Sunday, May 08, 2005

Een avondtje uit

Antwerpen is a great city, much better than Brussels. Crossing the city on foot, you start by the river (Antwerpen is among Europe's biggest ports) and on your way to a small bar you pass:

- a surprising multitude of sex shops, from the trendy feminine/woman-friendly brightly-lit and colourful variety, to the ominous "Toys 4 Boys" and its display of leather masks;
- innumerable little shops sporting the latest in interior design (the city has been an emerging European fashion centre since the early '90s and the people here tend to be a step ahead, IMO);
- old brick houses, one displaying a "Anno 1515" plaque;
- an open space surround by brick walls that have been taken over by the brightly-coloured fantasies and harrowing psycho-dramas of graffiti artists;
- churches;
- the statue of Brabo throwing the evil giant's hand (hence the city's name: hand-throwing);
- weird little odds and ends.

And the whole time, there is no loss of continuity in the mix of residential, cultural, sexual, social and religious spaces. Try doing that in the nation's capital.

To cap it all off, I discovered a delicious brown beer (Gildenbier) and listened to a sax trio playing standards passably ("Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise," "Satin Doll," "All Blues," "Stolen Moments") and then some blues in the company of a Chinese-born Antwerpenaar who is my girlfriend's grand-mother's partner and sings and plays guitar like a Mississippi backwoodsman.