Bruges is very quiet before 9 o’clock so we enjoyed the streets in search of a place where to have breakfast and eat Waffles!
After a titanic breakfast we went to visit the Minnewater park: sourrounded by trees and and adjacent the MinnewaterPark you will find a small lake called Minnewater or Lake of Love.
A local legend says that you will experience eternal love if you walk over the lake bridge with your partner! This legend makes this spot one of the most romantic of all the city, so we really suggest to come here to enjoy a walk or a ride. Or just sitting on a bench. Just be careful of the Swans! Don’t feed them or they will follow you as your shadow! You have to know that this park is full of swans and that they are the symbol of Bruges! Another legend says that Maximilian 1 of Habsburg, after being spared by a popular uprising in which a town administrator named Peter Lanchals was taken prisoner and killed (whose name means “long neck”), punished Bruges by condemning the citizens to feed the “long necks” (the swans) forever!
What a pity we didn’t have another day to spend in Bruges!
Time to pedal towards Antwerp
The warm morning light was inviting us to squash a nap under the trees but our goal was to reach Antwerp, 100 km away.
Antwerp can be reached in two ways that have the same mileage:
passing trough Zelzate
passing trough Ghent.
We highly recommend you to pass through Ghent if you have not already visited it. (We did it before so we decided to pass through Zelzate). Luckily we were in favour of wind and the music box gave us the right motivation to start out hitting the ground riding! 😀
One thing we learned during this journey is that if you mentally divide the road into small stretches, fatigue decreases.
Our method is to divide the road into goals: 10 km at a time, step by step. I know it may seem weird but it really helps a lot, especially on long routes!
Just outside Bruges, we took an alternative route to N9, parallel to it . It was a cycle path completely into a forest, surrounded by trees and nature with “the birds singin’ sweet songs of melodies pure and true saying’ this is a message to you uh uh” 😀 Hope you get the quote of Bob Marley!
You can easily do it with a Mountain bike or a gravel, ’cause it’s a flat but dirty road.
We did it without problem on a city bike, just pay attention if you have a road bike. We were in perfect harmony. You know, when sunlight penetrates between trees,when you can hear sounds of nature and breath pure air, it’s magic!
Imagine: Nature, trees, harmonyand us, with our stereo box and doping songs 😀 It was surely the best route moment of all the tour.
Back on road N9, we passed trough some little town. A particular mention goes to Eeklo, where the Tour of Belgium in 2010 is started.
Hurrà for water!:D
Path close to Zelzate
Huge Bridge just before Zelzate
Here we are 😀
After 50 km we reached Zelzate, a little town close to the Dutch border, in advance on the schedule but a a little bit tired. It was the first alarm bell.
How could have we been able to refresh ourselves if not with a beer? 😀 We usually use this tactic for each route stop so as not to relax the muscles too much.
Back on bikes, we did other 20 km towards Lokeren, following the N449 until it crosses the cycle path along the canal Moervaart. This cycle path is a beauty too! You know, we have a weakness for watercourses and we easy fall in love with every cycle path along water, but it was truly amazing! Such great colors to see in autumn. You don’t believe us? Here some pics of that piece of paradise!
This path bring you directly to the entrance of Lokeren, it’s easy and gorgeous!
Try to make a tour by bike of The Netherlands, a country with a huge and perfect cycle infrastructure, you’ll always be worried about the conditions of cycling in other countries.
Anyways, we were really surprised about how good were cycle paths in Belgium!
Once in Lokeren, we realized that it was so late: we didn’t have forces for a strong and final sprint of 30km and we didn’t want to let our host wait too long.
We decided to take a train from Lokeren since there is a train station there that brings us and our bikes directly to Antwerp in less than 30 minutes.
It’s always good to consider an alternative way if you have some problems.
That’s why we recommend to study the roads conditions, services and all what concern a bike trip in the nation you want to visit.
We will go further into this discussion in the next chapter, troubles are coming!:D
The first thing we did once we set foot in Antwerp was searching for Bart’s house to have a shower and go to explore the city.
As we did in Ghent we decided to stay in an Airbnb and also this time we had a really good experience: our airBnb was in the the south of the city which is really close to museums, bars and the historical city center.
The studio is very comfortable with a nice view on one of the city’s most fashionable streets.
Unlike the first experience in Airbnb we didn’t talk much with our host, we just exchanged some musical and literary tastes and then went on a relaxing tour through the bars and restaurants.
The beauty of Airbnb is that being someone’s guests you will find yourself in their home, in the tastes of people that reflect in the furniture. For example, our guest really liked Japanese = we slept on a tatami.
Luckily, the square near our stay was full of bar and restaurant so we decided to stop there and eat in a local place. We do not know exactly what we ate but it was good! chicken meatballs in a tomato soup. We just know that we ate meatballs because the menu was only in dutch!
we have a nice memory of this evening because right behind our restaurant there was a concert on a balcony and after eating we went to dance in the middle of the melee.
After a bit of revelry, we went home to rest and relax in order to be ready to explore a little bit of the city the day after.
We had less then half a day to visit the city so we decided to wake up at 7.30 am.
We have to say that sleeping on a tatami has been a good experience contrary to our expectations and visiting the city on a Sunday early morning was quite relaxing.
Are you are wondering about what to do in Antwerp? Here some tips:
The first thing we did was to visit thelocals call it and the unique wooden escalator at the entrance.
Due to the necessity to create a connection between the city’s left and right banks and after many plans failed, the locals approved the Underpass in 1931. Originally they considered to build a bridge over the river Scheldt but this plan was abandoned because this solution would have hampered maritime traffic. This tunnel is still used by pedestrian and cyclists
and it really deserves to be seen! Going on the left side of the city allows you to see the beautiful skyline of the city! YOU CAN’T MISS IT!
A few hundred meters from the tunnel you will find Het Steen, a medieval fortress in the old city center of Antwerp. This fortress is also the oldest in the city and used to be the old city center.
At the entrance of this castle you will find a statue of Lange Wappers that in the Flemish folklore is a giant who used to terrorize the inhabitants of the city.
Not so far from this zone the city center of Antwerp shines with all its beauty.
Grote Markt, the main square, is one of the most fashinating of all Europe and it is the beating heart of the city! despite the square has suffered two big fires and the structures are no longer original the center retains a great charm.
You can find everything in this part of the city: you can find the Heritage site Stadhuis, the renaissance style Karbonkelhuis (Diamond house) that owes its
name to the diamond-shaped decoration of the lower floor and at the center of the square the statue of the painter Rubens. There is also the Rubenhuis to visit, so if you have more time then us it really pays! 🙂
If you love shopping don’t miss MEIR, the most important shopping area in the country!
This street it is considered one of the most expensive of all Benelux and rents can easily reach €1700/square meter/year according to PRO-REAL ESTATE.BE.
Antwerp is very beautiful and its rail station is really a pearl. It had been constructed between 1895 and 1905 by Auguste Ambeau on a design idea of the architect Delacenserie. Considered one of the most beautiful rail station in the world it is one of the symbols of this city.
Just outside the station there is the Diamant quartier where you can admire tons of exxxxxxxxxxxtra expensive jewels! Just admire it. Or buy them if you can. And if you can, please buy us also two Specialized. We will thank you for the rest of our life! Everyday we will call you in the morning or before to go sleep and say thank you. Love u!
Time to go now, thanks for reading our blog, see you next week with the last part of our trip: FROM ANTWERP TO BRUSSELS!
We will talk about how Arthur flat a tire 7 km before the arrival 😀