October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween !

Wanted to share this fancy and scary bunch of unexpected visitors, knocking at the door just a second ago. 
Even though the "trick or treat" tradition does not really allow them to do so,  they did agree to step in for a very short photo session.
Happy Halloween to all!

October 28, 2013

Musical Instruments Museum, Brussels

This beautiful Art Nouveau building, formerly home to "Old England" shops,  now houses the Musical Instruments Museum. If you have the patience to wait for the elevator or the courage to walk the steps,  you will eventually make it to the 10th floor where a delicious Sunday brunch is served. The buffet is wonderful indeed but the view is spectacular.
Tip: go early! 

October 25, 2013

Guest photographer: Jilly Bennett

When I noticed "La Fontaine aux Oiseaux" by Folon on the  Monte Carlo Daily Photo blog, I asked blog author Jilly Benett if it would be all right to share her photo here. 
The statue looked very familiar and I assume that this Monte Carlo version must be the brother of an earlier one installed in Brussels in Boitfort?
Jean-Michel Folon, born in Brussels in 1934, moved to Monaco in 1985. He died in 2005  The foundation Folon created in the Solvay Domain, La Hulpe, a short distance out of Brussels, is now home to more than forty years of creation."Watercolours, engravings, posters and sculptures are presented in an original and lively setting, creating a dialogue between the works of art and the poetic place that houses them. Music, films and optical effects enliven the route. The result is a strong, magical and astonishing exhibition".
Jilly's blogs can be found here/

October 23, 2013

Henry van de Velde, 150th birthday

Another great event in Brussels these days is the commemorative exhibition of Henry van de Velde,  born in 1863 in Antwerp.
Being at my best behavior, I inquired about the museum's photographs policy. The guard explained that photo's are allowed in the permanent collection but off limits in the temporary one.  He must have noticed my determination because he followed me around all the way, there was no escape and I only managed to get (part of) the chandelier and its shade!
Even so, I  very much enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about this amazing multi facetted artist. We all know examples:   furniture, paintings, dining ware, .. van de Velde designed the Kröller Müller museum in the Netherlands, many art nouveau residences in Weimar, etc..
The title "Passion- function- beauty" is exactly to the point.   
On the way out I photographed a mother and daughter carrying the catalog, leaving the exhibition.. and I wonder what could have made them so serious or sad. 

October 21, 2013

Time to Go

Lots of photo ops in Brussels' park of the Cinquantenaire on Sunday
 afternoon. "Time to go: Nuclear Weapons out of Belgium" was the occasion,  with the participation of Bart Staes, member of the European Parliament (photo 1 in  the middle). 

October 20, 2013

Matching fall colors?

....she seemed to enjoy the scenery in Brussels' Bois de la Cambre so much that I did not want to interfere and ask her to 'pose' for a picuture...

October 17, 2013

The heritage of Rogier van der Weyden

Once again, the quality of these pictures is really only so so because of the 'no picture policy' of the museum. I took two shots from the entrance to the exhibition but could not resist taking a quick snap of the photo shown last because it traveled all the way from Melbourne;  the Triptych with the Miracles of Christ, created by three different Belgian workshops.
The Heritage of Rogier van der Weyden in Brussels' Fine Arts Museum shows paintings from the end of the 15th  and the beginning of the 16th centuries when Brussels was expanding at a rapid pace. At that time, the city was the home of the dukes of Burgundy.
Every painting has its particular story about where it was made, who the author was and how we know, what its message is, etc. Another merit of this exhibition is that works from musea and private collections all over the world came back to where they were created.
I wish all of you following my blog could experience this unique event. If you are near Brussels, do go see Mr van der Weyden and his temporaries.

