I’ll give you a little bit of the story: One hundred years ago in June and July of 1916 this general area near Amiens was the scene of one of the bloodiest, most brutal battles of WWI. It is called the Somme, and close to a million men were killed in the Battle of the Somme during those two months. With the help of 20 different nations thousands of men (and some women) came together to fight for freedom from Germany.
In 1918 Amiens’ greatest threat was from the Germans. It survived the conflict along with its many works of art and furnishings that were evacuated and then later returned after the war.
I checked into my hotel in Amiens, had a nice dinner, and then went to bed.
I woke up in the hostel here in Lille and almost instantly left to start my day. I had a cup of coffee and as I sat there near the exit door I watched the owner give a live radio show interview about the football match, Wales vs Belgium, this day here in Lille. He was very excited to have his home country here now visiting. By the way Wales won over Belgium and broke many records, for the first time in history. The radio techs were interesting to watch, so much equipment for such a small thing–microphones and sound boards. Next to them on the wall was a soccer game running with the sound off. I had a short talk with the lady behind the counter and said “Merci” until next time. (Really, I have had my share of hostels and felt finished, even though they have all been very nice to me.)
I walked outdoors into the drizzling rain…and began again.
Because of my sore foot I am feeling like I need to find a place to sit down, collect my thoughts, write and organize myself. I found an inviting cafe, “Paul.” There I ordered a croissant and espresso and watched the crazy soccer happenings outside the glass window that separates the world of my inner self from the frenetic athletes and fans rousting about on the the outside.
I was feeling somewhat turned around. Not knowing how to get out of this place, I fetched my trusty compass and found North. It seems that when I know where North is, I am pretty self-sufficient. Then I can easily find my way, to where I need to be. My guide to true north…if only life was that easy.
I walked south and there it was through the raindrops–the ever-faithful train station, the one thing you can count on just about anyplace in Europe. I am now feeling like I am in the right place, at the right time. I purchased my ticket to the next small town…to see what I could find.
Sports fans were everywhere, brash, colorful, and very loud, along with a lot of media people.
After waiting a bit, it was time to carry on. A kind engineer directed me to the right track and my train was waiting for me. What a comforting sight! Just as I stepped on board the doors closed and the train started to move. After a short distance I got off–I was feeling guilty that I wasn’t walking, even though my ankle is killing me and it’s pouring down rain.
But maybe I should just take the day off and rest my ankle. Because I really do like to walk and heaven forbid if I were not able to do that. Walking is my therapy and my spiritual practice.
My first stop in any town is someplace to find a map. I need to get a bearing on where I am…and to figure out what is the most important thing (or things) that I should see in this location.
In this little village of “Lens” (about 30-thousand people) I found myself in a shop and a young on lady handed me a local map free of charge. How kind that was, to give a stranger something that important, as a stranger in town.
When I returned to the street, confident with my new free map, I found myself in what felt like a sleepy little town. (All these tiny European villages have a church and/or a cathedral right smack dab in the center of town.) So if you can find the church, you know you are downtown and you can get a fair estimate of the size of the place.
It was lightly raining (of course) and I felt tired. I just wanted to find the nearest coffee café.
No such luck…Lens turns out to have something of an empty downtown. Maybe it’s the weather, wet, gray and unpredictable. After about thirty minutes I decided to just make my way to the Art museum in this quiet place, thinking that maybe that’s where the action is. (Of course I would think that, being an artist, but not everyone else feels the same way.) So I turned around and followed the signs to “Louvre –Lens.” Yes, that’s right–it’s the sister museum to the famous Louvre in Paris, which I can’t wait to see this coming week.
My foot was hurting pretty bad, and I was thinking that I was going to just give up (you know when those tears start to fall and you’re feeling sorry for yourself). I just wanted to be somewhere around others, and was about to give up when I found the sign for the museum. My heart lifted.
I was still wet, tired, and feeling lost (not a great feeling when I search for happiness in everything). First I found a path that just didn’t seem right (you know, the back door) so I walked further down the sidewalk and sure enough, I found the entrance and then proceeded through security.
