The sun was shining, which would have been enough to get us out of bed, if it weren't for Phoebe, who 'd brought Jos a present: a mangled spider which she deposited at his side of the bed. Very thoughtful of her, don't you think?
So, up we got and after a leisurely breakfast, we headed to the nearby town of Mortsel, where we parked our car and took a tram into Antwerp.
I had a hairdresser's appointment at 12 o'clock, but we were early, and ambled into the direction of the salon, playing at being tourists.
Antwerp's cathedral dominates almost every view and glimpses of it can be caught in the most unexpected of places.
These are just three of Antwerp's elaborate street corner Madonnas, dating from the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century. Today, about 160 of them remain, adding greatly to the city's charm.
While Jos was enjoying a cup of coffee, my hairdresser, Michel, who has been looking after my hair for more than twenty years, was working his magic.
It was Michel who pointed us in the direction of a nice little place to eat, d'Aa Toert, in a narrow street running almost parallel with Antwerp's Grote Markt. "Aa Toert" is Antwerp slang for old woman, its literal translation being "old tart" but without the connotations it has in English! Indeed, the place is renowned for its delicious cakes and tarts, which we as yet have to try out.
Stepping into the restaurant feels like entering a junk shop, with shelves full of mismatched china and knick-knacks, framed prints, ornate mirrors and an assortment of table lamps.
The place seemed to be full but when we mentioned Michel's name, we were promptly seated at a little table for two. After pasta (for me) and mushrooms on toast (for Jos), we received a complimentary coffee for Jos's birthday!
Afterwards, we sauntered towards the tram stop and waited for the tram to take us to our final destination of the day.
Our destination, as can be seen on the tram, was called Eilandje, or to give it its full name, Het Eilandje, which translates as "The Little Island".
Het Eilandje dates back to 1550 and is the oldest port site in Antwerp. During the French Regency (1795-1814), Napoleon ordered the excavation of the first two docks, which would turn Het Eilandje into a flourishing port.
In the 20th century, when the port expanded further to the north, the busy port life disappeared and people moved away from the area. For decades, it was a desolate area, a barrier between port and city.
This forgotten corner of Antwerp, with its moody, rundown hangars, has been patiently waiting for a new lease of life along the river, which it has finally been given.
In the last decade there has been a real urban metamorphosis which has turned the once down-at-heel area into an attractive neighbourhood consisting of water, contemporary architecture and culture, as well as a multitude of trendy cafés and restaurants.
There's a hint of nostalgia as well, in the historic warehouses, rusty cranes, sturdy bollards and old bridges and locks.
The jewel in its crown is MAS (Museum aan de Stroom, Dutch for Museum by the River), which was opened in 2011, and which was the aim of our visit.
It houses nearly half a million items, only 180,000 being on display, all focusing on the city of Antwerp.
Adorning the façade are 3,185 hand shaped ornaments, a homage to the symbol of the city.
The River Scheldt has been Antwerp's lifeline for many centuries, and water is a key element of MAS, with it rippling glass and watery reflections.
The museum is well worth visiting, even if you are only there for the views!
Escalators, and one final staircase, take you past nine floors to the top, treating you to a wonderful view of the city, which changes constantly as you rise higher, each floor opening up yet more vistas pulled slightly and disconcertingly out of shape by the rippling glass walls.
A breathtaking 360-degree panorama of Antwerp awaits you on the roof terrace: the inner city rooftops and its skyline towers, the River Scheldt snaking away beyond its bend towards the rest of the world.
Antwerp's landmark towers, with the cathedral taking its rightful place in a prominent position, seemed to be joined by an encroaching army of high-rise buildings rising up from the city smog.
We couldn't get enough of the bird's eye view of Antwerp, the city and port a Lilliput world at our feet.
There was time for some posing too, with me framed by the cathedral's towers. The orange leather jacket must be my best buy so far this year, accompanying me on many an outing. Here, I'm wearing one of my favourite skirts with it, in colourful floral Diolen, and a short sleeved black polka dot top with a notched collar. All vintage, from Think Twice.
After this visual treat, we descended to the ground floor again, taking in the building's stunning architectural details.
What a birthday Jos had, presented with a dead spider from Phoebe and taken to an old tart for lunch! Never a dull moment.ReplyDelete
I love the look of that museum and the views are incredible. You're both dressed to impress but I wouldn't expect anything less! xxx
Never a dull moment at Dove Cottage indeed! xxxDelete
Surely for a Birthday Phoebe could have splashed out for a mouse? Cats these days!ReplyDelete
I do like how the city balances old and modern so well. Twenty years with the same hairdresser is something worth celebrating.
Orange. Leather. Incredible.
