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What's in Antwerp?

As you have probably read here, my visit to Antwerp came as a surprise. So a couple of years ago when we went back, I already knew where I was :) and what I wanted to see and taste.
A visit to Antwerp must include the following sights:

- Our Lady's Cathedral: It is so beautiful, in gothic style, it was finished in 1521 and it contains some masterpieces by native painter Peter Paul Rubens. I heard a story about how the south tower is smaller than the north one because they ran out of funds to finish it and they decided not to invest any more on it so it never got its south tower completed. There's also another cute story about a boy and his dog, Nello and Patrasche (very famous in Japan), Nello was very poor (with very bad luck, according to all the sad things that happened to him) and had no place to stay, he goes to the cathedral of Antwerp to see Rubens' triptych, The Elevation of the Cross, but he doesn't have enough money to enter. On the night of Christmas Eve, he and Patrasche find the door to the church open. The next morning, they are found frozen to death in front of the triptych.

- Central Station: This is one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. Originally from 1905, it has undergone a massive reconstruction in the 1998-2007 period and it has a very particular architectural style.

- Zoo: I visited it 13 years ago but I remember I liked it a lot, it is one of the oldest in the world.
- City hall and Great Market Square (Grote Markt): nice square with typical flemish buildings, in the center there's a statue of the roman soldier Silvius Brabo that gives the name to the city: Antwerpen means hand throwing, in the statue, Brabo is throwing the hand of the giant he killed to free the bridge over the river Scheldt.

- Het Steen (The Stone): this fortification is Antwerp's oldest building. It was used to control the access to the river Scheldt, then it was a prison and now it hosts a museum.
taken from this website

- Shops: Antwerp is also hometown to the Antwerp Six, 6 fashion designers famous worldwide: Ann Demeulemeester, Dries van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk van Saene and Marina Yee.
- Port: Antwerp is one of Europe's most important ports so a walk to see it must be on every sights list.

Things to eat/drink:
Mussels: In Antwerp -and throughout Belgium- mussels are served in the shell and in pots of 1.3 kg per portion. The 'Mosselen Nature' are served with a delicious white mustard dip sauce. The season used to begin in September until April (the tradition said that mussels are good in all the months that have the letter R in them). Nowadays you can get mussels almost all year round, although during the summer they may be hard to find and probably imported.

Cherry Beer: We asked a local friend which was the best place to drink beer in Antwerp. He told us to go to Den Engel. I did my research and when we got there we were a bit shocked... it was a tiny bar filled with smoke and old people, we ordered our beer (I always get cherry beer in Belgium, that's girly but delicious) and sat, by the time our draught beers arrived we had already made a friend among the locals. That was nice, and maybe the atmosphere of the place made our beers even more delicious. Later on the trip we found out the actual Den Engel that our friend was talking bout, it is a big lively bar with outdoor seating right in Grote Markt. The beer was also good over there but it was missing the bohemian atmosphere of the 'old' Den Engel.
The 'Old' Den Engel is on Sint-Jacobsmarkt 87, between the center and the train station.
The 'New' Den Engel is on Grote Markt 3. It is a nice place to have a beer while sightseeing though.
Cherry beer at the 'new' Den Engel
We stayed at the Hilton, right in the center. nice hotel with excellent location and delicious buffet breakfast in the winter garden. Definitely the place to stay in Antwerp.


Lost in translation: Antwerp

My first visit to Antwerp was about 13 years ago, funny story actually: I ended up in Antwerp without knowing where I was. See, in Spainsh Antwerp is Amberes, and I obviously knew that Amberes is a super important port city in Belgium, famous because of the beautiful cathedral with Rubens' paintings, etc. But when I was told we were going on a trip to Antwerp my mind was blank. 13 years ago I didn't use the internet that much so I didn't do any research about this misterious place named Antwerp and went there anyways without knowing what I was gonna find there. Imagine my surprise when I arrived in this beautiful city, and saw the big port, the beautiful monuments, high end boutiques, diamonds, etc.! how could I have not know about Antwerp before?!? It all came clear while walking around the town, I stopped at a souvenir shop and noticed the photo books in all different languages: Antwerpen, Antwerp, Anvers, Anversa, 安特衞普, Антверпен and of course Amberes! It was so reliefing to finally know where I was!
Another funny story, when I started learning Italian, I was constantly reading about examples like "Klaus è tedesco, vive a Monaco" ("Klaus is German, he lives in Monaco") and I thought: OK, he's German and lives abroad in Monaco, where the Formula 1 takes place. But I kept hearing about people going to "Monaco" and I thought, why is it so important that everybody goes there? Until I saw a map: 'Monaco' in Italian is Munich, München in Germany!


