Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Antique Fair in Tongeren, Belgium

On our trip to Europe this past spring I only had one “must do” on the itinerary: the Tongeren antique fair. For the past 35 years the Tongeren antique fair has been held on Sunday mornings so we had to arrange our schedule to be there on Saturday night for Sunday morning. This presented a challenge but we were able to manage it. On our travel day we left Amsterdam by train and headed to Brussels with a brief stop in Antwerp. I’ll cover those in another post. From Brussels we took the train to Tongeren and walked to the hotel. Once we got into Belgium, my daughter was eligible to use the GoPass for the train because she is younger than 26 which made her fair 6 Euros per day.  It was very budget friendly. My ticket from Brussels to Tongeren was 14.80 Euros. Taking the train in Belgium is very user friendly. No reservations are required. You show up, buy a ticket, and hop on the train and find a seat. Every station that we were in had a vending machine for tickets and the machines had an English option too. While we were doing research for our trip this site was the most helpful to me for train info. Most of the websites that I used had links to buy tickets from home but those sites did not offer the GoPass option and all were more expensive than purchasing tickets at the station.  The only ticket that we purchased ahead of time was our ticket for the Thalys train from Brussels to Paris. It is my understanding that all seats on the international train are reserved and much like airline travel the longer you wait to purchase the ticket, the more expensive it is. Finding a hotel was another challenge. The first hotel that came up in my search only had 8 rooms that were already booked. I sent an email asking for other nearby hotels but got no response. I was able to use Booking.com to find  Hotel Ambiotel and it worked out wonderfully well. As we came from the train station into the very small town, the hotel was right in front of us. The next morning the antique fair was right outside the door. The hotel was somewhat modest but very clean and the location was excellent for our purposes. My research also revealed that the fair started at 6 AM. I am not an early bird but I did venture out at 7. Perhaps because this was not heavy tourist season (early April) most vendors were just arriving and setting up.  Some vendors were still arriving at 8. I made one lap around the block and went back to the hotel to meet my daughter for the next round. I could have made many purchases here but had to fit my purchases into a suitcase and carry them for the rest of the trip. There were no shipping options immediately available to us in this tiny little town.

antique furniture

This vendor had very reasonable prices. The table with 6 chairs was 145 Euros (about $200). Unfortunately it would not fit in the suitcase!

Antique rocking horses

What a wonderful collection of vintage rocking horses! Again, too big for the suitcase!

carnival ride boat

I could so incorporate this little carnival boat into the d├ęcor at our Summer Cottage! Look at the little life preserver on the back!

meat clevers

I really liked these meat cleavers but they were a little pricey. The cheapest one was 55 Euros. I wonder what airport security would think when they saw these while scanning my bag!

misc hardware

This vendor had lots of great miscellaneous pieces: chocolate molds, antique telephones, andirons, a pulley, ram’s horns. What more could a junk lover want!

vintage glassware

This vendor had vintage glassware from European pubs.

pram

This vintage pram was really cute and I love that teak deck chair behind it.

spice rack

We really loved this spice rack. We seriously considered buying it but decided it was much too big and too heavy to carry and we feared that if we tried it would be broken before we got home.

After having fun looking at the antiques we strolled around the town. Tongeren claims to be the oldest town in Belgium. This site has some very interesting information on Tongeren and its history. Tongeren is a walled city. The ancient wall built by the Romans was rebuilt in 1241 reusing much of the same material!

outside city wall

The photo above was taken from outside the city wall and the photo below was from inside the city wall.

inside the city wall

You can see from the photo below that the antique fair was set up around the city wall.

top of the city wall

We also took a few photos of the tower on the wall.

tower on the wall

another tower view

Oh my goodness, I think I just spotted James Bond. Or maybe somebody stole his car!

James Bond car

To quote my son, that was a sweet ride!  Inside the city wall most of the streets were cobblestone.

cobblestone streets

Most of the buildings were very old.

1619 building

This one dates back to 1619! Obviously they were built to last.

tiny doorway

Look at this beautiful tiny doorway. It was just over 5 feet high! (The shopping bag is what we put our purchases in!)

Basilica of Our Lady Tongeren

The Basilica of Our Lady is in the center of town. Construction on the basilica began in 1240 and was completed in 1544! Wow!

Basilica of Our Lady  Tongeren 2

The bell tower soars to just over 200 feet high!

Basilica of Our Lady bell tower Tongeren

There is also a statue of Ambiorix in the center of town. Ambiorix was a legendary Gallic chieftain who led his tribe to victory over Julius Caesar’s legions here in 54-53 BC. I told you this place is old!

Roman statue Tongeren

The last photo is to show that it is a small world after all. Keep in mind that Tongeren is off the beaten path in the far corner of Belgium right near the border with Germany and the Netherlands. Then what to our eyes should appear but a piece of our hometown!

BMW X3 Tongeren

The BWW x3 has been built exclusively in Spartanburg, South Carolina since 2010!  Now let’s all sing together “It’s a small world after all…..” repeat and fade since this song has no end!

What did we buy? I’ll show you in my next post. If you missed the other posts on our trip here are the links:

Biking Through the Flower Fields of Holland

A Visit to Keukenhof Gardens

Touring Amsterdam

Touring Amsterdam Part 2

Touring  Amsterdam Part 3

This is a great you tube video that my daughter made of the trip.

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I’ll be linking to Wow US Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style and to Grace at Home at Imparting Grace.

Please note: I have not been compensated in any way for this post. All opinions are my own. However, if you folks at BMW want to talk, have your people get in touch with my people. I’ll bet we can work something out!