Off to Lille

June 2, 2014 § 2 Comments

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There are so many places to visit a mere stone’s throw from Brussels, sometimes it’s hard to decide where to go next. So it took a deadline of sorts to get us to Lille, just over the border in France and a little over an hour by car. I’d been eying an interesting-looking museum, LaM (Lille Métropole, Musée de l’art moderne), which was having a soon-to-close exhibition on Meret Oppenheim, the Surrealist artist and muse to the likes of Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. (Unfortunately, her famous teacup wasn’t on view.)

There are only a few galleries of permanent collection on view, so it’s really about seeing whatever temporary show is on. The museum buildings themselves make for an interesting approach—one part of the structure is made up of squat brick buildings, and the other white cubes with delicate cutouts—and you are also greeted by some great outdoor sculpture. We were caught in an absolute downpour on the walk from the car, which quickly gave way to sunshine alternating with cloud-filled skies (hence the fact that these photos look like they were taken on at least three different days).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I would love to see these buildings at night, when they glow like lanterns.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

An enormous Picasso,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and an impressive Calder stabile/mobile. (Note sudden lack of menacing clouds!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Daniel Buren cabane éclatée was a source of fun…photo 2-7

…and some unusual behavior.photo 3-3

Stuffed toys in the shape of France seem pretty interesting.photo 4-3OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Two Cornwall gems, Stonehenge, and a cool little castle

April 28, 2014 § 2 Comments

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There is far too much to see and do in Cornwall to even scratch the surface in a week, but you have to start somewhere, right? And one thing was clear: we had promised the boys castles, and there would be trouble if we didn’t deliver. So we sort of stretched the truth and told them that Lanhydrock House, a beautiful estate that was built beginning in the early seventeenth century and continuing to Victorian times (when it was updated with all the “mod cons”), fit the bill. And it worked! To our amazement, they both loved touring the house, from the “below stairs” where the servants worked to the upstairs with its tiger-skin rugs, children’s rooms, and bedpans (!). (Lest we sound like complete frauds, we did visit a real castle too—see below.) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The original gatehouse, dating from the mid-1600s, looks rather castle-like.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAimage

The kitchen, where “vast quantities of butter and cream” were put to work.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Back upstairs.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAimageimage

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Back to the future, or A visit to the Museum of Natural Science

October 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Sebastian came prepared with his own magnifying glass

Since our arrival here, we have noticed how in many ways Brussels is quaintly old-fashioned: all stores are closed on Sundays (except bookstores!), five-year-olds buckle up in the front passenger seat. So when we took our first trip to the Museum of Natural Science (or, more officially, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences) we weren’t totally surprised to be greeted by plywood displays, a solar system visualization that looked like it was straight from the Atari era, and washed-out, discolored photos that had nothing to do with Instagram. These were the real deal. We were slightly bemused, but also a little disappointed. Really? This was the best Brussels could do?

What we hadn’t realized was that it was a mistake to head directly downstairs, where bad science displays from the 1970s go to die, instead of following the somewhat convoluted passageway leading to the dinosaur hall. As we approached the hall, however, we realized the extent of our error. It is absolutely stunning—a huge open space with decorative ironwork, beautiful Belgian tile on the floors, enormous windows, and the slightly low lighting that serves to highlight the dramatically illuminated skeletons. The seemingly mid-century exterior of the entrance does not at all prepare you for this. It is apparently the largest hall in the world devoted entirely to dinosaurs.

We found it a little difficult to navigate around the museum and kept feeling like we were getting lost (we actually did lose Sebastian at one point). Perhaps this is because they seem to be renovating much of the upstairs of the museum. At any rate, I know we missed a lot of things and we will definitely be back to this Brussels treasure.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAimage OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now this is more like it!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Junior achaeologist at work.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We also visited the “special exhibition” on baby animals, which was a taxidermist’s dream (no, that adorable orangutan on the poster was not, in fact, residing in this museum). A little different, but again, we’re getting used to different. And the kids loved it. There were silly activities like pick an apron with a natural habitat printed on it and then find the poster to blend in with, toss a small foam kangaroo into the net attached to the kangaroo cutout, and locate the animal’s mother by her scent. Different.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Um, no thanks.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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