I guess Phoebe got the dates mixed up, as she did bring us a mouse two days later! xxxDelete
This sounds and looks like a great birthday excursion. Antwerp is a stunning city, we like it so much. Unfortunately we were two times there. It's stuff for an own trip, exclusively Antwerp.ReplyDelete
You both look great, like english tourists. I like that game, playing tourist in the own city :)
A spider is a nice birthday gift :))
I wish you a great weekend Ann, big hug Tina
Thank you Tina! I guess that after working in Antwerp for so long, and having lived there for more than 10 years, you tend to take it for granted. Playing at being tourist really opens your eyes! xxxDelete
Happy birthday to Jos! Looks like a wonderful day, mangled spider aside. Reminds me of when we moved once, the neighbours cat left a mangled mouse on our doorstep ... housewarming gift perhaps?ReplyDelete
I had the most random dream involving you two last night. We were all at a NT property which had put a race track in for vintage cars. You and Jos decided to go off for a wander and Jos was pushing an old fashioned pushbike. I went to sit and wait on a bench (as Andy was off drying my clothes somewhere!) and then noticed you had both gone but had left the bike, your shoes, your handbag and Jos had left his boots behind. So, I gathered them up, sat back down and then got mistaken for a homeless person doing interpretive art and a passing man put money in one of Jos's boots. Then the rains came and you two were nowhere, Andy still wasn't back and I called him, but couldn't even remember where I was to be picked up and according to the voice over the PA, a flood was coming. Random enough? xxx
What a dream you've had! If we ever visit a NT property together, we have to make sure not to replicate it! I'd like to know how it all ended though ... xxxDelete
Your posts are always so packed with fun! Love the travel-photos and descriptions. You two seem to know how to enjoy life. :-)ReplyDelete
Thank you, Ally! We are doing our best ... xxxDelete
eek - spider for breakfast!ReplyDelete
good girl lisbeth eats them asap - thanx goodness!
you both had a marvelous day! cool cafés, beautiful city, a new haircut, gorgeous architecture and stunning views...... next time we come with you!
total chic ensemble with the bright orange & turquoise on black!!
weekend hugs! xxxxx
Phoebe usually eats them too, but then it wouldn't have been a present, would it? You are very welcome to join us sometime! xxxDelete
Antwerp looks to be well worth a visit, I really enjoyed reading about it and your photos are great Ann.ReplyDelete
Oh the horrible spider story, what a thing to wake up to, on his birthday too! Glad you had such a good day to make up for it. xxx
Let me know if you ever decide to visit Antwerp, we'll gladly be your guides! xxxDelete
Another beautiful city to add the the visit wishlist. Glad you both had a lovely day to make up for the rude awakening!!ReplyDelete
I'm not sure Antwerp is on a par with Oxford, but yes, it is a beautiful city! xxxDelete
That must be the premier birthday present from Phoebe!ReplyDelete
What a wonderful visual feast you've treated us to. I learned so much about Belgium since reading your blog and I am entranced by the public art everywhere.
What an amazing museum. You and Jos are both looking equally cool, too.
Have a lovely weekend.
Thank you Veronica, I'm glad you to show you parts of Belgium, and learning about them ourselves in the process. Blogging really makes you smarter in every way ;-) xxxDelete
That's a marvelous birthday! Phoebe is a smart and generous kitty! The museum is such an impressive building, and it is a smart and exciting idea to show a little bit different view of a city by opening each level to visitors (not just straight up to the highest level, I mean).ReplyDelete
I so understand why you stick to your hairdresser for decades! Every time I relocate, I want to bring my hairdresser with me! Fortunately, I was able to find a good one in every new location, it's such a blessing.
Love your outfit, and the orange jacket is fab!
Lots of hugs!
Thank you Natalia. The so-called viewing boulevard (the glass parts of the building) has been cleverly executed, and what's more: it is free! You only have to pay if you visit the museum's exhibits. xxxDelete
such a lovely birthday day for Jos, glad that you enjoyed it properly!, it's so fab when you take a day out in a big city, making interesting things, visiting and having fun!ReplyDelete
You look really cool in your orange jacket (love it!!!) and printed skirt, it's a fab combo!
Thank you Monica. That skirt is one of my all time favourites and I loved it even more wearing it with the orange jacket. xxxDelete
Happy belated Birthday to Jos!ReplyDelete
I love the look of the Old Tart Cafe - I could've sat looking at the shelves of nic-naks for ages. You must go back and try the cakes and tarts!, and report back :)
MAS looks incredible, I wouldn't know whether to look outside at the views or inside at the exhibits!
We have plans to go back to the café on a Sunday afternoon some time, and sample the cakes! xxxDelete
Happy birthday Jos! I love the MAS building, that's an incredible structure. Oh my, those views across Antwerp! xxReplyDelete
Thank you Cate, it was rather lovely to see the city from another perspective. xxxDelete
You write the most wonderful little travel guides on the places you visit, I enjoy seeing all the photos and hearing about your adventures. Maybe you could compile them all into a photobook for nostalgia.ReplyDelete
The museum looks good! Sounds like a good birthday day out for Jos. X
What a lovely compliment, thank you! The photobook is a great idea. Before blogging, I used to make photobooks of all our travels, but I haven't been doing anything about it since. One day, when I'm retired, perhaps ;-) xxxDelete
Antwerp looks lovely - I had no idea they had the street corner Madonnas. And the way the dock area has been revamped is really cool and imaginitive.ReplyDelete
Happy belated birthday, Jos!
Thank you, Mim. I rather like the streetcorner Madonnas. I've read there's a book about them, which I'm definitely planning on buying. xxxDelete
This is the prefect way to spend a day! Some pampering...eating out, enjoying the sites and exploring something new.ReplyDelete
Those Madonnas are wonderful. Little details like that make Europe so interesting compared to North America.
It really was a perfect day, even the weather behaved for my man's birthday! I'm thinking of doing a post on those Madonnas some day ... xxxDelete