Antwerp was glittering like its famous diamonds on this gloriously sunny day. Despite the good weather, the usually busy streets of its picturesque old town were quite empty of both locals and tourists as we began our walking tour. This enabled us to take plenty of photos of the area’s many historic buildings and landmarks without having our shots dotted with random people taking selfies. Our leisurely walk brought us to the world-famous Rubens House, once the home and workshop of the legendary Flemish painter, whose voluptuous paintings led to the term “rubenesque” to describe someone pleasingly full-figured.
After enjoying the museum’s impressive collection and striking architecture, we walked back to the ship for lunch, passing through the busy Bird Market where vendors were selling parakeets, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other house pets. I made the mistake of eating too much lasagna at lunch (it’s hard to resist!) as our afternoon activity was a beer tasting trip to a local pub called Beer Lover’s Bar. The multi-hour tasting was a true delight as the pub’s knowledgeable owner treated us to six ample pours of his favorite brews, accompanied by tasting plates of locally made sausage, cheese, and salami. One member of our group, a beer enthusiast to the extreme, was in seventh heaven, emptying his wallet and filling his backpack with cans to take home. After six glasses of high-octane Belgian beers, all of us were in seventh heaven as well, or at least flying high, as we cheerfully stumbled back to the ship in time for dinner.
That night in the lounge, I gave an informal presentation on legends of French and Belgian popular music, playing videos of performances by Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Django Reinhardt, and other icons. Our guests sang along with the songs they knew, and I was happy to introduce them to some of my favorites that they had yet to discover. It was a joyful way to end a marvelous day in Antwerp.