Sunday, 20 April 2014

Turner and the Sea

We have been wanting to go to Greenwich and an art exhibit gave us a perfect opportunity. The National Maritime Museum was an appropriate venue for an exhibit of JM Turner seascapes. We visited recently and learned about this prolific 19th century painter of seascapes.
We took a river bus from the Embankment in London to Greenwich, about a half hour trip down the Thames.

 We were impressed with the borough of Greenwich, which is a city in its own right. It reminded us of Annapolis with the Royal Naval College, the Royal Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory. It also has plenty of pubs, restaurants and a wonderful market. 

This study of Turner's maritime paintings was quite thorough including massive oil paintings, watercolors and sketches. His later paintings were not realistic seascapes as are his earlier works. They were more impressionistic and were our favorites. 

The museum was very busy as it was Easter holidays. But we did enjoy an exhibit "Traders: the East India Company and Asia" in the which included the story of the East India Company. We agreed that it must gave been an exciting time. 
From the museum website:
Traders: the East India Company and Asia is a new permanent gallery exploring Britain’s maritime trade with Asia, focusing on the role played by the East India Company.
For over 250 years, the East India Company uniquely shaped trade between Britain and Asia. The gallery explores the influence of Company trade and power, tracing the changing relationships between Britain and Asia that this brought about.
This trade involved key commodities, different locations and many people. It had consequences that changed Britain and the world and still affect us today.

Love this display of figureheads. 

After the museum we had a delicious lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant and went to Good Friday services at the local church, Our Lady Star of the Sea. 
We still had time to go to the Royal Oservatory which is SO interesting. It's rich history links astronomy, time and navigation. 
The prime meridian (Longitude 000*00'00") passes through Greenwich, there was a long queue to get a photo, this photo of a random family straddling the date line will have to do. 

The museum outlines the history of the Observatory and role of astronomers in the the development of the sight which is on top of Crooms Hill. 

There is a house to visit where the Royal Astronomer lived until 1955. John Flamsteed was the first and held the job for 42 years. He was appointed by Charles II to study the motion of the heavens to assist ship captains as they began to navigate the seas. Sir Christopher Wren was tasked with designing the Observatory.  There is a very clever Steampunk exhibit currently in the Flamsteed House. The house is full of telescope, sextants, compasses and other instrument for measuring the celestial heavens. 
There are also many time keeping instruments. 

One last stop was on the agenda, the Victorian clipper, Cutty Sark. It traveled from Sydney, Australia to London, England in 72 days, a record for the time. It also made several trips to Shanghia, China and brought tea to England. 

Greenwich is charming and deserves a full day to appreciate all it has to offer.  We wish we had a longer visit to explore more, but we really did see quite a bit in the short time we were there. Check Greenwich off our bucket list!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Romantic Brugge

 Valentines Day weekend in Bruges, the Venice of the North.  Moonlit canals: check. Chocolate galore: check. Delicious lobster dinner with champagne: check.Scenic Bruges provided the perfect backdrop for a Valentines Day trip. 

Groening Rei

After arriving in the late afternoon, we headed to the Markt, the big square in the center of town, and had a coffee in one of the beautiful old cafes. We looked at maps and brochures to get our bearings and decided what we wanted to see. The Belfry is on south side of the Markt,the government building below on the east side.  Cafe and restaurants  in old guild houses complete the square.

Government Building houses tourist information and Post Office

Guild Houses on the Markt

Later we enjoyed a lovely meal of fresh seafood in the Goulden Kroes. Delicious lobster, mussels, escargot, and shrimp were on the menu. 

Brugge is so beautiful at night, with many of the buildings being lit.

Belfort or Belfry Tower


Our first full day was a busy one seeing the sights.We walked through the northwestern part of the city crossing canals, visiting churches, the Lace center and the Ethnography museum housed in Almshouses. It was soon time for lunch so stopped at Vlissinghe, the oldest pub in Bugge. They have been serving beer since 1552 and it hasn't changed much.  


Taking a break to try some of the specialties of the region like:

Frites with mayonaise

and chocolate for lunch

Belgium is famous for its  beer and places like Staminee de Garre, which is full of old world character. .  One evening we went to a pub called t'Bruge Beertji with friendly and knowledgable staff. It has 300 kinds of beer and a different glass for each! We wondered how bartenders remember where the glass is and thought we could stump the bartender, but he was too good and found each glass within seconds! 

There is no shortage of caf├ęs  and bars to help us along. 

 Brugge is a special place with the most interesting architecture, I never tired of seeing the beautiful iconic style. The canals and surrounding buildings create an amazing atmosphere.

Groeninge Rei

  The Burg is the other main square. The Stadhuis or Town Hall is on one side, with the Basilica of the Holy Blood on  another side, which has a vial thought to contain a few drops of christ blood. it was brought from Jerusalem to Brugge by Derick of Alsace in 1149.

Heilig Bloed Basiliek from the 12th century
We took advantage of the city pass, allowing us into all the museums. We saw the decorative town hall, with murals depicting the town's colorful history.

We visited all of the churches, the art, and history museums,and saw many magnificent paintings and scuptures. It was a wonderful day, but exhausting. 


View of the Belfry from across town.


Oude Griffie

 I especially enjoyed the Memling Museum housed in medieval St. Johns Hospital (Sint Janshospitaal) which had an interesting combination of art and local medical history. Hans Memling spent much of his life in Brugge and six of his works are in this collection. 

Sedan chair (ambulance)
Flemish primitive pieces in the Groeninge Museum art museum were so realistic, amazing considering the age in which they were completed. These paintings from the 1400s, are still so vivid, the materials portrayed in them were incredibly lifelike. Furs, carpets, jewelry all had texture and appearance of being real. Jan van Eyck is credited with using oils in paints for the first time. This photo doesn't do it justice.

Jan van Eyck's Madonna with Canon Van der Paele
Statue of Jan van Eyck

 The next day was our best weather of the trip. bright sun, warm temperatures. time for boat ride on the canal. so with 25 of our closest friends we cruised the canals. It is different seeing the town from this perspective, more intimate. 


Before leaving Bruges we did a little shopping for lace and treats to remember our visit by.


Sadly, we left Bruges and traveled 30 miles east to the town of Ghent for a short visit.  We roamed around a bit and then went into Sint Baafskathedraal (St. Bavo's Cathedral) and saw the amazing alter piece The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.  This piece was recently featured in the film, Monument Men with George Clooney.  It was truly beautiful but not accessible as some of the other pieces we saw from that time period. It is behind glass, high up twenty fee . Some people viewed it with binoculars to really study it closely.
Enjoy some random photos of the Ghent.