Well into my second year in The Hague where everything is planned weeks in advance, even meeting friends, I start getting afraid of losing spontaneity. Two weeks ago I opened my agenda and saw nothing but pages filled with meetings and appointments. More appointments, more deadlines…
Am I turning into some robotic performance machine? The inner voice was questioning. And that inner voice sounded annoyingly disappointed. In me and my pronouncements about cherishing the beauty of spontaneous moments, and following your heart, and … more of the kind. I had to prove him wrong. On the spur of the moment I decided that I needed a break and Antwerp would make a perfect destination.
Why Antwerp? It has always been on my wish list of cities to visit but I could never make time. So now I made time. Friday morning an hour and half on the train and there I was. In Antwerp.
The railway station simply had me gasping. So grand and beautiful it is.
A perfect first encounter and a promising introduction to the city. I could not define the architectural style but it carries a very distinct feel of La Belle Époque.
Walking to Julien Hotel, my spontaneous choice for a place to stay, I was admiring the architectural gems dotting the city : baroque, gothic, renaissance, modern – an inviting mix and match ensemble. A distinct aroma of freshly made waffles wafted through the street creating a sense of familiarity and welcome.
Hotel Julien was not a disappointment. A design-y re-incarnation of two old houses in the centre of the city it is done with taste and measure – a great place for a weekend stay. I would certainly recommend. And the breakfast is a treat!
As for treats, there were quite a few.
On the culinary side
Neuze Neuze restaurant – great food, impeccable service. A delightful restaurant serving French style cuisine is owned by a husband and wife team where the husband cooks and the wife takes care of the customers. She is a very charming lady and an ultimate professional.
Cafe Imperial – a splendid setting with rich red and gold to transport you to Napoleonic era. Again excellent food , good service and the maitre’d and the waiter looked like they stepped out of Rubens painting.
The name of Dris van Noten is closely associated with the city and its fashion forward credentials. How could I skip a visit to Het Mode Paleis, the Dris van Noten shop?
On a Friday afternoon Het Mode Paleis was busy with regular clients who were in a determined shopping mood. The sales ladies shuttled frenetically between the rails, the stock room and the fitting rooms supplying colours, sizes and styles.
An elderly gentleman was patiently waiting for his wife as she kept trying outfits in black deciding on an evening ensemble. The other lady left a few pieces she bought to be delivered to her place. There were other two hesitating between prints and colours. Some Asian tourists were snapping pictures and trying sunglasses.
The place felt more like an open house than a shop. As if it had a warm soul. Is this the ultimate in fashion marketing? When a designer brand manages to create a universe so attractive, so alluring that you do not want to leave?
Well I did leave, but the impact or rather the experience of the Mode Paleis lingers…
There is much more to explore in Antwerpen
I can’t wait to go back