October 15, 2013

Guest photographer: Mirjam Devriendt

To continue in the seasonal ghostly atmospheric photographs spirit of castle ruins from the previous post,  I am delighted to show this breathtaking picture taken in As, Limburg last Sunday morning by Mirjam Devriendt,  professional photographer and teacher at the Academy of Etterbeek (Rhok, Etterbeek).  
I showed Mirjam's series "Belgique, c'est chique" before, see: 

October 09, 2013

Bormenville, pictures by Natacha George

I hope you agree with me that castle ruins make great photographs! These pictures of the Castle of Bormenville in the province of Namur were taken by my friend Natacha George.  I appreciate her willingness to share them on TiB! Grand merci!

October 07, 2013

Guest blogger Helen Devries on visiting Belgium

Helen Devries is an incredible writer and blogger and I am pleased and honored to introduce you to her work. 
Helen, originally from Scotland, moved to England when young, worked in London and lived in the countryside, then moved to the Loire Valley...in very rural France...where she lived for twenty years before moving to Costa Rica some three years ago. 
Her writings are impressive in general but her posting on Belgium is pretty exceptional, a little biased maybe?  You will judge for yourself.   Also, the comments on this Belgian article are a bit unexpected, truly worth the read.  I am sure that you, like I did, would like to find out people's reactions.
Do visit Helens blog. 

Thank you, Helen, for agreeing to share your work here.

 Home from Home Abroad
trip 041Just over a month ago I was in Belgium as part of the whistle stop tour of lawyers’ offices in Europe
I like Belgium….but that could well be because that’s where my husband’s cousins live -the tribe with whom he spent his holidays as a child and the tribe which made me so welcome, even though said husband was languishing in faraway Costa Rica raking through the freezer for packs of the meals I had prepared before leaving.
They have to be the most hospitable people I know…and I know a fair few for whom their house is your house and their time at your disposal…with a wild sense of humour and the intention to make as much of life as possible. You cannot but be happy in their company.
I had some business to conduct in Tienen – lawyers and taxmen and land registry officials – and one of the young men took a day off work to escort me and help with the language for while I can understand a fair bit my spoken Flemish is limited to one word the meaning of which is apparently so appalling that I can never use it.
But business accomplished…joy was unconfined!
trip 050
Based with one family living just outside Brussels in a village set among fields and woodland, the house was so comfortable that it would have been no hardship to have stayed put…but staying put is not on the tribe’s agenda!
leuven town hall

We went to one of my favourite places…Leuven, capital of Flemish Brabant. You might be more familiar with it under its name in French – Louvain – but the duality of nomenclature is one of the things you have to get used to in Belgium, though it can come as a shock when driving when you are looking out for Mons and find it signed as Bergen!

Scene of wanton destruction in the Great War the buildings were rebuilt, but you don’t go there just for the monuments…tucked away from the centre is a well tended herb garden with the plants all named, and on the other side of town is the Groot Begijnhof, once home to the women of a lay order in the middle ages and now restored as part of the university and used for housing students and academics.
It seems quiet enough now in the daytime, the brick buildings and grassy squares set amidst the canals, but I can’t see students maintaining the tranquillity of the original occupants when dusk falls on Leuven.
Furthermore…there are cafes, music in the streets…and shopping!

A pause for coffee in a busy street joined by friends who had visited us in Costa Rica…a son arrived…beer was called for….the whole group went to lunch in a pub where the beer arrives by way of a brass pipe from the brewery next door…we went shopping…the sales were on…the son carried the bags…
Oh yes, I like Leuven!
On to another son’s house for dinner…not only is he a chef, running his own place after working in a Michelin two star restaurant, but he is the same kind thoughtful person that he was as a boy when he used to come to stay with us in France.
Grey shrimp…the little ones that are a beast to peel…were served in abundance as he knew I loved them and could not get them at home… before he pulled out the culinary stops for the other courses.
Family, friends, a new boyfriend, we sat round the table in the garden while the collie looked for a free lap on which to cuddle up, the new boyfriend produced a guitar, and the story telling began…the stories everyone wants to hear again as much for the delivery as the content.
The chef told his story of making spaghetti bolognaise for the first time when he visited us as a teenager….his father told the story of how he first met his wife.

