7.06.2010

SUMMER TRAVEL PART 1: BRUGES + ANTWERP

The day after our daughter's school ended for the summer we headed to Belgium. June is a great time to travel as it's a little cooler, with very few tourists. Unfortunately flight delays lost us the day I'd looked forward to in Brussels, going to the flea markets in the Marolles District, so we headed straight to Bruges when we arrived at 11:00 at night, instead of 8:00 in the morning as planned! It was an hour's drive from the Brussels airport, but we were wide awake, being on L.A. time. Luckily the car had GPS to help us find our way late at night through the narrow streets to the hotel...Martin's Orangerie. It's situated right on a canal, the essential feature in my search for a hotel in Bruges. This was the most traditional of the hotels we stayed in, and was a perfect place to rest after a very long trip. These are photos of our room. It's the romance of those chairs by the windows that made this hotel wonderful to me.




When we woke the next day the view to the canal was lovely, but the number of meandering day trippers was a little disconcerting. We discovered however, that by going just a few blocks away from the main square you could leave them all behind, and as the receptionist informed us, they all leave at 6:00 PM. The old town is almost perfectly medieval. It probably wouldn't have looked that different five hundred years ago, if the cars and the signage were gone.





We rented bikes, and explored the city in depth, riding on each street, and on a path around the edge of the old town, till we couldn't find any streets we hadn't seen...the late sunset about 10:00 PM made that possible.


One of my favorite spots...



Right next door is a quirky hotel I'd love to try...the Guesthouse Bonifacius.


We could just make out the wallpaper from the bridge, so I photographed the sign and found photos on their web site.




It didn't appear to be open, but judging from the web site it looks as though I would only have had to knock on the front door to see inside. The hidden location, and the character of the building is very appealing.

This photo is taken inside a convent where the quiet (requested on the signs) made for an even more unearthly atmosphere, kind of dream like.



The history of this place is really interesting; it's called a Beguinage, which dates to the 13th century. At that time there was a movement away from the formal church to a purer and more mystical religion. The church was threatened by this and followers of the many splinter groups were often persecuted. Female followers were tolerated by living in Beguinages, walled communities with central gardens in separate parts of the city, controlled and supervised by the church. The Beguines had more freedom than traditional nuns had. Though they did take vows of obedience and chastity, they generally did not take the vow of poverty, and their vows weren't binding. It may also be that the large numbers of single women due to all the men killed in battle was the larger reason for these communities to develop. This Beguinage became a Benedictine Convent in 1937.

This is the exterior of the convent's walled garden...when it was time for services everyone was asked to leave and the gates were closed.



Wildflowers growing from a rock wall...


Looking to the right along the canal a particularly beautiful street...


As the day lingered on we stopped for drinks by the water and watched the swans...



Swans are everywhere in Bruges


Late afternoon light on the houses...


Beautiful sky at the end of the day...


We had a delicious dinner at 11:00 PM at Bistro Christophe.



The next morning we left for Antwerp. We hoped to see the design and antique stores on Kloosterstraat, but sadly it was Monday, the day they all close! We looked through the windows to get a sense of what they offer and it was very tempting. This overgrown lot that has been turned into an installation is on Kloosterstraat.


Luckily we were staying at the Hotel Julien, which was so beautiful, and so embodied the contemporary Belgian design aesthetic that the stop in Antwerp was completely worth it! The entrance seemed formidable...a pair of solid doors, and you needed to ring a bell to enter.


This is the courtyard between the Reception area and the Bar/Lounge. Our windows are the ones seen facing from the 2nd floor...

A view of the courtyard from the interior stairs...

Details of our room...





The Lounge on the other side of the courtyard...


I like the asymmetrical installation of these lights in the Bar...


Beyond the Bar is the Breakfast Room


A second entrance becomes an interior passage to the Breakfast Room...

These stairs can be glimpsed through the doors above...I love the shadows the decorative iron work makes on the raw looking wood stair...

This skylight has a fantastic view...


The view from the lounge on the roof...


The stairs to the roof are sublime. Perfectly simple, a cross between a Shaker and a Flemish aesthetic.



Next post will be about visiting the Netherlands...

3 comments:

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  2. Nicole Foos7/8/10, 8:34 PM

    Beautiful photos...I'd so love to go to those places! Someday....so nice to see you and Lucy today. xoxo, Nicole

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  3. Gorgeous. I've never been to Belgium but the little differences in the aesthetics vs. Holland are so interesting to me. Btw, you could do their travel brochure right now w/o ever going back! XX

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