Sunday, February 21, 2010

Brussels Views

Having spent a lovely day from Nairobi on Kenyan Airlines ("The Pride of
Africa" they say - and they could be right) and KLM from Amsterdam, Brussels
greeted Mr. Guy with unaccustomed chill. Not the friendliness of the people,
of course. Just the weather change. Northern Europe is cold and damp and
although the sun came out for a while on Saturday - my first day in Brussels
- I am still aware that I'm not in Nairobi!

And the delight of being back in Brussels was considerably enhanced by
having a friend from Berlin join me, waiting for me on my arrival on Friday
night. We plan to share a week-end pleasuring ourselves in l'art nouveau.
While other cities make considerable claims about the development of what is
perhaps my favorite style of art (with Paris and Prague leading the charge),
it's Brussels where you get a real sense of l'art nouveau. And this city goes
all out to make sure visitors can enjoy seeing this beautiful art and -
importantly - architecture to its fullest. There was even a two-year
"festival" devoted to l'art nouveau from 2007-2009. These people take l'art
very seriously.

The photos are pretty self-evident, mostly just "walking-about" views, since
the real attention to l'art nouveau begins on Sunday. But I did enjoy the
mixture of styles Horta was able to pull together - including his own versions
to l'art nouveau - at the Gare Centrale, and of course the use of the
typefont in signage and the many buildings and shop windows taking advantage
of the gorgeously curved wood shapes are all lovely to observe, no matter
where you wander about in the city.

As for the photos, La Tour Noire is just across the street from my hotel
(and as you can see it is surrounded by another hotel on three sides).
Haven't yet figured out its significance, except that it's old. Two street
cleaners walking past - observing us reading the notice - gave us a pleasant
introduction but as it was very early in the morning on my first day of
attempting to converse in (and understand) French, I didn't get much. I
looked it up but all I could find are references to the hotel built around
it. Oh, well. More research later....

And the building with the lion is pretty typical, both in architecture and
in having that nice lion depicted in the roundel.

Spent lots of time at the antiques collectibles outdoor market at Grand
Sablon, apparently famous the world over. As I'm not a serious collector I
just enjoyed looking at the all the nice things. It was by now a very pretty
sunny (and cold) afternoon, so it was nice just to wander among the stands.
Among our wanderings, discovered a new favorite shop, Senses Art Nouveau. So much to see and learn. Very gracious staff, apparently very pleased to see two visitors with a love of l'art nouveau,
even if what they have on offer is reproduction merchandise. Still, mighty
nice stuff and in spending some time in the shop, one can learn a great
deal. So it was a pleasant sort of introduction to the focus of our visit,
and of course I did what I could for the Brussels economy.

So lots to enjoy. Looking forward to continuing over the next few days
(well, once the week begins, when I can fit it in between work assignments).

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