So. I’m interrupting my stream of travel posts from the USA to talk about somewhere a little closer to home. At the end of April, I jumped aboard trusty Megabus at 9.30 on a Wednesday night, and found myself in Antwerp the next morning. I say found myself, I was actually heading there, I don’t just jump on buses for the surprise. Although that does sound kinda fun…
The whole plan was to meet up with some friends and head to a festival (more on that later), but as I arrived in the early hours of the morning, I had a fair bit of time to explore Antwerp. I’d never been before, and although it did slightly disappoint me, there were definitely some pretty cool sights to be seen.
One of the things that immediately struck me about Antwerp was how incredibly intricate the architecture was? I mean, Antwerp station. Why does a station NEED to be that beautiful? Although, I’m quite glad it was. A tourist attraction in itself, for sure.
On a little stroll around the city, I walked past plenty of tasty foodie spots – in particular, this little bakery which had amazingly intricate cakes. I was good and just had a panini instead, but the chocolate covered one was so very tempting!
Unlike other cities I’ve been to, the centre of Antwerp didn’t have that much in the way of street art – at least, not in the raw, graffiti-style sense that covers the walls of Shoreditch and San Fran. Instead, clean colourful murals were order of the day – I love how cute and cartoon-ish this one was!
A zoo right next to the station? What an idea. As I had time to kill, and like looking at animals doing silly things, I headed in for a wander about and to hide from the impending rain of doom. I was a bit worried, as I’m quite fussy about zoos – but the animals seemed happy and well looked after, with space to roam and do their little animal things.
There was also a pretty grand aquarium, which I probably spent more time in making silly faces at all the fish than anything else.
And this quirkily decorated tree…!
After my zoo adventures, I headed back to Antwerp station to meet my friends, and stood next to this amazing-smelling strawberry stall.
My time in Antwerp was quite short and sweet, but to be brutally honest, it wasn’t the kind of place I felt like I could spend a huge amount of time exploring on my own. It was nice to look at the lovely buildings and such, but in terms of things to actually do? I’d probably enjoy the laid back vibe a lot more if I was with other people, as soon as my friends arrived I definitely had a lot more fun.
The actual reason for my trip to Belgium wasn’t just to nosy round at nice buildings and cute animals. Nope, I got to experience my first ever festival outside the UK, in the small town of Meerhout. Hey there Groezrock. A punk/rock fest with a lineup including Frank Turner, Moose Blood, Modern Baseball and The Movielife. Yeah, definitely my kinda jam. I’ve always wanted to go, but this year some of my best ones decided we needed to actually go, so I ended up buying a ticket while perched on a big comfy chair in San Francisco airport. As you do.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t exactly sunshine and cider vibes. Instead, we had rain, mud and cold – although, thankfully, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I was expecting before I left. In fact, the Saturday wasn’t bad at all. Especially as I picked up this hella cute pair of knee-high ‘Groezsocks’ from the American Socks stand. Honestly, I’ll probably never wear them outside of a festival but they were so adorable with my (muddy as hell) DMs.
Our first morning of the festival was spent hiding in the breakfast tent (home of the greasiest bacon known to man) sipping on cans of booze we’d picked up in Antwerp the day before. I love me a good fruit beer, so sipping away on Hoegaarden’s raspberry offering while watching Belgian men sing peculiar songs and play even more peculiar drinking games was a fun way to wait for the day’s bands.
Oh, and they sold it at the bar too. Well played, Groezrock.
I didn’t really take many photos of actual bands due to a) only having my phone and b) being too lazy, and the ones I do have are pretty blurry. However, here are my top five performances and bands you should definitely check out if you haven’t already…
1 | Moose Blood
Basically, if you like Brand New, you’ll like Moose Blood. They even have a song referencing Deja Entendu. And they’re very, very good. I even had a little emogirl cry to Cherry. Expect awesome things in the near future from these.
2 | Frank Turner
I like Frank on record, but I just LOVE him live. Singalongs, folk punk fun. All the yes.
3 | Modern Baseball
A pretty recent discovery but a band I can’t stop listening to – the vocal will probably divide opinion, but if you ever secretly dreamed of being a 00s emo kid in America and shuffling awkwardly around cool parties, you’ll identify.
4 | Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes
I’ve seen Frank perform with Gallows and Pure Love, but I think Rattlesnakes just might be my favourite of his incarnations. As well as climbing a pillar and stagediving then taking the piss out of a guy who tried (and failed) to follow suit, he ended his set by inviting hordes of the crowd onto the stage and crowdsurfing them. All while delivering some top tunes.
5 | Saosin
Be still my teenage heart. I used to listen to Saosin ALL THE TIME, but they haven’t been on my playlists for quite a long time now. The nostalgia value of seeing them perform the old songs I love was totally a fun trip down memory lane.
Even though it was quite a mission to get to and from the festival, I had the absolute best time at Groezrock, and definitely want to go back/do some other Euro festivals. Cheap tickets, cheap beer, top company and excellent bands? Sorted.
Rather than head back to Antwerp and sightsee until my evening coach back as planned, I decided to just book a new Megabus back from Brussels as I was tired and in desperate need of a shower. Despite not having a clue where I was going, I managed to find the Megabus pickup point AND an internet cafe to print my ticket, all while taking in some of what Brussels has to offer. I liked what I saw, and I definitely want to go back some time when I don’t have a giant backpack and a megasweat on.
Because obviously, the sun came out properly the day we LEFT the festival. Life is ridiculous, eh?
Have you ever been to a festival outside the UK? Or visited Antwerp/Brussels? Tell me all about it in the comments!