The world’s diamond capital

Antwerp, Belgium

After seeing Alex and Peter off this morning from Schipol Airport — which was a madhouse in the wake of the security scare earlier this week — it was off to book a train ticket to Belgium. My first stop in this country was Antwerp, perhaps best known as the “Diamond Center of the World.” It rings about $23 billion annually and is second only to London as an outlet for raw and industrial diamonds.

It was about an hour and half ride here into the glittering train station. Generally, Europe showcases some pretty remarkable train stations. Antwerp, however, really pushes the envelope. The building rises high in the sky and features ornately carved marble walls. Its quite the introduction to showy Antwerp.

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My hotel, the Park Inn, was just across the square. It was a relatively new modern and quiet hotel with an unbeatable location and price — just $70 bucks for the night.

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Post-nap, it was getting late but there was still time to visit Rubenshuis, the former home of painter Peter Paul Rubens. The rooms had been reconstructed as they would have appeared in the late 16th century; it turns out also that Rubens, far from being a starving artist, actually amassed a nice little fortune by selling his paintings. And his pad, stuffed with tons of art and beautiful ornamental gardens, reflected his success.

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Back at the hotel, it was time to hit to the gym and sauna. Post work-out, there was only one thing on my mind: fries. A place on the corner dished up a huge plate covered in ketchup, mayo and sweet onions.

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Delicious as they were, it was hard to even put a dent in them.

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