The art in the Lens-Louvre Museum was incredible–this was one of my favorites.
The Louvre in Lens is a very beautiful modern structure composed of glass and steel. Part of it is built underground. It was slightly incongruous, a real change of pace from the age of everything else around here. The design itself was simple yet very elegant, a blend of high tech and nature. Just my style… The museum was built with the help of the Japanese on the site of a former coal mine.
Once inside the museum they subject you to a serious security search, just like going through TSA at the airport. By the way, it truly surprised the security guards when I told them what I was doing…just out walking to Paris. They had me surrender my Swiss Army Knife (that Eric bought me in Switzerland), but they promised I could have it back when I left the museum. All the people at the Lens-Louvre museum were very kind, even the security folks . I was especially impressed with the young lady in the coatroom where I needed to store my backpack, which I was more than happy to give up, at least for a short time. She laughed at the weight and was a bit surprised at my story. She said she loves to meet exciting fun people…which was not how I had feeling earlier about an hour ago.
It is very Zen to carry your life on your back and truly learn the meaning of simplicity. At times I felt I was carrying too much anyway and probably could have thinned out the load even further.
The young lady in the coatroom was such a delight! We had a great educational talk on the history of Lens and the beauty of this museum, the sister museum to the more famous Louvre in Paris on the Seine. (Due to recent flooding, the docents at the Louvre and also at the Musee D’Orsay have been moving paintings and artwork from the first floor to the second.) The wonderful young lady was from an island not far from Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, east of Africa. She was a beautiful soul and a sweet delight.
I then made my way upstairs, to first sit down and eat before I viewed the magnificence of this place.
The eating area felt like the only thing that divided you from the outside were these incredible glass walls/windows. I found a Caesar salad and an espresso, served with beautiful fresh whole-wheat bread and Dijon mustard. Perfect. I rested my poor sore ankle on the chair next to me and dug in to totally enjoy the feast prepared before me.
Afterwards I visited the main hall of artwork along with schoolchildren and just loved it.
I walked back to the train station when a very nice woman picked me up and gave me a ride there. I thanked her and bought a ticket to Arras.
I am now in a beautiful Holiday Inn Express hotel room here in Arras, a refreshing change of pace from all the hostels where I have been staying, as lovely as they have been. It may not sound like much, but this wonderful hotel is just a stone’s throw from the train station here in Arras, France and I am pretty darn happy to be here.
It’s been rainy all day. I got so wet walking that the sanctuary of being inside an actual clean hotel with fresh sheets, clean towels, and a hot tub of water has me feeling like a queen. I told myself not to give up today. My ankle is very swollen and hurts like the dickens. Tonight I will take a hot shower in hopes that the swelling goes down…and best of all, I will sleep on a real bed tonight.
I am near Amiens, France. This is one of the many places in France and Belgium where World War I was fought. There is a lot of history here.
Another rainy morning…reviewing the map and trying not to waste any time. I am on a search for blueberries today.
I arranged to spend a second night in Lille to make it one less thing to think about and to give me a chance to walk about in this city…I will check out Friday July 1.
After a cup of coffee, I left the hostel and walked. First I stopped at a fancy little market to pick up some La Cheverie goat yogurt. Then I found a French Starbucks here in Lille and ordered my favorite blueberry muffin and coffee.
I sat down to plan the day…I left after daydreaming about capitalism and the historical factors of this place. Points of interest:
The Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille
The many Cathedrals that line the streets
Hospice Corntesse Museum (said to be one of the most beautiful buildings in Lille).
Lille was founded in 640, a long, long time ago. Some records say it was not started until 1066, but that is still long ago. Lille is located near the river Deule. It fell into French hands in 1369. Lille is primarily known as a textile industry town, much like Basel, Switzerland.
