Traffic Jam AntwerpMay 4 in Belgium
If there’s a jam...u need a drink! Allez Belgique, hop Belgie!
If there’s a jam...u need a drink! Allez Belgique, hop Belgie!
From our stopover close to Dunkerque in France we picked up some LPG and made our way into Belgium. The external temperature rose to 34°C in the sun as we retreated from the cooling coastal breeze and Poppy was very grateful for the air conditioning as we drove. We approached Belgium's 2nd city of Antwerp around 3:30pm and were caught up in a horrendous traffic jam for 2 hours. People were becoming impatient and soon after being passed by an unmarked police car, its officers directed us to the inside lane, as they set out cones around a lorry that had hit the side of a car we assumed had been lane hopping.
Brecht was a small brown brick town not far from the motorway. Initially we couldn't find a suitable stopover, so pulled into a car park to check the phone. Just as we had given up and were starting to drive away, a local builder approached us and asked in English if we were looking for a camp ground! With his directions we were able to find the car park beside the park and library building. It had no facilities but 2 vans could stay free for up to 48 hours.
Selecting a spot that would soon be shaded by tall trees, we were able to step out straight onto the grass. A wooden picnic bench (albeit with a bit of grafitti and chewing gum on it) stood nearby and Vicky sat out with Poppy in the warmth of the evening. Will soon joined them with some delicious cool oysters, followed by veggie spag bol and a rasberry tart with a dolop of cream.
The breeze had kept Poppy cool enough but she had become too tired to stay out. Back in the van she found it difficult to settle with the heat but with a combination of ice packs and dousing her in cool water, she eventually relaxed and we went for a stroll through the park and very functional looking town square with its council hall, steepled church and traditional statue of a local dignitary. The park was well maintained with an old petanque pitch surrounded by sculpted trees and a couple of fountains in the duck pond. Again, we felt very lucky to be invited to access these facilities in the van and although we didn't need anything, we treated ourselves to a couple of tarts at the bakers the following morning, in order to make a small contribution to the town.Read more
There are only 11 Trappist breweries in the world and after 45 miles today I'm at one of them! Trappists are a particular order of monks that live a pretty strict monastic life, but (because it's Europe) they brew beer and make cheese in order to fund their charitable projects and lifestyle. For some of the most famous beer in the world, the most expensive beer you could get still only cost $4.40 (US)!
Oh. And I'm in Belgium now. Honestly i have no idea when that happened.Read more
First stop on our trip to the Arctic Circle.
Ghent had so much to offer we had considered staying for a second day of exploration but the weather was cold and turning to rain so we moved on. The roads in Sint-Amands village were undergoing modernisation, which meant several detours. Many of Belgium's urban areas have highly designed road systems with speed bumps perfect for flipping things off our back shelves! The lanes feel narrow and chicanes are regularly employed. Different coloured bricks are used to block pave designated areas for parking, pedestrians, bicycles and mopeds and the car lanes. Just as we were giving up hope of finding the stopover, we came accross the two allocated van bays facing a concrete footpath that led up to a walking and cycle route alongside the Scheldt River mudflats. What a relief!
Apart from the Robins hopping about in a Beech hedge, we couldn't see much from where we were parked, but it wasn't busy and it gave good access to the track along the raised river levee. The mud flats, reeds and wide channel of flowing water made a for a wildlife haven and we enjoyed hearing the Canadian and Egyptian Geese honking as they flew by. Although stubbornly cold, the weather was very changeable, from bright sunshine, to stormclouds and hailstones. Will set off on a bike ride in a good spell but was 'forced' to take refuge in a riverside pub when the drenching rain came. Poor Will 😂
The village itself was quiet with only a handful of shops, one of which was a bike shop with a couple of tandems outside. Belgium's flat landscape and canal towpaths are perfect biking territory and bike shops here are almost as common as bakeries in this region!Read more
Antwerp is Belgium's 2nd largest city, its industrial sea port being the catalyst for development. From Doel, we'd seen huge barges making their way to and from the hub, but nowadays the city centre focus is on the diamond trade and fashion industry.
