From Antwerp to Amsterdam

Monday, August 29, 2016
Antwerp, Belgium and Amsterdam, Netherlands

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy?

Today we’ll train north to Amsterdam, where we’ve exchanged homes – our south of France for an apartment in the historic center. There are a couple of places to fit into the morning hours before we depart Antwerp – the most gorgeous mall we’ve ever seen is in the grand Stadsfeestzaal on Meir – the main shopping street. Designed in the late 1800s by Antwerp’s city architect, it was used as a festival and exhibition hall, and has retained its astounding glory as a shopping center – wow! 08291601anterpmallDownstairs is a large grocery store, where we pick up a few things for lunch on the train.
Remember the glorious train station? It’s also impressive on the outside! 08291601beautifulstationAnd soon we’re whizzing into the Netherlands, spying windmills in the distance and colorful fields of summer flowers on our way. 08291601fieldsWalking east along the water from Amsterdam’s train station we pass the Ship Museum, with a multi-masted beauty on the water,08291602ship and easily find our home for the week, a spacious two-story apartment in a new-to-us neighborhood.
After settling in, we follow our host, Anja’s, directions, and walk along a canal and over a bridge, taking in quintessential Dutch views, 08291603neighborhoodto the grocery store to stock up for our week. Google translate on Kirk’s iPhone helps us figure out what we’re shopping for…no packages are graced with any languages we know!
Our wok dinner turns out great, and we finish our day with a stroll along the canals. 08291604duskWe’ve often talked about exchanging homes for a week here – and at last we are!

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Antwerp Celebrates

Sunday, August 28,2016, continued
Antwerp, Belgium

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy?

Red booths are set up all along the main squares and streets, as Antwerp, along with many other European cities, celebrates a weekend of culture. 08281603cathedralculturefairCultural attractions and groups from all over the country advertise their offerings for the year, and music and theater fills the city as different performances take place throughout the days – what a great weekend to be here!
I can’t tell if this is an oompah band, or a mariachi troupe! Who knew they could sound so similar?
We couldn’t figure out what this giant granny was promoting – 08281603demaancan you tell?
On the other side of the Cathedral of Our Lady (whose spire is still the tallest structure in the city) is the Grote Markt square, with the hand-throwing statue (a rather gruesome Flemish folktale – google it) in the center.08281603grotemarktGilt-topped guild houses surround the square, the golden statues atop celebrating the trade associations of the city’s industries, or their patron saint – such as a sailing ship, a man on a rearing horse, or St. George and the dragon.The stately façade of City Hall dates from Antwerp’s Golden Age (the 16th century) 08281603flagsoftradeand is adorned with flags from many countries, representing the importance, even then, of international trade to the city.
Rubens left his mark, of course, on the richly decorated Cathedral, 08281603insidecathedralwith not just one, but three huge paintings, such as this Descent from the Cross.
08281603notjustonerubensThe intricately carved pulpit, a riot of birds, foliage, and angels, 08281603pulpitis an amazing piece of art dating from the early 1700s.
When in Belgium you MUST…have some chocolate, right? We oblige, with an afternoon snack, 08281603wheninbelgiumand then take in another free (for the weekend) museum, appreciating the peaceful garden courtyard 08281604freemuseums as well as the art and the aristocratic home from the 1500s.
Dinner, another Belgian “must”, 08281605wheninbelgiumis accompanied by friendly chickens – the rooster keeping an eye on things as the hen scratches the ground right by our table. 08281605dinner-with-chickensThanks, Antwerp, for including us in the party!

 

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Rubens Lived Here

Sunday, August 28,2016
Antwerp, Belgium

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy?

One of the pleasures of Antwerp is how easily accessible the sights are – most within a 30 minute walk of the train station! It makes a great day trip from Brussels, but is so delightful that we enjoy staying here.
We’ve got a full day ahead of us, refreshing our memories with all the wonderful things we’ll introduce our Amsterdam and Flemish Treasures guests to next summer. A walk down the Meir, Antwerp’s elegant shopping avenue,08281601-elegantmeir takes us by impressive palaces, now occupied by familiar main street emporiums, such as H & M and Benetton. Turning left on Wapper, we step back in time a few centuries as we enter Rubens’b home and studio. Rubens acquired the house in the early 1600s and established his living quarters in the left wing – one of his few self portraits hangs in the dining room.
08281601diningroomThe shorter-than-expected beds, cozy behind curtains, were designed for sitting-up-sleeping, 08281601woodenbedthe prescribed healthy way to sleep over 400 years ago.
Rubens added a new Renaissance wing to the right side, housing his studio. The simple brick façade on Wapper hides a glorious work of art in the back, facing the garden. 08281602whatitalianinfluenceInfluenced by his years in Italy, he commissioned this sculpture-dotted courtyard and the loggia which connects the two structures.
The light-filled studio, now a gallery, 08281602galleryintimatestudiois just the kind of museum we most enjoy – intimate and focused. Canvases of Rubens, his studio, and his contemporaries invite a closer look – 08281602detailed-ruffmentionmetalholderoh how I love the intricate ruffs of his time! In the linen closet beside the bedroom, the wire frame that enabled these complicated frills to stand is on display – I always wondered how starch could be enough to support those elaborate neckpieces!
Isn’t this a wonderful portrayal of what still goes on today in the markets? 08281602marketshopperThe elegant chatelaine searching out the best for her home, the vendor proudly displaying her perfect wares. We see it every day in Aix en Provence.
An inviting path leads out to the garden…08281602gardenand Rubens family enjoyed it in their day!
08281602gardenrubensI’d love to just sit and enjoy the peaceful beauty….08281602wanttositbut there’s more to see today in the city of Rubens…

 

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