Thursday the 4th of June
Saying goodbye is difficult. Even when it has been anticipated. Even if its not for long. This morning has been emotionally testing having to part with Moemoeke for an indefinite amount of time and my parents for the following three weeks. We made our way to the Vinck Heymans aged care home one final time and once again took to Cafe Kamiel. The weather had made an improvement as the cold chill was gone from the fresh air to be replaced by warm sun and blue skies. It seemed as though the coffee was even more delicious – the best we had drank so far! We enjoyed each other’s company for a short hour but had to take leave as we were on a deadline. I could not overlook the confusion in the eyes of Moemoeke as we accompanied her back to the room as she could not remember that this was her home. I did my best to fight the water in my eyes and snicker in my throat and could see my parents did the same. Dad opened her diary and wrote “Bernadette, Babet and Pieter journey home to Australia; Will be back in July 2016” – I knew soon she would turn the page and forget.
A short drive took us back to the Hilton Hotel where I was to step out and my parents continue. Dad gave me a big hug – thinking back this afternoon it was not quite big enough. Mum pulled me aside, worried I might not miss her (what silly antics) and, knowing my obsession, gifted me a pair of happy socks to remember her by. It is going to be somewhat strange not having them constantly by my side whilst I am here. Yet I am sure they will find it more difficult than I might – having to leave their only daughter on her own thousands of kilometres from home while she is too distracted to give much thought to those back in Australia. But of course I will miss my mum and dad. This period will be the longest I have been by my self; this period will be the furtherest I have been from my parents. However at the same time, I feel as though I am at home – not so much in the hotel, but in the streets of the city I could not be more content.
Kristien came to the hotel shortly after the departure of my parents to show me the hidden nooks and corners of Antwerp. We ate shrimp croquettes at Lloyd Loom: De Verborgen Oase (translation: The Hidden Oasis). To arrive at this adorable patisserie one had to be sure not to overlook the doorway leading to a narrow passage and around the corner until the opening of the entrance. The lush wall-walking fauna contributed to its cozy atmosphere that I have never seen reciprocated in Australia. We indulged in some window-shopping down a street of beautifully expensive boutiques, pausing only for some macarons at Ladurée where the ceiling was painted as the summertime sky. We strolled by the Palace on Meir amongst gold adorned buildings and a gorgeous chocolate shop that was decorated in renaissance paintings. This was a taste of culture I had not chanced to experience before this moment and I am glad I had this opportunity.
I did not stray far from the hotel for the rest of the afternoon. A short walk across the Groenplaats on the way to the cathedral, my attention was caught by the exotic cocktail board of the Appelmans Brasserie. The shade was comfortable and the steeple of the cathedral that rose far above the store gables was an impressive sight. The cocktail menu was more extensive than I had originally realised – I would have to come back later again – but for now I settled with a Summer Loving Ice Tea made with vodka, bacardi superior, bombay dry gin, camino real tequila, mango syrup, passionfruit and pineapple juice! This was an awesome place to sit and catch up on journal entries.
Cultural differences can be so simple as grocery shopping. Through the winding streets I wandered, soaking in the beautiful architecture embedded in rich culture as I was in search of a Carrefour Supermarket on the way back to my hotel. I found myself on the Grote Markt in awe of a new sight that must have taken place overnight: a flower carpet celebrating the 450th birthday of the town hall that stretched the expanse of the city square. An hour was spent open-mouthed in the aisles when I finally found the Carrefour Supermarket. I placed a bottle of Fristi Red Fruit Milk and bag of Cheese Bugels (foods I have associated with Belgium since childhood) on the counter along with two apples – I hadn’t weighed my fruit and printed a label so had to squeeze my way through the line of people behind me to do so. Already slightly embarrassed, I finished my check out only to realise I needed to buy a bag in which to carry my groceries! It must have been obvious I was a tourist – unless I just seemed stupid.
I had a restful evening with my groceries. It was due time for a night to myself after the past few days of intensive activities so my energy would be replenished for the upcoming weeks.