We'd found out via a motorhome travel business on Facebook that we needed to register the van for Antwerp's low emission zone. It was free and easy enough to fill in the online form and send a photo of the vehicle registration document. About 5 days after doing this we recieved and email confirming we were allowed to enter the city. With more and more urban areas in Europe implementing these zones, we are going to need to keep organised so we don't get caught out. It would be most efficient for each country and ideal for us if we could register with a pan european emissions board, but this isn't the way things are going despite Germany's efforts.
As usual Will had put a car park in the sat nav and we set off towards it. However, the central road systems were in the process of modernisation, meaning they were currently a building site that required diversions, U turns and quite a lot of stress on our behalf! We were entering the same junction for the second time and had just about decided to give up and get out of the city when we found an accessible space to pull up on a wide road next to a park. Looking on the map, we decided it was close enough to the centre to walk, so bought a ticket and began making our way in.
Passing by modern high rise flats, and the grey university complex, we arrived at the harbour where expensive looking leisure cruisers and a few tall ships were moored. Having spent so much time trying to park, it was getting on lunch time. Many businesses were closed on Mondays and Tuesdays but there were a number of cafés with people sitting outside. Although we were hungry, these eateries looked like the sort of places people visited in order to be seen visiting and therefore not the sort of place we like to visit. Curling round the side of the dock, we found the Omeletshop; a well presented caravan run by 'Red Sonija', serving a whole variety of omelettes in ciabatta. Sitting on the harbourside at the kitsch ironing board frame that acted as a table, with our made to order Spanish potato and Veggie Xtreme omlette burgers bursting with ingredients, we were happy with our choice! It was a chilly and bright winter day and as we ventured further into the city centre, the tall townhouses and narrow streets meant that one minute we were flooded with blinding light, then plunged into a block of shadow at the next turn. Emerging at the edge of a cathedral, we stood back and craned our necks to try and take in the stonework. We backed up against the side of a pub that turned out to be even more ecclesiastically intersting! Inside Elfde Gebod (the Eleventh Commandment) the walls and windowsills were packed full with hundreds of painted religious statues from cheeky cherubs to proud representations of Joan of Arc. Other than this it was a regular pub serving Belgian beer to a background of light rock music. It was an utterly bizarre experience to sit with our beers at a large round oak table beneath a wooden chandelier supporting wax candles, crowded in by these effigies!
After our refreshments we wandered into a couple of cobbled squares, one of which was being dug up (as it seems much of Belgium is!). Beyond these we reached the wide river and looked down on it from a raised walkway. Alongside it was a long covered boatyard, where vessels, little and large, antique and modern were up on chocks for maintenance. Beginning to head back to Poppy and the van, we passed the relatively small, well maintained riverside castle, then left the water and cut accross town. We'd read that Antwerp had a red light district so we were saddened but not surprised when the street signs changed from advertising frites to anal sex. The all too familiar windows displaying women in various states of undress lined the pedestrian thoroughfare. Perhaps it was the age range (from early 20s to mid 50s), the mainly indigenous looking ethnicities, the city suburb pedestrian zone or the fact that we had mentally prepared ourselves, but this red light district didn't disturb us as deeply as the one we drove through soon after entering Belgium. It could also have been the fact that this was the second time we had seen this setup in this country and our brains had already begun to be inured.
Nearing the van there was still time on the parking ticket so we detoured via a set of interesting bridge arches covered with graffiti. A police van was parked underneath, the two officers sitting looking out of windscreen, while behind them an artist added the final touches to his work. The area, which included a skate park, had obviously been designated for graffiti and it ranged from talentless tags to amazing portraits of famous scientists. As we wended our way in and out of the arches we passed a homeless woman on a makeshift bed, wrapped up in layers of clothing, her belongings bundled in plastic bags around her. Antwerp was no different to Belgium's other major cities, we'd seen beggars in every one of them, outlining the inequality Europe has yet to overcome.Read more
After our day in Antwerp we stayed 2 nights at the motorhome aire on the outskirts of Grobbendonk (another great Belgian name!) There were a lot of other vans there as the aire provided electric hookup for a small charge, but it was generally a quiet spot.
