Written by koshkha on 10 Feb, 2013
Europe has a number of famous high speed trains but I would guess one of the less known is the Thalys. The train runs from Amsterdam in the north, through Brussels and on to Paris. Side lines can get you to the French Alps and…Read More
Europe has a number of famous high speed trains but I would guess one of the less known is the Thalys. The train runs from Amsterdam in the north, through Brussels and on to Paris. Side lines can get you to the French Alps and to Cologne but the main route is back and forth between Paris and Amsterdam. I take this train only between Amsterdam Central or Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and Antwerp. The journey – all being well – should take around an hour from Antwerp to the airport and just a few minutes longer to Central Station.I’ve taken the Thalys three times in the last two months and I’ve signed up now for a ‘Thalys Card’ and an online account so that I can book my own tickets. I travel this route for business and I’m not really supposed to do direct bookings but our UK-based travel agent can’t book the Thalys and if I use the agency in Belgium or the Netherlands, I get stung with a lot of additional charges. I made a case to the procurement person in charge of travel and she agreed that it was OK for an exception to be made so that I can now book directly on line.Two of my journeys have been in so-called ‘Comfort Two’ on semi-flexible tickets and one was in ‘Comfort One’. I believe that cheaper tickets are available if you book a long time in advance but all my tickets have been booked just a few days before travel. The semi-flexible and Comfort One tickets both come with free onboard WiFi although you shouldn’t be surprised if the first time you use it, it takes you half the journey to work out what to do. There are instructions online and in Comfort Two you need a special code which is printed on your ticket. If you don’t qualify for free WiFi, I would suggest to think carefully before paying for it as the service is really rather rubbish.In Comfort two the carriage is configured four seats across in two pairs similar to a plane but with the exception that some of the passengers will inevitably be going backwards. I’ve never yet managed to get seats together with a colleague although if the train's not too busy, people are quite flexible about moving around to let others sit together. However at peak times such as my last journey at 19.30 out of Antwerp, the train was very full and I sadly had to throw someone who didn’t have a seat reservation out of my seat so I could have a place. In Comfort One you get a lot more space as well as a free meal and drinks with a hostess service. The legroom is much greater and the seats are configured three across with an individual seat on one side of the aisle and a pair on the other. Comfort One also offers you free newspapers and is altogether more like travelling business class. The one time I took this ticket type, it cost only about a third more than the Comfort Two ticket which seemed like good value even though I didn’t take the free meal, only indulging in a couple of coffees and a friendly chat with the hostess. The seats in Comfort One are larger versions of the red and purple seats you find elsewhere on the train. There are power points for charging your computer or phone and the WiFi didn’t seem to need a code in that class. Comfort One also offers some extra goodies that weren’t relevant to me such as on-board taxi booking for Paris and Brussels and access to special lounges in Amsterdam, Schiphol and RotterdamComfort Two can be a bit of a squeeze and on my last trip I had to sit from Antwerp to Rotterdam with my suitcase squeezed in front of me because there was nowhere left to put it. After Rotterdam I was able to get space on the luggage rack but the first half of my journey was rather uncomfortable. In this class there’s a trolley service selling food and vouchers for the WiFi for those whose ticket doesn’t include the service. There’s also a bar carriage somewhere in the middle of the train although I’ve not used it.Prices are very variable depending on how long in advance you book and how much flexibility you need. If you are willing to commit to a particular train, a standard Amsterdam to Antwerp single could cost you 39 Euros whilst the same journey in semi-flex would be 70 Euros in Comfort Two or 74 in Comfort One. For a fully flexible ticket, you’ll pay 93 Euros in Comfort One. There are special fares for young people (under 26), the over 60s, under 12s, kids travelling with adults, people with mobility impairments and their carers and for groups. I’d love to say it’s complicated but compared to the trains in the UK it’s both cheap and much easier to understand. I recommend anyone thinking of taking a train in the UK to just hand over their credit card and give up hope. My first two Thalys experiences were late. The first train was nearly an hour late which is pretty poor on a train