Wandering out of the Mode Museum, we got lost and decided to head for the streets that looked interesting. Trying to get into a garden with a lake that we’d spied through the gate, we ended up on a separate loop that took us down a side alley and to the door of this:
More interesting, and probably more magnificent than Antwerp’s cathedral, this is the Sint Andreis church. Inside a music group were rehearsing, their voices bouncing off the columns, the pulpit and the art installations (a punching bag near the font, a column of shoes to the confessional, a tableau of refugees and journalists near the Lady Chapel – each re-enacting the pilgrimage the church’s structure is meant to show).
High above, these modern windows told episodes of grace and mercy. The first is the return of the prodigal son, very close in mood to the famous Rembrandt painting, followed by Pentecost and a tender nativity.
I don’t think many people would think of Antwerp as a holiday destination, or that there’d be much to see there, but it’s a tremendously varied town.
The port area is still working, and there’s a huge warehouse along with marinas, a shipping authority building, a giant red sandstone modern art gallery and shining point by Zaha Hadid. I got the impression when we visited that it’s a popular area for students to sit down and have a drink, for older couples to take a stroll round some art, and of course a stream of kayak lessons for kids.
The centre is much more typical: cobbled streets, pretty church fronts and little courtyards. (Thanks to the waiter who brought us omelettes that first night, even though “the kitchens were shut and all the food finished” after we lost track of time wandering.)
And in the south east is this, the Cogels-Oyslei neighbourhood, near Berchem station. Probably the Brooklyn of Antwerp, given the locals we saw playing in the street, and full of these incredibly over the top, vast houses.
Photos August 2017.
Sadly the Victor Hugo market was undergoing a huge renovation when I visited Toulouse and was both locked up and being drilled to the ground, so I didn’t get the full gastronomic experience that the city can offer, but the shops in the local streets more than did their best; chocolatier, glacier, several wine and cheese shops, a bakery, an emporium of Spanish hams… I couldn’t take photos of it all, but here’s a snippet.