There is lots of construction-work going on around Antwerp -- the optimal route was impossible because all of the highway exits were closed off in Antwerp itself. We decided to get off the highway at the last exit that was still open (which was coincidentally also the first exit for Antwerp itself), and navigated the inner city traffic of Antwerp to our destination. When driving around in Belgium off the highway, it is immediately apparent that it is another country than the Netherlands. The driving style of the other drivers is more... southern.
After only one navigational mishap (which was easily corrected) we arrived at our destination in the centre of Antwerp. It is a store in 'oriental' interior decoration and nicknacks. The two stories above the store are converted into apartments that one can rent for a few days. If you have wandered around stores like that and wondered what it would be like to decorate your whole house in stuff like that, this B&B will show you. While the rooms were definately OK, I wouldn't want that cluttered feeling in my own house. It's not that there is an enormous amount of stuff crammed in the room, but it is all very frilly with lots of detail -- visual clutter, not physical clutter. And quite dark.
We got the keys and a quick lesson in how to work the metal screen doors, and a coupon for breakfast at a nearby sandwich shop -- and that was that. Because we weren't staying at someone's home, we were remarkably free to do as we pleased. And the sandwich shop served breakfast until noon, so we didn't even have to get up early to accomodate for someone else's schedule. Brilliant arrangement.
However, the next day we were awoken at 07:00 by the sounds of a large truck manoevering in the (narrow) street below. Turns out that there were builders working in the house next door, and they had ordered a truckload of sand... Not something the owners of the B&B could remedy, but it did put a dent in our otherwise enjoyable stay at that place.
The first evening, we strolled through the city centre, found a sushi bar, and drank some of the locally brewed beer on a terrace in the shadow of the cathedral. When the sushi bar was supposed to have opened, we strolled over to it, only to find closed... This was outside of the touristy bit (which only has pizzerias and places that serve you a meal for 10 euros...) so we ducked in a reasonably priced place nearby. Lots of good food was enjoyed, and afterwards we strolled some more through the city and the riverside.
The next day, after breakfast, we wanted to do a walk through the city. We were looking at the map for an indication where the tourist office would be, and we were approached by a senior citizen. It turns out that this was a local who had made a hobby of touring people around Antwerp -- he knew all the good spots, the good sights etcetera. He was very friendly, but we both weren't looking for a guide and feared that he would stick around, but after rattling off a list of must-see sights, he bade us farewell... Disaster averted.
We bought a guidebook with city walks, and did the one for the historical centre. I must admit that I wasn't overly impressed with it, I had wanted more historical information instead of a collection of old buildings.
We were tired so we retired to the room for a bit of relaxing. For dinner, we tried the sushi place again, but again it was closed -- but luckily there was another sushi place at the Groenplaats where delicious sushi and yakitori was had. Afterwards, we strolled around at the riverside -- the Zuiderterras, het Steen and the Noorderterras.
We had picked up a folder about shopping in Antwerp, and we decided to do some shopping and just see what the stores were like. However, the next day we found that the folder was speaking in hyperboles -- the real stuff wasn't that impressive. Not much to say about highstreet shopping in Antwerp, though. Lots of chain stores, some small non-chain stores with confection. Not that interesting.
We came to a shopping mall near the central station. It held the Antwerp branch of Wagamama, a noodle/ramen restaurant -- our dinner destination of the evening. The mall also held the 19-screen UGC movie theatre... With some time to spare, we decided to watch Fantastic Four (review in some other post). Afterwards, we strolled through what the shopping folder called 'the Chinatown of Antwerp' and were thoroughly dissapointed.
The ramen we enjoyed was very good -- and we bought the cookbook! So now we can make official ramen! After dinner, we didn't feel like doing anything, so we caught another movie, The Island.
After another stroll along the riverside, we turned in for our last night in Antwerp.
Antwerp is quite a nice town -- I've been there before a few times, and I do think we'll return there.