Lille was the locus of many religious wars throughout history. Today this bustling city is a cultural hub and a vibrant active university town. Today (Thursday June 30) Lille is the site of the European Soccer match. It’s England vs. Belgium here, and football has taken over this city which is only about 250-thousand strong. Everyone here seems pretty excited this morning.
Lille is also the home of Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) who was the President of France from 1958 until 1969. He was also a resistance fighter against the German occupation of France, and became one of France’s true heroes.
Lille is also home to the “Citadel,” a military site that dates from as far back as 1667. Yesterday, late afternoon I walked around the full circle of it to get more miles into my day. Additionally, the headquarters for the 12 -nation NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is here. There is a strong police presence.
I did find myself walking by the Pasteur Institute where Louis Pasteur discovered the vaccine for polio. Pasteur, also, of course, invented the process for purifying milk to get rid of bacteria which also bears his name: pasteurization.
Once again the rain started to pour and I found myself within feet of the Palace of the Fine Arts (Palais des Beaux-Arts) and decided I needed more art from the 1500s and 1600s. Yes.
After spending about two hours viewing the art along with many visiting elementary school children I decided to leave. It was still raining so I just bundled up and risked getting wet.
I felt a little bit lost …but found my way back to the hostel. Checked in and then the sun came out so I took a walk…about 5 miles around the Citadel. It was very beautiful and kind of reminded me of Golden Gate Park with the overgrowth of history.
After coming back from the rain and the Museum “Palais des Beaux-Arts” I decided to have a bite to eat at the restaurant across the street from the hostel where I was staying, the “Gastama.” The restaurant was La Dinette (106 bis rue de Saint Andre). Soccer is everywhere here and frankly it’s a bit crazy.
They made me a sandwich to my liking–lots of vegetables, and it tasted great!
The waiter asked me politely where I was from, and I told him, “California in the United States.” He said to me with a smile on his face, “You have a sunny accent!” I ate it up, I thought that was really sweet.
I have only 30% power left on my cell phone, but I just checked into a hostel here in Lille, France, located on the northern border of France and Belgium, just a few miles each from Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, and Brussels where I have been for the past few days. I visited Waterloo on the way to France, just south of Brussels. You can see some of the destinations on my journey here:
By the way Waterloo was just a historian tourist’s place. I visited, paid my respects to Napoleon, ate a lovely lunch, and then left.
Waterloo, of course, was where Napoleon lost a big battle against the English (Wellington) and the Prussians. This was also the end of Napoleon Bonaparte’s reign of France–all this on June 18, 1815, almost exactly 201 years ago! It’s directly south of beautiful Brussels. I did not stay very long at Waterloo–I decided I just didn’t like this guy…and it was hard to give him my time of day.
I then proceeded to make my way across the French border and on down to Lille.
Lille is very nice and clean…I am thinking of getting a glass of French wine to congratulate myself on making it all the way to France!
There is such a strong sense of style here. I was taken aback by all the beauty at just the train station alone. The French are so classy!
My left ankle hurts. I am thinking that I might have to wrap it as it is starting to swell a bit. It could be from all the walking I did yesterday…10 miles in and around Brussels. Not to mention all the walking I have been doing for the past 4 weeks!
It’s kind of hard to walk properly on cobblestones, in case you don’t know. In the Netherlands it was red brick clay and in Belgium it was cobblestones gray stone squares. I wonder what kind of cobblestones they will have for my poor feet and ankles in France?
Anyway, so far I have this room here at the hostel in Lille all to myself, this being a Wednesday night, so there are not so many tourists. I just made a one-night reservation but it’s so nice and clean here that maybe tomorrow I’ll spend another night and check out the local history.
It started to rain as I got off the train this late afternoon, but then it has been raining almost every afternoon all the way from Amsterdam down here to the northern French border (frontière). (Doctors Without Borders is also known in French as “Médecins Sans Frontières.”)
I went downstairs after dropping off my backpack in this lovely room. (There are no surprise roommates for the night, at least not yet.)
I then proceeded to celebrate my arrival in France by having two (not one) glasses of wine. It was a dry French white, my favorite (sorry California!), to help me sleep tonight. Like I would have any problems…now I am really ready to sleep.
