Originally I'd planned to go to Berlin for Thanksgiving but it just seemed like too much work. I don't speak German, Lux Eleven was booked solid and I didn't feel like flying again (the Paris-Berlin night train only sounded vaguely romantic as a concept). Also, "planned" is probably putting too fine a point on my efforts. So I did what any sensible person would do: I went to Antwerp instead. Basically I was in the National Gallery in London on Monday afternoon looking around for the Flemish paintings and thinking about how I'd like to check out the exhibition of Antwerp-based art collector Sylvio Perlstein at La Maison Rouge when I returned to Paris, and I decided I ought to just go see it all in person, you know?
Tuesday morning I woke up and called Enich Anders, the almost impossibly sweet (and cheap) little bohemian b&b -- ivy-covered on a side street in the old section of the city and attached to a stone sculptors' studio -- that I stayed at last time, to inquire whether they had any rooms available, which they did, so I went to the station after lunch and caught the next train from Paris to Antwerp. Two and a half hours later, I was delighted to find Antwerp more or less unchanged since I was last there.
I arrived at six in the evening and wound my way along the Meir, a long pedestrian boulevard lined with shops, from the train station into the old city center. Everything was closed up tight. I checked into my hotel, was pleased to get the same room again, paid for my entire stay in advance and stepped out to go to Cafe Berlin for dinner. I thought it would be a good idea to have a big, greasy meal for dinner (steak frites) and then go to sleep. What a disgusting idea that was! The next morning I woke up so happy to be in Antwerp, my favorite place: thrilled to go out and enjoy the architecture, the history (especially the city's mythic origins), admire the glossy black paint on buildings and the austere formality of the public squares, the water, the river, the birds, local pride and independent culture, general chicness, the cobblestone streets...
Some highlights of the four days I was there (e.g. when I wasn't too busy catching up on sleep, reading A Spy in the House of Love, or hanging out at Cafe Berlin to do another lap around St Andries-Oud Stad-'t Zuid): thrifting a Jean Paul Gaultier vest and a pair of beige kid gloves, HEMA (like Target but everything is neon and better designed), chocolate diamonds at Burie, pushing open the giant door at Copyright bookshop; making the required windowlicking stops at Walter, Veronique Branquinho, Dries Van Noten, Stephan Schneider, Labels Inc for Bruno Pieters and Bernard Wilhelm and racks of "recent designer" and vintage, and more, and Ann Demeulemeester, where I bought an elegant black wool wrap-style belt (best described as somewhere between an obi and a cummerbund) that still takes my breath away; Pulp department store on Melkmarkt, related to a charming, hip lifestyle magazine and selling things like a retro phone attachment for a mobile phone, Fred Perry dresses customized with flapper fringe, and badges that say Home taping is killing music. Plus: Going to the Museum Plantin Moretus, a bibliophile's dream (more on that later, perhaps). Visiting MoMU and feeling my heart break all over again to see the Dirk Van Saene dress -- (the beautiful perfect one that I could not possibly afford) with the peplum sleeves, empire waist, and strategically placed center-seam slash pockets -- that I had just finished drooling over at Walter in the exhibition at the fashion museum!
For dinner on Thanksgiving, I wore my Viktor & Rolf for H&M dress to Het Pomphuis, a beautiful old Art Nouveau pumphouse on the docks that has been converted into an unbelievably stylish restaurant, and enjoyed the best Thanksgiving of my life; I felt as though I had so much to be thankful for, then and there. It was a dream, and I can't wait to return.
And before that: The Low Countries.