Saturday, March 14, 2009

Antwerp: With Friends pt. 1

This week a co-worker and friend left the company and Belgium to go back to Portugal.  A lot of the office came out together to spend time with Miguel and to go on a trip to Antwerp.  Hopefully the trip wasn't a one time event, and hopefully we can go see other locations with even more zebra horses.
SO, on to the trip.  We all met at the Central Station around 9am and took a 9:30 train to Antwerp.  It was a 9.80 Euro "weekend round trip" which means one way each direction to be used whenever during the weekend.  If we happen to stay in one of the clubs all night we could come back in the morning.  That didn't happen, but it was an option.  We ended up in Antwerp around 10:30 with very few plans for what to do.  My guide book wasn't very helpful, but thankfully someone had a tiny print map for cheap/free things to do in the city.  We ignored our first destination as we were completely distracted by the intense scale of the central station in Antwerp.  
This station was by far the most beautiful I've been in.  The depth of the space was overwhelming, it also maintained a wonderful contrast in age.  The 19th/20th century steel shed was maintained, but the ground hollowed out beneath to make a massive canyon of train tracks and platforms.  I don't mention it much, but this was truly an inspiring design to see.  I could have stayed there for half an hour, eaten a waffle and came back to Brussels feeling accomplished.  BUT, we did have another destination. The mini-guide suggested we could take a quick detour off the main stretch after exiting the station to see into the Antwerp Zoo.  We were going to go see the giraffe!  Alas, the "free viewing" area of the zoo was mostly under construction but we did happen to catch a glimpse of a zebra horse (or zorse as google corrects me).  While fascinating, I came to see a Giraffe... and was disappointed.  We moved on, aiming for the main pedestrian concourse of Antwerp.  We were determined to avoid any cost based museums and just roam all day.  This is a little bit backwards for Antwerp as the main drag is based on Shopping. 
  I've been told by some of my roommates that if you want to buy things you should not stay in Brussels, you should go to Paris OR Antwerp.  Also, for those of you that have seen Snatch, diamonds do come from Antwerp.  There is a museum... we did not go.  Instead we continued walking until we found a cool church and square and our next destination: Frites.  I won't include a pic because I've already got too many to include but know this:  they were frit-tacular. I split a mayo-based dish with someone while another group tried the ketchup.  I tested their ketchup concoction to learn that it was basically tomato jam... super sweet to the point that it tasted like NutraSweet was added.  I'm not going to lie, it was kinda gross.  Luckily I had some mayo left to remove the flavor.
Our next stop was the water front with a cool dock office building (hangar 46 in the first pic), an awkward Belgian statue and some cool new architecture.  While we aimlessly wandered around on the waterfront, Miguel noticed something afar and whispered, "I think I see an architecture building."  We were intrigued at what this could mean, and while walking towards the destination we first passed this weirdo.  When I receive the photo, I'll post up a strange loop version of the statue (ie a recreation with Miguel and myself looking up at the statue from a similar vantage point).  After this we found our way to the "architecture building," we were heading towards.  It turned out to be an old warehouse building with the ground floor cleared out for parking and the second floor finished nicely for offices (mostly design based).  Along the back side on the waterfront all the old cranes are still in place, probably still functioning and must provide an interesting view for all the employees.  
Well, it seems this post would be quite long if I decided to continue on.  So I've added a pt.1 to the title.  This gives me a way of extending the usefulness of these photos into ANOTHER day.  Fabulous.  I'll say its been a bad week for posts... it was also a 72 hour work week with not so much sleep in the latter half so I didn't even try.  I've got a bunch of things to write about in the back log including something related to being an "expat architect" for once.

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