Belgium…Chocolate, Waffles and Rubens

Greta Chapin McGill - October 21, 2014

Four days in Antwerp turned out magnificently. When I arrived, it was grey and cloudy, but immediately Antwerp put on a face of hospitality and beauty.  

It's a port city, so at this time of the year it has a chill about it.  Most often there are clouds in the sky and it will invariably be raining or misting at some point during the day. The second largest city in Belgium, the Antwerp grew around the Cathedral of Our Lady. The church was completed in 1518 and its guild altars boast some of the most famous paintings to come out of the studio of Peter Paul Rubens. 

Peter Paul Rubens is Antwerp’s favorite son and his house is not to be missed. After standing in the studios of the famous artists of Barcelona, a visit to Rubens' city mansion was definitely on my list since he was the Bill Gates of his time - his studio was an art factory. He would have lived in Rome, but an appointment from Archduke Albert VII of Austria and his wife Isabella of Spain kept him in Belgium, plus he married a local girl. Therefore, he decided to bring Italy to him - his home and studio in Antwerp is half Italian palazzo and half a proper Dutch city house. Of course, he also built a country estate to escape to.  

I also met Alec Nierinck, a chef who owns an art gallery, two of my favorite passions together. Life Is Art is the name of both his ventures, and I was captivated. If you should visit Antwerp, I recommend Life is Art for the meal of your life!

I took a train from Antwerp Central Station to Brussels. Central Station is an architectural wonder and taking a train anywhere in Europe is quite pleasant. The uniformed train attendants will bring you wine, coffee and pastries and  help with your every need. Brussels is chocolate heaven, so if that is one of your favorite things in life, Brussels is certainly your spot. Of course, there are those decadent Belgian waffles, also, and a lady can still find a nice Belgian lace hanky.

The Magritte museum definitely moved me. I have always loved this surrealist painter and the fascinating exhibit puts you right in the artists mind. I loved looking at his process, and seeing Rene Magritte’s art timeline influenced me greatly. This museum introduced me to James Ensor and a host of other Belgian painters who were pushing the boundaries of art during their time.  

Three days in Brussels was great and If you want to really get your shop on, you will not find a better venue than Brussels! 

Now, It is on to Paris...the city of light awaits!