Tag Archives: brussels

On the Tintin trail in Brussels

While walking the streets of Brussels, I am often aware that I am following in the footsteps of Georges Rémi, better known as Hergé, creator of Tintin. From where I type this article, I can see both of the schools he attended in his youth. He left his mark in the form of murals at both schools. One when he was a Boy Scout and the other when he was an accomplished author / illustrator. They are not available for viewing by the public, but Brussels has lots of other Tintin related works that are accessible to all.Information panel for Tintin trail inParc de Bruxelles

VisitBrussels publish a map that folds down to credit card size; “In the footsteps of the little reporter – Sized for Tintin”. It retails for 0.50 Euros and is available from the Information Offices. The trail starts in the Parc de Bruxelles where a temporary information panel explains that the park was the inspiration for the drawings in King Ottokar’s Sceptre. It then continues on around the centre of Brussels highlighting sights that provided inspiration for the Tintin stories, murals featuring Herge’s work, the Tintin shop and the Belgian Comic Strip Centre.  It also includes the Hergé / Tintin locations outside the centre of Brussels, including his birthplace and tomb.

Hergé's birthplace

Compared to Tintin, Hergé didn’t travel extensively. He used the work of photographers who had recorded scenes from the locations in his books, as the basis of his drawings. He also researched the locations thoroughly.  National Geographic was a favoured source. He drew the planes, trains, automobiles that interested him from life. Even the rocket that Tintin, Captain Haddock and Snowy take to the moon, was inspired by the V1 test rockets developed by the Germans in the Second World War, then used by the American Space Programme after the war.
Hergé mural Stockel

Brussels provided much of the inspiration in the cartoon strips. Exhibits from the Musée Cinquantenaire and Royal Museum for Central Africa at Tervuren appear in many of his stories. In 2009 Grand Place was the venue for the World’s largest Comic Strip, when a page from Objective Moon filled most of the square. It was so large that you had to climb up on a viewing platform to appreciate it.

Part of largest Tintin in Grand Place 2009
When Spielberg made his animated movie, he remained true to the books and original locations that inspired them. The film starts in place Jeu de Balle, in the Marolles quarter of Brussels, where Tintin gets his portrait drawn by Hergé, before finding the Unicorn on sale.  The flea market is is still held every morning. When I went out with my camera, I didn’t find the Unicorn, but I did come across a trawler. Perhaps it was a clue pointing towards the reason why all the fish are disappearing from the world’s oceans. Tintin the young Belgian Reporter, would have loved to expose that story.

Not the Unicorn, Flea Market, Marolles
Not the Unicorn, Flea Market, Marolles

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Exploring Brussels’ Winter Wonders

It is the overhead snippets of conversation, that tells me that Winter Wonders or Plaisirs d’Hiver in French, is popular with visitors. “I was like…” the repeated “like” in twenty something females’ conversations. The oral version of a Facebook Wall. Or “I am lucky, as I can catch a train and be here in less than two hours” uttered by a fifty something male, identifies them as having English as a first language. You will often find English spoken in conversations in Brussels, but away from the main visitor attractions. It is a common means of communication between speakers whose first language is differs, such as between the Flemish and the Finnish.So having established that the Winter Wonders attracts lots of travellers from outside Belgium, let me give a brief overview of what is on offer. The event opened on the last Saturday in November and runs until January 1st.

Christmas Market at place Sainte Catherine, Brussel
Starting from Central Station, head towards the Bourse and you should find a blue trailer (caravan in UK), this is the Information Centre for the Winter Wonders Festival. I suggest you pick up the Winter Wonders brochure / map published before proceeding. Notice the smell of Brussels waffles and mulled wine from the nearby stalls and perhaps listen to the musicians on the corner.

There is an abundance food stalls around the Bourse. I tried some Vin Chaud (Mulled Wine) from the Belgian wines stand, but there is abundant alternative warming drinks on offer nearby. If you are visiting Brussels for the first time, you could sample a Geuze at Á la Becasse or Le Cirio, which are both very close to here.

Steam Punk Roundabout
Across the other side of Boulevard Anspach,  light frame human figures float over rue Paul Devaux. These are “Les Voyageurs de Cédric Le Borgne” which have toured the world for about five years. A night their wire framed bodies are illuminated like ghosts watching the revellers at Winter Wonders.

Continuing on to Place Sainte Catherine you will probably encounter the Greek Zone, in the small square by the entrance to Saint Catherine’s church. Here a number of stalls sell Greek produce under the lines of blue and white flags. Greece is the guest of honour at this year’s festival, last year it was Morocco.  You will also find the first of the two Steam Punk carousels by Andrea’s Magic roundabouts.

