Saturday, August 19, 2006

Us in Antwerpen

So what do a Belgian-based New Zealander and an American living in Spain do when out in Antwerpen ...

We wandered a little ... beginning with a tour of Rubens House . It's a superb starting point if you want a small taste of Antwerpen's history. Peter Paul Rubens was one of those rare painters who were successful while alive ... he was a businessman and painter.

The city restored his house, wanting to reveal something of the multi-faceted man that he was; a collector and supporter of the young and often unknown artists whose works now hang in his restored home.

There is a marvellous massive painting portraying an impossible gallery scene where paintings, coins, sculpture and scientific tools were being viewed and discussed by people who were never together in that place in that way. All the same, it's delicious because of the taste you get of the world Rubens inhabited.

Erin and I both have Canon EOS 350Ds and so it was that we spent time in Ruben's garden, photographing flowers, statues and things ...

We lunched. A quick call to Gert when I couldn't translate the entire menu ... I was missing two words and they seemed like the food we wanted to eat. They were important words, we ordered well after taking advice.

Afterwards, we explored some of the backstreets, wandering through the Zwarte Panter Kunstgalerij (Black Panther Art Gallery) where the bathroom sink at the end of one of the entrances into the basement gallery caught my eye, as seen in the photograph before this.

We popped into the Shoemakers Alleyway and photographed a beautiful street lamp at the entrance and then walked on and caught the tram out to Schoonselhof Cemetery on the edge of the city.

But the best of the day still lay ahead ...

So okay, I did get off the tram many many stops too early but Gert had forgotten to write that we had to pass THROUGH the city centre. One sheepish, 'Where in the world am I?' phone call earned me the answer ... 'About 20kms away from where you're meant to be!' ... (in my defence, this is a gross exaggeration however it was an 8euro taxi ride.)

Anyway, being a Chicagoan, Erin has previous experience in flagging down taxis, although we laughed quietly as the driver pulled over, turned off the engine and spent time leafing through a map of Antwerp, muttering a little.

I did a brief 'on-the-spot' interview and it turned out that our taxi driver had only been driving for two and a half months. She was a lovely older woman who wasn't quite sure whether she enjoyed it or not.

We three were probably equally relieved when we found our restaurant ... El Pintxo, Antwerpen's most stunning Spanish Tapas Bar. The Basque menu was sublime!

Erin introduced us to her lovely Belgian friends and we talked and tapas-ed the night away, eating and drinking, exchanging stories and enjoying that fact that as people become stories, then their stories create an understanding that people are people are people ...

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