While spending time with my grandchildren, I took out a couple of hours to visit my long-time friend, Lia. We went into the heart of Antwerp, the second largest city in Belgium. We wandered its Medieval streets and decided to catch up over lunch at a 16th. Century restaurant called “Het Hofke”(The Little Garden). Renovated but respecting its original flavour, the restaurant offered a very cosy ambiance.
On the menu was home-made Flemish Stew, a typical regional dish. I was going to choose this when I got sidetracked by the Game Stew. I had no regrets; it was succulent. Lia opted for a tasty carpaccio, goat cheese, rucola salad with fresh bacon bits.
Before leaving the establishment, I snapped some pictures of the courtyard and the banquet room in the vaulted cellar.
We strolled around, the streets teeming with people and activities. Here and there we found some quieter streets.
Onze Lieve Vrouw Kathedraal, Antwerp
Once outside we admired Antwerp’s famous Gothic Onze Lieve Vrouw Kathedraal (The Cathedral of Our Lady).
The cathedral’s origins date back to 1352, when construction started. Its completion however took until 1521. The highest tower measures 123 metres (404 ft).
In 1566, violent struggles between Catholics and Protestants erupted. Iconoclasts raged through the Low Countries in the 16th and 17th Centuries, destroying many statues and artifacts in catholic churches, chapels, abbeys. The Church of our Lady was not spared.
During Napoleon’s reign there had been talks of demolishing the structure altogether. The mayor of the city succeeded in stalling the new building plans, which eventually led to saving the cathedral. The cathedral was restored in the 19th. Century and between 1965 and 1993 further restorations were completed bringing it to its present stunning state.
The cathedral attracts thousands of tourists, thanks also to its impressive display of paintings by Peter Paul Rubens (born in Siegen, Westphalia in 1577, died in his house in Antwerp in 1640. The most notable paintings, are Christ’s “Elevation of the Cross” and “Descent from the Cross”.
Another important artifact is an intricately crafted oak pulpit from 1713 by Michiel van der Voort (1667-1737).
The Grote Markt
Ambling along the Grote Markt (Great Market Square), we caught a glimpse of the beautifully restored 16th Century Guild houses that frame the square. Unique and elaborate decorations grace each house.
As we made our way back home, we passed the 150-year-old Bourla Theatre. The theatre is named after its architect, Pierre Bourla (1783-1866). The theatre was inaugurated in 1834.
Atop the circular structure, the statues of Apollo and the nine muses, keep a steady eye on passersby. The façade of the Bourla is adorned with busts of various authors and composers.
Back home, my three grandchildren and I had great fun playing board games. Depending on who was winning or losing, exclamations of glee and cries of disappointments filled the living room.
Crafts were also on the program and both Lee and Syd immersed themselves in a bout of creativity.
Oliver and Louize discussed the fashion doll and had a few laughs in the process, while Ingrid worked on Oliver’s Card Tree. Creativity was all around us.
In-between we went shopping for Hallowe’en costumes for the 9- and 7-year olds. Fortunately, Hallowe’en hasn’t caught on in Europe to the extent seen in North America. It’s still a pretty tame affair, and I was quite thankful for that. No doubt, coming years will prove otherwise. Everything was low-key; trick or treating meant ringing at a few friends and relatives in the neighborhood.
A friend slept over, and while the sitter kept a watchful eye on things, Oliver, Ingrid and I met some artist friends over a delicious meal accompanied with fine wines.
On Saturday we watched Syd and his team play soccer with heart and soul!
Alas the visit went by too quickly and soon we bade our farewells at the Zaventem airport, with promises by my grandchildren of more frequent brief hello via Skype.
On a different note, make sure to watch out for my book: Hijacked! Idols in Disguise; on the shelves in the next couple of weeks. Ordering details will be available soon at: http://www.writingsphinx.com