This is Antwerp (Part Three)

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Sandwiches! Helloooooo!

More from the 'This is Antwerp' tourism Antwerp trip.

There was a choice of two workshops on this particular day. Make a leather bag and take a visit to the fashion museum, or silk screen print at Ctrl Copy. After my residency at Harvest Workroom (some more pics here), I was keen to see how screen printing factories worked in Antwerp, so boarded the taxi van with the guys to the outskirts of Antwerp.

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We had a bit of time to kill upon arrival so Pants Off climbed on a car. We all took photos of Pants Off on the car. Then we headed to the river side in search of photos and abandoned buildings. 

This morning was one of my favourite memories from the trip. The grey. The cold. The slow time. The brilliant company. Walking slow. Looking down. Looking up. Enough time to see. Taking photos. Laughing. Climbing through corrugated metal walls. Skipping over puddles. Listening to different languages. So far removed from my regular life. No phone service. So comfortable.

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"That's the grey I can't get in my paintings", said Luke's voice in my head as I took this shot.

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Antwerp Fujifilm club for life.

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The human Antwerp logo.

Art direction by James and Itay.

Sander's little foot sticking out.

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Miss this guy!

"A little bit to the right. Um, no, back a bit now. Okay! That's it!"

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For Luke.

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Mint tea on arrival at Ctrl Copy.

At this stage I still hadn't been to a supermarket in Antwerp so this was about as close as I had been to experiencing the local food packaging design. So lovely!

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Almost like a genkan with all those little shoes lined up.

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I think we all had in mind that we would each make our own design and then print it, but it turned out that we would make a collaborative design and print it as a group. Can you imagine a bunch of maybe 7 creatives trying to decide on one design that we all liked?

Pants Off's re-enactment: "We don't want to put any words in your mouth, but it would be great if you could use the letters D.A.T.E. But again, we don't want to put any words in your mouth".

*Editor's side note - D.A.T.E = Discover Antwerp Through Experience

"How about we write Mayonnaise in fries"

Itay: "Everyone save some fries. I need a combination of long ones and short ones"

James: "Why don't we write D.A.T.E. in hands?"

Sandwich: "I was art directed out of my design!"

At one stage I was outside acting as a photographers assistant to James as he photographed leftover chips. I was holding an A4 piece of paper as a DIY reflector board! Whaaaaaaat?! I guess it's my punishment for not shooting RAW.

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I loved peeking into Sander's bag. He was there next to me, supervising, of course. He was carrying around a tin of pencils and a sketch book. Brilliant! What a dude.

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It was brilliant sitting in this room. Coffee. Belgian waffles. A mac per meter. Access to printers, scanners and wifi. Walls lined with nicely designed flyers and posters. Some of the best guys on the planet. Antwerp. Antwerp's outskirts. I could happily work away in a studio like this.

The founder of Ctrl Copy, Sven, expressed such enthusiasm for his screen printing. It was infectious. I really thank you Sven, for your kindness and time, and sharing your expertise with us. I took my little Ctrl Copy tote bag to my local Shimokitazawa supermarket the other day, too.

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We each printed a grey sweater with hands spelling out 'D.A.T.E' and a bitmap of a hand from the celebrated 'Druon Antigoon' sculpture in front of the town hall. There were a lot of hands. It was very boy. But I love those guys to bits.

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Dinner was at Het bos. I loved the atmosphere of this place.

"The red tokens are for drinks and the green one is for dinner upstairs".

They had beautifully designed flyers, too, which always helps. The below flyer was designed by JJ funhouse. (Picture courtesy of JJ funhouse's instagram)

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Later that night we ended up at an advertising agency party at the MAS. It seemed to be an unwritten dress code rule that acceptable colours to wear were black and grey, with very minimal usage of neutrals. I, however, arrived in true trademark Hello Sandwich style, in a ditsy floral sweater. The even better part about wearing this particular sweater to this uber cool Antwerp fashion party was that the said sweater was $6 from Kmart at Broadway. Hah! I'm saving the pic of us all on the dance floor for the archives.

Miss these guys to bits.

Love Sandwich


This is Antwerp (Part Two)

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Hello Sandwiches!

This stunning building was home to the B&B where I was staying in Antwerp. The ceilings were probably more than double the height of my Tokyo apartment.

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The final check before leaving for the day. When my odango goes well, I consider it a sign of a good day ahead.

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This particular morning started with a maroon, blue and paynes grey colour scheme.

