the diamond capital of the world, is a large city
on a mini scale. For the sophisticated traveller,
it has it all - museums, cafes, cathedrals, antiques,
and sparkling jewelry galore. The pace is easy,
systems are modern, and the ambiance is strictly
old world elegance. A charming combination!
to pack a sturdy pair of shoes. Antwerp is a
walking city par excellence - and what a pleasure
that walking is! Especially, as a woman travelling
solo, you'll appreciate being left completely
alone. There are no panhandlers asking for your
help, no touts offering to find you an hotel,
and no aggressive types asking "if the lady
wants company." You're free to wander at will
- exploring the shopping boulevards, historic
squares, and the maze of tiny little streets
lined with cafes in the old-city center.
with variety galore in Antwerp! Some super stops
include the Peter Paul Reubens House,
where the great Flemish master lived and worked.
Look for his "Adam and Eve in Paradise" hanging
in the great studio. Like his style? Then look
for more in the many museums and churches around
the city. The Royal Museum is a must. JW is
impressed with the woman charioteers outside
and the Belgian masters inside. Try to get to
the modern Photography museum where, along with
the male greats like Steiglitz and Adams, you'll
learn about Julia Margaret Cameron, a pioneering
art photographer circa 1800. And finally, see
"Mad Meg" painted by Breugel the Elder, hanging
in the petite but perfect Museum van den
Bergh. If film is your forte, find the Film
Museum (50 Meir), housed in an 18th century
building, once a royal palace. Very extra bonus
- during the summer, order your wine, sit back
and enjoy night screenings on the Film Terrace.
A real pleasure!
shopping and great street life, meander on "Meir."
Follow this pedestrian-only boulevard right
to the old city center. It's crammed with scores
of delicious shops, department stores housed
in 19th century neo-Baroque buildings and inviting
mini malls. But remember, shopping aficionados
never stick to the straight and narrow. When
a side street beckons, follow your hunch. If
you're lucky you'll come upon such treasures
as Pen and Pencil (Melkmarkt 35) where
the name says it all, Premaman (Meir
21) selling all things wonderful for expecting
mamas and their expected babies, Somers
(Eirmarkt 33) for truly innovative eyeglasses,
and Bigor Fredero, (Meir 46) which is
hair clip heaven.
to the Central train station is Pelikaanstraat,
hub of the thriving diamond district. Here,
sparkling goodies are displayed in just about
every shop window. But buyer beware! If you're
not an expert you can easily be fooled. Play
it safe! If you're in buying mode, make your
purchase at Diamondland (33a
Appelmansstraat) Antwerp's largest diamond showroom.
Here, each diamond comes with a certificate
of authenticity. Just looking? Then the Diamond
Museum (31-33 Lange Heretalsestraat) lets
you browse to your heart's content.
counting aside! There are terrific taste treats
in Antwerp. Don't leave without trying Belgian
chocolates, frites served with mayonnaise, or
waffles served with or without toppings. Mussels
are a must. Try them at world-famous Leons,
where the selection is large but the price is
small. Finally, Belgium boasts 350 different
types of beer. Antwerp women favour the white
beer, Hoegaarden. Want to impress your waiter?
Ask him to add some lemon. He'll think you're
in accommodation, look to the four star Plaza
Hotel at Charlottalei 43-49. Located in
the diamond district with its heightened security
in place, you'll feel safe on the streets both
day and night. Journeywoman gives them ten out
of ten for their spacious rooms, pleasant service
and breakfast buffet featuring smoked salmon
treats. (fax ++32 (0)3 218 92 40)
our vote for the most charming spot in Antwerp
goes to the Doll Gallery - a cafe cum
offbeat museum. Located just around the corner
from the Reubens house, this special spot exhibits
one-of-a-kind dolls so lifelike they're referred
to as "children." Popular with artist types
as well as ladies who lunch, the coffee and
side orders of individual chocolates served
here are superb. If you're as lucky as I was,
the owners will allow you to hold one of their
international creations. But please be careful!
Asking prices range in the thousands!