Monday 03 August 2015 – Brugge, Belgium and back to Walthamstow, London.
Lessons learnt yesterday meant we did not rush out of bed seeking breakfast anywhere outside the hotel and we succumbed again to the offered glass of champagne along with our omelettes. We faffed a bit after breakfast and then checked out of the hotel, leaving our bags behind, for one last tour of the city.
We wanted to visit the Church of Our Lady, as it did not open until 10:30 we walked around the local canal again. Breakfast needed to be taken out for a walk.
This seems to be one of the most popular places to hang out and take photographs, when ever we passed by here over the weekend it was jammed with people.
My main reason for wanting to visit the church was it contained the only Michelangelo sculpture that left Italy during his lifetime. It was bought by two brothers from Brugge in 1504 and was donated to the church in 1514. The sculpture was looted twice and fortunately returned both times, the last time by Nazi Germany in 1944. It is a lovely lovely piece of work, and I am constantly amazed at the detail that these artists from so long ago where able to attain with what must have been quite rudimentary tools.
The church is nice, as seems to be the way for me these days, it is under serious renovation, so most of the outside is covered in cloth and half the inside is boarded up. There is supposed to be a gruesome Bosch painting as well, but I am assuming it is away for its own protection during the work.
I particularly liked this fresco taken from the tomb of Mary of Burgundy who died in 1502. The tomb was only discovered in 1979 during renovation work. I get very excited about these recent discoveries and find it remarkable that after over 450 years new things can still be found inside churches and other ancient sites.
We wandered over the road from the church to the Picasso Expo and the Oud Sint Jan (Old St John) an 11th century hospital building – that has been expanded over the years and is now used an exhibition centre. We really enjoyed the Expo, there were a lot of minor works by Picasso as well as a small collection of related artists like Magritte, Matisse and Jean Cocteau. They were all quite simple, lots of line drawings and etchings. Small, yet perfectly formed you might say.
Jean Cocteau – I have not knowingly seen any art Jean Cocteau. I have heard the name but not in that context. I must do some research as he looks quite interesting.
I really liked this small Degas sketch.
And this early Signac. I like the rudimentary nature of it, that a famous artist can do something not much better than I could, is quite illuminating. Well, I doubt I could do anything this good either to be honest…
The Picasso collection was really interesting, unusual and minor works, there was nothing I had seen before, even in the two Picasso Museums I visited in Spain. It was interesting to see them, and some of the works that influenced Picasso as his career progressed. This was definitely my favourite. I like the bizarreness and the simplicity.
There was also a large Chagall exhibition as well, which was interesting(ish) he is not really my cup of tea artistically, but seeing so many sets together put them a bit more into perspective.
There was quite a nice view over the rooftops from the upper floors. I do like getting up above the roof line if I can, though we didn’t have much of an opportunity to do so on this trip. We could have taken the 336 step walk up to the top of the Belfry, but we didn’t – maybe next time.
We had a bit of a look around the outside of the hospital and I found a couple of interesting doorways…
There was also quite a nice cafe there and we finally succumbed to the temptation to have a waffle, a Belgian speciality. We have sorted of avoided the worst of the big heavy foods here, but a fresh fruit waffle sounded not too bad, and it was way better than that. We shared one, and even that was a struggle, but it was really nice !
On the way back to the hotel, the long way, we came across this sculpture by Chinese artist Song Dong, another piece for the Bruges Triennial. It is made from old window frames and was really cool.
And that was pretty much it. We stopped at the hotel for a final glass of champagne – and the accompanying plate of cheese and snacks before taking a slow stroll back to the station. On the way we stopped at Godshuis St Jozef & De Meulenaere, an alms house that I meant to explore earlier but had forgotten about. It was a lovely peaceful place and I wished we had time to explore it further – a place for next time. There are 45 alms houses in Brugge and they will be high on my must do next time list.
The train journeys back to London were uneventful, thankfully ! While they are always welcome, the journey home is never as exciting as the journey out, and I just want them to be over as fast possible. The 45 minutes it took from getting off the Eurostar at St Pancras to walking in the door at home seemed to last longer than the three hours getting there from Brugge. Naturally after three days of sun and warmth in Brugge it was grey and drizzly in London.
It was a fabulous weekend away (another one), we are very lucky that we can have them and I should appreciate that fact more. It was also a great start to four weeks off work !