Thursday, March 27, 2008


Antwerp is only two hours away by train so on Wednesday we excitedly set off for a day trip. It took us four hours to get there after a fire at a station en route, but when we arrived we were thrilled with how pretty everything was. Wide boulevards, intricate grand buildings, a stillness in the air (less bikes/trams/buses).

I had four food goals:
1) Moules-frites
2) Belgian chocolate
3) An assortment of beers
4) A waffle

So after passing through the Meir, the main shopping drag, we went seeking what I thought would be a dime a dozen: a quaint dark bistrot where we could wile away the hours over a steaming pot of mussels to dunk our frites into, while sampling a selection of local brew. We walked down to the port, through the fashion district, past the touristy menus, but couldn't find a thing. Disheartened, we settled in to groovy-looking Cafe Berlin and had a really lovely lunch: Dani a superb cheeseburger and I toasted brioche with sauteed wild mushrooms and herb aoili. Around the corner was Gucci and Cartier and a taste of the Marais with Gerard Darel and Comptoir des Cotonniers, and our chocolate shops. Chocolaterie Sweertvaegher had some creamy pralines and ganaches, and at Marcolini, an elegant boutique that could just as easily have sold diamonds, perfect squares of flavoured chocolate, in our case, gingerbread spices, caramel biscuit and Earl Grey tea.

The area was charming for a stroll, and after a waffle I stupidly tried on a few things at American Apparel. Nothing should be tried on there after a waffle. Or before a waffle, since their sizing went all nonsense. The scent of waffles fills the air in Antwerp, and they cleverly station the waffle joints near women's clothes stores. Who wants to waste their time shopping when there are fresh waffles sizzling on the grill? My waffle was glorious, hot and slightly caramelised on the edges, soft and chewy inside. It was freezing, so we huddled in a pub and tried a few yummy beers before a long train ride home.

A beautiful city that's better suited for a summer's day, when the numerous open spaces would be filled with bustling terraces, maybe even with pots of mussels.

+ Click here teo see more photos from my Antwerp flickr set

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