Before embarking on our Arctic Cruise, we made a quick 3-day stopover in Antwerp. While our original plan was to spend one night in Amsterdam, the Grand Prix event happening that weekend made staying for 4 nights in Antwerp cost about the same as 1 night in Amsterdam.

With no particular expectations in mind, we were pleasantly surprised to discover the city's inherent charms. We strolled through the historical center and had the chance to visit some of its attractions: The central station, the cathedral, the botanical garden, and the medieval fortress (Het Steen), to name a few.

During our stay, we were fortunate to witness the "De Reuzen" parade, translating to "The Giants" in English. This captivating event featured two enormous articulated canine puppets that paraded down Antwerp's main street.

Belgium's reputation for an extensive network of bike paths convinced us to partake in a cycling trip. One sunny day, we embarked on a 45 km ride westward along the river Scheldt to the city of Steendorp. As we savored our lunch, we noticed foreboding dark clouds gathering to the north. Deciding not to take any chances, we quickly finished our sandwiches and commenced our return journey. As luck would have it, we encountered a brief but intense thunder shower that lasted no more than 20 minutes. We got drenched but dried up on our last 20 km home. 

An interesting aspect of our ride was that, to cross the river Scheldt, we had to take a 32-meter elevator down to a tunnel that went under the river.

All in all, our unexpected detour to Antwerp turned into a captivating prelude to our upcoming Arctic expedition. The city's architectural marvels, engaging events, and cycling escapades left us with fond memories of our time spent in this hidden gem of a destination.