Tuesday, April 10, 2007


This weekend, with nothing better to do, we pottered off to Antwerp – an hour and a half south by train. We really only decided to do this on Friday, so struggled a bit in finding accommodation – but I left the finer details up to my boyfriend and his colleague/cohort Ryan. More on that later.

The train trip was dominated by a fat, precocious snotface having a temper tantrum at full volume. I am the first to admit that I do not have patience with kids. But I can also understand that a child of two does not have the vocabulary (or string of swearwords) to express himself when he gets hurt, therefore he will scream. But when a child is screaming for the sake of screaming, and the adult he is traveling with cannot control him, then I become strongly in favour of child labour camps. The kid on the train would scream until his breath ran out, pause long enough to inhale and then start again. What truly amazed me was that when I have even a short emotional drizzle, I need a nap after twenty minutes. This kid was still going strong after forty. That's stamina.

At first I tried to ignore it. Then I tried to block it out – literally – by shoving my fingers as far into my ears as possible. This was a desperate measure as I hate having anything shoved into my earholes. We couldn't move seats because the train was so full that people were standing in the aisle. I think I can safely say if the train was even slightly emptier, this cursed spawn of Satan would've had the whole carriage to himself.

After forty minutes, I was fantisising about marching up to the father and informing him that if he didn't care enough to discipline his child, then I would take great delight in planting a pretty four-fingered print across the kid's face. Realising that this was not the way to handle the situation, I left the compartment and walked to the end of the train and back, counting to one hundred. On my return, the kid was slowing down, but still screaming enough to drive every other passenger to distraction. It wasn't just me.

I swear to all things mighty, when and if I ever reproduce, I'm traveling with a packet of sweets laced with sleeping pills. I might even start traveling with an emergency set now. The sweeties can be for me, or for the kiddies. I will be the dangerous auntie with the dangerous packet of sweets – except I won't be offering the sweets to lure them away, just to shut them up. I think it would be in everyone's best interests. Or – here's another idea – ban all kids on public transport.

Right, tangent over. Antwerp.

Our last minute booking had left us with one option – staying on a floating hotel. A floatel. To get there, we needed to catch a bus which terminated right near our lodgings – or so we were informed. We clambered on board our bus and I asked for three tickets to Rijkweik. The bus driver tersely informed me that despite every sign (including the one on top of his bus) stating that its destination was Rijkweik, the 501 did not go that way, but he would take as far as he could. As it turned out, he actually went off course and dropped us at the door of our floatel. We appreciated the gesture – there's nothing like arriving in a chauffeured bus in an old harbour.

At this point, I would've put pics up of our floatel, but this laptop has decided that it no longer recognized my camera. So I'll just look at all my pictures on the tiny digital screen on my camera, and you can all picture what our accommodation looked like. It was a ship, with a dodgy discotheque on the top level, a breakfast/dining room on the second and a warren of tiny bedrooms on the third (water) level.

Mills and my 'double' room consisted of two single beds pushed as far apart as possible in the tiny space, with a small shower/toilet in one. I didn't mind that – what I did mind was that we were in the middle of the ship, with no windows and no aircon, at water level. True, the ship had no engine and was definitely going nowhere, but I've just always been more comfortable on terra firma. More on this later.

We dumped our stuff and set off to explore the city. A few things I learnt: Antwerp is well-known for its diamonds, and its mussels. I had no idea. The food was good. Divine. Everywhere we went. Pancakes, chocolate, marzipan, waffles, scampi, mussels, all seafood… and lots and lots of different kinds of beer.

Coming out.

After a particularly good dinner, we decided we weren't quite ready for bed so strolled along the river front looking for a vibey bar to try out another few beers. We came across a place that I'd spotted early – it looked nice, not your average dingy pub – so I convinced the guys to go into Primus.

As we walked in, conversation pretty much stopped and we got a few looks, but that happens sometimes at small local pubs. We were served and things went back to normal, which seemed to be singing and dancing at top volume to old dance hits.

"You know," I started thinking out loud as took our first sips, "it's actually quite a weird crowd… you've got the older crowd, mostly men over 50, in that end of the bar – and then on the other side there are a bunch of really well dressed, young men… oh my god," I concluded, "…we're in a gay bar."

As the realization sunk in, we listened to the song playing in the background. "I'm coming out… I want the world to know, gotta let it show… I'm coming… out…"

I thought this was hysterical and I was loving the music. It's Raining Men followed shortly after, chased by Christina Aguilera, Britney, Rihana. I was also loving the old guys jamming away - the DJ must've been about 70 and was as bent as bent can get. Ryan and Mills weren't loving it quite as much. It turned out that our floatel was camped right in the middle of the pink light district. In fact, all signs pointed to the gay-orientation: she was called the Diamond PRINCESS and was covered in pink floodlights by night. Awesome.

Back to the ship...
..where I spent a sleepless night in our bunk. Being a light sleeper, I couldn't get much rest with the dik-sco thumping away above our room, and being prone to paranoia at 4am, I couldn't help thinking about the What-if situations… "What if there was a fire? Would we know about it? Our room is completely dark, we have no exit. What if the ship does sink? Will there be rats to follow to safety? Are there giant monsters lurking in the harbour? Why are these ceilings so damn low?"
As it turned out, the only situation in our room was a blocked drain – which meant that we were were upgraded to a room with: a double bed, natural light and windows that actually opened. Sufficiently placated, Polly Paranoia slept well the following night.
What to do in Antwerp: Walk, look at the pretty buildings, stop at a café, drink beer, eat. Move on. Walk, stop into an impressive museum (Ruben's old home, or the Diamond museum), step out, stop at a café, drink beer. Move on. Find waffles, eat. Wander in and out of the various districts: diamond, fashion, food, shopping, gay bars… A good – and entertaining – way to spend Easter.

ps. Mills is so going to regret taking me to the Antwerp diamond district. Before this weekend, I knew nothing about diamonds. Now I know all about the cut, clarity, colour and carat weight...


ChewTheCud said...

Hahaha - just try not to think about how many gay couples had been banging away in that cosy double bed before you guy got there ;P

Peaches said...

Euuuuw. Didnt need any visuals re gay couples getting spicy thanks Mr Chew.

Koeks, floatel?? Hillarious.

Ticket to Antwerp: 25euro
Bus ride to floatel: 4euro
Look on Mills and Koeks faces when discovering floatel is in middle of 'Pink Light' district: Priceless

Corporate Slave #45793 said...


Straight guys in gay bars is always a classic comedy gag. I love that moment of realisation. Same thing goes for realising you are in a brothel and not a strip club, confessional and not a port-a-loo, gun fight not a knife fight, vets and not a doctor... it goes on.

I really would have loved to see Millers face.

Anonymous said...

I was already pissed off because we had just lost to Bangla-freakin-desh then my girlfriend dragged me to gay bar.

Oh danger - I thought I was actually very restrained, fortunately the guy we went with is from rural Texas so gays aren't exactely his thing!

Koekie said...

Bless his cotton-picking socks.