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In one of the very rare 'Free Time' blocks in the schedule a few of us headed to vandal is't... I've never seen so many coffees on the one menu.

Look! For me, it was a chance to see how the city really worked. A chance to imagine yourself living in that city and ordering your daily coffee. And yes, I could totally imagine myself living in this city and popping in for my daily cortado.

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"Guys! I'm writing a story for a Japanese magazine, can you just stand there in a line?"

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The 'This is Antwerp' tourism project was aimed at youth, so the National newspaper that we were featured in took the liberty of changing my age from 34 to 28! Whaaaaaaaaaat? A few other changes were made, too. When I mentioned that Antwerp seemed to have quite a relaxed vibe when compared to Japan, I was quoted saying something along the lines of "Japanese people are stiff". Interesting sub-editing!

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Lunch at Graanmarkt 13.

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Gosh, it would be nice to stay at Graanmarkt 13's 'The Apartment'.

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I love this pic because it so accurately sums up all of us on our phones or cameras. We spent all day everyday together chatting away, but when we finally got wifi and had a moment to relax, this little Antwerp family of ours was comfortable enough together to be able to peek at our iphones for a moment or two. We were, after all, there to promote Antwerp through our social media outlets.

"Does anyone know the wifi password here?"

"Here's the wifi password if anyone wants it!"

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I only managed to hop on one of these sweet little trams twice during the week. 'This is Antwerp' set each of us up with everything we would need to explore the city. A rental bike card, a tram travel card, a museum pass and a sim card charged with 50 Euros. All meals, accommodation and activities were taken care of, too. Can I please do this for a full time job?

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A few of us headed to a local bar in our neighbourhood later that evening. We sat at the back of a bustling bar chatting away drinking our Belgian beers. It was another great chance to see the real city and people watch.

We bumped into some of the boys on the way home. More giggling than usual. And those chips you can see somehow ended up in a pile on the street.

Pants Off: "It's not Drink street! It's just 'Drink'!"

Miss you guys.

Love Love
Hello Sandwich


This is Antwerp (Part One)

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Sandwiches! I don't even know where to start to review my 'This is Antwerp' Tourism Antwerp trip. Every time I look at the gazillion photos I took I start to tear up with happiness. Such a wonderful and emotional week.

Well, here goes.

I drank a can of Kirin Green Label beer with Mr Y on the train on the way to Haneda airport. I was armed with my pink travel document purse with a printout of a Qatar airways ticket for 'Mrs Bizys' (I was assured it was okay that it didn't say Ms or Miss). It seemed somewhat surreal seeing as I was still pinching myself that someone was flying me across the world to essentially instagram a few shots of their city. I was incredibly excited, but also so utterly exhausted after just handing in the manuscript for my next book (I still have to show you the behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot!) and was, as a result, feeling emotional to be leaving Tokyo. It was the first time I had been to Europe in goodness knows how many years, more than ten, at least. Ever since I first visited Japan 15 years ago, I had been spending all of my holiday leave each year here in Tokyo. Put me on the QF21 or QF22 Qantas flights between Sydney and Tokyo and I could do the inflight announcements in both Japanese and English, but Europe?...Whole. New. Story. At 12:15am, after a glass of overpriced cava with Mr Y at Haneda, my Qatar flight to Doha took off. 

Watching the flight path screen on the inflight entertainment, and counting the 'hours until destination' slowly pass by, it sunk in just how far away Tokyo is. Seriously, I live so far away from the rest of the world over here in my little Tokyo bubble. Two, maybe three movies, and a stopover in Doha later, and I was greeted by the lovely Andrew of Walkie Talkie fame at Brussels airport. No 'Hello Sandwich' sign, just the uber cool Andrew in his bright jacket and smiley face to greet me. Our first stop was coffee while we waited for one of the other international guests (Itay, who would soon become my new best friend on earth) to arrive.

"My name means pain in Japanese", said Itay upon meeting for the first time. I'm pretty sure I'll think of him forever when I say 'itaiiiiiiiiii'.

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The first scheduled event of the week was the Urban Squad Kitchen pop-up dinner. The jet lag has left my memories of the evening slightly fuzzy. But, as I recall it, the evening was a wonderful start to an even better week. I was driven, in the rain, to what seemed to be a somewhat hidden away factory which fondly reminded me of warehouses in Sydney's Surry Hills.