You will need to walk to the centre of Place Saint Catherine to find the second children’s roundabout. You will find most of the Christmas Market stalls here as well as more refreshment stands. The Big Wheel is the most striking feature  found at the opposite end of the square to the Church forms a striking backdrop.  The Ice Skating Rink is one of the most popular attractions is in front of the wheel. There is also the perennial Ice Monster, which I find tempting me to enter its opening and closing mouth. Shame it is for children, but I’ll go looking for my Ice Monsters in Chamonix. The children’s sledding run for children is also found down this end.
Piste groomer, Brussels
From 10 December until 25 December snow will hide the street of Mont Des Arts and the only way down will be on skis or a snowboard.  The surprise for me when I visited yesterday was seeing a piste groomer  and a team of men building a magic carpet ski uplift.

Finally, the attraction marked number one on the Winter Wonders brochure is Electrabel Nights.  Using environmentally sensitive technology, light is projected onto the Hotel de Ville and all over Grand Place, while beams reach up into the sky in time with classical music, but look out for an orchestra and choir performing AI.  Even the Christmas Tree lights are synchronised with the music. Don’t leave without taking a look at the realistic Nativity Scene in the full size stable.

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Can Street Art improve a city?

Street art

Bonon spider, Brussels
Last week I visited the Ixelles Museum here in Brussels before their exhibition on Street Art closed and is replaced by a Dubuffet exhibition. Bonom was featured heavily, with insights into how he plans his pieces. The photo above shows a spider on a concrete building by Chapelle in Brussels. I think it adds an organic touch to an otherwise clinically cold concrete building.

The area around Chapelle Station is covered in Street Art and graffiti. I’m not sure that all of it has a positive effect. I can’t see much artistic expression in some of the tags in this next photo.
Street Art and graffiti, Chapelle, Brussels
The monster series of officially sanctioned Street Art appears to me to have been semi defaced by other taggers wanting to make their presence felt.
On my cycle trips around Brussels looking for pieces I often end up speaking to locals who have been at the receiving end of these artists / taggers. One I spoke to felt nothing but contempt for the artist who placed a monster on the side of his house. I could see his point as well.
Do you have any views on the subject?

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Daily Photo: The Sequence by Arne Quinze in winter

The Sequence by Arne Quinze

The Sequence
The art of Arne Quinze involves a lot of timber nailed together from an aerial platform. This piece is in the government quarter of Brussels. It is built above the street so that it is possible to cycle or even drive a car underneath. This photo was taken in December 2010 when Brussels had a good coating of fresh snow. Missing the snow right now.

 

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Daily photo: Mont des Arts in the Brussels Summer Festival

Mont des Arts, Brussels

Mont des Arts
The Brussels Summer Festival is on this week, it closes with Stromae on Sunday night. Earlier this year I uploaded a guide to Belgian Music Festival. I have been busy enjoying some of my favourite Belgian groups and discovering some new ones, even missing #TogChat on Twitter to do so (well what would you do in my shoes?).
This year there is a new venue on Mont des Arts. The road has been closed in front of the equestrian statue of Albert 1 and a stage set up past the statue of Elizabeth. I am blessed that I can walk to the concerts from our apartment as it entails a very low carbon footprint and allows me to down some Belgain beers if I wish. This was the view as I returned home from watching Great Mountain Fire, last night.
The stage is in the background behind the avenue of trees on the right of the picture. For more photos from the Brussels Summer Festival, have a look at my Flickr Collection.

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Daily photo: Waiting for the green light

Brussels Street performers at traffic lights

Brussels street performers
At the start of rue de Trone. This patch is normally worked by sad looking people who look on pleadingly while holding out a paper cup. Now, though many of the traffic lights have street performers such as jugglers or in this case acrobats. I find it refreshing that someone has made and effort to entertain. It calms down the drivers.
How do you feel about beggars and street performers at traffic lights?

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

A bicycle and a fish fight in Brussels

On Saturday afternoon, I went for a ride around Brussels using Villo! bicycles. I was looking for some street art by Muga. After I had found the piece I was looking for, I continued exploring the back streets by bike. After ending up at Place Jourdain, I decided the best way to get back up to the top of Ixelles was via the European Parliament. Here I found the prow of a beached trawler and was intrigued to see that it was for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s campaign,commonly known as Hugh’s Fish fight. It is the follow up to the Channel 4 TV series, in which he publicised the crazy practices carried out on the seas and oceans around Europe.
Trawler exhibit at the EU, Brussels
As an individual, we often feel powerless to get big political institutions to change their course, but what we buy or refuse to buy has a bigger influence than our vote in many instances. The plight of the oceans is dire, with little projected to thrive in them other than jelly fish by 2030. Hugh’s Fish Fight is a campaign aimed at highlighting the shocking waste caused by the Common Fisheries Policies.

