My Travel Book - Belgium - The Middelheim Museum in Antwerp

I do not like my life in Brussels. I really did give it a good try though - for more than fourteen years now. But living in Brussels and Belgium is still very hard for me... I have expressed the reasons of my deep despondency in so many posts now that most of you won’t be surprised by my opening statement.

There are a few places in Belgium I do like though... If you mention a trip to Bruges (Brugge), I will be delighted. And if we decide to go and spend the day in Antwerp (Antwerpen), I’ll be overjoyed. The amazing thing is that both cities are in Flanders and I have met natives of Brussels and Wallonia who have never set foot in Flanders. Never once in their life. Belgium is a very strange country indeed, Brussels being 28 miles away from Antwerp.

I’ll have to write a post about Bruges one of these days because it is such an enchanting medieval town. “The Venice of the North.” (One of them.)

Antwerp is quite different. Almost aggressively well-to-do compared to Brussels. It is the second largest port in Europe and it is renowned for its diamond trade. Antwerp is the capital of the Antwerpen province but not the capital of Flanders. May I remind you that Brussels is the capital of Flanders, strange as it may seem?

I like to go shopping in Antwerp even if you have to speak English all the time there since people refuse to speak French, even shopkeepers. But I don’t mind. Belgium is such a very strange country, you know.

I am pretty sure that within a few years, we’ll need papers to cross the border since Flanders wants to secede from Belgium more than ever now. Or maybe we will be Flemish, Brussels being the capital of Flanders. Or hopefully, we’ll be back in France. No problem then!

There is a place in Antwerp I really like. We’ve been there over and over again.

It is called The Middelheim Museum.

Oh, another artsy thing... I can hear you loud and clear! But this one is different.

The Middelheim is a thirty hectares park. A huge landscaped garden with clusters of tall trees and thickets. A small brook adds to its charm. And then there are delightful paths to walk around.
And hundreds of sculptures to discover too! Some belonging to the Middelheim permanent collections. Others being there for a special exhibit.


Some paths being totally dream-works of art...

Some sculptures are hiding among the trees!
 It is so easy to fall under the Middelheim’s spell.

'Belgian Funhouse' by Dan Graham

'Orbino' by Luc Leleu

The Middelheim is an open-air museum filled with sculptures but it is also a place where you can sit and read and chat while children run around on the lawns.

From time to time, the Middelheim houses contemporary art exhibits. Some of the works will stay there permanently since the museum buys at least five sculptures per year adding contemporary art to modern art and more classical works.

It is quite surprising to go from Rodin to Henry Moore, Gargallo, Calder and more recently Al Weiwei and Dan Graham and Erwin Wurm. So many works and so many artists.

'King and Queen' by Henry Moore

'Balzac' by Auguste Rodin

'The Bridge without a Name' by Al Weiwei

A Weiwei sculpture that you can actually walk on to cross the brook...
'Misconceivable' by Erwin Wurm
 It is one thing to go to a museum and a completely different experience to take a walk through the Middelheim Museum. We have been there at different times of the year, mostly winter and spring. It is much quieter then.

I love some sculptures more than others but after a while, they all become so familiar and they merge so well with the landscape that I don’t even bother to think: “Here is ‘the’ Gargallo.” I just enjoy walking by the “Prophet” and this is true for all the sculptures there.

The Prophet by Pablo Gargallo

Some sculptures are quite funny. And children love them. Which is a good way to learn to love art, don't you think?

In the Middelheim, there is no artsy intellectualization. Art does not 'drive you crazy' because it blends in with life and nature. And a few hours in the Middelheim become an exciting adventure.

Good for your body because of the long walk and great for your mind because it never hurts to meet with genius once in a while.


*Good Luck, and Good Night*


My Travel Book - Sand, Sand and Sand... in Northern Brittany

When I look at the beach below my house in Brittany, a vast sandy expanse stretches out before my eyes - at low tide, that is. It is golden when the sun shines. It turns to light brown when clouds sweep across the sky.

Then I go down to the beach and start my long daily walk there. I walk on this very sand that fascinated me from above. And you know what? It still holds me spellbound.

When you look from above, the colors are different but as soon as you start walking there, the hues do change but the surface, the grains and the texture vary too.

Walking on the beach in Brittany is always an enchanting moment. Because of the metamorphoses, probably.

Today, I won’t talk about low or high tides. Today will be all about sand, so different from the sandy beaches on the Mediterranean sea. Beautiful too but for me a little boring... it’s a matter of opinion, I know.

Like in Barcelona, after a downpour...

In Northern Brittany, this is how dry the sand will get even at low tide... on most beaches.

Except when a southern wind blows. It dries the sand much faster than usual. And the sand flies around like powder trails.

Most days, we have those beautiful ripple-marks all over the beach, more or less pronounced, depending on the wind, the currents and the waves.

Those two pictures were taken at the same place but at a different time, a couple of days apart. No monotony there.

The scenery changes drastically and the sea draws amazing landscapes. Sand is a very malleable element.

But where does it come from? You can’t help wonder sometimes even if, like me, you are far from being a science buff.

To make things short, sand is a lot like the outcome of cookery. Cooking takes time. So does sand. A few centuries, I’d say.

It takes ingredients. Sea water. Currents and waves. Rocks and shells.

.I am well aware that my explanation is quite simplistic. There is a much better and more scientific one in your encyclopedia. This is what I found in Wikipedia, of course...

The two short films I shot a couple of months ago show what’s going on. The water runs the shells against the rocks and then works the broken shells over and over again. This was filmed while the tide was rising. And once again, this is very basic. But the concept is right.

And tides keep rolling in and out. You’ll see on this picture that the sand keeps being “kneaded”... all the time.
If you are reading my blog regularly, you probably know that even though I love to watch the sea and I am quite a good swimmer, I don’t like boating very much and I would never ever go diving.

And yet, I am terribly attracted by the bottom of the sea, part of it unveils a few times every year during spring tides.
Last time we were at Chausey, the spring tide had a very high amplitude. Which meant that low tide would unveil sand bars and beaches that very rarely emerge.

I wanted so bad to go there to check what the bottom of the sea and its "primeval" sand looked like.

I had to ask my son to do it for me. He left on the dinghy with a small camera and went there for me. And he came back with pictures I want to share with you. Because this is what sand looks like at the bottom of the sea in Brittany! Evolving sand...

Amazing, isn't it?

Yep, amazing. Definitely amazing.

*Good Luck, and Good Night*