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lunedì 25 marzo 2013

Winter fascination in Belgium

I have been in Antwerp twice and I have to admit that I always liked it more than Brussels. It has a certain something that really fascinates me plus it's very pretty. I went there in January for work purposes and I remember it to be one of the coldest experiences of my whole life. I was staying in Leopold Hotel located in the Diamond district, which was very nice although for some reason also very cold. The heating was not working properly so I always had a sweater on when I was in the room. The location is perfect since from there you can easily walk to the center or take the trams at the railway station which is a few blocks away. If it hadn't been for the cold it would have been a lot more pleasant. Even more so and a lot nicer is Park Inn by Radisson, located just outside the railways station . Now, when talking about the station one might think it is a dodgy place and/or nothing special. Instead the one in Antwerp is absolutely stunning. I actually went to take the train to go to Ghent, another very beautiful place, although the day I went it was snowing and the temperature was -17 (!!!). I am still a Southern Italian, therefore although I live in Milan and I have lived in London and NYC I will never get used to it. What can I do? It's not my fault that I carry the sun and the warmth within me all the time. Even if I thought I would not make it and probably freeze to death on a street corner I ventured and visited the city for which every comment is probably unnecessary once you have seen the pictures. It's a lovely place and I am sure that in the milder season it is great to walk around and look at all the beautiful buildings, the streets and the churches. For me it was quite a torture : apart from the cold wind which slaps your face all the time, the streets were covered in snow and ice so I had to walk slowly with my eyes fixed on the pavement since it was terribly slippery. I could still appreciate the beauty of the city which really looks like a painting from the Flemish school, talking of which I would suggest to visit Rubens' house while in Antwerp since it's one of the main attractions. I am talking about Antwerp and Ghent as the same place since they are so close (1 hour train ride) that if visiting one, one might as well visit the other. Back to Rubens' house I initially visited it to find some shelter and warmth but I ended up enjoying it very much. A great area of Antwerp is the city center where you can easily get to by foot or by public transport. Grote Markt Square is probably the most known and it is very beautiful. There is a manin building from the 17th century surrounded by a lot of Flemish coloured buildings which give the square a flare of a Grimms' tale, at least for me. Another very nice area is the one around Leopoldstraat also known as the antiques area, where you can find lots of nice shops, galleries and bars: As I said it was very hard for me to go around with that temperature and at some point I thought about going to the movie theater where I saw Life of Pi one of the best movies of the year. For those who haven't seen it I strongly suggest to do it. Pure poetry and spirituality plus great special effects. Well, the movie was great but( you would never imagine that) there was AIR CONDITIONING in the theatre. I got so frustrated that after the movie I had to go outside and have a Belgian waffle with chocolate and whipped cream. Well in my defense I can say, I was cold, frustrated and famished. Plus when you do things especially transgressions you have to do them well or not do them at all!. Until next time but ... never again in winter