Hugh’s Fish Fight

Signing up for the petition is an easy move, but looking carefully at the fish and seafood we buy at home or on our travels can also make a huge difference. Much of the seafood on sale today is not from sustainable sources. One thing we can do is look for the MSC’s (Marine Stewardship Council) logo, to certify that the fish was from a sustainable fishing process. Even farmed fish are fed on unsustainably fished anchovies and the like.
Trawler exhibit at the EU, Brussels
On a positive note, on the Sunday I was in Diksmuide, Flanders, Belgium. Looking for somewhere to eat our evening meal and we decided to dine on a canal barge . We were pleasantly surprised to find that they took great care to only provide sustainably fished seafood. They did not use tuna and had an excellent vegetarian / vegan choice on their menu.   I’ll probably mention them in future post on Diksmuide, but in the meantime they can be found by the IJzer Tower. They are called Water en vuur (Water and Fire). The point is that some restaurants now do consider how sustainable the food they offer is. Supporting them is doing our bit, for the change we would like to see in the world.

More information on Hugh’s Fish Fight: http://www.fishfight.net/

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Photo essay: A close up of place Flagey market

I posted a short piece about shopping at Place Flagey Market in 2009. It is a welcome port of call on a Saturday or Sunday morning, with plenty of organic produce on sale. This week I took my camera and set the focus to macro ando took some photos of various items on sale. I didn’t take photos of meat, fish or cheeses; as these are displayed behind glass for reasons of hygiene. The inspiration being the weekly photography tip sharing session #TogChat on Twitter, which takes place each Wednesday at 3pm EDT. This week the subject for discussion is “macro”. It transpires that my photos are not macro photos, as the subject has to cast an image larger than the CCD of the camera to qualify. So all of my photos are close ups, but they still represent a different view of the market than my previous visit.


I’ve no idea what this last fruit is. If you know leave your answer in the comments. I’ll check your responses in Google images and the first correct answer will get a mention including their Twitter handle and website if they have one.

Fruit?
Fruit?

On a different note. It was warming to see that a new production team was caught in action on the remake of “Shopping in Pace Flagey Market”, a film about Belgian extreme sports. 😉
Film crew in action at Place Flagey
Film crew in action at Place Flagey

 

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Free to view art: Part 2 – Murals and sculptures

In an earlier post, I shared some of my the street art I had come across on my travels. This post will also be about free to view art, but this time the art herein is all officially sanctioned.  Belgium is the capital of Bande Desinée (carton strips), many of the characters in the books are on display on this wall outside the International Railway station at Gare du Midi. How many of the characters do you recognise?

Bande Desinée mural, by gare du Midi, Brussels
Bande Desinée mural, by gare du Midi, Brussels

If you call in at the Tourist Information office in Brussels you can get a walking tour taking in all of the murals. I find this one amusing, but in fact most are quite amusing.

Bande Desinée mural, Brussels
Bande Desinée mural, Brussels

It would be remiss of me not to include a Tin Tin mural in a post including Belgian cartoon strips. Here is our hero at Stockel Station. It is worth mentioning at this point that all of the Metro Stations in Brussels have major works by well known artists. Look up the STIB Website or call in at their shop at De Broukere, Brussels and get a brochure detailing the works.

I for one can’t wait for the new Tin Tin movie. I love the work of Speilberg, Jackson, and Steven Moffatt who wrote the first draft of the script. How about you?

Tin Tin mural on Brussels Metro
Tin Tin mural on Brussels Metro

Moving on to sculptures, Jean Michel Folon, is one of my favourite Belgian artists. Many of his works are on display in public places.

Quelqu'n (Someone), Namur, Belgium
Quelqu'n (Someone), by Folon, Namur, Belgium

Niki de Saint Phalle also produces colourful works in all senses of the word. This one can be found at Luxembourg City’s bus station.

"La Grande Tempérance" by Niki de Saint Phalle
"La Grande Tempérance" by Niki de Saint Phalle, Luxembourg

Arne Quinze produces some interesting pieces. Previously he had a big piece at Toison d’Or in Brussels. The Sequence can be found behind the Belgian Government buildings.

"The Sequence" by Arne Quinze, Brussels
"The Sequence" by Arne Quinze, Brussels

Flaine, the purpose built winter sports centre in the French Alps comprises 1960’s style concrete apartment blocks. The sculptures on display though, provide an artistic counterbalance. There is a big work by Picasso, but my favourite is this one by Jean Dubuffet.

