|Vrouwekathedraal (Cathedral of Our Lady), Antwerp, the Netherlands|
(The converse is true, of course. Twice, I've heard friends talk about Europeans who've come to, say, Winnipeg and asked their Victoria-based friends to come meet them there. Or have visited northern Vancouver Island and then asked if they could take a day-trip to the Rockies. Um, no.)
|Willem and Els in Antwerp|
It had just rained (as you can see), but we seemed to bring good weather with us everywhere we went.
|I want ALL THE PASTRIES!|
|Willem at lunch|
Our visit happened to coincide with the annual Autoloze zondag "Car-Free Sunday" -- no cars were allowed into the downtown area. This was a problem for us because our hotel was right downtown, walking distance from the Grand Place. But the hotel would not allow us to cancel or change our reservations.
We stopped at a police barricade and showed our passports (except me, I had somehow not clicked to the fact that we were going to another country!) and were told we could drive in, but that we had one hour to make it to the hotel. Ordinarily, that would have been fine (I think), but moving was a nightmare. Bicycles, strollers, pedestrians, roller-bladers -- the streets were packed with people celebrating the day. There were no lanes blocked for cars and buses, and the bikes and pedestrians strolled blithely in defiance of cars.
Some of the younger cyclists were quite irate, waving their fists at us and (kindly) pointing out that we were in a voiture and should get off the road.
Eventually, of course, we made it to the hotel (where the reception staff claimed only to have had one week's notice of the event). After a quick turnaround, we hopped a tram and hurried to the Horta Museum, which closed at 5:30.
|Horta Museum -- the two houses in the centre,|
23-25, rue Américaine in Saint-Gilles, Brussels
|Just look at the detail!|
Naturally, I had to try a Belgian waffle in Belgium. While I nibbled my treat, we walked past this building, a former department store that is now a museum of musical instruments.
|More elaborate art nouveau detail|
|I bought some Leonidas chocolate here.|
There were plenty of tourist-trap restaurants on our way back to our hotel, but we opted to eat lightly at the hotel -- I had a tomato soup that was decidedly not Campbell's.
The following morning, Els worked in the hotel room (she had a presentation to give the following week) while Willem, Winkie and I roamed the city.
More fabulous architecture awaited us.
|More art nouveau, but with geometric details that point towards art deco.|
Then we headed back to the Grand Place, where we met Els for lunch.
|The Grand Place, Brussels|
Walking inside the building was . . . ineffable.
It was like being inside a machine, or inside a nautilus shell.
After this, we returned home to a simple dinner and a good, long nap.