I was feeling really under the weather on Monday this week, so I cancelled going to my 9am constitutional law class and spent the day resting up in bed. Of course, since I had missed a class, I spent the majority of Tuesday catching up on the reading and went to my European Criminal Law lecture later on in the afternoon.
Afterwards, my friend and I went to ALMA 1 (one of the the student restaurant's in Leuven) for dinner. The student restaurant can be hit-or-miss sometimes depending on what food is offered that day, so we always make sure to check the menu online before heading there.
On Wednesday, I went to my 9am European Criminal Law class followed by coffee/tea at cafe Anna with a friend. The cafe is opposite Museum M in Leuven, so it's very central and is now my favourite place to go for a hot beverage (the white hot chocolates there are amazing!). A trip to ALMA for lunch followed our cafe-catchup and I then headed off to my 2pm Terrorism & Corporate Crime class.
After a slow start to the week, I had been putting off doing my washing so I headed out in the evening to De Wastrommel, near my University accommodation. Long story short, it was probably the most problematic washing experience of my life. A mix of only having a 50 euro note and a huge palava trying to find change, I must have left and re-entered the washing place about 5 times and the other students there were giving me REALLY funny stares. At least I have another 8 months to conquer my washing foes.
On Thursday, I had a human rights lecture scheduled between 4 and 6pm. We actually ended up leaving the lecture halfway through as it was absolutely diabolical. Human rights is the subject I was most excited by this semester, but the course is not as I expected. I find the lectures are utterly pointless! We went to Quo Vadis for a pizza dinner, then watched part of the Godfather.
I then met another friend at the theatre on Bondgenotenlaan to see an Opera. The whole event completely slipped my mind and I turned up wearing jeans and a top, whilst my friend was wearing a full suit. It's fair to say I was very, very embarrassed! We went to see Le Nozze di Figaro. Although the cast sang in Italian and only Dutch subtitles were shown, I did enjoy the performance. It was three hours long, which admittedly, I did become a bit restless after 2 hours into the show. The theatre itself was very lovely. It's very comparable to the King's Theatre in Edinburgh, except considerably smaller. I recognised a few of the Mozart pieces played by the orchestra during the performance, which really made me miss playing my viola. I'm definitely going to look into taking it back over with me after Christmas.
|Antwerpen Centraal Station|
After the Opera, I met up with another friend on Oude Markt for a few drinks. We originally planned to go to a party with Belgian students, but we decided against it last minute and went into Barvista for the rest of the evening. I got a taxi home late at night and discovered the main gate to our residence wasn't left ajar like it normally is. To my surprise, my student card wouldn't open the door, so I had to take a taxi back to my friends and spend the night on the sofa - just my luck!
|Grote Markt, Antwerp|
I went straight back to my residence early Friday morning to sort out my entrance situation - it turns out I wasn't given a key card when I originally moved into my room. I also told my residence manager about the leak in my sink which hadn't been repaired for weeks despite continually complaining about it. I jumped back into bed as I had only slept for about 3/4 hours the night before and woke up with a plumber barging his way into my room!! I'm not sure this is allowed, but I've since emailed my residence manager prohibiting people entering my room without knocking and with my permission first! That's student accommodation for you.
I met a friend for tea at Bar Louis in Grote Markt followed by a quick dinner at ALMA 1 (I swear I live in that place nowadays). After the palava with my room and a crappy dinner at ALMA, I went back to my room feeling quite disheartened and in a bad mood, so a skype call with my Mum and a night in catching up with British TV was on the cards!
On Saturday, Dominik and I decided to go to Antwerp for the day. We left at 9am and got into Antwerpen Centraal station at 10am. Surprisingly to us, we were greeted at the station with armed soldiers and tonnes of police vehicles lining the streets. We brushed it off, but when the rain started to pick up mid-morning, we decided to stop at a cafe and connect our phones to the Wi-Fi. I had received a very worried WhatsApp message from my Mum and Facebook messages from my friends back in Edinburgh with the news that Brussels was on lock down. That explained the reason for the armed soldiers. As Antwerp is probably the second largest city, after Brussels, naturally I was quite worried as the terrorism level had increased to 3 for the whole of Belgium.
Although we felt almost intimidated by the soldiers instead of feeling safe, we tried not to let the situation ruin our day. We started off by wandering around the city, visiting the Grote Markt and the city's churches.
|Grand Bazar, Antwerp|
We went for lunch at Da Giovanni, an Italian restaurant near the Grote Markt. Afterwards, a lady on the street gave us a voucher for a smoothie place in the Grand Bazar shopping centre, so we used this as an excuse to pop into the shopping centre. The Grand Bazar was incredible and I wish we had more time to explore the shops, but as the Belgian Government had advised us to stay away from large crowds because of the terrorist threat, we decided it would be safer to keep moving through Antwerp and not hang around in one place for too long.
|Rubens House, Antwerp|
We decided to visit the Rubens House. The house itself was lovely, which I didn't expect as to my limited knowledge of art, a lot of famous artists don't become wealthy until after they died. A few of his sculptures and paintings were displayed in his house, but I do feel like the ticket was quite over-priced as we probably spent a maximum of 20 minutes wandering through the rooms!
|Red light district, Antwerp|
As we visited Amsterdam and the red light district last month together, we were keen to see how the red light district in Antwerp compared. We only heard of the red light district in Antwerp through our tour guide in Amsterdam, otherwise I don't think we would have realised there was one! The area wasn't shown in our tourist map, so after a bit of googling, we finally found it.
It's definitely not a tourist attraction like in Amsterdam. Most of the people around the area were there to spend their money, that's all I'm going to say. Nonetheless, it was quite interesting to see a Red Light District from another point of view. I actually started to feel quite uncomfortable walking through the streets after realising it most definitely wasn't for tourists, so we left pretty briefly after a quick look around.
We took a detour back to the city centre through the harbour at the very north of Antwerp. Here, is home to the Port of Antwerp. There were a lot of beautiful boats along the harbour and some interesting architecture in the buildings around the area. It's definitely worth a walk around if you're ever visiting!
If there's one thing I've learned about living in Belgium, it's to never go to a Grote Markt for dinner! As it's the main tourist attraction in almost every city in Belgium, the prices of restaurants/cafes around the area are mostly extortionate. We stupidly decided to go to a restaurant on the Grote Markt for dinner and it's safe to say, it was the most expensive meal I've had so far in Belgium!
On the way back to the train station, we spotted a Hilton Hotel. As it's the first Hilton Hotel I'd seen outside of the UK, I was curious to see how much it would be for a night compared to back home. To our surprise, the security guard at the front door actually refused to let us into the building to enquire (with no intention of booking), because of the terrorist threat. It was at that point we realised it probably wasn't safe to still be exploring, so we left for Leuven promptly afterwards.
The police and armed soldier presence had increased considerably that evening. It was quite scary actually - it almost felt as though the authorities were just waiting to be attacked. We were delayed a little coming home as we decided to take a train that avoided any train stations in Brussels. When I thoroughly checked the news that evening, I found out a Kinepolis cinema had been evacuated in Antwerp that evening alongside a school the previous day due to bomb threats - worrying!
|Antwerp City Hall|
My friends and I planned a trip to Luxembourg the following day, but because of the terrorist threats still quite fresh in the news, we decided travelling through Belgium wasn't the best idea, so opted for a chilled day indoors catching up with University work instead.
Next week seems to be quite relaxed so far, we are talking about planning a big trip before Christmas, so I'll keep you updated with that in next week's blog post!