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Traveling In Style : Correspondents' Choice : Where They Lingered

October 16, 1994| Tyler Marshall | Brussels bureau

Even the famous have to rest their feet sometimes. Five Times correspondents from around the world reveal the favorite rest-stops, loitering places and relaxing haunts of celebrities of an earlier time.

RUBENS' ANTWERP, Belgium

Anyone who has spent a few hours in the house in central Antwerp where the great Flemish painter-diplomat Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) lived and created his most famous works, can attest that he lived well. From the Italian Renaissance-style central courtyard that connects his grand residence to his studio, to the private, marble-floored art gallery filled with ancient Roman statues, there are monuments everywhere to Rubens' status as a man of wealth and reputation.

But he had a daily relaxation routine that had little to do with money.

Every afternoon, between the finish of his workday and dinner time, Rubens would go--usually on horseback--for a ride along the city's outer walls. "It was all free, open countryside when he lived," notes Lief Orlent, an Antwerp tourist guide who is a recognized Rubens specialist.

Rubens' itinerary took him along the Wapper--once an open canal but now a rectangular plaza full of outdoor cafes and fountains--and then along the Meir, a broad avenue leading to one of the city's gates. In Rubens' time, many of the buildings along the Meir were empty, their Roman Catholic residents having fled attacks by Dutch Protestants. Today, the Meir is one of Belgium's preferred shopping streets. (In the Belgian version of Monopoly, the Meir stands in for Park Place.)

The line of the old Antwerp city wall is now a large thoroughfare called the Frankrijklei, lined with rows of sycamore trees that shade outlets for Laura Ashley, American Express and Chanel. Half a mile south, Frankrijklei runs into a street called Blauwtoren. On Sundays, the Blauwtoren is the start of an amazing and crowded street market that offers everything from corsets to live African mice. The market, which extends virtually back to Rubens' front door, probably lures more people in a day than the artist saw in months of rides.

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