Antwerp – December 2013

Antwerp – December 2013

MAS Museum Antwerp

MAS Museum Antwerp

I visited Antwerp in December as part of a business trip to Brussels. Antwerp is only about a half-hour from Brussels Airport and there are about two trips per hour from the Brussels Airport train station.

MAS Museum Antwerp - view from one of the sky lobbies.

MAS Museum Antwerp – view from one of the sky lobbies.

The main purpose of my trip was to visit the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS). The MAS museum “tells the story of the people, the past, present and future of the city of Antwerp and the world.” The building, as you can see from these photos is really spectacular. There are changing exhibits and permanent exhibits about the city and port as well as some more esoteric subjects. You can ride the escalators up the building to a lobby on each floor without paying admission. From the 9th floor you can walk up a set of stairs to the roof where there’s an outdoor area with spectacular views of the city and river. It’s a very neat museum and experience.

De Groote Witte Arend Restaurant Antwerp - courtyard.

De Groote Witte Arend Restaurant Antwerp – courtyard.

Next I had lunch in a restaurant called De Groote Witte Arend (Flemish only website) which specialises in Belgian cuisine and beer. It’s on the other side of the historic city center from the MAS museum, about 15-20 minute walk. The building is quite old, there’s a short history at the back of the menu. For many years it was a nunnery and there is still a chapel off the side of the courtyard. The restaurant has several rooms arranged around the courtyard. It was quite quiet at late lunch on a mid-December weekday, but I can imagine it being a lot of fun when it’s crowded.

Carbonnades at De Groote Witte Arend restaurant Antwerp.

Carbonnades at De Groote Witte Arend restaurant Antwerp.

I ordered one of my favourite Belgium meals: carbonnade (or: Vlaamsche Stooflees in Flemish). It’s beef stew cooked in the local dark beer and is said to be the national dish of Belgium. Generally served with “Belgium” fries, here with a chicory salad too. The version here was the best I have ever had, the beef was cooked just right and the fries were just out of the cooker, the salad was a great counterpoint. One of the best meals I ate all year! I drank a De Arend blond beer with it. The waiter was extremely friendly and helpful (in English) in helping me pick a beer. In short, a great place to visit for the food and the beer!

Antwerp Zuiderterrace

Antwerp Zuiderterrace

After lunch I walked over to the river, it was a very grey day, but it’s always fun watching the water go by. There’s a beautiful art deco building that serves as a boarding ramp for large passenger boats, now there’s a restaurant inside too. It has great Antwerpen signs.

Tile diagram of St Anna Pedestrian Bike Tunnel Antwerp.

Tile diagram of St Anna Pedestrian Bike Tunnel Antwerp.

Next I walked across the street to the St Anna pedestrian – bike tunnel located at the Sint-Jansvliet square (end of the Hoogstraat).

St Anna Pedestrian Bike Tunnel Antwerp

St Anna Pedestrian Bike Tunnel Antwerp

This historic landmark is a 572 meter long tunnel under the Scheldt river. It was built in 1931-1933 to link the old city centre with the settlement on the left bank of the river. The building looks like the Battery Tunnel entrance in Manhattan and so I fantasised about filming a Men in Black parody here … They have preserved the wooden escalators, but there’s also an elevator for bikers. Quite neat.

St Anna Pedestrian Bike Tunnel Antwerp

St Anna Pedestrian Bike Tunnel Antwerp

I walked back through the old city to the Central Railway Station. The station has been renovated in recent years to allow trains to travel through on their way from Brussels and south, to Amsterdam and north. I visited while it was under construction several years ago, but now it’s finished and it’s wild. At least four levels of trains plus connections to the city’s metro system. They managed to keep the historic train shed – beautiful – and headhouse building. The photos here do not do the station justice, it’s very hard to photograph … just visit it!

