Netherlands – Day Seven – Mayonnaise and Pot

Netherlands – Day Seven – Mayonnaise and Pot

oke up in Antwerp this AM. Getting in here was an indirect adventure. From about 3am on, we were doing hard thrusting and tight corrections, as well as crashing into occasional locks. It was like we were under hard burn to land at some hidden pirate asteroid base. I lay in bed feeling the boat shiver under thrust and grind against God knows what.

But it’s 7am now – the boat is abandoned and I’m sitting in the stern lounge all on my own, having the run of the boat. Already been topside to look at pre-dawn Antwerp, to marvel at the lit cathedral and the large banks of generator turbines across the river. And sure, it’s all nice to sleep and everything, but to lay in your groggy state and not throw yourself into the day seems… wasteful. Being a morning person is a choice, as I always say. I guess this comes from having to bicycle commute to work at 6:30am and not having the choice of being yawny. The cars were already out, and they were always murderous.

So I walked the length of the ship to find a working coffee machine (forward lounge, port side) And now I’m sitting here in the aft lounge with my cup, chatting with a steward, finishing off my morning observations with my Neil Gaiman book ready to read. Think I might take a lap topside before reading. After all, seize the day, and don’t be a sleepy-head. More to come…

Wind the clock up to 3:40 pm, post-nap. And the day to the point?

We started with a city tour, five guides, five groups. Our guide was a nice enough fellow but a bit scattered when he talked. We’d be in the shade of, say, a cathedral, and he’d be yammering around about this and that while we all stood shivering. Still, we took in the great cathedral (let’s try this, the “Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal”) – it was the one I saw illuminated from the deck when I was up in the early morning. We also checked out the guild halls and the city hall. Also medieval. But yack-yack-yack. Finally we left him and headed back to the boat to go for our big hike, after dumping tags, radios and my wife’s anvil/purse.

A pause in the narrative – as I recount this before dinner, I’m sitting in the aft lounge and four ladies are talking about God-knows-what. Then I realized that something smelled like a leaf pile on fire. Looked up and there was an old broad (okay, my age) smoking a huge doobie on the fantail. I was hoping the smell wasn’t from my socks, since I left my shoes in the room and padded back here.

So, the hike earlier – we’d heard so much about the Antwerp’s Central Station (and seeing how much we liked Amsterdam’s station) that we had to head over and see it. I’ll give my wife this – she used to be nearly an invalid when it came to walking – her heart specialist was a quack and I had her switch to mine. Regardless of whatever it was he recommended (medicine, vitamins, black magic) it worked. She stuck with me as we walked something like two miles from the boat to the station. And for some reason, today was a special shopping day in Antwerp – normally on Sundays shops are closed but they were wide open – and with the glorious weather the streets were packed. I’ve never seen anything like this in the states, just crowds of people walking every which way, with bikes and scooters and motorcycles and the occasional shunned car. We had to push our way along Meir (a boulevard). In the short distance, we saw five McDonald’s (not to mentioned Pizza Huts, even a Five Guys). I looked to JB to see if she wanted to stop and get something to eat to pep up and she said “Not here. No way”.

But soon we were rewarded with the gigantic Central Station looming at street’s end. Amazing. We both stood there, mouths agape. And inside, even more amazing. We looked down from the great hall and saw four levels of tracks exiting the station. Stunning. It’s kinda like a modern airport, but breathtakingly beautiful.

A long slog through interesting streets – Antwerp’s station looms in the distance.

Inside Antwerp Station. What actual public architecture looks like, not the concrete “meh” of Orlando International.

Then the long walk home, threading through the crowds. And what were we looking for? We specifically wanted to sample fries (God, don’t say “French Fries”) with Mayonnaise (yes, sounds barbaric, but with good mayo not glopped out of a jar, delish! It was funny; I was standing in the order line while JB held down a table. Everything on the menu board was in Flemish. The only one I spotted was that down near the bottom was “Family Size” (6.3 Euros). The next size up was “Groot” (Yes, “I am…” – nevermind). So I smiled by best tourist smile and said “Fries…. groot”. And the counter woman smiled and said “Ketchup?” Was my Yankee-dom that obvious? I smiled, “Mayo, please”. And I’m going to tell you, it was great to sit in the sun just off the stream of humanity, enjoying our treat.

Afterwards, we returned to the afore-mentioned cathedral, to touch its magnificence and to view the four Rubens contained therein. Hopefully I’ll remember to include a picture in the blog to capture its wondrous interior.

Later, we picked up a souvenir trinket for my own collection at a shop, as well as a slab of chocolate (and for all those wondering when I’m going to give you a nice bar of Belgium chocolate, sorry, but it was for us).

And then we came home, returning at 3:30pm to collapse on the bed with chocolate-sated breathe, to sleep the sleep of the elderly. And now, refreshed and waiting for dinner, I’m sitting in the aft lounge in my socks, listening to the magpies talking about their wealthy pasts and current ailments. At least the dope lady is gone.

I’ll mention this for the record – the ship’s AC has been broken for over a day now (they promised a fix in port today but so far, no relief. For JB and me, we’ve got a topsdide window that allows us to enjoy the cool canal air. For the people in small cabins on the bilge level, no relief. From the complaining I’ve half-listened to while blogging this, there might be mutiny. I can see it now; the waiters with their roll prongs fighting in furious battle against the invalids pouring up from below decks with their flashing canes.

I’m not sure which side I’ll ally with. We’ll see. More tomorrow.


>>>NEXT DAY<<<