It looked nice this morning here in the gorgeous city of Brussels, home of the EU. I kept my rain coat out just in case…it turned out to be exceedingly pleasant.
I decided I was going to check out this city garden from a past World’s Exposition so I started to walk towards the east side of city center after stopping for coffee and a brie, walnut, and honey bread roll.
I made my way over to the park. It seems a bit out of place, wrapped around a modern city, yet the park had aged gracefully through the years. It is a grand reflection of a younger city. This place is filled with statues.
I also stopped by a beautiful Cathedral yesterday morning.
I am not too far from the Metro where the bombing was, Maalbeek metro station in Brussels…how sad.
I did get to visit the Art Nouveau Museum which turned out to be very beautiful in design, in architecture, not to mention the fantastic collection of art wonders it contained. Such a graceful statement.
Another day with overcast skies…could it be rain? Again?
I had a leisurely cup of coffee here at the hostel only to find out that checkout time is 10:00 am.
So I packed and checked out and the kind young lady behind the desk was extremely helpful.
I wondered if I should have spent another night there because the hostel was quiet and clean.
Not to mention the fact that I slept peacefully throughout the night, and was not surprised by roommates showing up in the middle of the night.
Arles, the beautiful young girl behind the front desk, was just wonderful and helped me out. She said she would hold two spots for me if I should change my mind and decide to spend another night at the same hostel. (The gentleman at the front desk the night before was certain they were booked.)
Anyway, I told her I was going out to the Art Nouveau Museum and if I could leave my backpack at the hostel while I went looking at art. Yes, she gladly replied, and showed me to a room where I could stow my backpack for safekeeping.
She went back to her desk and I was ready to say goodbye when she surprised me by saying, “I was having a terrible morning till I saw your face and it brightened me up!” Wow!
I thought, that is so sweet, see we never really know how we change the energy of a room. I just loved her, honestly, so important in life.
I reviewed my map for the morning and headed towards that Art Nouveau Museum called “The Hora Museum.”
After walking for about 10 city blocks in the light morning rain I found it. I’m not sure when it happened, but I discovered suddenly that everyone speaks French here…by what I can tell. Mon français n’est pas bien.
The Hora Museum turned out to be closed–a lot of museums close on Mondays I guess. So I just sat down and said to myself, “Guess I will spend another night here.” Like it was so hard to decide. Besides, Arles, the beautiful girl at the hostel had been so nice to me and said she would hold me a couple of spots. (Van Gogh painted a picture titled “Bedroom In Arles.” I wonder if that is where she got her name…)
I left and started to think about wild smoked salmon and blueberries, for some reason. That would be great food to eat this day.
It started to sprinkle so I found my way into a cute neighborhood coffee shop.
There I ordered an Americano and a French croissant. I picked up the European version of The New York Times and just started to read it because it’s the first newspaper I’ve seen in days.
Afterwards I started to head north towards the Grand-Place Grote Market.
I passed a yoga place called “The Yoga Room” it had very creative sign and that read, “Creativity is Maximized when you are living in the moment. Also, Freedom is the god of yoga.”
I trudged north–the rain was pretty heavy and the outdoor temperature seemed to be getting hotter.
I need to close my eyes for a few…
After resting a bit, I came across a very upscale shopping area like you would find in any rich big city. In San Francisco we have Union Square–it was like that.
I was looking for gloves because my hands were so cold, but I found none, anywhere. The rain was pouring down hard at this point. So I kept on walking, stopped at a Tesla dealership, and went inside to touched my dream car, silly me. Someday…
Afterwards I continued my walk, found a very splendid and grand refined city park with water fountains and statues gracing the grounds.
Water is not an issue here, as it is in California…love it.
I continued walking, surrounded by art museums, and headed towards the Grote Market like where I was yesterday before I got to Brussels. I was just enjoying the sight and this young lady whose job it is to “sell you” makeup wanted to show me some samples.
