Brussels and the Art Nouveau Tour MapEUROPE, GUEST BLOGGERS, Historic/Museums — By Lisa A. White on September 22, 2013 at 16:16
By guest blogger Lisa A. White. Photos Copyright © Lisa A. White.
I HAVE TO ADMIT that I am both an avid traveler as well as a two-faced traveler: I want to travel everywhere BUT I have certain locations that I love to repeat. I work on both goals regularly, depending on time and circumstance.
Brussels, Belgium is a definite repeater. My husband Dan and I knew very little about Brussels before catching a last minute flight on standby three years ago (I digress but every mother should force at least one of her children to sacrifice for the family to work for an airline–the flight benefits are incredible). The first visit led to several more, including my recent self-proclaimed “Art Nouveau Tour.”
Brussels in February is similar to Chicago in February, with less wind and less snow. In other words, it is not most people’s first choice of travel times. But alas, the standby seats looked good, and Dan suggested that we were short on our supply of European cheeses and chocolates. So off I flew by myself for a few days of wandering. Forget the guided tours of the warmer seasons: my Art Nouveau Tour was a self-guided special using the large descriptive map that I purchased for 3 euros from the visitors’ center located in the Grand Place (also called Grote Markt).
I must digress again: wandering through the Grand Place [see feature photo] is mandatory for absolutely every visit to Brussels. We typically stay around the corner at the Royal Windsor Hotel (a four-star hotel, nicely situated about two city blocks from both Centraal Station and the Grand Place, and which incidentally has wonderful last-minute rates).
Other mandatory standards within a two block radius: Catherine’s shop for cheeses, La Belgique Gourmande for chocolates, Jean-Phillippe Darcis’ for macarons–the little colorful hamburgers which are outrageously good meringue-like sweets–and L’Express for casual but excellent Lebanese food. Don’t ask about the logic of going to a Lebanese restaurant in Brussels–just try it!
I began my self-guided Art Nouveau Tour on the Open Tours Hop-On Hop-Off bus with my handy dandy Art Nouveau map. The Hop-On Hop-Off buses are nice for learning more about a city as you travel where you want to go, but never fear, I walked a lot of miles on this adventure. Bus stop number five dropped me close to the Victor Horta museum as well as ninety other art nouveau homes and buildings. Close, but not that close when I was walking up and down blocks, never totally sure whether the next number on the map would be a gem or just so-so.
I knew there were certain art nouveau houses and buildings I wanted to find during my short adventure, so I didn’t follow the suggested walking tours. I did parts of four out of five outlined tours in two gruelingly long days. I found and photographed the outside of over sixty buildings, and spent quite a bit of time in the Victor Horta home and museum. A part of my scrawled up and well worn map is shown here, but the map is copyrighted and absolutely worth the three euros it costs. Go buy one! I will let the photos speak for themselves, and encourage you to research the short and fascinating 15 year history of the art nouveau style.
One final experience from my “tour”: I saw there were two art nouveau residences on Rue du Lac. I found the first and wasn’t overwhelmed with the style. However, there was a gorgeous guy looking out of a fourth floor window of that building. Yes, with the window open–in the winter–he was that hot. After smiling and acknowledging each other, I looked back at my map, looked at both sides of the street, and considered giving up on the second house. Then I glanced back up at him. Without a word, he pointed to the house I was looking for–the small but wonderful house at Rue de Lac no. 6, designed by architect Ernest Delune in 1904. If not for Mr. Hot, I may have missed that gem altogether!
By the way, did I tell you that one of the reasons Dan and I love Brussels so much is that the people are so friendly and language is never a barrier?
Lisa White has wandered through world like she has wandered through professions. In both pursuits, she always has more to explore, more to learn, and more to do. Currently she practices law in the area of dependency and neglect as well as other cases that address the well-being of children. Often this is an area of law that feels exceptionally “heavy.” When it becomes too emotionally burdensome, she catches a flight somewhere–anywhere–to remember the good, positive, beautiful, tasty, and fun of the world.