As much as we enjoyed soaking up the ambiance of the streets, the best part of our visit to Belgium was meeting fabulous long-time YLF forum member and Antwerp local, Inge. The charm of Belgium, which to me seemed to combine so many of the great elements of French and Dutch culture with a uniquely Belgian twist, was wonderful. We had a magical time touring the cities, savouring local delights, fitting on the fashion and generally yakking about everything. There was lots of laughter from start to finish, which made it feel like we’d known each other for years. How lucky are we! Today’s blog post, written by Inge, describes our Belgian adventures.
I had been eagerly counting the days ever since I found out that Angie and Greg were coming to Belgium on their next European trip. Last week “le moment suprême” had arrived and from the minute I saw two exceptionally stylish people smiling at me warmly from their hotel balcony, I knew we would hit it off perfectly.
Over a wonderful tapas lunch we quickly devised a game plan: exploring the area around the Grand Place with its baroque guildhalls and majestic Town Hall, lively shopping streets, famous “chocolatiers” and ornate galleries. As I’m never one to turn down a treat, I was particularly pleased to hear they also wanted to seize the opportunity to taste some of the Belgian delicacies.
We certainly didn’t dilly-dally, and after saying hello to Manneken Pis, the tiny but renowned statue that is dressed in different costumes several times a week (he’s the proud owner of over 700 outfits), we shared a gaufre liègeois (waffle from Liège) with the typical small lumps of sugar in it.
We had decided to save the big shopping for Antwerp, but of course couldn’t resist popping in a few shops and malls on the way. Mexx in particular had some very impressive goodies. I hope to get their fantastic dark denim button-down tunic with a bit of sheen to it, and a gorgeous pin-striped blazer with red lining. Very playful and ideal for layering purposes.
The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent sightseeing, chatting, and walking, topped off with a delicious glass of homemade lemonade at Le Pain Quotidien and scrumptious food at a small Thai restaurant.
I’d be hard-pressed if I were forced to pick a favourite moment, but have to admit one of the highlights of the day was when I got to hold Angie’s famed red Valentino bag for a bit;-) It’s a beauty, oh yes!!
The next morning we met up again at the recently renovated Central Station in Antwerp that, very conveniently, opens out on to the High Street with all the well-known mainstream clothing brands. First part of the day was spent looking for comfortable and fab shoes suitable for work and play. We both loved a pair of blue-green, low-heeled pumps by the Italian brand MJUS. Their shoes were all over town, and from what we saw of them, they come highly recommended.
I also had the privilege to experience Angie working her magic firsthand, yes, I’m a lucky lass! I still can’t quite wrap my head around how she does it! You find yourself in the fitting room trying things on, Angie just readjusts the garment, grabs some accessories, starts putting together outfits and all of a sudden you look like a million bucks.
With her guidance I finally learnt how to make even skinny belts work for me. A cute cream studded number and a heavier belt with small metal rings are high on my wish list now and I’m champing on the bit to try them at home, so stay tuned. Other winners were a beautiful black and white wrap dress and a sleeveless Summer top at WE, a bright green cascading cardigan at Zara, and a fun casual dress at Esprit.
Real Belgian fries were next on the menu. We had them at what’s probably the most stylish looking and unconventional “frituur” (chip shop) in Belgium (artwork on the walls, environmentally friendly cutlery, transparent chairs and B&W print tables…). After all that savoury deliciousness, we needed something sweet for dessert, so we stopped at a small bakery for a frangipane pastry (a small puff pastry cake with almond paste filling) and a mini dark chocolate Easter bunny. Later on I introduced Angie and Greg to “Australian Ice Cream”. Believe it or not, a Belgian brand.
We found ourselves smack in the middle of the trendy neighbourhood Het Zuid (The South), where the shops of famous Belgian designers such as Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester and Walter Van Beirendonck happily coexist with independently owned boutiques. The perfect place for people watching and snapping up one of a kind items. We admired the industrial and arty vibe of a shop-window in the Volkstraat, where old hospital beds and army blankets had been used to showcase the wares. Such amazing eye for detail! We swooned over a jaw-droppingly beautiful red leather jacket by Essentiel, a designer dress with a boldly striped skirt and literally had to drag ourselves away from a small handbag boutique where we could have done some serious damage.
The shops close at 6pm here, which meant we had a little time to spare before our delicious pasta supper. So I gave Angie and Greg a tour of my new flat, followed by happy hour at an outdoor café with a view of the 14th century Gothic cathedral. We had a bit of a chuckle when the resident giant white poodle, up to a lot of mischief, was carried inside by its owner. Such a comical sight.
One last quick drink after dinner, and then it was time to say goodbye. I was sad to see it end, but I’m still super chuffed that we got to spend two whole days together and I think Greg will confirm Angie and I never stopped talking. About YLF and all the lovely forum members, of course, family and friends, the difference between American and European cookies (chewy vs crunchy), our favourite cities, how spoken Flemish and Afrikaans sound quite similar, memorable concerts, how to make your own curry paste… We could have gone on and on…
Thank you Angie and Greg, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of our “city trip”, you are both absolutely delightful and I’m so glad we finally met in person. Let’s do this again soon!