Grobbendonk was a regular brown brick Belgian town. On the 1st morning we strolled up and down the mainstreet and past the bread vending machine to visit one of the two boulangeries for a loaf and sweet treats. Behind a glass panel there was a display of themed chocolates and marzipan creations. Many of the chocolates were in the shape of a holy man in a mitre and alongside the fruit shapes, were marzipan ducks! No, they hadn't made a special effort for us Duckworths, the collection was all in aid of St Niklaas or Sinterklaas and the day of present giving on 6th December. Santa Claus is reportedly based on Sinterklaas, who arrives in Belgium by steamboat from Spain each year. This legendary figure with his white beard, red mitre and robes, parades through towns on his white horse. Children cheer and sing Sinterklaas songs as his Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) assistants throw sweeties and gingerbread cookies into the crowd. Kids will leave their shoes with a carrot or hay and some water for Sinterklaas' horse by their chimney or radiator. If they've been good, they'll revieve a small present or some of the plethora of festive sweets, including mandarins, the first letter of their name or coins made out of chocolate, suikerbeest; (sugar animals) and speculaas (cinamom biscuits). Ring any bells so far? If they have been bad then the politically incorrect Black Pete will snatch them away with his cane and jute bag 🤤
Belgians celebrate Christmas on 25th of December as we do in the UK but it is always interesting to learn about the different traditions of each country.
With Vicky clutching the box containing our marzipan ducks, we returned to the van, via a frituur for Will to buy some lunchtime fries.Read more
Busy day of sight-seeing and UNESCO sites today! First up we headed into the centre of town to visit an unusual WHS - a museum! It was the Plantin-Moretus museum; essentially it was the home, workshop and factory of one of the world's most influential printers. Company founder Christophe Plantin and his descendants printed loads and loads of stuff - not just religious texts, but also maps, scientific papers, textbooks, laws, government pamphlets, illustrations and collector's books.
Consequently, they were very rich as Antwerp was one of the world's wealthiest cities at the time (15th and 16th centuries). Their house and workshop was enormous and preserved much as it was when they lived there, which was really interesting to see. Highlight was the beautiful courtyard garden, and the oldest printing machine still in existence (though it's still more than 100 years younger than Gutenberg's original press).
After a good couple of hours exploring the museum and filming, we headed back outside away from the darkness. Had a lovely lunch at a cafe on the square in front of the museum, away from the tourist district so it was fairly cheap and authentic. Toast with avocado!
After lunch we grabbed a couple of buses and a tram out to the outskirts of the city to see another WHS - a townhouse designed by the Swiss architect, Le Corbusier. This is going to be an extremely difficult site to fully see, as it's a combined listing for many of Le Corbusier's buildings. It covers about 15 buildings, mostly in France, though there are also entries in Japan, India and Argentina! Might take a while!
The house was interesting enough, but as with many of these houses you can only see them from outside. We did a quick bit of filming, then hopped on the tram and headed home. Stayed in for the rest of the afternoon and did work. Only ducked out in the evening for a cheap meal at a nearby Thai restaurant.Read more
I’ve spent the past week in Antwerp with Oli and Anouk which has been great! They’ve got a beautiful apartment and put me up in my own room. After too many hostels and shared bathrooms, this luxury is amazing and perfect timing for someone who’s starting to really miss home comforts. Oli had foot surgery a few weeks before I arrived so unfortunately we weren’t able to do much together but it was cool to see him nonetheless. I hadn’t realised it’d been 18 months since he left NZ but everything felt so Normal and comfortable, as if he was still in NZ. I didn’t see much of Antwerp as the weather was miserable but I was really content just chilling at home each day and working on my travel movie and images. Highlights definitely include learning how to make oats with egg, milk and honey - delicious!! Plus receiving the most beautiful bunch of white roses from Nickolas - for someone who hates buying flowers, he really couldn’t of chosen anything more special! I also took a day trip to Ghent which is really pretty with lots of old buildings, castles and rivers.Read more
Die 900 km waren dann doch nicht zu schaffen. Also haben wir in Belgien gestoppt um zu schlafen. Kaffee, und dann lieber letzten 70 bis zur Fähre. Week Pass gebucht um online zu sein..... Am Ende haben wir dann doch noch in Belgien für 118.4 getankt. Aber der Wagen ist nun randvoll und sollte durch das deutlich teurere England reichen.
You might also know this place by the following names:
Provincie Antwerpen, Provinz Antwerpen, Antwerp Province, Anvers, Antuérpia