Monday the 8th of June
The past days have left me exhausted and impatient with the rapidity of which my time in Antwerp so far has passed. Each day has been full to the brim yet I have not done all that I want to do here and more than anything I would love to stay beyond the time I am welcome. Each day I plan in my head what I could do to be able to stay – but this wishful thinking is only putting me in a mood! Now more than ever, the connection with my birthplace is so strong and it is not only the buildings and the food keeping me here but the friendly folk who smile as you cross the street and also my family! Maybe it was just the weather, but I wasn’t in the mood to do all to much with my day.
Of course I wasn’t going to waste a precious moment of my time overseas! Besides, I had an entire list of items I had to go shopping for and people to see in the evening too. I was out the door and off to the Meir. First stop was Cafe Sebastien for my morning coffee – but with a twist. I was delighted to order a speculaas latte, better known as a ’speculatte’. It came in a tall glass, so to show the separation of milk and espresso, with a touch of cinnamon syrup and whipped cream which was sprinkled in crumbled speculaas biscuits. With my hit of coffee, I was ready to get out into the day and divulge into my extensive shopping list.
Fashion has remained largely independent of other influences within Europe, although many American stores make an appearance in the Meir shopping street. Forever 21, New Look, Urban Outfitters and H&M had large outlets that appealed to the youth, but the more popular stores were along the lines of Zara, Esprit and Massimo Dutti. Although I had gone shopping only days earlier I found there was still plenty to see and try on too! My purchases have resulted in the overflowing of my suitcase – I must sit on it to make it close and even then it is a struggle.
I quickly jumped into Geert’s car as he drove by the pier where I was waiting. We had arranged to catch up at least one more time before I was to leave for the foreseeable future so we decided to have dinner at home although the girls still had to study ‘because everyone needs to eat dinner’! First Geert and I decided to head to Broer Bretel, the coffee shop of a previous boyfriend of Marjan, to pass some time. It was located near the quay close to the Museum Aan de Stroom (translation: Museum at the Stream) so came with a cool atmosphere. The cafe itself was just as I remembered. The right wall was lined with polaroid photos of customers and the back room was fitted with comfortable lounges and a piano that I had played on last time we visited. The owner, Toon, was not there that day so instead we got into conversation with his younger brother about the differences in coffee culture. I challenged him to make me my usual coffee, a piccolo latte, and was incredibly impressed by its quality – and very satisfied as I missed my work, its people and its delicious coffee too. Marie and Marjan took a break from their studying to join us for dinner. I felt as though I was at home with my second family and am extremely happy I was welcomed into their arms although the timing of my visit was not ideal. When Katrien arrived home from work, we took to the city in search of a summer bar. We sat in beanbags on the sand at a pop up bar located in a shipping area on the water and drank mojito flavoured beer. She said next time I visited she would be sure to take some days off work to spend time with me. The setting sun and great company was something I feel so privileged to experience! I am incredibly lucky to have these people there for me consistently – although we are separated by time and location – for whenever we are able to catch up it is as if only a short weekend away has gone by.