December 18, 2016

One of Brussels' narrow streets

Rue du Baudet / Ezelsstraat
near Brussels' Porte de Namur / Naamsepoort 

November 23, 2016

Humans in the park

Wednesday afternoon in the park or a glorious fall day in Brussels Bois de la Cambre / Terkamerenbos.

November 01, 2016

October 27, 2016

Balmoral, Place Brugmann

The decor with its diner seats might be the nicest part of the Balmoral, Milk Bar, Diner on Place Brugmann, but you should try it... the atmosphere is great, the staff friendly, the terrace heated... just a fun place to be.

September 30, 2016

Petillon, Brussels tram and metrostop

Brussels' traffic conditions are such that even I, an ex "taxi mom" and constant city driver, got a Mobib card, as the public transport subscription is called in Brussels. 
I enjoyed my first rides, reading, people-watching, photographing, relaxing ..Much more to come as Brussels has so many beautiful and interesting stops, some of them featuring fascinating art.

September 29, 2016


                   Belgium and Brussels as seen by Alberto De Francisco

September 14, 2016

Red Star Line museum in Antwerp

Can you imagine what these people must have felt when they saw the Statue of Liberty from the Red Star Line ship? The museum opened in Antwerp in September 2013 and I enjoyed my first visit there a few weeks ago.  
"Between 1873 and 1935 the Red Star Line shipping company transported almost three million people from Antwerp to America and Canada. The buildings of the Red Star Line still exist (although in very bad shape). They are located in Antwerp near the Scheldt (river), from where the ships set off on the transatlantic voyage. It remains a place of remembrance, a "lieu de mémoire" for the millions of emigrants who set out for a new life in the States via Antwerp".

August 24, 2016

Summer loving

...Tuesday happy hour between Brussels' Central Station and the Grand Place.

August 22, 2016

"Jazz harmonica master Toots Thielemans dies at 94" from today's LA Times

"Toots Thielemans, a jazz harmonica player, guitarist and whistler whose 1961 composition “Bluesette” became a jazz standard, has died, the Associated Press reported Monday. He was 94
Considered the jazz world’s only true harmonica master, Thielemans was also acknowledged for his fine guitar playing and his unusual technique of whistling in sync with his jazz guitar improvisations.
Thielemans’ improvisational style, on harmonica or guitar, was melodically oriented, avoiding technique for its own sake, always in search of a place he often described as somewhere “between a smile and a tear.”
“Sometimes I play a pretty ballad, and I almost cry myself,” he told The Times in 1992. “That's my nature. Where do you think the blues, or ballads, the good songs, come from? They didn't come out of a belly laugh … or a military salute.”
Guitarist Pat Metheny, who featured Thielemans on his 1992 album, “Secret Story,” agreed, describing him as “a true poet of melody.”
It was a quality that served him well over the years. In addition to his numerous jazz affiliations, Thielemans can be heard on the film soundtracks to “Midnight Cowboy,” “Sugarland Express,” “French Kiss,” the 1972 version of “The Getaway” and others, as well as commercials for Firestone, Singer, Old Spice and almost any musical environment calling for an atmospheric harmonica.
Unknown to most of the children watching, it is Thielemans’ warm sound that is heard playing the melody in the “Sesame Street” theme song.
His composition “Bluesette,” recorded in Stockholm, has become a jazz classic despite its unusual sound and its waltz rhythm.
“If there's a piece of music that describes me, it's that song,” Thielemans told the Associated Press in 1992. “It contains the roots where I was born -- the musette, a sort of waltz. There's not a blue note or syncopation in the melody, yet it's a blues.”
After World War II, he performed with Edith Piaf and Stephane Grappelli in Brussels, and he toured Europe in 1950 with an all-star group led by Goodman. Emigrating to the U.S. in 1951, he arrived in New York City in the heart of the bebop years. A year later, he was playing with the Charlie Parker All-Stars, a band that also included trumpeter Miles Davis.
Thielemans took American citizenship in 1958, settling in New York while maintaining a home in Brussels. For decades, starting in the ‘60s, his harmonica and his blend of guitar and whistling sounds kept him busy in the studios. But he also maintained an active recording career, releasing albums from the late ‘50s well into the new century, including such memorable efforts as “Affinity,” with the Bill Evans Trio, and “The Brasil Project,” a two-CD project featuring such Brazilian stars as Ivan Lins, Caetano Veloso, Milton Nascimento and Gilberto Gil. In more recent years, he recorded and performed frequently with pianist Kenny Werner. His remarkable resume also includes appearances on albums with Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Quincy Jones, Ella Fitzgerald, Jaco Pastorius, Johnny Mathis and others.
“It's fate that I became a musician,” Thielemans told Down Beat magazine. “I studied math. I was supposed to become an engineer or professor. If it hadn't been for jazz, I'd still be in Belgium.”
Among his many honors, Thielemans received a National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship in 2009. He was appointed a baron by King Albert II of Belgium in 2001. And in 2005 he was nominated for the title “The Greatest Belgian,” on the Belgian television show of the same name".

