Monday, January 16, 2012

The Judges Can't Decide

Can There be 3 First Place winners?

In the imaginary beauty contest of which European city is the prettiest, having now looked at Amsterdam and The Hague, I have moved on to Belgium, where we have a three-way tie.

Brussels in the Big City entry into the contest, a place with immigrants from 100 different countries and buses whose destination signs just say "NATO" (meaning, I assume, NATO headquarters is the end of the line).  Yet it has quiet charm too, with parrot-filled parks (more about the Rose-ringed Parakeets of Europe in another posting) and art deco building facades.  In Brussels, too, I caught up on the ugly necessities of travel . . . like laundry.

This coin-op was across the street from the fish market.

If you want to compare this selection to Trader Joe's, 8 euros per kilo is about $4 a pound.  This market was on the same street as our hotel, with a view out the window from our room . . .

. . . and a few from the street, looking the other direction the next morning.

Our hotel was broad-minded about the furnishings.  You won't find this kind of art in a Motel 6!

If contemporary art is not your thing, at least one has to admire the escalators of Brussels --- lit in glowing blue and faced in gorgeous wood paneling.  Toto, we are not in Kansas any more.

From Brussels, it is an trip by train to Antwerp, the famous port city and another contender for the "Miss Europe Beauty Spot" title.

Antwerp is home to a new ten-story museum, "MAS," which combines ethnographic collections with maritime history and art exhibitions, all in unified-by-theme multi-discipline displays.

As one ascends floors to the roof-top panorama, the escalators rotate sides, so that each floor gives visitors a new vista of the horizon.

Galleries explore ideas like "power" or "life and death," using sound-scapes, video projection, medieval artifacts, and just about everything else.  Captions were in Flemish but the museum loans out iPods, and with those you scan QR codes to see labels in English.

 In this room, we see a painting from 1878 linked to material goods from the same time.  I for one am glad that bike design has evolved to a more stable platform.

There is a roof-top restaurant, for which one needs reservations two months in advance, and a more democratic cafe (first come, first served) which was SRO during my Saturday visit.  That sent me into town in search of Belgian waffles.  This seems to me a very under-appreciated culinary art form.

Yummy is all I can say.  So that makes Antwrep tied with Brussels.  Next stop?  Bruges....

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