Tuesday, October 16, 2012

BRUSSELS

A somewhat unpropitious arrival.  The train was great, taxi to the hotel easy--but when we got there we encountered a desk clerk who suggested switching to a sister hotel which, she said, was closed to the center of things.  They paid another taxi fare, but we were not too happy with our somewhat surly reception here, not with our tiny, recently remodeled, strictly utilitarian quarters.  Still, here we are... in Brussels.

First afternoon and evening out, we walked up the long avenue that leads from the hotel to the center of town--an almost exclusively Muslim area, it seems, with cafes and sidewalks quite crowded with men, but scarcely a woman anywhere to be seen.  A strange feeling.  Quite a number of homeless on the sidewalks, begging alms.  Toward the center, a different male energy: squads of loud and heavily drinking Scotsmen in kilts...


... here for the soccer match between Scotland and Belgium.  Their dreadfully tuneless singing of old Presley songs and old-time favorites filled several of the ancient squares, and their presence, I'm sad to say, was anything but what I associate with the brave and gentle Scots I have known.  It's the first time was have come across the soccer rubes, and it was not a very inspiring experience.

Still we found our way to the spectacular Grand Place...





... which I have not visited for some sixty years. The last time I was here I was with my parents on a caravan holiday.  The only thing that has changed, I think, is that we were allowed, back in those days, to park car and caravan right in the middle of the square.  No vehicle traffic there, these days. But almost as many tourists as the Piazza San Marco in Venice.  It was dusk when we arrived, and not a good moment for photography.

We strolled on from the Grand Place and managed to get thoroughly lost in the maze of streets around that area--but pleasantly so.  Having spotted, earlier in the evening, a nice-looking restaurant that boasted an international menu, we eventually found our way back there and enjoyed a nicely-prepared Middle Eastern meal.  The cost for simple fare astounded us, but then so does the cost of almost everything in Europe.  A good long walk back to the hotel, where we relaxed over a French language-dubbed version of "Geronimo."  Our French being somewhat rusty, we were glad to be able to follow the dialogue when the Apaches spoke--with exaggerated slowness!  Racism does, it seems, serve one unanticipated purpose!

A difficult night, again.  I'm finding it unusually hard to get past the jet lag, and just can't seem to get to sleep.  I did realize, finally, that I had been asleep when I awoke to the distinct sound of George yelping, as he does at home, for helping to jump up on the bed.  Breakfast confirmed our poor opinion of this hotel: coffee out of multiple choice push-the-button machines was not the worst of it.  We did, though, find a table to a delightful Finnish couple, and enjoyed a great exchange of family experiences.

Out at eleven on a walking tour that led us through some really interesting back streets...







... and, eventually, to the Musee de Beaux Arts.  (This huge James Ensor in the spacious lobby...)



We spent some time first at the adjacent Musee Magritte (no photography allowed!), a treasure house of some fascinating early works and documentation, as well as some choice later paintings.  The on to the Beaux Arts, where we chose to spend our time with masterpieces by the likes of the Breughals, Van der Weyden, Reubens and Van Dyke rather than in the modern and contemporary wing.  Some details, just snapshots, for fun rather than information...



Below, one from Pieter Breughal...



... and Ellie, with Hieronymous Bosch...



St. Peter--a favorite of mine, since I'm his namesake, crucified upside down at his request: he did not consider himself worthy of the same death as Jesus...



Do you think this fine teacher of six or seven years olds would last long in an American school?  Note the naked Aphrodite behind this charming group!



We also made time for an excellent lunch in the museum cafe before heading out in search of the Musee Horta.  Following directions from the information desk at the Beaux Arts, we boarded a crowded tram which took us along a couple of major thoroughfares before depositing us in a quieter residential area where the museum is located.

The Horta is named after the art nouveau architect Victor Horta who built the house that is now the museum, several stories of exquisite architectural and design work.  We managed, quite illegally, to snap a couple of cell phone photos...




... which give some idea of the magnificence of this place.

Another tram back to the museum area, where we strolled through the great squares surrounding the Palais Royal. Great clouds, toward sunset.  (Ellie very proud of her cloud pictures!)























... and through the park across from it--temporary home to some large scale sculptures created by a variety of artists and designers in celebration of Belgian delicacies--from Brussels sprouts...



.... to waffles and chocolate.  Out the other end of the park, we wandered down to the cathedral...



... which we found closed, and back through the Grand Place, escaping the tourist area to find an excellent Thai-Vietnamese restaurant for dinner.  And back to our hotel...

2 comments:

robin andrea said...

I love seeing photos of places I know I will never go! Wonderful cloud pics too!

CHI SPHERE said...

I loved living in Brussels during 1980 for a short time.
I remember the wonderful architecture, Monica Piss, and fine food. Best fish and chips I ever had were there and mussels were grand.