The first 24 hours in Antwerp - A moan from the bathtub

85264 – that is the code that gets us in this building. It forms a cross on the keypad. 120 year old building having known only three owners. Outside orthodox Jews whiz by in full garb on bicycles..   The kids  are wild – flying down the sidewalk, screeching on the brakes in front of the kosher market.  The men are all serious, but look beautiful in their long beards and flying peyos. Some of the women have one child on the back and one on  the front.  I buy a half pint of fresh Jewish caviar – chopped liver – and a loaf of dark seeded bread.

Then there are the old streetcars that require little from the drivers but using the brakes and selling tickets.

We keep being told how small this town is – but it feels likes a chest of treasures, each one wanting to be rotated slowly in our hand, and tasted.   The streets, like movie sets, feel almost deserted.  The shops, each one special and modern and timeless.  One only sells gloves with such love and enthusiasm, your only decision is purple or orange, pig or calfskin.   Many have a vintage car in the showroom.  Some have colored buttons and sweet grass perfume.   Some have old school desks and skulls under glass.

Lunch of white asparagus, french fries, and pavlova.

Did not fall in love at Dries Van Noten or  Ann Demeulemesster, though they were beautiful.

Fell in love in the bath.

Woke up so slowly.  Shaving cream on my toothbrush

Most tourists want to eat off the english translation, then onto the next city.   We smell the empty kids pool.  We taste the octopus and herring.  We crave touching all the summer wool.  We need to see the negative spaces and the streets with nothing on them.  Then to photograph the street numbers, our food after we finish, the sign with the coffee cup that says, “sandwich” above it in script.

More interested in the ancient zoo, and the glass houses and the perfect imperfection.  The chocolate on a stick you sink into the steaming milk.  Everything that is not in the guidebook.  We stay up at night watching Casablanca in bed.   We wake up and wonder at the light.  The light in our room is a whole vacation in itself.