August 19, 2016


If this does not catch your eye .....

August 01, 2016

Leon Spilliaert's house in Ostend

Ostend is not only the birthplace of James Ensor. The Spilliaert house opened in Ostend in the beginning of May and will undoubtedly revitalise interest in the painter. The idea is to bring more works of Spilliaert to the public attention and eventually to become a place for research and rediscovery of the painter. 
"Spilliaert was born in Ostend, the oldest of seven children of Léonard-Hubert Spilliaert, who was a perfumer, and Léonie (née Jonckheere).From childhood, he displayed an interest in art and drawing. A prolific doodler and autodidact, he was predominantly a self-taught artist. Sickly and reclusive, he spent most of his youth sketching scenes of ordinary life and the Belgian countryside. When he was 21, he went to work in Brussels for Edmond Deman, a publisher of the works of symbolist writers, which Spilliaert was to illustrate. He especially admired the work of Edgar Allan Poe.Watercolorgouachepastel, and charcoal—often in combination—were the means by which he produced many of his best works, among which are a number of monochrome self-portraits executed in the early years of the twentieth century. Spilliaert's expressive use of black finds parallels in the work of Odilon Redon, who was a significant influence.[2] Frequently depicting a lone figure in a dreamlike space, Spilliaert's paintings convey a sense of melancholy and silence. His later work shows a concentration on seascapes. He died on 23 November 1946 in Brussels."éon_Spilliaert

July 27, 2016

Thermae Palace Hotel and Brasserie Albert in Ostende

How wonderful to see old buildings preserved and institutions  from the past coming back to life again. Brasserie Albert on the ground floor of the  Thermae Palace hotel in Ostend is a perfect example. A little history on this hotel:
"One of the many projects of King Leopold II was the construction of a large thermal institute against the colonnade that he had built at the beginning of the century. In 1929 the plans of the French architects Flegenheimer, Bard and Garella together with those of André Daniels, architect from Ostend, for this so-called “Badenpaleis” (“Thermal Palace”) were approved of. The “Badenpaleis” had everything a health and spa resort needed, including a Turkish bath, mud baths and massage rooms. A swimming pool and a luxurious hotel with various conference rooms were also erected. In 1933 the majestic Thermae Palace Hotel, in Art Deco style, was officially opened by King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth. Because of the unique combination of mineral water and seawater this health resort grew into one of the most important spas of the whole of Europe. Numerous noble families and even the shah and his retinue came to Ostend to try out the healing effects of the thermal baths.The  “Thermaal Instituut” (“Thermal Institute”) suffered a lot from World Word II. After the war it was reopened as “Badenpaleis” (“Thermal Palace”) and hotel. In the beginning of the eighties the “Thermaal Instituut” was gradually run down. During the nineties the unique complex was completely renovated and the new Thermae Palace saw the light of day."

July 21, 2016

Happy July 21!

It was on 21 July 1831 that Leopold of Saxe-Coburg swore allegiance to the Belgian constitution and took the constitutional oath as the first King of Belgium. 
Today we celebrate the national holiday and this year I want to add a special message of hope and peace.  May the day be happy, peaceful and fun for all.

July 07, 2016

Averbode, the abbaye, history, tranquility and harmony

 "The abbey of Averbode was founded in 1134. Since then the courtyard has undergone many changes. Around 1800, the square evolves towards the configuration it has today with the church, the abbots quarters, the presbytery and the gatehouse as the surrounding buildings. In the very beginning the arrangement of the courtyard is limited to three slim cobble stone paths and a lawn. Later, the use of the area increases due to a larger number of visitors and the organization of activities in and around the square. In 1976, the primarily green square transforms into a practical, stone space which is more and more predominated by vehicles. The bad condition of the pavement, the parking habits of visitors and the renewed demand for tranquility and simplicity, all lead to the decision in 2010 to rebuild the square"   
Today, tourists can enjoy beer, cheese, and much more in a serene setting ..time to return for a visit.