January 15, 2015 § 1 Comment
It’s embarrassing to admit, but we missed the Christmas market in Brussels this year. But we did take a drive over the border to Aachen, Germany, to take in the festivities there. The weather wasn’t great and we considered not going at all, but then we thought maybe it won’t be as crowded! Apparently it takes more than an intermittent freezing rain to keep the crowds away from Christmas cheer in these parts. (That’s what the Glühwein is for.)
Aachen seems to be a pretty little town, but honestly it was hard to get any real perspective because all of the winding streets of the center were taken over by stalls selling food, mulled wine, decorations, gingerbread and other treats, and more. There were also a few small rides for the kids (though nothing like the beauties at the market in our hometown—score one for Brussels!).
We did peek into the Aachen Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in northern Europe. Part of it dates back to the late 700s and was begun by Charlemagne. It was one of the first sites in Europe to be made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The inside is truly stunning, with incredibly ornate mosaics. We almost didn’t go in because it was very crowded, but Sebastian insisted that we do (twice, in fact). Sometimes it pays to listen to the kids.
June 2, 2014 § 2 Comments
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).
March 12, 2014 § 3 Comments
Though we seem to be the only people in Belgium—possibly western Europe—who didn’t go skiing for the Carnaval holiday, we did manage a quick trip to the coast. It was a particularly beautiful day of warm sun and blue sky, especially given it was only early March. De Haan is a pretty little town, more low-rise and seemingly low-key than the beach town we visited last summer, Knokke (though it’s hard to say when it is technically still winter). There is just something about the beach that makes everyone happy, isn’t there?
The center of De Haan seems like it was planned by a committee of six-to-nine-year-olds. There is a big playground, a carousel, a pavilion surrounded by dirt paths for riding bikes and pedal-powered dune buggy contraptions (actually kids were zooming all over town in these), and of course the requisite purveyors of treats. Many of the houses have names, which is usually a good indicator that a place is well-loved. I can’t wait to go back and soak up more sun, fly a kite, and explore the pretty dunes on the edge of town.