I hopped on the train yesterday and took a little day trip to Antwerp. We went without a plan other than to find Belgian waffles and chocolates. We arrived at this huge, beautiful train station and took photos for a while. Then, we found the tourist information center and got some ideas of where to go and what to see in the city. It was a really easy city to navigate actually, because most everything we wanted to do was off of one main street.
The first three places we ended up were chocolate stores that were way too expensive for us, but we went in to look anyways.
We walked down the main street for a while trying to find a market when I see a really cool old church down one of the alleys, so we decided to walk over to it. Along the walk down the alley, we saw some really cool street art. Antwerp, line Amsterdam, is a really good place to see colorful street art. The church at the end, St. James' Church, ended up being one of the oldest buildings in Antwerp. Antwerp had so many old, beautiful buildings that it was hard to keep track of them all.
We realized the market was directly across the main street from this church, so we crossed over and headed towards the market. The first thing I see when walking towards the market is candy and Belgium waffles, so I knew we were going in the right direction. It was a big open square with tons of tents set up and they had out some of the most amazing seasoned nuts and candies and olives and oils I have ever tasted. I love experiencing a culture by trying the local foods they have. I was torn on whether or not to buy some garlic cashews when I found some white truffle olive oil that made my heart melt. I walked around the market a little longer, sampling all the good foods until I decided I wanted the olive oil for sure and I went back to get it. I also found some awesome grandpa sweaters for €2, so I got two. On the way out, we spotted some Belgium waffles on a stick that were fresh made and all 3 of us girls decided to try them. They were so good that they didn't need any toppings. The saddest part of my day was dropping the last bite of my waffle on the ground.
After we were satisfied with all the delicious food we got to try, we walked back over to the main street and discovered a really cool chocolate store called The Chocolate Line, where you could go into the kitchen and see the chocolatiers making little chocolates. This store had really crazy chocolate sculptures.
We left and found a really cool giant hand sculpture in the middle of the street, so I posed for a picture. Our next stop was The Cathedral of Our Lady, the biggest building in Antwerp by far. You can see the tower of this cathedral from pretty much anywhere in the city, so we just walked towards it and found it pretty easily. We spend a good amount of time inside the cathedral looking at all the religious paintings and breathtaking architecture and stained glass. Most people were waling around the church, but I spent a while just sitting there trying to take it all in.
Once we saw the cathedral, we wandered some more and found a chocolate store where we finally decided to buy something and those chocolates were gone within a matter of minutes. We ate them while souvenir shopping and exploring some streets off the beaten path. We came to the end of the street where it dead ended at the Scheldt River. There was a quaint little french fry stand calling my name, so I got some fries with a mountain of ketchup and we strolled over to a big bridge looking thing. It looked like the start of a bridge, but it turned out to be a big elevated walking path alongside the river. There was a really cool Greek-looking statue at the top.
We walked along the water until we came up to The Stone, a big castle right on the waterfront. It was built as a castle back in the day, then was used as a prison, and now it's a maritime museum which we did not want to pay for.
We went back into the city after seeing the castle. I was really excited to find a medieval square that the tourist information lady mentioned, but it turned out to be much less impressive than the name lets on. We then found another big square called Grote Markt with a really cool statue in front of it and some beautiful old ornate houses with gold detailing. Here, we found a little restaurant with a patio and we stopped to warm up and have some dinner.
We were running out of time and things to do in Antwerp, so we headed back towards the train station. It was just getting dark and we did want to see a little of the city at night, so we headed off in a direction that we (nor any of the other tourists) had been before. It got weird pretty quickly. We were still walking down streets with shops along them, but the shops were smaller and a lot more strange than the name-brand stores they have along the touristy area. I also noticed that I had absolutely no idea what language people were speaking. I'm never surprised that I don't hear English, but I could easily tell that people in this area weren't even speaking Dutch or French. We decided we had seen enough of this side of Antwerp and made our way back to the train station for our 2 hour ride back to Utrecht. On the way back from the train station, I was riding on the back of Jessica's bike and trying to carry all of our bags from that day and we collided with someone biking in the opposite direction. That was a rough ride.