A Day in Antwerp

After a miserable day trapped in an Antwerp hotel room, I determined to head out on my own even if I accomplished nothing more than wandering around looking like a complete idiot.

So I wandered around Antwerp looking like a complete idiot.

In the past I have been really lucky when travelling to foreign places with Kevin.  He generally has to work for at least part of the trip.  (Which is why we got to go in the first place.)  So, in that respect, I am used to sightseeing alone.  I enjoy my own company.  It isn’t a big deal.  But our previous destinations have all been big tourist destinations.  So I am accustomed to heading to the concierge desk, picking up a brochure and booking a tour to wherever.  The tours always speak English and basically shepherd you around like a three year old.  I love it muchly.

But Antwerp is not the tourist mecca of Belgium,  That would be Brussels and we were miles from there.  So no tours.  No concierge.  No room service.  I know I sound like a spoiled brat but…it is what it is.

So I had a few places that I wanted to see. A couple of museums.  A cathedral.  (Did you know that I would rather see a cathedral than eat when I’m hungry?  Well, it’s true.)   I also had a map.  Now for a normal person this should have worked fine.  But, for me, it could have been an international incident.  I am, without a doubt, the most directionally challenged person you know.  It’s kinda legendary.  And that is in Tennessee.  Where all the signs are in a language I can understand and with cell phones and GPS. 

My first stop was at the Ruben’s House.  I will post a slideshow later.  I know you are waiting with bated breath.  Be patient.  I managed to get cash from a weird ATM, buy a ticket and make my way through the tour without incident.  Things were looking up. 

At this point I only had one problem.  I had overslept breakfast service at the hotel and while I wasn’t hungry, I really, really needed a cup of coffee.  Really.  As I wandered the streeps of Antwerp beating myself up for not bringing a pair of earmuffs, I hopefully scanned the shops lining the street for a coffeeshop.  In a bitter ironic twist, I didn’t see one friggin Starbucks in the whole city.  I did, however, see a shop called illy.  This appeared to be a coffee shop.  I walked in and was enveloped in warmth and coffee smells.  I assume they sell something there but there is no menu, no register, nothing to indicate that you haven’t just accidently wandered into someone’s sparsely decorated all white home.  In America, someone would have greeted me with a “Can I get you something, hon?”  In Antwerp, I was met with the bored stares and silence of two guys who may or may not have been on Sprockets in the early 1990’s.  I left without coffee.

I continued on my journey and saw just one place more fantastic than the other.  I think European people are just far too accustomed to being surrounded by beautiful architecture.  It’s everywhere.  At one point I stood in the middle of a throng of commuters both pedestrian and bicyclers trying to get a picture of this magnificent building.  I’m sure those Belgians were curious as to why a chubby American was holding up traffic to photograph a bank.  By the way, I think it says a lot about us as a society when your banks are nicer than any other buildings.  But that’s a rant for another day.

While I was enjoying my walk, I was beginning to get concerned.  No cathedral in sight.  I was generally in the area it should have been (I hoped?)  and how hard can it be to find a cathedral?  I turned a corner and stopped dead in my tracks.  High above the buildings in fron of me, I could see it The Cathedral of Our Lady.  I almost started to cry before I even saw it and then the bells started to ring.  I am old enough to recognize and enjoy a good life moment when it happens.  I thoroughly savored this one.

More Cathedral talk in tomorrow’s Bible Tuesday.

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