So, I let her put some cream on my face and give me her sales pitch. Inside I’m laughing there is no way I’m going to buy something that I need to carry. Everything I have in the world is inside my 15-pound (probably now 20-pound) knapsack. I thanked her and left…then, three doors down was my search come true…
A leather gloves shop (Italian, of course).
Just what I was looking for perfect colors and designs. The more simplicity the better.
The exquisite young lady named Zoe Nameche helped me and I ended up buying an orange pair. A treat to myself to keep my hands warm when these days get cold. We had a delightful time and exchanged business cards. Before leaving she told me about the spin on the famous status of the little boy peeing. (Manneken-P is the name of the little boy peeing in the fountain.) There is a statue of a little girl doing it her way, too. I found both with the help of everyone in Brussels, knowing that I would not give up. Thank you to everyone who helped me, for your kindness!
Roaming back here to the hostel I stopped for cheese and nuts for energy this early evening and also for tomorrow’s walk.
It is Sunday. June 26th and I am making my way south (11 miles) to a place called Fort Breendonk, which used to be a World War II Concentration Camp, situated in the middle of a moat. Fort Breendonk is near the town of Willebroek, a small village in Belgium. It was a Nazi prison camp during the German occupation of France during WWII. It was built in 1906-1913 along an ancient highway that connects Brussels and Antwerp. 400-500 Jews and members of the Belgium resistance were held there. Fewer than 10% survived the war. It was known for its poor living conditions and torture. Most Jews who ended up here were sent to Eastern Europe–Auschwitz-Birkenau, in occupied Poland.
I am now in Brussels—what a beautiful place! I will try to make it to the Art Nouveau Museum tomorrow. I’m staying at the Hotel Brxxl 5 City Centre, Rue de Woeringen 5, 1000 Brussels.
I am thinking of finding a salad to eat. The rain today was cold and the thunder lasted a long time…so when I decided to just take the train to Brussels (instead of exposing myself to the cold wet lightning) the trains were running on the Sunday train schedule. It felt like a very long time before the train arrived at the station, and it was testing my patience. I keep trying to remember to think in loving kindness…to all mankind, and womankind…. everyone Peace.
I finally made it to Brussels, despite the vague Sunday train schedule. I’m down to 22% power on my trusty phone right now, so I will let it charge at the hostel instead of taking it out with me.
I went out walking and came back after about 1 hour but my phone has only charged up to 24%. Evidently the hostel turns off the electricity when you’re not in the room. Hey, I got this place for a measly 20 Euros, so it’s a deal and I’m pretty happy living on the cheap. The room is still empty so I had better get my shower in before other guests arrive.
By the way, it’s a very pleasant 61-degrees Outdoors (only 16-degrees Centigrade or Celsius). Very nice after all the rain.
Got up at 8:00 a.m., got dressed, and I’m ready to start my day…First stop, the Cathedral around the corner…The Cathedral of Our Lady (1352-1521) here in Antwerpen.
Some simple notes of this place…It was only 6 Euros to get in. The Cathedral is a very holy place…noted for being one of the best in Europe for its historical ambiance. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a Roman Catholic cathedral, started in the year 1352…wow. That’s old!
The Cathedral of Our Lady contains a number of significant works of art by the Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens as well as paintings by artists Otto van Veen, Jacob de Backend, and Marten de Vos. The church also features significant architectural details, such as the spire which measures 12 meters. It is the highest church tower in the Holy Roman Empire.
Napoleon compared the spire to “Mechln lace,” the best known Flemish lace. It is fine and transparent and looks its best when worn over another color, think velvet. Deep and rich colors can be found here in the tapestries.
Some of the other history of these fine works of art are that these pieces were confiscated by Napoleon and moved to France, then later returned in the 19th century.
More facts to get an idea of the size of this place.
2,400 people can be in this church at once.
In principle the Cathedral can hold 25,000 people
128 windows and 55 are stained glass
There are 57 permanent altars.
The organ has 90 registers and 5,770 pipes.
