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davidx Antwerpen - A travel report by David
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Antwerpen,  Belgium - flag Belgium -  Antwerpen
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davidx's travel reports

Bobbing about in Belgium

  24 votes
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Surely some of these places deserve better, you might say. Certainly, but they’ve had no coverage at all on the site before and my self-planned tour was very much a quickie. Let’s see some fuller reports indeed!


Belgium is a federation of three areas: Dutch speaking Flanders [the word ‘Flemish’ seems to have dropped out of use], French speaking Wallonie and the bi-lingual capital Brussel/Bruxelles. I start with Antwerpen in Flanders. I won’t dwell on what I didn’t see, except to say that the places here shouldn’t be taken as a recommended exclusive list. I had my own reasons for choice and yours might well be different. The Grote Markt is superb. Arguments about the relative merits of this and the Grande Place in Brussels weary me but it’s in the same league. Splendid old Guild Houses with golden signs on top stand in a rather irregular pattern. Near this is the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Cathedral that is the equal of the best ones in Europe. Its spire is 123 m high and towers over the city. The interior height, length and width are respectively 40, 117 and 65m. Sounds wide? It certainly does – there are three aisles each side of the broad central nave. See http://travelswithus-.net/ju ne02/belgium/antwerp--cath edral.html for some good pictures. The fort called ‘t Steen was built in the 12th century, although it has been considerably altered, and is the only riverside part of the old city to survive. I went on the ‘tourist train’ to see some of the quays but would not recommend this for a short visit. Anyway, in a city famous for Rubens it’s time for the Rubens House. If you want evidence that not all artists were poor and starving, you need look no farther. This is an exquisite house with a fine collection of paintings. The Mayer Van den Bergh museum was being refurbished but I was able to see Bruegel’s [the Elder] masterpiece of Dulle Griet [Mad Peg]. The building was constructed at the very beginning of the 20th century to house Mayer’s collection – in 16th century style! Lastly, take tram 11 to Zurenborg to see the almost incredible architecture of Cogels-Osilei.. [www.jack-travel.com-/Belgium/Ht ml/antwerp_Cogels_Os-y_Lei.htm]

Favourite spots:
The Bridge, Bouillon
The Bridge, Bouillon
For my favourite I go to Wallonie and the small town of Bouillon. This really is a gem. The river Semois winds like a serpent, clearly a series of oxbow lakes in the making. Within one of its coils is the fabulous Chateau Fort of Bouillon, a castle of childhood dreams with towers and battlements and ‘secret’ staircases. To reach Bouillon from Brussels, get the Luxembourg train as far as Livramont and then a bus. The town is a sort of Mecca for canoeists and you would be well advised to book well in advance if you want to go at a weekend. I also liked the barely known – except by Belgian canoeists – town of Barveau. It is a river walk of only 7 miles from the tourist trap of Durbuy, once esteemed as the tiniest village in the world [Heaven help us!] In spite of that the walk is great – and very easy.

What's really great:
Wallonie again but a larger place this time, Namur. There is a bit of mystery about the location of the most interesting sight in the place, Le Tresor du Prieure d’Oignies [see my travel tip] so ask at the friendly and helpful TIC near the station. This is a fabulous sight., wherever it may be. The treasure was crafted by a monk, Hugo d’Oignies, in the 12th century. The intricacy and detail of the designs is such that if a small section is examined on a computer image and magnified a number of times, there is scarcely any loss of clarity. As well as the site given in the travel tip [French only but good pics] you might like to look at http://www.trabel.co-m/na mur/namen-treasure.h-tm I missed visiting the Citadelle in Namur because the mist only cleared in time for darkness to be close – but it looked like a good place to go without the Disneyesque character associated with some such places.

Sights:
Leuven is a university town in Flanders, where I stayed my first night. There were students everywhere and the same sort of atmosphere prevailed as at any other town dominated by a university. The Stadhuis [Town hall] is an amazing building with 236 figures arranged in three rows all around it. The building itself is well over 500 years old but the money ran out at the time and most of the figures are of much later date.
I spent my last night at Brussels. I don’t feel competent to write about the city [there is a 4* report already] but I should just like to mention two outstanding museums: the Museum of Ancient Arts and the Museum of Musical Instruments,


Accommodations:
Chateau Fort, Bouillon
Chateau Fort, Bouillon
B&B Family Bousard-Rodiguez
Address: Sudermanstraat 18, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium
Phone: +32 3.227.1530
This was really good, situated near enough to the cathedral and the Grote Markt for a hotel to have cost a fortune but reasonably cheap – vast rooms with facilities for some self-catering if required – good breakfast.

Hotel La Royale, Martelarenplein 6, B-3000 LEUVEN
T+32 16 22 12 52 was where I spent the first night – no problems.


Other recommendations:
Mechelen Cathedral
Mechelen Cathedral
On the way from Leuven to Antwerpen I stopped off to look at Mechelen, about which i had heard good things. I was short of time here and my visit was partly spoiled by my following some bad directions – but nothing can take away from the cathedral. It was built in the 13th century and was described by Vauban as the eighth wonder of the world. It was planned to be the highest of all Benelux buildings with a tower of 167m. However this wasn’t effected so the tower remains incomplete – and obviously so – in spite of an actual height of over 97m. Fitter people than me do what I should love to have done, climb the 514 steps for a splendid view and to see what sounds like an amazing array of bells. See www.trabel.com/mechtower.htm [The trabel com site is very informative about Belgium generally.]

Published on Friday March 11th, 2005


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Fri, Feb 16 2007 - 06:09 PM rating by travler

This was an excellent report. I enjoyed it very much.

Thu, Jan 18 2007 - 07:31 PM rating by mrscanada

This was a fabulous review and the pictures as always were fabulous.

Fri, Nov 11 2005 - 03:54 PM rating by nedkelly

Nice report David.... I look forward to working there again....in Belgium I mean... Im not much of a city fella and I have to work in Brussels until Christmas..... could you stick a report up about there...would be really helpfull, especially with your attention to detail!! Good on yer David..fantastic report!!!

Thu, Oct 27 2005 - 04:47 PM rating by isaacmolina

I voted Valencia with 5 points, but did not comment by mistake. But it was very very very good! The best of your collection.
This one too, but less

Sun, Mar 13 2005 - 06:39 AM rating by mkrkiran

Hi David,

I read this report with great interest. I do definitely agree with you on some of these great places deserve more attention than they actually get now. The usual promotions for tourism focus on very obvious icons of Europe while there great many places that will be of interest. Personally, I do feel the same for tourism in India, a vast cultural excellence but experienced probably to an extent of only 10%.

Reports in forums like these, help bringing a better perspective certainly.

Regards, Kiran

Sat, Mar 12 2005 - 09:51 PM rating by horourke

Hey you are the first person I know to have mentioned the musical instrument museum in Brussels. Is that in a square called petit sablo?
If it is I spent a grat evening there listening to Armenian music maybe 20 years ago.
Great report!

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