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Four hours to visit Antwerp

by Mike

17 April 2014 • For a Sunday morning it was still early and the quayside in Antwerp was very quiet. Five river cruise ships were moored, and I immediately spotted the one which was bringing our Canadian friend Aaron Saunders. He was waiting for me on the cobblestones.

Aaron is a travel writer, specialized in ships. When reading his blog it seems as if he’s commuting between Vancouver and Europe and still, surprisingly, it was Aaron’s first visit to Belgium.

He was in France and Portugal some weeks ago, when Viking River Cruises launched 18 new ships (yes a record in the Guinness Book). And now, after a short jump back home, he was in Europe again to test the brand new ms INSPIRE, a luxurious river boat operating for American tour operator Tauck.

ms INSPIRE is the one on the right

We met each other some years ago at Cruise Shipping Miami, and ever since he has been a regular contributor to Shippax, the publishing company I am working for.

Aaron knows a lot about cruising. Recently he published his first book, entitled “Giants of the Seas”, in which he explains which ships are significant during the last three decades, and why.

 I wanted to give him a good impression of Antwerp, and of Belgium. We only had four hours. Since his ship was berthed on the River Schelde it was most logic to start the morning walk by a visit to the Grote Markt (“great square”) with the amazing 16th-century city hall in renaissance style. Normally it is crowded here. We were alone!

From the 16th century we walked via some cosy little streets and the red light district to the 21st century building. Indeed, the MAS opened its doors in 2011. MAS stands for “Museum aan de Stroom” which means museum along the river.

Perfect place for a healthy breakfast, followed by a panoramic view over the roofs of Antwerp, on top of the MAS.

Early Sunday morning, abandoned streetsThe MAS dominates the neighbourhood with its modern architectureA healthy breakfast in "Storm", the café under the MASEnjoying the view on the roof of the MAS, as spring obviously invades the city.Walking in Antwerp makes you discover nice little addresses

It was nice to chat and exchange ideas. When I saw in a distance the conspicuous dome of the Central Station I decided that Aaron should see this magnificent piece of national architecture, built in 1895-1905. We needed to speed up a little, to be back on time on board. Even if we were walking rather fast we had time to enjoy the streets and the constant evidence that this was a vibrant creative city.

We approach the Central StationThe stunning Central StationWhen back on ms INSPIRE Aaron showed his loft suite with panoramic electric windows. Splendid to be that close to the water.I loved the room configuration, which is an industry first.Time to say goodbye. This is the view passengers have when berthing on the River Schelde.

Official website Antwerp: Visit Antwerpen

Aaron Saunders' blog: From The Deck Chair