"Would you like a glass of cava? We have sweet or dry."

As icing on the cake, I was called 'charismatic' by two lovely girls on my way out. Gosh, if I can pull off the illusion of charisma after 24 hours of travel, I thought, I can do anything! It could have been the 'dry' cava talking.

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I pretty much lived on 4 hours sleep per night throughout the week at this gorgeous little B&B, and each morning I'd arrive at ab hostel (which was the base camp for our group and was also where the boys were staying) for breakfast. I miss these mornings. Pouring my orange juice from a giant OJ cask. Soft boiled eggs. And Pants Off (I'll talk more about Pants Off later). I loved those little retro floral plates, too.

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The team of 12 creatives was made up of 7 boys and 5 girls. I didn't notice that I somehow ended up tagging along with the guys until I asked my friend back in Tokyo "Did you see my pics of Antwerp?" and he replied, "Oh yeah, but they were mostly just of guys". Hah! Oh gosh, just looking back at these photos I think I could tear up again.

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I did try to take some pictures in between all of the scheduled activities. To be honest, I could have been happy just walking around taking photos all week, and in the end I formed a 'Antwerp Fujifilm Club' photo team with two of the best guys on the planet. Again, more of that later, but at this stage, I simply snapped a few buildings on the way to and from scheduled events.

Back in Tokyo, over lunch last week, my friend Martin mentioned that I managed to take 'Hello Sandwich style' photos in Europe, too. He referenced these kinds of corner shopfronts and, in his words, 'Non-touristic' photos. This made me very happy. I always think that you can get a decent view of the true city if you take a trip to the suburbs, and to a supermarket.

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But back to the tour, where I was whisked off to the morning after I arrived. At 9am we were sent off on a Cyclant bike tour around Antwerp.

I don't think I'd completely adjusted to the timezone in Antwerp just yet, so again, these memories might be a little fuzzy.

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Looking back now, after only just one dinner with these 11 other creatives, it's hard to believe just how well we all got along even on the first day together.

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That day I rode all over Antwerp's bumpy streets and chatted to Adrian from Madrid about photography. I felt inspired beyond words. The kind of inspired where you catch yourself smiling and squealing under your breath in public places.

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Standing in Grote Markt, I briefly snuck away from the bike tour for a moment to take this photo. I wished that I was half the height of these buildings so they'd be straight. "You can fix that later with SKWRT", Adrian replied. I was so thrilled to be travelling with such brilliant photographers. It was incredibly reassuring to travel with a group of people who took just as many photos as me, and who would happily wait for one another while they crouched down in the middle of a busy street just to get the right shot. These were my kind of people.

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I stopped here to take a picture during the bike tour, but when I tried to follow the group around that corner, they were nowhere in sight!

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Luckily there was one other keen photographer who lingered just as much as me, and we ended up finding the group together. Here is a shot of the group outside the MAS art museum.

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One of the longest underground tunnels I've been in. And certainly the longest tunnel I've ridden along.

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You can take your bike on the escalators in Antwerp! Amazing, no? There's Itay, from Tel Aviv, checking his phone on the escalators. That was another brilliant thing about this trip, which may sound pathetic, but because we were all there to promote the city through our social media outlets, it was completely acceptable to be sitting at lunch on our iphones all day. I mean, THESE are my people!

Here we were, a group of 12 strangers, and a videographer, a photographer, a representative from Tourism Antwerp and from the PR company...together all day every day. Completely comfortable in silence on our iphones at lunch. In Antwerp. We often joked about what our combined instagram following would be if we added up all of our followers.

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I could have spent the week alone taking photos like this. I would have loved to. That, and spending time looking at packaging in supermarkets. Don't you love doing that in different countries?

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But the time spent wandering with these other 11 creatives was, for me, absolutely life changing. The PR company, Walkie Talkie, did SUCH a freaking incredible job curating this group. It shouldn't have worked so well, I mean, I don't know how it did, but it was mind blowingly fantastic.

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Pre-dinner Belgian beers, and errrr, more cava for Sandwich.

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The first full day together in Antwerp ended with another special dinner at Felixpakhuis. At this stage I'm still not sure that it had all sunk in just yet. Sitting at my little chair on Antwerp cobblestones. Chatting away to new friends. Eating more delicious food and sipping nice wine. Oh, such a special time.

Over the next little while I'll go through more shots from the week and share them with you. I hope you might enjoy the pictures.

Love Love
Hello Sandwich