Antwerp was proving to be quite interesting.....relaxed, laid back, even more so than Brussels. There were less tourists, it had more of a urban-local feel, even though we were staying close to the Grote Markt, there were businesses like a meat market, bakery, produce stands, that served the locals.
The Missus wanted to take a nice walk on our full day in Antwerp....to the train station, which I wanted to see anyway, then back. So we set off from Grote Markt, taking some of the back streets.
We stopped at places the interested us along the way, like the very Baroque looking St Charles Borromeo Church. The most popular local citizen, the famous Baroque Painter, Peter Paul Rubens, was raised in Antwerp and spent a good part of his career in Antwerpen. Even this Jesuit Church displays the influence of Rubens who supposedly designed the decorative façade. In fact, there were 39 ceiling paintings by Rubens that were destroyed in 1718 when the church was struck by lightning.
There are wisps of Rubens everywhere, even on this plate. From what I can find, Dr Lazarus Marcquis was on of the physicians who treated Rubens, who died of heart failure due in part to chronic gout.
We eventually found ourselves in front of the beautiful train station....but first, I was distracted by this.
And of course, I could not resist the temptation to check out the at least one Asian Market....just to see what was being sold. Markets like this one stocked everything from Sriracha to Datu Puti and Silver Swan. And some of the prices were no joke....sheesh.
We also checked out the various menus; here are a few in case you're interested.
We took a turn and walked back toward the train station. At one of the streets parallel to those of Chinatown I saw one of my favorite signs. Folks, don't even think about "wildplassen" here, ok?
The Antwerpen-Centraal railway station itself is probably the grandest, most impressive train station I've ever seen. Hard to believe that this structure, finished in 1905 was once considered for demolition.
A look inside and it's quite easy to see why they call this structure the "Railway Cathedral". The restoration job on the place was completed in 2007 at a cost of 2.7 billions dollars. The glass ceilings, intricate work, marble, and stone makes a truly impressive sight.
There's actually a level which links the place to the "Diamond District" and 30 diamond shops.
It's easily my favorite site in Antwerp. I've never seen anything quite like it. When looking at my photos I still stop at the one's we took at the train station.....
We walked down the Boulevard named De Keyserlei, arriving at a large street named Frankrijklei. This was where the city walls of Antwerp once stood. Across the way you could see the beginning of the "Meir", the major shopping street of Antwerp. Here you'll run into a statue of another of Antwerp's favorite son's, the Artist Anthony van Dyck, who was a favorite of England's Charles I.
You'll pass many....well, let's just say shops we know quite well on the Meir...... H&M, Forever 21.....H&M and Zara are everywhere in case you need something in a pinch.
But it's this ornate, but rather discreet portal that caught our attention. Through this passageway is Stadsfeestzaal, which is one heck of shopping mall.....let's just say it makes South Coast Plaza look like a trailer park.... Tons of gold inlay....there's actually a champagne bar! Yikes. I understand that this was originally built as an exhibition hall completed in 1906. It was destroyed by fire in 2000. Being a historic monument, it was rebuilt using the original plans and reopened in 2007. It is something to behold.....not sure about the shops in the place, the Missus wasn't moved; but with a grand staircase and such you can't help but admire the beauty of the place.
Back out on the street we quickly noticed a place whose name I recalled. Dominique Persoone is a Belgian Chocolatier, whose rather audacious approach to chocolate, along with his self coined handle as the "Shock-o-latier" has earned him quite a following and reputation. He owns The Chocolate Line with shops in Bruge and Antwerp.
And when the Missus saw the play on upscale shoes....well we just had to take our time in the place.
And while it's easy enough for me to dismiss the rather seemingly kitschy chocolate lipstick and edible chocolate facepaint, along with his nomme de guerre. The chocolate "snort" made me stop and reassess.
A snort of chocolate, hmmmm.....what would that do to my already ravaged grey matter? Perhaps I'd change my name to Cadbury? Or perhaps start a campaign to save the "chocolate bunnies"? Who knows, as my train of thought was interrupted with the Missus telling me; "ok, I've got some chocolate, let's get going. Aaaand, I didn't buy any of those chocolate shoes.......can you imagine, shoes of chocolate, like feet and eat them, ick...." And so my Chocolate Gandhi moment was permanently interrupted.
We had bought some to add to the collection for my MIL and had a few that seemed interesting ourselves.
Interesting, but we enjoyed what we got from Pierre Marcolini and Yuzu in Ghent more...... But not being a "sweets person" who's to say, right?