journey that only lasts an hour. We got stuck behind a Fyra (the local not-quite-so-high-speed-train) which had broken down. The service was so bad on the Fyra that they’ve now withdrawn the service completely which is a shame as we’re now restricted to a Thalys only once every two hours. As an alternative to flying, the Thalys is very nice and if you can get a Comfort One ticket at a good price – i.e. on a Semi-Flex fare where it’s barely more than Comfort Two – it’s well worth considering it as an alternative. A no-flex fare from Amsterdam to Paris booked well in advance could be as low as 35 Euros and once you’ve added in all the time to go to the airport, hang around getting security checked and standing in lines and then gone through the hassle of collecting your luggage and travelling into the city at the other end, the journey time of three hours and 20 minutes competes well with taking the plane. Close
Written by koshkha on 20 Sep, 2009
My favourite of my regular business journeys these days is the route between Manchester and Antwerp that's run by the lovely little airline VLM. If you are lucky enough to have access to Manchester Airport, London City or Frankfurt and you need to go to…Read More
My favourite of my regular business journeys these days is the route between Manchester and Antwerp that's run by the lovely little airline VLM. If you are lucky enough to have access to Manchester Airport, London City or Frankfurt and you need to go to Antwerp, then you could be in for a treat. Because these are the airports from which the lovely little airline VLM flies.VLM is in the process of metamorphosing and combining with another lovely little airline and will soon be known as City Jet. Both are part of the KLM-Air France group and both are focused on serving business travelers.When I first started traveling for business, flying around all over the place was still quite good fun. You got fed, you got free booze, if the airline lost your luggage they paid compensation, you amassed zillions of air-miles and if you missed a flight the airlines would go to extreme lengths to find clever ways to get you to your destination. But over the years the fun got squished and the stress increased. It can sometimes seem as if the airlines and airports are competing with the terrorists to induce ever more complex and unpleasant barriers to actually trying to enjoy yourself. Turning up an hour before a flight used to be standard – increased security checks put paid to that and caused massive delays. Parking near the airport was standard - the greedy airports put paid to that one by whamming up the fees. Carrying your nail scissors or eyebrow tweezers soon became a crime and attempting to actually enjoy travel became more and more of a challenge. So why all this pre-amble of misery and depression? Simply because VLM offers the attention to detail that actually makes flying almost fun again. How VLM get it right - at the Manchester End VLM use terminal three which is the quietest of the three Manchester terminals. It's within easy walking distance of the Long Stay Car Park and since the plane holds only 50 or so passengers, you'll never find a long queue for check in. My morning flight is at 8.25 and so long as I'm in the terminal 50 minutes or more beforehand, I can be pretty confident of not needing to worry. I recently got stuck in a motorway closure and made it to the airport just 30 minutes before the flight was due to leave. No problem – they still let me through.How VLM get it right - in the air This little airline hasn't forgotten how to treat passengers as human beings. You get a pre-assigned seat - hoorah, no fighting for a space on the plane. The planes are Fokker 50s - small planes with just 4 seats across and about 13 rows. The seats are leather and you get one of those rare things that our budget airline friends have long abandoned - LEG ROOM! The crew are smartly dressed, although the flight attendants tend to be a bit bossy but they treat you nicely. A boiled sweet before take off - how twee! A cheese or ham roll and a drink on the short flight and best of all a nice square of Belgian chocolate after your drink. Yum! When did you last get chocolate on EasyJet? How VLM get it right - at the Antwerp End Antwerp is a really tiddly little airport. I believe they have just 10 flights a day - to London City, Manchester and Frankfurt. There are no gates to park up at - the plane just taxis up to within about 40m of the arrivals and lets you off. They have loads of umbrellas on standby so that if it rains someone will rush out and lend you one so you don't get wet on your short walk to passport control. As there are never more than 50 passengers arriving, the passport line is always short and with such a short distance and so few bags, you never wait more than a minute or two to get your bag. It's entirely realistic to be out of the airport within 5 minutes of landing. The only thing to watch out for is that once the taxis have gone, that's it - there won't be any more so don't hang on and hope - you'll need to go and find someone to call you another if they run out especially on the evening flights. Check in at Antwerp is open until just 15 minutes before the flight is due to leave. Check in, drop your bag and you can be sitting in the departure lounge five minutes later. You might have to wake up the security guys to get them to check your hand-luggage because it's fair to say they aren't over-worked. But whatever you do, don't turn up 2 hours before your flight because there's absolutely nothing to do. Since none of the destinations are covered by duty free, there's very little to buy in the shop. You can buy alcohol but since the shop is on the landside rather than airside, you'll have to shop BEFORE you check in so your booze can go in your bag. It's all very weird. Whilst sitting around Antwerp airport it's not unusual to see tiny little private jets standing around waiting for the fantastically wealthy diamond traders that trade in Antwerp. These are the only planes that can succeed in making a Fokker 50 look like a Jumbo Jet by comparison. Whilst I've only once been lucky enough to have the 'private jet' experience (and I got a little over-excited and I'm sure I went wheeeeeeeeee on both take off and landing) flying VLM is the closest I can get without breaking the bank. Close
Written by GailA on 01 Jul, 2001
The beauty of Antwerp is that it is a slightly off the beaten track destination with much to offer, most of it very accessible on foot and at prices more reasonable than the major cities. In the space of about six hours we viewed…Read More
The beauty of Antwerp is that it is a slightly off the beaten track destination with much to offer, most of it very accessible on foot and at prices more reasonable than the major cities. In the space of about six hours we viewed the gardens and Flemish masters at the Ruben Huis, strolled along the Meir - a pedestrians-only mall loaded with some neat shops. We remembered to look up as we moved along to take in some amazing architectural embellishments on the buildings, and view one of Europe's largest harbors. We also had some very good meals and enjoyed the tranquility of a massive park loaded with statuary and war memorials that beckoned to us along the way. Although we are public transport fans and saw all the possibilities of getting from point A to point B via metro and tram, we just hoofed it and never felt overextended.
Other Antwerp attributes touched us as well. We arrived early on a Friday evening and saw some of the many Hasidic Jews making their way to synagogue for the sabbath. As American Jewish travelers in Europe, historical memories of less hospitable times are always with us and remind of that we have never personally experienced fears in America because of who we are. Seeing those Hasidic families was both life affirming and bittersweet. Many Hasidim I am told work in the diamond industry and Antwerp is the place to pick up gems if you're so inclined and at prices that do not preclude acquisition my non-millionaires. If you're not in the buying mode, visiting some of the showrooms is nevertheless a very interesting experience.
Essential Antwerp can be seen in a day, but I suspect those travellers committed to seeing cities in-depth would find much to reward them by spending the extra time really exploring taking in the sounds, smells, and aura of the place.
Written by linet on 29 Oct, 2004
If you do not have the budget for diamonds, and you want to have a heavenly pleasure, then you hit chocolate. My good old favorite is Leonidas, which is an affordable option that can be found all around Antwerp. A bit more expensive giant of…Read More
If you do not have the budget for diamonds, and you want to have a heavenly pleasure, then you hit chocolate. My good old favorite is Leonidas, which is an affordable option that can be found all around Antwerp. A bit more expensive giant of the chocolate world is Godiva, and it can be found basically in every neighborhood in Antwerp. There are also some bakeries and chocolateries producing excellent bonbons, and I want this to be the surprise of your trip, so no clues.
If you like chocolate in other forms than bonbons or pralines, you can stop by at Guylian, located at Komedieplaats 15. Komedieplaats is a very elegant location--a luxury shopping street. You can watch the ladies in smart clothes around Hermés and Cartier while having a chocolate shake with passion fruit, or you can have a chocolate dip of the current season's fruit. Even though a bit pricey, it is a stop for something different.
For budget minds, the best place to taste chocolate in a different form is the street; there are waffle booths on many main streets. Try a warm waffle with chocolate on a cold winter day, and you will feel like the luckiest person on earth. And if you ever see a girl messing with the chocolate all over her face and, eventually, clothes in front of one of these booths, that could be me.
