Thursday, January 26, 2012

Central Antwerp – 19 January 2012

Unfortunately, but true to expectations, it was raining steadily when we awoke so we made a very leisurely start to the day and then rode the tram into the centre of town. First stop, to get out of the rain was the Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the Low Countries. It has four huge canvases by Peter Paul Rubens as this was his home town. Currently showing is an exhibition entitled “Reunion” which has assembled 16 altarpieces and other works that were originally painted for the Cathedral.
Over the years, especially under French rule, many were removed and dispersed to other collections or sold. Many have been returned to the Royal Collection and this exhibition has temporarily reunited works that have not been seen together for over 200 years. The temporary collection included another Rubens.

As it was still raining we decided that the next indoor activity should be the renowned Printing Museum so set of to find it. When we arrived the rain stopped and as the museum was on a walking tour we decided to continue the walking tour from that point. Guides like this are invaluable in that they lead you into courtyards you would not otherwise discover and in one case even through a door that you would not randomly walk down the street and open, without the information that you were free to do so and that there was something interesting on the other side.

The tour took us back past the Cathedral where we discovered a most intriguing cafe simply crammed full of religious statutory. Every available ledge and a few added shelves were lined with statues of saints and monks and so forth so we elected to dine with the saints for a most delicious lunch, if you are in Antwerp, head for the Kathedral Cafe for a distinctly different dining décor.

By the time we had completed the walk and returned to the Grote Markt the clouds were beginning to break up and there was the promise of some sunshine for photographs but unfortunately it was not fully delivered so we set off for the fashion district for a little window shopping. We have been surprised at how empty the shops and restaurants/cafes have been and the extent of the savings in the sales indicated that all is not well in the “high street”. Admittedly it is not prime tourist season but we would have expected some locals out at lunchtime eating somewhere.

Wandering back across town we headed for the Quinten Matsijs restaurant where we enjoyed a good hearty warming meal for a cold night for about a quarter of the cost of the previous night's meal.

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