Friday, March 09, 2007

Sting in Antwerp

Onze Lieve Vrouw (Cathedral)

We hopped on the train last weekend over the border to Antwerpen, Belgie. The primary reason for the trip was to see Sting in concert, but that was a great excuse to do some sightseeing and enjoy the great Belgian food.

The weather wasn't too great when we arrived Friday night, and Saturday morning greeted us with gale-force winds. We didn't let that stop us, as we walked to the river to check out the old castle De Steen, which is now the Shipping Museum. Needing to get inside, we headed to the old Vleeshuis (meat market), which is now a museum for musical instruments. This was a great find -- you get an audio/visual guide that lets you learn more about the instruments on display (albeit in Dutch) and listen to audio selections.

pictured: De Steen

Antwerp is proud of its artistic tradition, particularly Peter Paul Rubens. The cathedral has two large altarpieces. We also visited the Rubenshuis, which gave a glimpse of how he lived, worked, and collected art.

pictured: Rubens' The Raising of the Cross

The skies parted in the afternoon, and we met up with one of Rochelle's colleagues from the states. Coincidentally he was in Antwerp for a weeklong course. It was great to have an early dinner with him and get the scoop from back home.

The concert itself was not your typical Sting concert. Last year Sting did an album of music by the Elizabethan lute composer John Dowland. The encore included some Sting/Police songs performed "unplugged" with lutes. No one whipped out their lighters, at least not that we saw.

pictured: Bird Market

Sunday we walked around the "Bird Market," so named for its origins as an animal market. Today it's more of a flea market, but there are still vendors that sell rabbits, guinea pigs, and birds.

After the Rubenshuis and lunch, it was a quick train ride home. The train station is, by the way, a great example of the Art Nouveau style for which this area of Belgium is so well known.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Early Spring Visitor

In contrast to the snow, this shot gives you an idea of just how mild the winter has been here in The Netherlands. Not only are the crocus, snowdrops, and daffodils in bloom, we were surprised to catch this big guy gorging himself on pollen.