My friend Sarah, another American in Antwerp, is a member of the Flemish Opera. When she told me they would be performing Carmen (Georges Bizet) this month I had to go! By the time we looked into tickets, though, they were sold out in Antwerp – but luckily there were still tickets available in Ghent! The Flemish Opera performed first in Antwerp, and Koen and I were in Ghent for the opening night.
Carmen was the first opera I ever saw (via VHS in one of my music classes), so it was exciting for me to see it performed live for the first time! I knew from the promotional photos that it was going to be set in modern times and with a trailer trash theme. Luckily the theme worked a lot better than in 2001 when Carmen was turned into a hiphopera!
A couple ago of months ago an Albert Heijn opened in Antwerp! This may not mean much to some of you, but being married to a Dutch man, a Nederlander, this is a big deal! The Albert Heijn is a Dutch supermarket with Dutch products, meaning a large selection of world cuisine such as Indonesian, South African, and Surinamese (all former Dutch colonies). This weekend I did groceries at the AH and bought the ingredients to make 2 different dishes – Babi Pangang (Indonesian) and Bobotie (South African). Lekker!
Earlier this year, Julien opened on the corner of the Schuttershofstraat and the Wapper, a convenient one minute walk from my apartment. Julien is a bar-tabac, a popular type of shop in France, where you can enjoy coffee or drinks (bar) and buy cigarettes (tabac), magazines, and newspapers. There is also a colorful selection of sweets from France and Italy! Julien has a cozy, friendly atmosphere and is a great place to have coffee and read the paper in the morning and to meet friends for a glass of wine after work.
Belgian endive, as the name suggests, is a very popular vegetable here! In Dutch it’s just called witloof. Loaded with vitamins and a delicious bitter flavor, Belgian endive is available year round to make a variety of dishes from salads to casserole type meals. One of my favorite summer combinations is with apple, bacon, and egg. Tonight Koen made the dressing with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, and cilantro, which made it extra fresh!
My favorite place to get coffee in Antwerp is at Caffènation and it’s a convenient 5 minute walk from my apartment! The new location by the Nationale Bank van België is huge (3 floors) and now I’m always guaranteed a seat. Caffènation is the only real coffee house in Antwerp other than the Starbucks in the train station. Over here there’s more of a café culture, so the atmosphere at Caffènation feels a lot more American and like home to me.
When many people think of Antwerp, they think of the Antwerp 6: Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, and Marina Yee. They are the 6 graduates of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, who together went to London in 1988 in a rented truck and showed their collections, establishing Antwerp as a notable location for avant-garde fashion. Since the Antwerp 6, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts has produced many other famous alums such as Martin Margiela, A.F. Vandevorst, Haider Ackermann, and Kris Van Assche.
Located in downtown Antwerp is the beautiful Botanical Garden (De Plantentuin). It’s 2 minutes both from my apartment and work, so during the Spring and Summer, when the weather’s nice, I like to picnic in the garden or sit on one of the benches with a nice book.
Me visiting the Antwerp Botanical Garden in April 2012