When craving things like great chocolate, tasty beer, ginormous waffles and a little printing press history in a walk-friendly town, where might one go? On a gorgeous day in Belgium, I suggest Antwerp.
Normally I wouldn’t combine any of those items together (except for maybe the chocolate and waffles), but they all came together quite nicely on a sunny Autumn day in this beautiful city.
We began mid-morning with a short, simple list of items to see—things that might stereotype Belgium—but wanted to experience anyway. And we were hoping to do so on foot, so we’d feel a little less guilty about consuming the chocolate (and waffles and beer).
Using a simple paper map, we started in the direction of a museum that holds a collection of rare books and typesetting history. Within minutes, we found our first stop…
The map, leading us through ever-narrowing and angled streets, guided us successfully to the Plantin-Moretus Museum. The only museum in the world on the UNESCO World Heritage list, I was surprised to discover that its 16th century typesetting equipment and 30 thousand very old books are housed today in… well… the family home.
The wealthy Plantin-Moretus family lived in this three-story structure that spanned nearly a city block, which includes a large, beautiful courtyard complete with an herb garden and a sundial. And, of course, lots and lots of shops for their printing business.
Making our way around the leather-paneled rooms, we marveled at the ornate fixtures, fancy furnishings and sheer volume of gadgets—items they put to work designing, printing, binding—and selling—books: scholastic, hymnal, fictional—any information the family determined to be knowledge worth sharing and selling.
The writer in me was geeking out! Our family bookworm was loving the library too, as well the as countless printed materials on display. One family member was reminded of a time when she worked at her hometown newspaper’s printing press. Lots of similarities and memories…
In the town’s square, at the base of the Our Lady Cathedral, rests a statue of a seemingly sleeping boy (no pun intended) and his dog. The legend of Nello and Patrasche are immortalized under a blanket of white bricks, enjoyed and marveled at by all passers by. This became our second stop of the day as we wound our way around this old part of the city in search of our desired refreshments.
What a fantastic square! Along with all the shops and eateries, we also discovered that this area is off limits to vehicles. This is a huge plus for tourists like ourselves who can’t seem to stop gazing around, despite the possible traffic hazards. This particular feature made it easy for us to find the perfect restaurant: De Troubadour.
The sign above De Troubadour reads BROODJES WAFELS. Later, I learned that “broodjes” is Dutch word for sandwich, but we knew right away what “wafles” meant: lunch!
Seated outside, we enjoyed not only waffles with cherries and chocolate sauce, but also beer, hot chocolate with a dome of whipped cream and pancakes with marmalade.
The service was excellent too—the owner even set up a table umbrella for us (when he noticed the sun was just so), and very kindly answered all of our touristy questions. Most definitely we enjoyed our perfectly sweet meal.
Wanting to have a few treats to take away, we took a few steps from our fantastic restaurant to two stores labeled: BELGIAN CHOCOLATES and BELGIAN BEERS & BREWS. (It’s like they know us!)
Upon closer inspection, the true name of the chocolate shop revealed itself: Nello. Inside, I found just what I was looking for: small bags of dark chocolate truffles, individually wrapped caramels for sharing with friends, and something I didn’t know I needed until I saw it.
That’s right, a large Belgian chocolate Rice Krispy treat in the shape of a hockey puck. Theeee absolute most delicious treat ever! Looking back, I should have purchased more than one, as sharing is overrated…
Right next door, Abby No. 8 (the BEER shop), provided our daughter with a couple of souvenir bottles—her list item. We found friendly and helpful service at both stores, which rounded out our visit quite nicely.
Leaving the square, we meandered our way through more alleys and shops, enjoying the window displays and making an additional purchase or two.
We really had fun checking off our eclectic collection of list items in Antwerp. However, the next time I visit, I’m heading straight to Nello, making a beeline for the Rice Krispy treats, and buying waaaaaaay more than just one… J 🍫