The Jewish neighborhood starts from Pelikanstraat, with diamond and gold shops, and continues on the Lange Kievitstraat, turning right, where you can find kosher shops and restaurants. Nervierstraat and Isabellalei Lange Herentalsestraat are the places where the Jewish population is mainly located. I have read…Read More
The Jewish neighborhood starts from Pelikanstraat, with diamond and gold shops, and continues on the Lange Kievitstraat, turning right, where you can find kosher shops and restaurants. Nervierstraat and Isabellalei Lange Herentalsestraat are the places where the Jewish population is mainly located. I have read that there are approximately 18,000 Jewish souls living in Antwerp, most working in the diamond industry. The rest accommodate the needs of the first group, providing kosher restaurants, butcher and poultry shops, and education.
I found the environment on these streets a little bit shabby--people may look at you suspiciously if you are on a small street where everyone knows each other. If you go into a shop, they will all stop talking and notice you and will not say a word to each other until you leave. I can imagine that life is not easy for these people, in a city where Vlaamse Blok, a right-wing party, has collected many votes at the last elections.
If you seriously want to consider dining kosher, here are some addresses:
Blue Lagoon, Lange Herentalsestrat 70
Dresdner, Simonstr 10 tel: 2325455
Behi Falafel. Lange Leemstraat 188 tel: 2188211
Written by Adelaide on 29 Jun, 2002
Antwerp nowadays is the world's most important diamond trading center. The diamond district of the city starts right next to the Central Station and many members of Antwerp's large Jewish community live in this area. This is where about 60% of the world's production of…Read More
Antwerp nowadays is the world's most important diamond trading center. The diamond district of the city starts right next to the Central Station and many members of Antwerp's large Jewish community live in this area. This is where about 60% of the world's production of rough and cut stones and industrial diamonds are traded, observing ancient traditions based on unconditional trust between dealers.
The Diamond Museum, located at Kon. Astridplein 19-23, shows how diamonds are produced from mining to cutting and also displays some beautiful diamonds. It was closed for modernization during my stay, but was to be reopened in May 2002, becoming a multimedia museum, showing all the facets of the use of diamonds, and with live demonstrations by professional diamond cutters.
Rubens was born in Siegen, Westphalia in 1577. His parents were from Antwerp and the family returned to it in 1589, and soon after he became an apprentice with some of Anrwerp's painters. In 1590 he started his own studio, before moving to…Read More
Rubens was born in Siegen, Westphalia in 1577. His parents were from Antwerp and the family returned to it in 1589, and soon after he became an apprentice with some of Anrwerp's painters. In 1590 he started his own studio, before moving to Mantova, in Italy, in 1600, where he became the court painter of Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantova.
When his mother died in 1608, Rubens returned to Antwerp and in the following year he was appointed painter at the court of the Archduke Albrecht and the infanta Isabella. In 1610, Rubens acquired a house with grounds at the Wapper, where he later built his palazzo - nowadays the Rubenshuis museum.
His production was frantic in the following years, as he was contracted by nobles and wealthy merchants of Antwerp. He also designed tapestries for the French and Spanish royal families. Rubens also took diplomatic activities, even some secret ones. The artist died 30 May in his Antwerp residence.
Another famous Flemish painter, Anthony van Dyck, worked at Rubens' studio.
Written by Zhebiton on 09 Nov, 2010
If the theater begins with a hanger, a town starts from the station! but in Antwerp it gorgeous!This is part of the old station.Antwerp - the world center for processing and trade of diamonds.Cathedral has long been a symbol of the city, a monument of…Read More
If the theater begins with a hanger, a town starts from the station! but in Antwerp it gorgeous!This is part of the old station.Antwerp - the world center for processing and trade of diamonds.Cathedral has long been a symbol of the city, a monument of medieval and gothic culture is the tallest cathedral in Belgium, and has the highest church tower Benelux (123 meters)Inside the cathedral there are two priceless works of Flemish paintings of the XVII century are also included in the World Heritage: "Exaltation of the Cross" and "Descent from the Cross" by Rubens.Entrance is 5E. Shooting without flash is allowed!The city is situated on both banks of the River Scheldt.On the shore is Castle Wall.Currently, the castle is the National Maritime MuseumBefore entering the castle is a monument Long Vapperu, character Antwerp folklore.at the end of our journey we went to cafe to try vkusnyuchego Belgian beerWe went to the station .... Another hour and we are in a fairy tale ... Bruges ...Close