It was a time when UFOs were very much in the news – cigar shapes here, saucers there – and as he drove her home after their first date he became aware of lights in the sky…moving lights. He looked at her, but she seemed oblivious and the lights went away….only to return.
They reached her parents’ house and he was invited to sit out in the garden for a beer. Again, the lights. The parents seemed oblivious.
He mentioned the lights, somewhat nervously.
Oh yes…they had the lights every night.
He drove away, severely puzzled and wondering whether his girlfiend and her parents had been subject to alien influence and it was still bothering him when he went in to work the next morning.
He mentioned it to a friend over coffee.
Where do they live?
He mentioned the name of the village.
Idiot! That’s not UFOs! It’s under the flightpath for planes landing at the airport….those were their landing lights!
The next day we wemt to a flea market in an out of the way town…well, out of the way to me, driving on quiet roads under an arch of trees, traditional farm houses back from the road among the fields.
Parking was a beast, but we were soon among the stalls and I could not believe how cheap it was after France…people actually seemed to want to sell things!
The cousin added to his classic camera collection, his wife found a cupboard to house it and I was tempted by…but did not buy…a super dinner service for a stupid price.
Transport again.
But I am sorely tempted to hire a van and do a round of Belgian flea markets and warehouses to furnish the house in Spain. At those prices – and for what was on offer – it would more than pay the transport and hire charges.
And it would be another excuse to be in Belgium!
As a Scot, it takes a great deal to make me admit that anything can equal a Scottish morning roll….but Belgian pistolei come as near as damn it. Crisp crust and a melting interior…what a way to start a sunday morning!
Then off for the day to Namen…or, as it is in the French speaking sector of Belgium, Namur…
its citadel high on the bluff over the junction of the rivers Sambre and Meuse, its subterranean tunnels and casemates open to all now that war has ebbed away from it.

We dutifully puffed our way around it, enjoying the views, but spent most of the day in the town below…. restored after the damage suffered in the Second World War to today’s amalgam of architectural styles from the remains of the medieval town walls to nineteenth century public puildings. A pity the modern town hall is such a cheap and nasty blot on the landscape.
We walked, we took coffee; we walked, took lunch in an authentic Chinese resturant (San Jose China Town eat your heart out) and we walked again.
DSC_0105In a quiet street off the main drag we came across a church whose interior was like nothing I had seen before.
St.Laud…a Jesuit church of the mid seventeenth century, particular features being the columns with rings – a feature of Spanish Netherlands church architecture according to the helpful volunteer on the spot – and the high relief carving of the sandstone ceiling.
We walked again…
And on
And everywhere we walked we came across superb backwaters….
And shopfronts….
Of which this took the cake in summing up my feelings…
It will be fine tomorrow…..
Home…a barbeque with the family and friends topped by my favourite Belgian cheeses…Passchendaele, Brusselae Kaas and the wonderful ‘walks by itself’ Herve…and then it was up sticks and off to Brussels to catch the Euroline late night coach for London on my way to celebrate mother’s 97th birthday.
In a long and sometimes lonely trip to Europe that Belgian oasis of home from home abroad was more welcome than those kind friends will ever know.

October 05, 2013

Brussels waking up slowly this Saturday morning

It is Saturday morning 8.30 am and I have just dropped off my son at the Central train station. Not a single soul to be seen anywhere except for the two yellow/orange garbage collectors and the two policemen in their car guarding the Synagogue on Rue de la Regence. 
Enjoy the weekend!

October 02, 2013

Say cheese

While I was standing sort of in the middle of an intersection, just about to take a few photos of a magnificent facade, these two guys stopped and insisted that I take their photograph. 
I admit I did not feel much like it simply because I was concentrating on something else but they did not give up.
After I did take their picture, they still were not convinced and told me that it was clear that I was just acting as if I was pushing the camera button. I told them also that they had no idea where their shot would end up...
How I now wish one of you readers could let them know about their picture being shown today on This is Belgium!