Day 9 – Magritte … Surreal genius, or just a real schmuck?
Day 9. Museum Day in Brussels.
After a cool, comfortable, internet-accessed evening in our Avenue Louise district hotel, we set out to conquer the Brussels sights we hadn’t scratched off our list the day before.
As an aside, we’d originally planned to purchase the Brussels Card, a 24, 48 or 72 hour passport to most every museum in Brussels and unlimited public transportation. In Paris, the Museum Card was a value. But as soon as we realized that we were within walking distance of virtually everything we wanted to see in town — and that we were old enough to get the (expletive forgotten) senior discount, we just blasted ahead. As it turned out, we saved a lot of money by not buying the discount ticket.
A hearty breakfast led to a trek down to the Royal Palace and the Mont Des Arts, the beautiful museum district of Brussels. First thing we realized was that Brussels wasn’t going to be nearly as crowded as Paris. Not even as crowded as Austin is this time of year. That didn’t hurt our feelings at all.
On the way down the Rue de la Regence, we passed the palatial Place Pollaert, home of the Belgian supreme court and then past the old Synagogue of Brussels and Cathedrale Notre Dame de Sablon into the Sablon district, and it’s beautiful yet somewhat crowded tall houses and finely manicured squares, churches and parks.
We bought a combo ticket (senior discount, of course) which would get us entrance into the Royal Museum of Art and the Magritte Museum. Normally you have to book a time for Magritte since space is limited and they try to limit the riffraff … like us. But today, we were able to walk right in.
The museum was an extremely thorough journey through the life and times of one of the most provocative of the surrealist artists … Rene Magritte. I’ve always found his work interesting, but hadn’t really known a lot about him. I just thought he’d eaten a couple too many shrooms in his life.
But here, we got to read his commentaries, pronouncements, phislosophical positions and view of life. Now I’m convinced he was a pretentious butt-head. However, I still like his work, even if he was a pendejo.
We toured the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, which contained a large collection of classical art, including a goodly amount of work by the Flemish masters. Again, we got our Jesus on…
Lunch from a couple of food trailers on the Museumplein … you guessed it. FRITES! Swimming in mayonnaise! But that was my choice We could have had it in curry ketchup, mustard, peanut sauce … it was a veritable Baskin Robbins of dipping sauces. They were good and accompanied the “what have you” sandwich that I had with it and the veggie pie Genevieve had.
The big surprise of the day was the Museum of Musical Instruments. As a musician and player of a rather ancient instrument, I was anxious to see the museum but neither of us expected it to be as enjoyable as we found it.
The seven story building houses historical musical instruments from all over the world, but with a definite leaning toward Europe. With your admission, you get a free autoguide. Genevieve asked for one in English and one in French… but there were no words to be heard. Everything was music.
As we stopped in front of a particular instrument display, the audio automatically cycled through to a recording of that instrument being played… from the primitive bagpipes to the ocarinas to the strangest looking brass and woodwind instruments you could imagine. And yes, I finally saw an oboe that was older than mine! The solos we heard from strange and now extinct instruments were simply beautiful.
The take away was that no matter how advanced technology gets, there’s still only one way to get to Carnegie Hall.
We also were witness to the Miracle of the Musical Earrings. But you’ll have to ask Genevieve about that.
It was a blissful way to spend the rest of the afternoon. They had to chase us out of there. Of the three museums, this was by far our favorite.
Belgian cuisine for dinner: Carbonnade Flamande — a Flemish version of Beef Bourgignon, cooked in beer rather than wine, and Stoemp, a Flemish dish of mashed potatoes mixed with veggies and then topped with three different kinds of meat. AND BEER! GOOD STRONG BUZZY BEER!
Tomorrow, we’re expecting big storms. We’re going to hop a train for Ghent. We’ll take an umbrella.