Some women don’t like to share how old they are. They think it’s a shame to have grey hair, sagging boobs, and a butt like a barrel. Well, maybe having a barrel butt is kind of a shame. I probably could and should do something about that… but then again, I probably won’t. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that you never know how long you have. And when it comes down to it, what other people think of me isn’t my business. If I ever decide to make my butt into a different shape, I’ll do it because I want to, not because I’m ashamed.
Belgium is a great place for letting it all hang out. I have enjoyed every trip we’ve ever taken there, starting with our first visit in September 2008. Bill and I were living in the Stuttgart area, and Bill was working day and night on a very annoying project that kept him perpetually busy and traveling. One day, as Labor Day approached, he sent me a really pissy email that read, “I think we need to go to Brussels and see Manneken Pis.” And by God, that’s what we did. We took a first class Thalys train from Stuttgart to Cologne to Brussels and spent the weekend drinking excellent beers, eating chocolate, and enjoying the city’s irreverent vibe. We also visited Bruges.
Then, after we came back to Germany in 2014, we decided to go to Belgium again. We visited the Netherlands in 2015 and traveled through Belgium via Luxembourg, then spent Labor Day weekend 2016 there, visiting the eastern towns of Liege, Barvaux, Durbuy, Rochfort, and Dinant. In 2017, we celebrated my 45th birthday in a little town called Alveringem, which is not far from the beach or the beautiful city of Gent. We also visited Bruges again. Then in 2019, when we spent MLK weekend in the Netherlands, we were very close to the borders with Germany and Belgium, so we visited then, too. Then came COVID-19, which messed up travel for a long while.
As my fiftieth birthday approached, Bill wanted to know what I wanted to do and/or where I wanted to go. I told him he should come up with a trip. I hoped it would be a surprise, but I ended up figuring out where he chose to take me some weeks before the trip happened. He knew I’d been thinking about going to the Netherlands again, but he also knew that I love Belgium. He also found an absolute GEM of a hotel. Antwerp is also known for diamonds and, it being my fiftieth birthday, Bill figured maybe I was due for a new rock. So he booked the hotel, and Friday, the 17th of June, we made our way there, mostly courtesy of Germany’s handy Autobahn system. Our route also took us through a short strip of the Netherlands before we dipped into Belgium and landed at its big port city.
The first thing we noticed about Antwerp was, unfortunately, the rude drivers. I can see why they’re rude, though. Driving in Antwerp is very challenging, especially if you don’t know your way around. There are many bikers and walkers, and they don’t always stay in view, yet they expect drivers to give them space. Once we parked, though, Antwerp became very cute, friendly, and welcoming for all people! Especially the LGBTQ population!
Our drive to Antwerp took about four hours, but it took another hour of driving in the hellish maze of one way streets to make our way to our junior suite at the glorious hotel Bill booked, De Witte Lelie (The White Lily), which is a fabulous small, luxury hotel with a little parking garage. Not knowing much about the hotel, other than it has great reviews and quirky furnishings, I was almost tempted to tell Bill that we should cancel there and go somewhere that was accessible! But I’m glad we didn’t do that, because the hotel was superb, and one of the best things about the trip. Yes, it costs a lot to stay there, but if you’re looking to splurge and are into avant-garde style, it’s a great hotel for a special occasion.
De Witte Lily started out as three 17th century buildings, but they’ve now been joined to create a beautiful oasis in Antwerp, complete with a peaceful courtyard, two sitting rooms, a small bar, and a lovely breakfast area. We were pretty exasperated by the time we reached the hotel at about 5:00pm on Friday, but the receptionist quickly opened the garage for us, checked us in (and even carried our bags upstairs), and gave us champagne and chips. I should mention that this hotel has an elevator, but it only services one part of the property. Our room was only accessible by stairs, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, given how much beer we drank (maybe it helped my barrel butt and spare tire).
I had visions of maybe taking day trips to other areas during our weekend, but we were so traumatized by driving in Antwerp and the rather rude drivers there (though, again, now I totally understand why they’re rude), that we decided to just spend the whole time exploring the old town’s cobbled streets, alcoves, and allies. We ate lots of good food, listened to live music, drank plenty of good beer, and did lots of shopping. In this series, which will be pretty brief, since we were only gone four nights, I’ll do my best to cover the highlights. Hope you’ll follow along. Antwerp really is a great place to turn 50… it’s a place where I felt just fine being myself!
Below are a few photos from our travel to Antwerp… they aren’t that exciting, but bear with me. They get better.
I’ll get more into the details of the hotel in part two. Stay tuned!