Antwerp 11-13 December 2007

Antwerp journal
Tuesday, 11 December,2007
Woke very early at 04.20 and whizzed off in the dark to Walsden to pick up Chris at about 05.45. Drove to Manchester, neatly forgetting to get onto the M60 but managed to rectify without too much hassle. Got to APH who swiftly dumped us at Terminal 3. Went straight to departure lounge, got coffee and went shopping, limited choice but got perfume. Off to the gate and nice easy flight only a bit late. Given sandwich and fruit and coffee.
Arrived Antwerp airport, VERY quiet, almost unattended. After we had used loo with revolving seat to allow for spray and wipe gadget, went out to find we were in middle of residential area, but no taxis, no tram so waited for bus. Bus took us down some narrow side streets, including one where we had to wait at least 20 minutes while someone got loaded onto a stretcher next to a building site. Arrived at FD Roosevelt Plaat, given wrong directions by dodgy girl and set off on foot to Hotel Prinse which was about 7 minutes away. Hotel was lovely and just as described. Huge room with nice furniture and big wardrobes with big full length mirrors. Fab. Have not packed the little lead that connects the PDA to the speakers so after all the effort of getting the entire Bruce collection onto the PDA we can’t have the music, very foolish.
Straight off exploring and lunch. Market was fairly near. Found café and sat outside but food took a long time to come so went in to warm up. C had mussels in great quantity and I had witloof which was endive baked in oven with cheese and some mashed potato. Both very good. Plus some De Koninck beer.
Wandered round market, very disappointing, just a load of old tat, Manchester market far superior. Wandered more round the regular shops for rest of afternoon, including KBC building which is excellent 30s tower now owned by a bank.
Went in shopping centre and various other emporia. Then a bit tired so back to hotel for little nap and freshen up before hitting the town!
Decided to sample interesting looking bar on corner with books and games. Hildegard chain smoker and chatty told us that our choice of restaurant – Horta café, was not much good and we would be better off staying local and going to a restaurant down the street so we did.
The restaurant turned out to be run by 2 women, Myriam and Manu, who told us that Hildegard and the woman who runs the hotel are all on the same team. We had hit upon an enclave of women who do! Both had boeuf carbonnade, cooked in beer. Upon asking for directions to the gay street, I was dragged into the kitchen and given various places to try. We opted for the nearest gay bar as apparently the gay street was now somewhere else and it was dangerous around the central station area. So we went off to Hessen Huis which was typical loud, smoky gay bar, nearly all men but fine for half an hour. Back to hotel to sleep.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Breakfast of muesli, yoghurt, bread, croissant, ham and cheese. Also wrapped slices of honey bread. Coffee not very good so first mission to find a decent strong cup. Went to Tourist info and allowed young man to practise his English on us. Boat trips don’t run in the winter. Got bike info too but discarded as weather a bit gloomy and cold for biking. On the way to the coffee found the Grote Markt which had more Christmas market stalls but all food and drink, we had been in the wrong market the day before, also ice rink with lots of children, managed not to go ice skating! Found nice bar with lots of wood and erotic pictures of people with disabilities. Had coffee and chocolate and wrote postcards. More wandering, located Popi Café, also gay but shut. Then found quilting shop and exhibition so went round that, some lovely things to look at plus old ladies actually quilting. Then lunch in the Victor Horta café which was in posh bit of town, town is all very compact and easy to get around. Distinct areas, very noticeable Jewish area with orthodox Jews. Horta café gave us champagne and Chris had big fish dish and I had small red deer dish with salsify. Two new vegetables for me! Went into Godiva shop and had lovely time including tasting. Found other chocolate shop later on. On way back to hotel went into Tierra Madre = Mother Earth café and had fantastic coffee and Chris had big cube of chocolate on stick which you melt into the hot milk. Nice woman working in there! Chris would have liked the plain chocolate with the hot milk better. I was being a bit bouncy with enthusiasm and getting excited before Bruce.
Freshened up for Bruce. Off to tram stop, tram whizzed past us saying “Sport Paleis” so got on it but very crowded so not possible to pay, oh dear. Took us to the arena about 15 minutes away. Everybody speaks impeccable English and people were very friendly and welcoming. Got out and went to roadside wagon for chips and mayo (C) and hot dog (me). Then to very smoky bar for beer. Then across road to arena. Things are definitely not as lit up as here. Streets are darker, the arena was darker. After negotiating the crowd, got up to our seats at the top, again very dark up here. Bruce after all this time not punctual, very naughty, smack him. Came on about 9.00 and played till nearly 11.30. Excellent gig, highlights for me – Santa Claus is coming to Town, 10th Avenue Freeze Out, Working on the Highway. Very enthusiastic crowd, apart from the 2 next to me. Patti at home sorting out the children, Danny poorly and being filled in by keyboard man from Seeger Sessions Band. Bruce did duet with Soozie Tyrell on…. Reason to Believe similar to Drivel and Dust tour version. Chris liked best Reason to Believe, She’s the One, Because the Night, Born to Run and Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, and Santa Claus. Also the John Lee Hooker style start to Reason to Believe.
Very hot and clapped till hands hurt. Bruce talked in Dutch and French in that order, got booed when spoke in French. Antwerp very much anti French. After gig got the tram which was free if you had been to the Sport Paleis, so that’s what it said in my Dutch email from the ticket agents!
C quite keen to see Hildegard again but she was shut so went to another little bar with some old geezers in it for a couple of beers, then when he shut up went to another little bar with some young geezers for a couple of drinks. I had a whisky which was very generous in measure. Then time for bed.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Managed to get up early, saw Bruce doing interview on the telly. Packed up and left bags with hotel reception. Went to the café on the corner with the good coffee and had some. Nice girl showed us newspaper with Bruce reports.
Went to Rockox Huis to see exhibition. They are showing Rubens’ Samson and Delilah which shows Samson looking shagged out but very good detail! It’s been lent by the National Gallery over here. There was also a painting done in the 1600s on show depicting the Samson and Delilah painting in the room in which it is now on show. Fab! The room looked almost the same as now. Watched a film about the history of Antwerp which was useful for understanding how bad the Spanish were to the Antwerpians and trying to push Catholicism on the prots. Guess this also has a bearing on today’s antipathy towards the largely Catholic French speakers.
More wanders round shop areas. Lunch in Spanish café, C had chilli con carne and I had big salad, and beer of course.
Back to hotel to collect bags, taxi to take us to airport. Airport slightly busy with at least 20 people in it. Christmas tree finally up. Easy flight back, cheese sandwich and coffee. Long wait for APH to pick us up and very cold waiting for them. Told them off. Back to Walsden and back to Krumlin after excellent break.


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