On Friday, the 19th, we had a quick breakfast at the hotel before packing up our belongings (which grew exponentially due to souvenirs) and driving an hour-and-a-half to the Belgium city of Antwerp. It was once Europe’s most important trading city (during the 1600s), and was the home of one of the most important European painters Peter Paul Rubens. Although destroyed during WW II, it is now thriving. Oh… and it also has a beautiful, soaring cathedral with three Rubens masterpieces!
We found a place to park not far from Rubens house, which he and his first wife bought in 1610. He remodeled the house on the order of an Italian palazzo and stocked it with classical sculpture and world class art. Ruben married his trophy 16 year-old second wife in 1630 at the age of 53. Ruben died while living here in 1640.
About a half-mile away, we found the Gothic Antwerp Cathedral, whose central spire rises 400 feet above the street below. We were pleased to find a beautiful Baroque interior (Baroque primarily because it was gutted by fire in 1533 and then stripped of its beautiful adornments by Protestants in 1566). The highlight was viewing the powerful Raising of the Cross and the equally powerful Descent from the Cross, both by Peter Paul Rubens. We were only able to spend a couple of hours in Antwerp because our destination for the next couple of nights was across the border in the Netherlands, in the charming town of Delft.
We arrived in Delft around 2 p.m. After parking the car, settling in, and resting for a few moments, we walked approximately one mile to the Royal Delft Porcelain Factory, where we received a really nice tour of their museum and factory. The Royal Dutch factory is the biggest tourist attraction in town. It is the only remaining porcelain factory from the 17th century, when the porcelain trade was booming in Delft. The classic dutch blue-and-white style of porcelain was borrowed from the Chinese whose works became known in Europe due to the trade of the Dutch East India Company, partly headquartered in Delft. Learning about the Delft Blue manufacturing process was quite interesting. We were even able to tour the factory where the porcelain is still hand made and hand painted.
Our hotel in Delft is the Bridges House Hotel, in the center of town. It was once the home of the famous Dutch painter, Jan Steen. Pretty cool! Our exciting day was topped off with a fantastic dinner at the Van der Dussen restaurant, right on the Oulde Delft canal, the same canal upon which our hotel sits. After a short walk along the canal, we dined on the best meal of the trip, a five-course meal with wine pairings with each course. Heavenly!