Day 1 – Amsterdam to Antwerp

posted in: Travel | 7
Con trails, chemical plants, and wind turbines

We sailed out of Amsterdam in the early evening, heading for the Amsterdam Rhine canal, and from there to Antwerp on the River Scheldt. It’s a boring run for the most part, passing green fields, man-made rock walls and hundreds and hundreds of wind turbines. But pretty soon the green fields were replaced with industrial establishments. One had a catalytic cracker, burning off some chemical as it hit the atmosphere, and the penny dropped. These were chemical plants – which makes sense. Bayer and what have you. And the container ships docked at wharves testified to a deep water port.

As usual, there were a few tour options. We decided not to take the trip to Bruges since we’d been there before. A guided tour of Antwerp seemed a bit unnecessary, so we did our own thing, with the help of the electronic “this is where you are, this is what it is” device provided by Scenic. The device has a GPS locator, so it knows where you are. When you’re close to a particular location (eg a cathedral recorded in its database) it pings at you and plays a short explanation of what you’re looking at.

The weather was awesome. Blue skies chequer-boarded by con trails making their own clouds. The heart of Antwerp turned out to be much more interesting than we expected. The church of Our Lady dominated the sky line, with a number of squares around her base, all lined with tourist shops and restaurants.

The main square at Antwerp
The main square at Antwerp. The statue in the middle is of Brabo cutting off the hand of a giant, thus leading to the name of the city. Read the legend here.

IMG_2930There’s a public area called the ‘green place’ filled with stalls and pavilions selling nothing but fabric. As usual in European cities, at the first hint of sunshine all the restaurants pulled out their outdoor furniture and lined up the tables and chairs on the pavement.

I spied a GSD puppy and couldn’t resist taking a picture.


Con travels, chemical plants and wind turbines
Con travels, chemical plants and wind turbines

On they way back to the ship we came across a large church without queues and decided to take a look inside. It’s St James church. The altar was in typical flamboyant baroque style without being completely over the top, and the stained glass was lovely, as was a wooden carving of Jesus and a couple of fishermen. Sometimes it pays to break away on your own rather than stick to the script. Entry to the church was free – a nice find in these mercenary times. But we enjoyed the experience so much, we left a sizable donation.

Jesus and the fishermen, St Jacob's church
Jesus and the fishermen, St Jacob’s church

Seems we missed out by not going to Bruges. There was a religious festival on, with procession, an event thoroughly enjoyed by those who attended. Oh well. Can’t win ’em all.

Join us next time, in Veere.

7 Responses

  1. Jeff

    Travelling the world with Greta and Peter and never leaving the comforts of Crows Nest

  2. Ed Hoornaert

    The procession in Bruges was probably the festival of the holy blood. I’d have to look it up to get the exact name, but a church there claimed to have a relic containing some of Jesus’s blood. There’s been a big procession of the relic around the city every year since the middle ages, so it’s a big deal. I’ve never seen it but my dad did, and my grandmother used to talk about it; the Hoornaert family is from near Bruges.

    • Greta

      The tour people didn’t tell us what it was all about – so thanks for the explanation. The tour was on just after Easter and we encountered a few religious holidays because of that.

    • Greta

      It was a gorgeous church – all the better for being pretty much empty.

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