Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tips for Antwerp, Belgium

Like my Tips for Amsterdam post, I'm not going to go into all the typical things to see and do in Antwerp. Instead, I'm just going to highlight some of the things we discovered on our recent river cruise.

Like where we Kattendijkdok. Surrounded by old warehouses, most in need of repair, there is no reason to hang around the dock area.

'Power' walkers were offered the opportunity to walk into Antwerp while the rest of took the bus. On the bus we were given a brief tour of Antwerp including a drive through the diamond district. After being dropped off near Grote Markt, we had a tour of the cathedral and then some free time. I had read to carry sunglasses and an umbrella as the weather is very changeable. That advice proved accurate.

Having never been to Belgium before, there were a few things I wanted to experience, like Belgian french fries, Belgian waffles, Belgian chocolate and Belgian beer. We had enough time to do all four and here are my recommendations:

While the group headed for a bathroom stop before touring the cathedral, I backtracked a few steps to a Belgian fries place that I had read about, right at the Grote Markt. I ordered a small fries with mayonnaise.

My portion of fries was cooked up fresh. Asked if it was for 'here or to go' (go), they were wrapped up in paper. For those of us in the U.S. who are used to fries with ketchup, I admit this doesn't look terribly appetizing. But you'd be wrong not to try it. I don't know what was added to the mayonnaise but it wasn't the plain mayonnaise I'm used to. Whatever it was, the fries were delicious and my husband and I competed over the last bite. BTW, we tried other fries places and there is no doubt in our mind that the fries at Frituur were the best.

After are visit to the cathedral, next on our menu were Belgium waffles. We learned that there are two types: one which are light and fluffy and you sit at a table to eat and one that is heavier/denser and is a walk-away food. We wanted the light and fluffy ones and, again based upon something I had found on the Internet, stopped at Antoon Van Dyek (that's DH in the foreground) also in Grote Markt at #4. (We later had an opportunity to taste the walk-away type of waffle....IMHO, skip it!)

Because the waffles looked big, we ordered one to share...with chocolate ice cream and warm cherries. WOW! They were so light and delicious that we could each have had one. In addition to the waffle, we ordered coffee which was served on a silver tray: a large cup of coffee, a small dish of whipped cream, a small pitcher of milk, and a small dish of cubed white and brown sugar with a small muffin. How elegant!

Next was chocolate. With several shops around the Grote Markt area it was hard to choose but, not wanting to buy from a chain, we picked Elise. Another reason was because it was one of the few shops that had sealed bars of chocolate that I could take home for gifts. Elise is one of the more expensive chocolate shops but the pralines (filled chocolates) that I purchased there were fantastic. (I really need to write a separate post on just Belgian chocolate. BG)

Last but not least is beer. Right across from the above shops was a store selling several hundred types of beer AND the glasses to go with them. A couple we had met on board (Tom and Becky) were interested in bringing some samples home and Tom stopped here to shop while Becky and I did the 'lace' thing. And this is where Tom ran into the 'chip and pin' problem.

To actually sample beer in Antwerp, our guide mentioned The Eleventh Commandment, not far from the cathedral. While they had a nice selection of beers, I DO NOT recommend this pub. We were not made to feel welcome (as we had been in Amsterdam), with no assistance on choosing beers and then having the glasses thrown down in front of us. We each had 'only' one beer and left.

My one regret, and I guess I'll have to save it for our next trip to Antwerp, was not making it to the Centraal Station. It is supposed to be a magnificent building and fellow pax who did make it there raved about its beauty.

If anyone has any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. And if anyone has some additional Antwerp tips, please do leave Comments. Thanks.

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