May 17, 2012: Antwerp

We were so exhausted from yesterday that the whole family slept in as much as possible this morning.  We missed our hotel breakfast as we completely slept through it.  We needed the sleep badly, though.

So we ended up just resting until we headed out to the train station to catch the train to Antwerp.  We ended up sleeping in so much that we were running really late for our SpiceCorps at one in the afternoon!  We had no idea that it would take so long to get to Antwerp.  We had thought that it would be one hour or less by train and then just a few minutes of walking.  But it turned out to be a two hour or more train journey and an hour walk through the city as the venue was not by the train station.  Whoops.  So we were hustling to get there.

While we waited for our first train of the day we had a bit of time to kill so we stopped at Panos in the Brugge station to get breakfast.  Panos appears to be a Belgian restaurant chain.  The food was amazing.  Dominica had a brie and honey sandwich.  I had quattro formage pizza.  Liesl had a chocolate covered donut.  And Luciana ate a rice custard tart.  All of it was so delicious.  We are loving Belgian food.  Even everyday food is excellent.  The coffee was good too, if small.  Coffee in Europe is very different than in the US.  Hot, small and fast compared to large, cool and slow.

The train ride was fine.  Riding the rails without the overwhelming amount of luggage is pretty easy.  It is only when we have all of our luggage with us that it is so awful.  We got to see a lot of major Belgian towns along the way.

Stepping off of the train into Antwerp is an experience.  The Antwerp train station might be the world’s most beautiful.  What an amazing station!  Antwerp is nothing like Brussels!  Nothing at all.  What an amazing station.  Clean, historic, well organized.  Two different worlds.

We raced through the station and walked as briskly as we could through the city.  We actually did really well and it was nearly two when our friend Marco called to us as we passed the Bizzie Lizzie pub.  We hung out and had dinner there.  We ended up having only two people there today in addition to us!  We had six confirmed people attending this initial SpiceCorps Benelux group plus the four of us plus whoever might have just shown up but our organizer was out sick today and most everyone just didn’t show up.  So we were a pretty small group – just us, Marco and Collin.  It was kind of ridiculous that we were having this SpiceCorps in Antwerp since there was not even a single attendee from Belgium at all as we were from the US, Marco is from Germany and Collin from The Netherlands.  We were only in Belgium at all because of SpiceCorps.  We could have done all of this part of our trip in The Netherlands or Germany and saved a lot of extra travel!

We had a really nice time, though.  We ate dinner which was great and then Dominica took the girls out to a huge Antwerp city playground that was right down the street.  Liesl really enjoyed that and they played for about two hours.  We were stuck in Antwerp for quick some time because I had to work so I was working from my laptop at the pub.  We sat outside on the street and the day was lovely.   It gave me a chance to have a Belgian beer in Belgium too.  Although you can get Belgian beer in the US the same as you can get it there so it is not that big of a special treat.  Not at all like British cask ale that is unique to England and cannot effectively be shipped to other countries.

After SpiceCorps, Marco was off back to Germany from whence he had driven.  Collin walked with us back to the train station as he was on public transit like us.

I took a bunch of train station pictures while we waited for our train in Antwerp and while there we got our first taste of the famous Belgian “rail switching” that they do.  They announce what track a train is coming in on, they tell you, they put it on the board – but a few minutes before they train actually arrives is when they actually decide where it will go and the announced track seems to be completely random.  So we were waiting for our train when Dominica just happened to notice that the sign went blank.  No warning that the train was going elsewhere, you just had to know that they do this and not to trust the signs.  So at the last second we ran to another track and found our train going there!  Not impressive.

Two more hours back to Brugge.  Once back we pretty much did nothing tonight.  I had to work again (we traveled back during my “lunch break”) and Dominica had gobs of packing to do so that we can move on to Germany tomorrow.  Tomorrow is a big travel day for us and we hope to get a chance to see some more of Brugge in the morning before we go so we have to be ready tonight.  Off to bed “early” tonight – but Luciana had another awful night but not as bad as last night.  She just can’t fall asleep in a bed.

Before falling asleep Luciana took a horrible spill off of the bed.  She is not used to beds and has no idea how to be on them.  She is not used to sleeping on one at all and even when she just plays on ours at home she is used to a foam mattress, not springs, and they are very different.  She ended up going head first into the floor in a full dive off of the bed.  It looked awful.  We could not believe that she was even able to do it.


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