The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris

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Antwerp, Belgium
February 2012
"The Regulars"

President's Day afforded Tony another holiday so we started looking at places to go. The flights to Brussels looked open, but we'd done Brussels and Brugge before, so this time, we decided to see Antwerp. After all, Tom Shane's been bragging about it for 40 years, there must be something there to see!

We were looking good for business class seats when we left for the airport, but by the time we got to the Sky Club, our names had moved down the stand-by list enough to frighten us. Thankfully, not everyone who had listed for the flight showed up so we happily settled into our business class seats. A movie, a meal, a nap and we were in Belgium.

The train station is just downstairs at the airport, so we were able to get our tickets and catch an 8:40AM train to Antwerp with a connection at Brussels Nord.

One of the "must-see" things Tony had read about was the Antwerp train station. We spent a few minutes exploring and admiring the architecture.

Our hotel, the Antwerp Hilton, was within walking distance of the train station. We got a nice room on the executive level and the lounge was still serving breakfast when we got there.

We set out to explore the town. As in many European towns, everything centered around a big church.

There was a big square surrounding a statue of a guy holding a severed hand.

Our research told us that according to folklore, the city got its name from a legend involving a mythical giant who collected a toll from those crossing the river and anyone who refused got their hand chopped off. Someone killed the giant and threw his hand in the river. Supposedly Antwerpen translates into hand-throw or something like that.

Next, we walked to the river and found the Noorderterras Restaurant. It was gray and cold so we stopped in. They had free wi-fi that we could use to call Tony's mom.

The Tourist Information office at the train station had told us about the Mas (Museum aan de Stroom), the city's newest museum. 

The architecture was interesting. Escalators winding around the building led to the panorama view from the top.

On the way back down the winding escalators, we got a better perspective of the architecture from the inside.

There were lots of Madonna figures mounted on the corners of buildings around the city.

Tony had just announced that he was ready for a glass of wine when BJ spotted a little alley with a lighted heart above it.

We turned down the alley and stumbled upon a little wine bar called Vigneto. After a couple of glasses of wine and a few hands of Casino, we struck up a conversation with the staff and learned that this was the first day they had been open to the public! We had such fun talking to them that we decided to stop back by the next day to check on them.

We found our way back to the hotel and made it an early night.

The following day, we awoke to blue skies! The TI had told us about a Saturday Flea Market at the end of a street filled with Antique stores. We decided to try to find it. We walked along the river until we thought we had gone far enough and turn back toward town. The intersection where we turned had a heart shaped stop light!

We spent the morning just wandering around enjoying the beautiful weather and taking in the sights!

We took a break at the Cafe Pelikaan. BJ sipped Westmalle Trappist and Tony tried the local Crystal lager while we played a few more hands of Casino.

We went back to the Grote Markt for lunch. There are lots of restaurants around the square. We chose De Kleine Post. Tony wanted to try the local favorite, stoofvlees (a beef stew) while BJ had the soup of the day. We shared a bowl of those delicious Belgian French Fries. The food was good, but it took us forever to get someone to take our order.

After a little more sightseeing, we found ourselves back at the wine bar Vigneto. It was the birthday of one of the owners. Along with the wine, they served tapas of ham, salami and cheese. 

We met a nice group of folks and enjoyed some lively conversation. One of the customers even went behind the bar to show the owners how to use their fancy coffee machine.

The following day we set aside for touring the Diamond District! We walked back to the train station along the main shopping street.

We began the long slow stroll past the windows filled with diamonds. We stopped into a couple of stores and looked at some earrings for BJ. We really liked DiamondLAND because they had windows where you could see the diamonds being cut and polished.

Some of the stores were in a mall attached to the train station. We walked around the outside of the train station and peered into the windows of the zoo. We saw a couple of giraffes but it was too cold for anything else to be out.

For lunch we shared a sandwich at a little place called eten & drinken.

Afterward, we set out in search of a bar with free wi-fi where we could call Tony's mom. We walked toward the port and then turned back toward Old Town. We loitered outside a couple of bars, trying to see if our phones picked up wi-fi. We were concentrating on our phones and suddenly noticed that we had stumbled into the Red Light District. We quickened our step and hurried out of the area.

We ducked into the Mallebabbe without regard to whether it had wi-fi. It was quite obviously a local hang-out and not a place we would recommend for tourists.

We made our way back to our favorite haunt, the wine bar Vigneto. They were glad to see us and started referring to us as "the regulars". We were sad to say goodbye when we left, but we became facebook friends and promised to return.

On the way back to the hotel, we encountered an accident. A delivery truck had snagged the awning over the bar next to the Pelikan.

It was another great trip!  We'll be back to visit our friends at Vigneto. I'm sure they'll be successful.  They are already getting great write-ups on Trip Advisor!

BJ and Tony