Techie Traveler

I'm spending a lot of time on Pinterest, if you have not yet discovered this handy website, check out this post. So, while browsing on Pinterest, I found this cool infographic created by Lab42 (found on Mashable). It explains graphically how technology and social media are changing our travel experiences.
Bigger version here
I divided it in parts and here are my comments:


Literary tourism

As I've mentioned, we'll be heading to Rome next month and I'm so excited! I've been to Rome tons of times but still the magic of the city remains a magnet to me so everytime we can, we jump on a train or plane and spend a weekend having carbonara, tripe, or whatever wonderful dishes Rome has to offer and try to discover a new part of the city. Since we'll be going next month, I started doing some research and while browsing for sights, I bumped into a website offering the Angels & Demons' tour.
Visiting the places where the books you've read took place has become a trend these years. The first one that comes into my mind is Sherlock Holmes' tour in London or Jack the Ripper's.
Sherlock Holmes' house and museum, Baker St., London (taken from this website)



A couple of weeks ago while visiting Le Marche we decided to have lunch at Pappafò, a cozy country house between Castelraimondo and Camerino. It's been open for some years now and everytime we eat there we are happy so it's a safe choice and this time was as expected.



Yes, as soon as Instagram became available for Android I downloaded it. That was the only app I've always envied from Apple. As you know, it is a photo sharing app where you can upload your photos, change some features and apply filters in order to make them look like Polaroid or Instamatic pictures, then share it with other Instagram users who can "like" it and add comments. As you probably also know, it was just acquired by Facebook, who knows if we'll see any changes in the future but right now this app is really successful, if not, ask the more than 1 million users (like me) who downloaded it within 12 hours of its launch on the Android Market (or Google Play, as it's now called).



The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. - Saint Augustine.

Some of the best memories I have start with: "When we traveled to..." (followed by: "there I bought..."). My love for travel (and culture, and shopping) made me buy a number of travelogues - not to be confused with travel guides, travelogues are travel literature or travel journals. In my humble opinion, memoires, journals and advise from fellow travellers are the best way to prepare for a trip, much better than a generalistic travel guidebook which will only drag all tourists to the same crappy places. A travelogue, plus some thorough research in the virtual 'bibles' like tripadvisor.com are more reliable than any Michelin, Lonely Planet, Frommer's or other guides written by authors who have been paid by restaurateurs/hoteliers to get good reviews.
from travelogue.net


Book: Life from scratch

It's been a long time since the last book post so here's this one.
I have been a bit lazy these past months, and my Galaxy tab is the one to blame! With all the cool apps and games, my spare time has been filled by them and my reading list has kept growing and growing.
But thank God for the Amazon Kindle app! I have been buying some ebooks there since I first got my tablet so Amazon has been suggesting me several other titles based on my past purchases. That's how I got my hands (virtually) on "Life from scratch, a novel" by Melissa Ford.



Last week we decided to try the new Italo train (a new company offering high speed train transport between the main Italian cities), so we are booked for a weekend in Rome at the end of June, which we'll be surely writing about. But then I came to think that I never shared with you the photos of our last trip to Rome (the one where we discovered Sora Margherita!), so here they are!


Wardrobe basics

The other day I came up with this list of the basics that every girl should have in her wardrobe, Of course we are allowed to have many other variations of color, shape and style but imagine if you had to leave for a month abroad (in a variable climate destination), with the increasing luggage restrictions in terms of weight, these would be the perfect things to pack. Hope it helps!