9 March 2014

A farewell to Brussels

I had planned my trip to Brussels to get as much time there as possible. I got a train reasonably early on the Saturday morning when going there and took one back late in the afternoon on the following Sunday. That gave me a fair chunk of Sunday to have a final walk around.

I checked out of the hotel (the neat, functional but somewhat uninspiring Radisson Blu Royal Hotel) around 10am and left my bags there to be collected at 2pm.

I then headed back towards where I had been the previous evening because there was something there that I wanted to see again.

Along the way I took the usual pictures of the interesting buildings but I have shown plenty of those in previous posts so this time I thought that I would show some of the arty things instead.

These arty things came in three main varieties; street art, shop signs and graffiti, and I'll include some of all three starting with the three graffiti pigs above and the sex shop sign to the right.

I wandered through the Grand Market for one last time and then south to Coal Market before crossing the main road west to a park that looked attractive.It was on the way there that I found a series of aggressive pictures on a wall. I have absolutely no idea what they were about but I liked the angry red figures.

The reason that I was walking past the angry red figures was to get close to this large mural on a building (a school?) next to a park.

It looked like a series of panorama shots taken with an iPhone.

What I liked about it was its the way it showed people in places, which is what communities are. The pictures showed a real sense of belonging and helped to conform the human aspect of Brussels that had impressed me over the previous week.

The main objective of my walk was to get back to the former market Halles Saint-Géry. When I had walked past it on the previous evening it was packed inside and out with young people having a convivial drink with friends.

I liked that atmosphere of the area but it was the building that I went back to see. There is something about markets that I love and I have found nice ones in most places that I have been, even in the brutally ugly Sofia.

The inside was as gorgeous as I hoped and, even better, there were things in there to see.

But first I had a beer.

On the ground floor on the right was an exhibition on lifts. As well as historical photographs this included a wonderful art deco lift cage and some extracts from films that featured lifts. It was great to see a little bit of the Marx Brothers in The Big Store (1941).

At one end of the ground floor was a set of deckchairs. I never did work out why. Also at that end, you can see it just in front of the main pillar, was the opportunity to photograph yourself at the Manneken Pis, though why you would want to do this is beyond me.

Upstairs there was a display about Victor Horta, which was much more my thing. The simple but effective display boards covered Horta's main buildings in Brussels. They explained their histories (e.g. who commissioned them), the main design principles and features and showed these off with period photographs.

Without planning it, Horta had become a significant part of my time in Brussels and was one of the reasons that it was such a good break.

I had one regret about my week in Brussels, and it was only a small one. The good weather and fine walking kept me out of the main museums and galleries (I would have found time for the museum of modern art if it had been open). The one exhibition that I was hoping to find time for was The Art of The Brick which had works of art made from Lego.

All too soon it was 2pm and time to take the metro to Midi and then the Eurostar home. It had been a good break and one that reaffirmed my belief that by-and-large the countries in north Europe get things right, and we could learn from that.

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