Location: st-Ursulastraat 21, Tongeren 3700 Belgium
Open: Sat 1300-1700 and Sun 0800-1400
The Shop: Walk through the Moerenpoort (old city gate along the wall where the antique market is), past Grand Sasso on your left, to where the road forks. Take the left fork. You’ll see a small placard that advertises for T’Beginghof – Bab’s place. Walk around the corner to your left and you’ll see her shop. It is SMALL. VERY SMALL. But, even with only two rooms, she packs in the best. She regularly carries beautiful hand-painted Austrian antiques – a lot of amazing hutches and trunks, sometimes benches too. The Austrian pieces are around 200 years old. She also had beautiful chestnut furniture from Spain and occasionally comes across an amazing French find as well. Go and look. The store always has some beautiful things. And, whether your dream item is there or not, it’s worth the stop just to meet the lady who runs it.
The lady: The first time I met Babs, I had ducked into her small, out-of-the-way antique shop around the corner just to get one last antique fix before I headed home. Babs sat at the large desk that overpowered her tiny little shop puffing loyally on her cigarettes with a cloud of smoke swirling rather cartoon-like above her. Moments after I started to look around, Babs asked if we were American and said that she could “smell Americans.”
A petite blond woman in her 70’s, Babs is from Belgium, but is Dutch as she would have you know and has probably smoked a pack a day for the last fifty years. Her place is thick with smoke, but her spunkiness is fun and she enjoys telling you about the furniture she has in her shop and her customers – many of whom have become friends.
I like to count myself as one of those now – at least partly. She is so fun that I stop at her place each time I go to Tongeren whether I can buy or not. Just looking is fun and she always has something that I love. Plus, she does love Americans, “her liberators,” and will give you a fair price.
P.S. Here’s a great listing of antique stores in Belgium and the Netherlands: http://www.antiek.com/