Dubuffet, Flaine, France
Dubuffet, Flaine, France

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Belgian Music Festivals 2011

Belgium and music festivals in the same sentence?  If you find that surprising you are missing out on some of the best live music events in Europe. Many of the festivals are free, so timing a visit to Belgium to coincide with a free event could make a lot of sense. This post will cover mainly Rock / Pop, purely because I don’t get Jazz, although you might find me at the occasional Folk concert.

Brosella in the rain
Brosella in the rain

Brussels Jazz Marathon
This weekend (27, 28 and 29 May), the Brussels Jazz Marathon is held. Venues range from Grand Place to the small bars like ‘London Calling’ close to where I typed this. All concerts are free. Other Jazz Festivals include Day 2 of Brosella, Brussels (July 10), Jazz in the Park, Ghent (26 -28 Aug and 2 – 4 Sep), again the concerts are free, but you’d have to pay me if you wanted me to attend them 😉 Day 1 (July 9) of Brosella is Folk music, also a free concert.

 

The music festival season has been under way since the last week of April when the PackRock Festival was held. Then, in the first weekend of May, the annual Fête de l’Iris is Brussels celebration, the iris being the symbol of the city. The events include two evenings of free music, this year with Arno as headline act and Piano Club supporting. I missed them as I was at the Inc’Rock Festival at Incourt. The headline acts were Puggy, Pony Pony Run Run and Stromae. Piano Club played on the Friday night.

Puggy at Inc'Rock
Puggy a popular Belgium group at Inc'Rock

Rock Werchter, Europe’s best music festival
There are plenty more music festivals to come, including many free concerts. The largest Festival is Rock Werchter, Werchter (30 Jun – 3 Jul), this is probably the best music festival in Europe, although I’m sure the Glastonbury regulars would disagree. There are currently 61 acts on the programme, including Linkin Park, Iron Maiden, Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, Black Eyed Peas, Chemical Brothers and Coldplay. Tickets start at 76 euros plus booking fees. There is also a TW Classic at the site featuring Bryan Adams and Texas on July 9.

Pukkelpop, Couleur Cafe, Dour, Francofolies and Esperanzah!

Pukkelpop, Hasselt (18 – 20 Aug) has the Foo Fighters, Eminen, Thirty seconds to Mars as well as dEUS, one of the top Belgian bands. Day tickets start at 79 euros, but the Thursday has already sold out. Couleur Café (24 – 26 Jun) was originally a world music festival, but has grown to include other musical genres. This year the line up includes Seal, Wyclef Jean and Puggy. The Dour Festival (14-17 July) is held in the village of the same name. This year Papa Roach, Cypress Hill, Ice Cube and Pendulum are appearing. Tickets start at 40 euros for 1 day or 100 euros for 4 days.  Although the name Francofolies de Spa, Spa implies a French speaking / singing event, this is not strictly true. Acts booked include Pony Pony Run Run, Hoverphonic, Zazie and Stromae. Well maybe you haven’t heard of them, but they are all from French speaking areas of the world and many sing in English. Prices fro 45 euros per day. My last inclusion in the paid festivals is Esperanzah!, Abbaye de Floreffe, Namur (5 – 7 Aug) is the main World Music Festival in Belgium.

Sharko at Belgavox
Sharko at Belgavox

Brussels Summer Festival
The Brussels Summer Festival (12 -21 Aug), Brussels takes place over 10 consecutive evenings.  Head liners this year are Jamie Cullum, De la soul, Stromae, Hooverphonic and more. Last year the wrist bands also allowed free entry to many museums in Brussels, I’m hoping they do the same this year. I’ve already bought my ticket for the ten days for 30 euros.

Brussels Summer Festival
Brussels Summer Festival

Free concerts
Now, back to the free concerts. For the two previous years Belgavox brought both Dutch and French speaking musicians together to deliver one track each for Belgian unity. I cannot find any mention of it for 2011, so do not know if it will take place this year. This free concert was a great way to sample a lot of Belgium’s groups and singers.

The next big free musical event is Fete de la Musique (17 – 18 Jun) at venues all over Belgium and beyond. I’ll probably head down to Place des Palais on the Saturday and St Gilles on the Sunday. Another free musical event I have attended for the last two years is the Czech Street Party outside the Czech Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to the EU in Brussels. As well as showcasing some of the Czech Republic’s talent it also has stands from each Czech Region with food and drink tasting.

 

There are many more free and paid festivals. Do a little research before visiting Belgium and maybe you can take in a free concert during your stay.

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.