Incredible to say the least…all expressions to Mother Mary for her love and sorrow. This cathedral is also an active Parish (a place of worship).
I did light a candle for all my friends…past and present…who help me and believe in me. All this light and stone tells many stories.
It is Saturday and I been seeing a lot of people dressed for wedding celebrations, especially around the Cathedral. My favorite one this morning was when I saw this gentleman deliver his bride to the church in a bike basket…it was really touching and romantic. Sweet.
I will write more later, but right now I am going to look for the Botanische tuin. I think that they have the gardens that I need for inspiration for the Belgium part of my future coloring book. PEACE.
I can hear the thunder rumbling off in the distance in the dark gray overcast skies…awaiting another summer rain here in Antwerp…
I found the gardens after going too far…I had to turn around. But, all in all, it was worth the walk in this city. A kind woman on the street helped me out; I’m sure I must have looked puzzled. I was having trouble reading the map (since all the legends were written in Flemish. I was not being able to find the street signs on the map to figure out where I was. Some of these old cities in Europe have very confusing streets that wind around. Not to mention that I can’t even pronounce them.
Being here in the stunningly beautiful city of Antwerp reminds me of all those foreign films I’ve watched; now I’m living in one. I took a lot of pictures of flowers to illustrate (at a later date) along with their names.
Afterwards I stopped by a store called K2, named after the second highest mountain in the world (Mount Everest is the tallest) near the border of China and Pakistan. K2 is an outdoor store that is probably equivalent to REI back in the United States. This is the first outdoor sports store I have found since being here. I bought a headband to keep the hair out of my face when I walk. Red is the color this week for the Belgium soccer team, playing in the Europe UEFA EURO 2016 games. Soccer is VERY big here…like our football playoff games. Actually, it’s more like our Super Bowl. It’s a really big deal!
I walked back towards the church and picked up a salad to eat for a late lunch, early dinner. I sat under a tree and simply enjoyed just watching the Saturday crowd. Next to me was a Visitor’s Center so I stepped in to see what I might be missing in thus great town. I picked up some postcards to send back home. Fashion is big here…the look of really incredible sophistication…I did see a older woman, probably in her late 70s, wearing a very high heel red shoe…she looked incredible, maintaining her balance with such grace and style.
I rested afterwards to charge my phone then went out again. Then the sky opened up and a downpour drenched me, again. That seems to happen a lot on this trip through northern Europe in early summer. It makes me wonder if there might be a better time to do this tour next time. I stopped at a few places but felt like a undecided voter.
I made my way back to a cafe and got a glass of French wine. I was eavesdropping on a conversation at the table next to me and the waitress informed me that it has been the wettest June in 200 years. All these years are rounded up by the 100’s…which brings a big grin to my face.
I miss my family.
I am feeling wet and cold…surprise, surprise…and I think I may need to retire for the evening soon.
Sometimes I feel so tired by the time I get to this blog it’s no wonder I may seem a little messed up. Thanks for bearing with me.
At the hostel in Antwerp I met this lovely young lady from England (we shared a room) Her name is “Sam” for Samartha. She was a delight and a happy adventurer on a journey of fun. Her boyfriend was teaching English in Thailand.
We have been in the same hostels three times…Rotterdam she didn’t care for…I liked the city and its WWII history. The city of design…she said she would follow my blog and I told her to check out Iris’ “Iris in Indonesia” blog on WordPress.com because it is written so well.
We said, our goodbyes and wished each other “All the Best”.
A NEW DAY……Friday June 24th….I am going to start a walk to Antwerp….and see how far I get in this 80 degree (20-degrees C) weather. With overcast skies…very humid.
I had a healthy breakfast of toast and cheese with apricot jam. A little bit of black coffee. Rested and ready to move into this day.
I left Gent in light rain sprinkles but had no idea how the weather would actually turn out. It was very muggy so I walked to the Central train station and was again amazed at the beauty and history of it all…awe.
