason. Perhaps not so surprising was the constant gusts of wind tearing along the beach from West to East (or thereabouts). The temperatures weren't that high, and although it was pleasant when the sun was shining, any time it went behind a cloud (which was often) we were shivering. Suddenly it made sense why many people hired beach huts and why the sound of the ocean was frequently drowned out by people hammering windbreaks into the sand (seriously, a Belgian beach is about as peaceful as a construction site). There was also some guy with the deepest, growliest voice playing some sort of beach tennis behind us. We were giggling at the idea that he was a troll playing for the right to eat his opponent, but you probably had to be there. The match finished without anyone getting eaten, as far as I could tell.
|Jules on the beach at Knokke|
|Beach selfie #nomakeupselfie|
|And a pretty bench|