Antwerp Central Station

Antwerp Central Station

The trip back to Brussels took about half an hour (we did not go via the airport station). By the way, it was very easy to buy my railway tickets on line at the Belgium railway’s website www.belgianrail.be.

Check out soundbitecity blog’s post Beer City Antwerp about Antwerp brewery DeKoninck and restaurant café Pelgrim across the street … they’re on my list for next time!

Here’s a link to my flickr photos of Antwerp. Here’s a link to a map with my flickr photos flickr Antwerp photos map. 

Games in transport: Grr-Grr-Bike case study

Games in transport: Grr-Grr-Bike case study

GGBike-doorI just posted the paper I wrote jointly with Peter Purgathofer and Fares Kayali of the Institute of Design and Assessment of Technology Vienna University of Technology about the use of games in transportation, with a focus on the technical evaluation of the Grr-Grr-Bike game prepared by Peter and Fares last spring. Here’s the paper abstract:

This paper presents an introduction to using games in transportation. Many organizations are using online games to help explain complicated subjects, increase awareness and encourage participation, three key transportation agency objectives. The Grr-Grr-Bike game was developed to better understand how mobile games could be designed to achieve these objectives. In the game players swipe the screen to guide a bike rider along an increasingly more complicated streetscape while avoiding opening car doors and stopping at traffic lights. The game’s objective was to encourage people to get involved in local bike planning and to teach them about urban cycling. The prototype game was released in January 2013 and then evaluated by game design experts. The experts produced a research report with improvement recommendations. The paper begins by providing an introduction to using games in transportation including example games, then uses the expert recommendations for Grr-Grr-Bike to illustrate important game design concepts, and finally presents general recommendations for using games in transportation.

You can download the paper from my publications page or directly via this link.

I’ll present the paper at a poster session on Monday morning January 13, 2014 between 8:30 -10:45 AM, Hilton International Center.

Hope to see you there!

Tour de France – Brussels

Tour de France – Brussels

I was in Brussels on Monday for a meeting of the High Speed Regions group. As it happened the Tour de France was traveling through Brussels – a block from our meeting location – on Monday too, so I had time to watch the racers go by.

Unfortunately it was right at the start of the day’s race, so the riders were going quite slowly and were all in a pack. Well actually mostly team packs. It was funny because the streets were blocked for hours but the race took about 30 seconds to go by (and, they were going slowly!). Also odd is that there were probably more cars, trucks, motorcycles etc. going by than bikes. More photos on my flickr photos Tour de France Brussels.

Die Prinzen: Mein Fahrrad – My Bike

I just heard the song “Mein Farrad” (My Bicycle) by Die Prinzen on the radio. It’s a very catchy tune and the words are lots of fun. I thought I would translate it for my English speaking bicycle friends, so here goes:

The other day I was going 120 (kph)
Riding round town on my bike
And as usual I could only hope
The police wouldn’t catch-up to me
Because they’d give me a ticket
And take me to the station
And my poor little bike
Would be left all alone out front
Oh how I love my bike
Although I really don’t know why
To her I’ll always be faithful
In contrast to my wife
Never will I leave her
Never will I give her away
Because we fly together on the clouds
And understand each other perfectly

Every grandpa drives his Opel
Every monkey drives his Ford
Every idiot drives his Porsche
Every asshole drives his Audi Sport
Every crazy man drives his Manta
Every complete idiot his Jaguar
Only connoisseurs are cycling
And they’re always faster there

My bike is surely not purple
That’s not my color at all
And it’s certainly not brown
Because I can’t stand brown
No, mine is painted blue
From head to toe that shade
Blue’s the perfect color for me
Because sometimes I’m blue too

Every grandpa drives his Opel
Every monkey drives his Ford
Every idiot drives his Porsche
Every asshole drives his Audi Sport
Every crazy man drives his Manta
Every complete idiot his Jaguar
Only connoisseurs are cycling
And they’re always faster there!

I took a few liberties with the lyrics, but I hope it does justice to the great song!

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