Monday, February 27, 2012

Comic Strip Center

Belgium has over 700 comic strip authors and more comic strip artists per square kilometer than any other country in the world. Although I'm not a huge comic book fan (I stuck to "Betty & Veronica" as a child), I couldn't live in Brussels without visiting the Belgian Comic Strip Center. Maybe it would help me understand why so many adults, including my husband, take such an interest in two dimensional heroes like Tintin, Gaston Lagaffe, Lucky Luke and Spirou. If not, I'd still get to enjoy the colorful exhibitions and brasserie in one of Victor Horta's beautiful Art Nouveau buildings!

Gaston Lagaffe and Cat

The Citro├źn 2CV - a popular car in several comic strips

Depending on what country he's in, "Waldo" goes by many names: Charlie, Willy, Efi, Holger, Vallu...

Bottles of Nero beer at the center's brasserie

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Magic of Orchids

Visiting the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg has been on my To Do list since my first trip to Brussels in May 2010. Its striking green copper dome can be seen from miles away, which is no surprise since it's one of the largest churches in the world. Construction began in 1935 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Belgian independence (completed in 1970) so it's newer and stands out among the Gothic cathedrals around. What finally drew me to this huge Art Deco monument? My weakness: Flowers! The basilica is so large that it holds exhibitions throughout the year. My friend Alison from and I enjoyed "The Magic of Orchids" which is on display until mid-March. We viewed deep purple Vandas, mutlicolored Cattleyas, speckled Phalaenopsis, yellow Paphiopedilum, coral-colored Phragmipedium, beautiful Selenipedium and Cypripedium, chocolate Cymbidiums, and the variety I'm most familiar with, Dendrobiums. These orchids are featured in a number of "magical" ways (suspended in the air, in creative tablescapes, around a make-shift kasbah, and on a sailboat) and are worthy of a visit, especially when combined with the panoramic view of Brussels from the cupola platform.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

This won't be my most colorful post but it is one I'm very excited about! Having been deprived of snow for much of my life, I'm thrilled to finally live in a place where it makes an appearance every now and then. This was only the second time it snowed since I arrived but, unlike last time, this snowfall stuck to the ground. Unfortunately, those 4cm wreaked  havoc on Belgium's motorways, resulting in a record breaking 1,275km of traffic jams. Lucky for me and especially those motorists, I was walking (not driving) in this winter wonderland!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Expect the Unexpected

If I've learned one important lesson while living abroad, it's to expect the unexpected. This hasn't come easy since I usually like to know what, where, when, why and with whom I'm doing something. It's not that life here varies so much from home but with the language barrier and slight cultural differences, I'm not always sure what to expect. Why do dinners out take 3-5 hours? Who was running the country for 18 months when there was no official government? Why aren't milk and eggs refrigerated at the supermarket? When will my debit card start working (oh, after the 6th trip to the bank)? Etc, etc. Last weekend my husband and I were looking forward to an afternoon at Tour & Taxis, a jewel of industrial architecture that houses, among other things, a beautiful hammam (bathhouse). Although the massive complex is unlocked on Sundays, most businesses inside were closed (the hammam was open but, unexpectedly, no one was there to assist us). Going with the flow (my new motto), we unexpectedly found ourselves at BRAFA '12, a week-long antiques and fine arts fair. While in line to purchase our tickets, a nice man unexpectedly gave us his extra tickets (20€ each). We then unexpectedly enjoyed over 100 exhibitors of ancient, modern and fine art from around the world. But as we were walking through 14,000m² of priceless art and antiques, I couldn't help but wonder what makes each piece (below) cost more than our two cars put together? Why are they so expensive? Who's purchasing them? Where will they be displayed? Can I glue stuffed animals on a table (last pic) and make a fortune? Alas, these questions may simply go unanswered...