Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Wednesday 7 June - Antwerp

Where’s Bertie? He’s at a paid-Aire on the S side of Antwerp.

As we had been promised, the Aire at Kortrijk was quiet overnight. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite so quiet this morning when demolition of a building across the road recommenced just after 7am. That demolition continued, probably about as quietly as is possible when you're pulling a building down with a massive machine with huge concrete-crushing jaws, whilst we went for sequential runs along the river and whilst we had breakfast. Then there was an almighty crash, followed by silence. We peered out to see men in high vis surveying what had occurred.

A chunk of roof had collapsed in an uncontrolled way, taking out a big chunk of the side wall as it went, which in turn fell against the (relatively new) flats next door. Someone is going to get home tonight to find they have a balcony of a different shape from how they left it this morning.

Taking ourselves off for a walk around the town, our initial assessment from last night was confirmed: this is a town with so much demolition and construction going on that one would be forgiven for assuming that some natural disaster recently befell the place, necessitating a substantial rebuild. I suppose it makes sense to get all of the redevelopment out of the way in one go, but with pavements and roads being relaid all over the place and buildings going up and down, it wasn't the best time to visit.

Two towers, and some cranes

Through a doorway, a demolition site

That said, even though the tourist info office eluded us, we managed to find a selection of notable buildings and spent a bit of time looking around the cathedral-esque St Martin's Church. An impressive, well maintained building with so much religious 'stuff' and paintings inside (not a single empty side chapel here) that it felt a bit museumy.

Back at the Aire, Bertie was watered and drained and off we went to run some errands, hitting a bit of a hitch at Lidl by not having yet obtained any coins to use to get a trolley (I'm sure we have a whole bag at home, but I must have put them somewhere especially safe, rather than in their usual place). Using a couple of wheeled baskets was our solution, the flaw in which we only realised when we got to the till*: we didn't have a trolley into which to load our goodies, and we don't use carrier bags (easier to just load stuff straight from the trolley into Bertie). A loaf of bread (see footnote 2) bought with cash netted us the necessary coin and Mick did a dash for a trolley. I'll gloss over the palava of then trying to get the trolley around to the right side of the tills before all our other groceries had gone through. We'll be guarding that €1 coin to avoid a repetition.

Onwards then to Antwerp. On the way, to answer a question posed by Mick as to Belgium's population, I consulted Wikipedia and, amongst other facts, learnt that Belgium's roads are some of the most congested in Europe, with Antwerp's being particularly bad. We can attest to that. I've typed this post whilst sitting stationery on the motorway just outside of the city, making progress of approximately one car's length every quarter of an hour, and with this view of the merging roads that are causing the problem:

With 5km to go to our destination I'm anticipating we could be another couple of hours. (Postscript: the 1 hour journey ended up taking 2 hours 40.)

(* It's standard behaviour in the UK that if someone behind you in the supermarket queue has one item and you have significantly more, then you let that person ahead. By the shocked and overly thankful chap we let ahead of us with his single loaf of bread, I'm guessing it's not normal over here. It's also (like most other European countries we have driven) apparently not normal to let people out at congested junctions. That lesson was to our cost as we tried to make a left turn into heavy traffic. Whilst I'm on the theme, we've also noted extensively that thanking other drivers by a wave of the hand is a very British thing too.)
Footnote 2: not a good choice of loaf of bread. It's an enormous cob shaped thing that is too big for any of Bertie's cupboards.

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