to Antwerp and back

We decided at the last moment to visit one of my best friends in Antwerp while other two good friends were in town. It had been a long time since we last had seen each other; we have been busy with a new love, a new marriage, full time jobs and immigrant lives.

Sourena embraced immediately the idea of going and we left an extremely windy Rotterdam to arrive in an equally windy Antwerp. Once there I immediately realized that I had forgotten that Italians are always late and we decided to wait at the Royal Café at the Central Station; quite a classy spot to start a trip. We ordered tea and cappuccino, used their wifi and took some pictures of the beautiful ceiling.

From there we walked to the Cathedral: always beautiful (and always with paid entrance), even after many times of passing around it. We wondered a bit in the bookshop and then decided to discover the least windy point of the square to wait for our friends. They arrived quite soon, carrying hugs and kisses and greetings and more hugs. Right then and there a lunch plan was made.

We walked to the Willemdok passing along the City Hall, the daytime red light district and turned at the Museum aan de Stroom. There we took the decision that food was more important than sightseeing (we went on top of the building the last time we were there, it’s totally worth it) and we walked right around the corner to Ball&Glory.

The concept is very simple: balls of food (meatballs or arancino style rice balls) and glory will follow. In short it’s an incredibly hipster place (in the good way). Its decor is modern and you might be more or less lucky with the food since they change their menu almost daily. On the plus side, water and fruit are for free at the table. Satisfied with the lunch but with space for desert, we made the very difficult decision of ordering 3 cheesecakes to share (among 6 people). That lemon-speculoos cheesecake might easily represent the promised glory: it was GOOD (but also their cake of the day, so again you might not be this lucky).

Fed and happy we stepped outside, felt the wind and decided to ignore the Museum. Instead we walked back to the city center for a good cup of coffee. We tried walking along the river but it was way too windy to enjoy this beautiful part of the city, its promenade, the light house and the river itself. So we passed through the tiny streets of the center and eventually we arrived to my favorite square of Antwerp, the Sint-Jansvliet. This little square with big trees is always lively, the entrance to the tunnel to go the other side of the river is just there and it is a beautiful link between river and city. Note to be done here: that access to the tunnel has the oldest escalators in the world, in wood!

So, we passed this cute square, walked a little more and reached the School of Life, a coffee corner (literally, with huge windows to the street and the courtyard) with a much greater mission running on the background.

I didn’t know about its existence in many cities and it was very comforting to read that “The School of Life is devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture. We address such issues as how to find fulfilling work, how to master the art of relationships, how to understand one’s past, how to achieve calm and how better to understand, and where necessary change, the world”. It’s basically the coolest place with good coffee (and very good and light carrot muffin).

We kept chatting, about politics and cooking, and we realized that it was almost time to catch trains back (to the Netherlands for us and England for them).

We said goodbye and walked to the station, very happy that we had gone, even if just for 8 hours.