Last spring I was on a Viking River Cruise that went through Holland and Belgium. One of the first stops in Belgium was the wonderful city of Antwerp.
If you don’t know a lot about river cruising, one of the many benefits of the experience is that there is one tour included in every port you dock in. There were ports where optional tours could be purchased, but if you didn’t want to, you could enjoy the included tours and then spend your free time wandering around these beautiful cities. That is exactly what we decided to do that day.
Our walking tour took us from the along the waterfront to a castle. From there we walked through the city’s cobblestone streets and walkways looking at the buildings and learning the history of Antwerp.
Each guest on the cruise has their own “audiovox” headset which is the best way to go on a tour. You have a head set that is set to your tour guide’s frequency and you can follow along at your own pace and still listen to everything he/she is saying. It is really a great way to tour, since you have people walking at different paces, and/or people like me, who like to take a lot of pictures.
We walked for a few hours, looking at sights, and the final stop for the tour was at the Cathedral of Our Lady in the centre of town. The Cathedral in the home to many pieces of art from Peter Paul Rubens and many others.
While walking to the Church we passed a lot of cafe’s and shoppes that we didn’t have time to visit on the tour. A few of us decided that instead of walking back to the ship for lunch, we would spend the rest of our free afternoon sampling all the delicious local treats of Antwerp.
Our first stop was a local street vendor who had a dried fruit and nut stand in the middle of the town square. We wanted to take pictures of his dried fruits and nuts since they were so colourful, so we spent some of our money, then took our photos.
After that we decided it was time to have some frites. We asked some locals where was the best place to have some frites and were given a few options. We chose one and went up to the counter. Obviously not speaking the language, we didn’t really know how to order. You chose your size and then if you wanted ‘saus’ on the frites or on the side. We chose on the side, and they give you a paper cup for the dipping sauces.
In Holland (and obviously Belgium) they dip their frites in Mayonaise. This stand had about 8 different kinds of dips, ketchups, etc. They had curry flavoured ketchup. We wanted a couple of cups to try different sauces, but were scolded by the lady behind the counter. Picture Seinfeld being yelled at by the soup guy, that would have been us.
Then it was on to the trattoria for some pizza. I know that pizza is not a dutch treat, but we walked by this place at least three times on the tour and the amazing smells wafting onto the cobblestone streets, how could we not stop. And let me tell you it did not disappoint. We ordered a pizza to share for the three of us (since we had already had the frites and had much more to go) and we polished the plate clean!
Before we heading to the chocolatiers shops on our way back we had to stop for..wait for it…WAFFLES of course. We walked past this really cute shop on the tour, but it wasn’t open yet. By the time we got back there, it was open and you could smell the wonderful scent of waffles in the air. You could have with ice cream, whipped cream, fresh fruit, chocolate sauce. Name your pleasure. I don’t think words could do them justice. Even the photos do not do them justice. They were out of this world delicious.
Last but certainly not least, were a few stops to some chocolatiers stores. There is a chain in Belgium called Leonidas which was basically your Starbucks of chocolate shops. Then there were some that were much more high-end, and you could see by the intricacies of the designs, the flavour combinations, etc. We all bought boxes of chocolate to bring home.
Our afternoon in Antwerp was divine. We had perfect weather, we ate delicious local food, took lots of great pictures along the way and had a lot of laughs. It was a day on the trip that will be a long-lasting memory.