© Harrison Bear MMXVII
If you are looking for an off-the-wall, comfortable, friendly holiday, this may be the best place to go. Belgium's second biggest city, near to a not-very-picturesque river, lots of old town, including a wonderful cathedral and Ruben's house.
The first thing you see is the magnificent railway station, built like a cathedral but in the zoo.
Unlike most cities, where the area round the station is slightly seedy and there's a bit of a walk to civilisation, you come out to see smart bistros and many diamond shops. After all, Antwerp is where you are supposed to go for diamonds!
A good time to go is Easter. It blows a bit and can be a little cold, but that's just another excuse for calling in somewhere for a hot chocolate. At Easter time, everyone gives you chocolate eggs - we even had eggs for breakfast! Chocolate ones.
Our hotel confused us immediately. There were only two floors, the we were told we were on the third floor. Go up in the lift, through the doors and up the stairs that say Private. In fact, we were in the roof. What a wonderful room for bears!
Easter onwards, for a month or so, is very special in this area. Asparagus is in, but not the usual green stuff. This is locally grown white asparagus, and very wonderful it is too! And expensive. There's plenty to see here, castles, boat exhibitions, statues, docks and more. The city does get invaded during the day, especially at weekends and by Japanese tour parties, but they keep out of everyone's way. There's a little train to go on, horse and cart trips, boat trips down the river during the summer (we went at Easter and, yes, they gave us eggs when we left the boat). There are short trips and long. When we went there was a "flower exhibition". Sounds boring? Not a bit of it. An old church and surrounding buildings now used as a meeting centre was done out by different artists in different rooms, with live music too.
There's architecture to see, trams to ride, antiques to buy, everything you could want, except, there's a real lack of bear shops!
Antwerp has some of the best restaurants in Belgium, perhaps in Europe. They do nothing to show off here - Belgians just expect high standards of food and service, and they get them. Find these steps (right), go down without falling and you can have some of the best lamb in the world, simply cooked and very tasty.
Hugely recommended are Le Bistro, A La Ville, Folies...

Antwerp

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