I headed towards Antwerp (I’ve seen it spelled Antwerpen, too) in the light rain. I waited for about 45 minutes… the weather was iffy, starting to rain even more…I gave up on the weather and then hopped the train. I sat fairly close to the door because of the weight of my pack…bruised on my hips (black and blue), a tad sore.
This young mother and her daughter (about 2-1/2-years-old) sat down next to me…it was sweet watching a young girl help her on the train with her baby buggy. They were the last ones on before the door closed…
I just love watching the kindness of strangers to one another!
On the train listened to this mother talk on her phone (even though I could not understand a word of her Flemish!) but she was being direct with the person on the other line and it seemed a bit heated. Emotions in any language show through. She really didn’t seem to mind attracting an audience.
After the phone she talked to her joyful child who was standing on the seat across from me and looking out the window and getting excited about the animals she saw in the open fields of green pastures we passed. This little girl was a jewel and seemed very smart judging by the interactions with her mother. She had a cough and made me think she was on her way to a doctor. I remember those days…(Stevie Wonder fills this air)…as I write…
Back to yesterday’s journey :
The demeanor of the mother and child was a very lovely relationship.
I asked her if there was a local Belgium child character that was one of color whom she could recommend for a gift. She said she knew of none. I replied that maybe her daughter needed to create one, being she is so smart and creative.
She just smiled back at me…as if given a blessing.
Anyway the train moved on quite fast down the tracks…and we reached our destination in the beautiful city of Antwerp. After I got off the train I asked her if I could take her picture, she was fine with it. Also before I got off the train I gave her a card to follow my adventure.
It was noon and I decided to stop at the Visitor’s Center to get a bearing on where I was and to plan my city visit.
This place is known as the diamond capital of the world. I am not their client. Saw a postcard that said “Every diamond in the world at some point, passes through Antwerp.” I saw a wedding taking place nearby with lots of young attractive Antwerpians.
OK, so I had a great salad and sandwich shop and stopped to fill up on energy food…it was great…and clean, my type of food.
Great…Did end up in a “Starbucks” just to get my location figured out…a young lady came outdoors and asked me if I needed anything I let her know “not right now.”
I was busy looking at the map and figuring out which museum would be first…and where I would spent the night. In this neighborhood would be fine…shops,people and local color. Seems like a tourist place…this place is a fashion capital…
Just some simple facts about this place:
Antwerp is the largest port in the world on the River Scheldt. Antwerp is a Flemish community of some 78 square miles with half a million people.
Antwerp has one of the oldest zoos in the world. (Think “Belgian Congo.”) There is a very high level of research and conservation here as well as a prominent Art Nouveau architectural element. I need to find the “Zurenborg neighborhood. I read it was a must see…
I found a place for the night and walked around the town…did a few minutes of walking after ditching my “ugly” tennis shoes in this fashion mecca.
I walked around a lot and decided I could not figure out what to eat so I had a very nice glass of French wine.
I have been researching WWII and the local history…wondering if the Catholic Church was protected by the German Nazis. The churches and cathedrals here in Antwerp seem to have been safe from so much destruction here in Belgium. In Rotterdam it was so different because something like 90% of the town was destroyed by the war.
I finished my day in a perfect way…counted my many blessings of gratitude.
Well, I was the first to wake up in my room at the hostel so I just headed downstairs to caught up on writing my journey.
Outside the city awakes with street cleaners and many church bells ringing. 1970s music fills the air.
Breakfast is simple with coffee and a delicate coffee apple cake–very nice!
The weather outside is dark and gray then first sprinkles then a fury of heavy down pour of rain then you could hear the thunder and the sky broke open with very loud cracking lightning…what a greeting to this day! Just glad I am safe inside. Will go out and find a vegetarian restaurant today. Gent has the most vegetarian restaurants in Europe for this population. Cool.
This young girl around the room said yesterday was their summer…that only in Belgium do we get one day…
Then these young men sit down next to me and start telling “Jesus” jokes…speaking a version of English…but not the American …Maybe Irish? English from England?