Car, motorhome, caravan, Antwerp
Are you nervous about taking your baby or child on a plane trip? You aren't alone, most parents are nervous about it. We have moved with Iris and Sam Tarragona Corfu by plane this holiday and drove some distances by car on the island itself and we learned a few things that hopefully will help you.
Bring books, old favourite toys and new surprise toys. Do remember that balls are not a good idea as they can end up anywhere! Our best buys were definitely books, especially sticker books are great! They can peel the stickers off, are glossy, have thick pages to turn easy, have bright colours and come in endless subjects. They're a nice break from the other books your child might be tired of, too. Put aside fears of setting poor eating habits, and bring on the snacks! We told Iris: “Welcome to the world of boredom eating."
If your child is big ask for earplugs as soon as you board the aircraft. Make use of them for take-off then save them for landing as the crew may not have any fresh ones left by then. Also let them eat candies, this helps the kids tremendously if they don't know how to pop their ears.
Toy bars meant for stroller use are a big help in the car, as they often feature toys plus a snack cup, and are big and easy for you to grab from the front seat for refills. During the car trip it’s always a good idea to play a game and sing some songs. It sounds rather easy, but it does work!
We only have one last statement! Just do it! Don’t be afraid that it might go wrong. We have learned this, because we have been travelling with Iris from the beginning. She was only 6 weeks young when we had our first short vacation and stayed in a hotel. Iris has been used to it rather fast and (maybe because of it) has always been an easy kid to get along with.
We drove to Antwerp from Ieper, we had very detailed instructions to the hotel, right off the ring road. We found a metered parking spot on the street and left the car there for the rest of our stay. Our hotel was outside the city center so metered street parking was available, free between 6pm and 9am after that we had to pay a small fee for the meter. If you are staying in Antwerp, I wouldn't recommend driving in Antwerp for a couple of reasons, first you have to pay to park almost everywhere and second, one of the joys of Antwerp is walking around looking at the architecture.
We found driving in Belgium to be very easy outside the cities, well maintained highways, the terrain is mostly flat and the signs on the highways were very well marked as to which exit you'd take for the city you were headed to. We had a Michelin Benelux map which was useful, especially with the cities being marked in French & Flemish, the road signs are not always marked that way.
All roads lead to Antwerp. The city's ring road connects to motorways in all directions, the E19 to Brussels and Paris, the E17 to the coast and the British ferries, the E313 to Hasselt, Liège and Aachen (Germany) and the northbound E34 to Holland and Scandinavia.
Antwerpen is easy to reach by car. Parking isn't a great problem either, because there are many parking garages all over the centre. However, these are expensive. The cheapest I found charged 1,90 euro an hour. Not too bad if you're just going to be here for a couple of hours, but when you plan to make a long day of it it gets expensive. Thankfully there is a fantastic alternative. You can park your car FOR FREE at the Linkeroever, which is the opposite site of the Schelde river. From there it's only a short walk through the St. Annatunnel to the centre. You should go to the Linkeroever anyway for the fantastic view at the city.
When you want to visit downtown Antwerp, don´t try to park in a garage somewhere in the Central Station area. It´s much easier to park your car at the Schelde-river, under the old roofs of the harbour-docs. Follow the name-plates of Antwerp Centre and then follow the direction ´Het Steen´. There you can find this parking-place. After parking the car you can walk over the roof of the parking towards the city centre. From here you have a nice view over the Vleeshuis, Het Steen and the Cathedral.
I arrived to Antwerp by my car on my way from Paris back to Poland.
Antwerp is located in central-northern part of Belgium (Flanders) close to the Netherlands - look at clickable map of Belgium or administrative map of Belgium.
Antwerp is easy accesible by numerous Belgian motorways/freeways (the only in Europe freeways lighted at night outside exits and urban areas) - buy a map or better road atlas of Belgium.
Driving distances to/from Antwerp:
Amsterdam - 161 km (100 mi)
Berlin - 723 km (449 mi)
Brussels - 46 km (29 mi)
Paris - 340 km (211 mi)
Strasbourg - 544 km (338 mi)
To other European cities: click here.
Driving and parking a car in Antwerp was not as bad as I expected. Surely it wasn't simple to drive and follow the direction signs in unknown city but... Brussels was much worse for me. And there were quite a lot of covered parking lots (paid garages) in a downtown, just in case you can't find a place on a street.
Buy a map or print out map of the downtown with marked one-way streets and parking lots (garages) from the web: click here
Another map of Antwerp: click here
Unlike many equally large towns, Antwerpen can be visited by car. The amount of parkingspace in the centre is good and the parking fee is even amazingly low. Take for example the parking facilities under the old docks and fishery halls on Antwerpen cays (follw P - "Kade"). Here often is space and with 100 metres you are on the Grote Markt (Big Market square).
Driving your car through Antwerpen is not recommendable as in many places the old roads excist of 'kinderkopjes' (rounded stones) that will tremble your car apart (-: