Monday, 1 April 2013

Antwerp: Our Belgian base camp.

April 1st, 2013. Today is the beginning of the A to Z April challenge for 2013. Arlee Bird, bravo to you, what you have started is now a worldwide phenon! So here we are with our 1st post for the A-Z April Challenge, 2013. Ours will begin with a road trip tale, that started in February 2011 when we left Kuala Lumpur and headed  to the USA, via Paris and London. Midway, we took a detour to Belgium, to couchsurf with our couchsurfer buddy Olivier.

Paris to Antwerp

Brussels on our way to Antwerp, at dusk
After a two nights stay in Paris we left for Antwerp. With luggage and backpacks ready, we walked to Anver train station, a 15 minutes walk from the Residence Albert Hotel, of Montmartre where we stayed for the three days two nights duration. There was only one train change from Anver to Gallieni, at Pere Lachaise By 10 am we boarded a Euroline bus at Gallieni Station itself, to Antwerp.

Digi slept part of the way, and I watched the scenery most of the time. We tried to guess at which point that we had entered Belgium. I told Digi, Belgium would have two languages on their signage. However, I forgot to note about it. Probably because we are so used to multiple languages signage. Anyway, we had a stop somewhere between Paris and Brussels, and had a lunch of granola bars, bread, cheese and juices. Then at sunset, we had another stop, this time in the center of Brussels. We stretched our feet and also got some more bread and cheese, as well some fruits and vegetables from a convenience store, nearby. I was looking forward for a home cooked meal. But Olivier beat us to it, ingredient wise. He had filled his pantry with essential Asian foods - rice, noodles, soy sauce, hot sauce; and some unique Belgian's treats - waffles, chocolate sauce and biscuit spread. He even had a wok.

Catching snow flakes

Video game shop
For our 1st Antwerp dinner, I cooked some rice in a pot and then fried it in the wok. "Hehh," Oliveir said, "Cook everything in the wok, rice and all, that is what the wok for." "Alright boss. Will do that next time." I scratched my head and tested my brain. Let see, oil in the wok, add mince onions, garlic and ginger, followed by rice, and enough water - cook the rice. Add vegies, soy sauce, hot sauce. Mix everything up. Walla!! We should get it all in the wok. Thankfully breakfast the next day, was a much simpler fare,  cereals, milk and chocolate sauce.

Market Square, Antwerp
After breakfast Olivier gave us a briefing on all the necessary route and transportation required from his place to the city center. Then he went to work and left us to our own way. Digital and I took a bus and a train, but stopped short on the other side of the Schelde river. To go to the city center we had to cross this river. For fun we took the pedestrian channel - a tube like half circular channel that run below the river bed.  Digital thought it was fun to race through the channel to the other side. NOT me. I felt claustrophobic, and my knees are not for running! Phew. Was I glad to surface safely and be on top of terra again.

Antwerp Market Square looked very similar to Brussels Grand Place.  As shopping was the furthest from our minds, we only window shopped - diamonds, and video games too.We bought some chocolates though. Heh, that we did not plan to resist. Not at all.

Although it was the end of February, it was still cold. Digital said, "Perhaps there will be snow." And boy, he got snow flakes falling on him while walking the street of Antwerp. The snow melted even before they touch the ground. But it was still snow. "Whoopie!!" The first ever snow in Digital's life. It was so cool.

On the 2nd day of Antwerp, we slept in, and did our laundry. Also cooked more rice and more chicken. It was like we never had enough rice and chicken. And the waffles, yup, we eat plenty of them, with chocolate sauce, all from Olivier's pantry. Darn excellent base camp his place was.

Alternative Foodie


  1. Diamonds and video games... sounds like my kind of trip. I've never been to Antwerp but that last photo reminds me of Amsterdam. Beautiful architecture. :-)

  2. Hi from the A-Z. Sounds like an amazing day; apart from that scary channel bit! Love that there was the experience of snow for the first time; how special!
    I'm getting my business blog in order throughout this challenge over at I noticed you mentioned GMT on someone else's blog so that piqued my curiosity to come and see where you are :)
    Warm wishes from England!

  3. Ermie, thank you for dropping a comment. You are my first A-Z visitor. No diamond or game then though. And You are right about the similarity of Antwerp architecture to Amsterdam - must be same period, about 1500s I think? However, the Dutch Fort in Malacca built at later date (1600s) was much simpler.

  4. Hi Rae, thank you for saying hi. We will get to tell the England part of the journey too, later ... in fact would be under GMT ;) KL (Kuala Lumpur) is 7 hours ahead of GMT, as it is going to be summer soon. We in KL does no do the leap forward in spring, as being close to the Equator, everyday sunrise sunset are almost at the same time. Just slight variation, of 30-40 minutes in a year. So yes, snow for the first time was awesome for my son.

  5. Sounds like a great trip! I'd like to go to Antwerp. Good luck with the challenge.

  6. Thank you Juliette. Antwerp would probably be much nicer in spring and summer ... with colour.

  7. We skipped Antwerp, but visited Belgium and Brugge last year. So, how was the fried rice dinner, it sounds great!

    AtoZ #42

  8. I'm to laugh at Olivier's fried rice instruction, it was more rice pilaf actually, but turned out fine. Brugge is a beautiful one, right, Rhonda. I visited Brugge way back in mid 90s. In 2011, we did not go to Brugge, just Brussels and Gent.

  9. Hi, It's a wonderful town -- I had a short stay here on a train trip from Amsterdam to Brussels and enjoyed it very much.

    Thanks for stopping by my A to Z post.


    1. You have great posts there Beth, a very unique was of presenting a subject. I enjoyed that very much. Antwerp, I'm glad to have a friend who lives in here, or would had missed it. And thank you for coming by, Beth.