Sunday, 31 August 2014

Amsterdam

So you thought we just went to Gent? Oh no, we also went to Amsterdam. And we were able to get there on the train. I love a good train journey as you see so much more of the country.
 So this is a quick picture taken at Antwerp on our train journey. This picture doesn't do Antwerp justice as it was three platforms deep. Yes you read that right three platforms deep. It was epic! We can in on the top platform and changed trains onto a train that was on the bottom platform. Thank goodness we had 40 minutes to change trains!
 So the reason why I wanted to go to Amsterdam was to see the newly reopened Rijksmuseum. I went to Amsterdam in my mid 20s (so about 15 years ago) and whilst we did some culture (Van Gogh and Anne Frank's House) the Rijksmuseum then seemed fuddy duddy and old fashioned so it wasn't on our to do list. Instead we went to the Sex Museum and tried out the Coffee Houses. But things change and now I wanted to go. Best tip I was given - buy your ticket in advance. Great tip. So here were some of my highlights. Above a Vermeer
 Chinese porcelain 
 Prints 
 Loved this 18th Century paint box 
 Portraits 
 Cheeky bit of Meissen pottery 
And an outside exhibition of Calder. 

 OH and I did what we did in Gent and walked a lot (though as Amsterdam is so big we did use the trams) 
 Like Gent bikes are king in Amsterdam. If it was similar in London I would happily cycle to work but as it is it's far too scary
 This street does look wonky, however apparently it's so that the winch to take things up the floors is straight. 
Was lucky enough to see the winch in action so you know what I'm talking about 
 But of course Amsterdam is canals 
 And architecture 
 And reflections  
And canals with reflections!
 I did go back to the Van Gogh museum. My top tip for this museum is don't buy a ticket in advance - it didn't seem to make much difference. I would advise get there early to avoid the crowds... 
But it is stunning and well worth a visit!  
 OH has family who live in Amsterdam and they recommended this incredible street market 
 Which was very, very long 
 Selling all sorts of things from Buddahs 
To belts! 
And to end my Netherlands odyssey here is OH's sunglasses reflecting the world go by as we had a cheek beer. Yes I've discovered White Beer - my new favourite drink.... yay! So that's our holiday. Summer is fading and autumn is looming. Ah well, there is always next year! 

Gent part two

The power of the Internet is an odd thing. I often write these posts thinking no one really reads them then last week I received an email from someone who works with the artist Bue the Warrior as he'd read my last post about Gent's amazing graffiti and put it up on his facebook page (for HeyHey apps). This in turn was picked up by Visit Gent's facebook page and my post received a huge number of hits. I really hope it's encouraged others to go to Gent as it was a wonderful place.

So I've written about the graffiti but here is the side of Gent everyone thinks of. Gent is often thought of as Gent's poorer cousin but while Bruges is picture perfect it's in some ways slightly too perfect. Gent felt more real, so while being gloriously medieval in parts it has embraced the 21st Century.
So this is your typical picture of Gent. A view of Graslei over looking the River Leie lined with picture perfect guild houses, some dating back to 12th Century. Each had intricate carvings depicted the guild's trade mark. 
This for example is the Guild of the Free Boatmen
 This Big Cannon is also known as 'Dulle Griet' which translates into Evil Woman
 Here is the restaurant Chez Leontine which my friend recommended we ate at. Unfortunately we didn't realise that it would be closed for half of the week, ie. the half of the week we were in Gent so we didn't get to try it out. But don't worry, we found an alternative De Lieve  so I could get my fill of 'Stoverij' which is the delicious Belgian stew served with fries - beautiful!
We did a lot of walking around Gent, mainly out of the touristy bits. I loved the style of this architecture which I am assuming was turn of the century but could be completely wrong! It's now a DIY store. 
 I loved the bold colours of this building 
And another style again - love it! 
 Gent has numerous trams who's lines criss cross the cobbled streets though OH and I didn't take advantage of them as we loved the freedom of walking so we could see so much of this beautiful city. 
 Here is a side street with typical Netherlands architecture. There is something about this style  that I adore. 
This was St Peter's Abbey which is now a cultural centre. I was delighted to discover that there was an exhibition of the wonderful Vivian Maier, a street photographer I love. OH and I had been to see the film Finding Vivian Maier the week before our holiday, I certainly wasn't expecting to find her in Gent but was so pleased we did! 
There was a lot of building work throughout the city. Here you can see the facade is being saved. 
 This was taken at another picturesque street called Kraanlei 
 Just look at the details on this building 
We were staying in a district just outside of the city centre and we passed this imposing building every day. It was such a stark contrast tot the architecture from the centre but had it's own sublime beauty. 
Gent's ability to combine the modern and old was fabulous. Here is a modern building close to the medieval town centre. 
And we stumbled across this old cinema which is now a backpack hostel (we think)
Finally OH and I chuckled when we saw these polite signs about where dogs.... 
and people did there business

So there we have it. Gent in two posts. A wonderful city which I can't recommend strongly enough. Oh and the Visit Gent  is my ideal website when you visit a new city. Has everything you want in a simple, easy but informative format. If only all tourist websites could be  this good.....




Sunday, 24 August 2014

The other side of Gent

So OH and I went to Gent (or if you must insist on being English Ghent but it's now how they Belgians spell it) for a couple of days. We'd been to Bruges a couple of years ago and I absolutely loved it so wanted to explore Belgium a bit more. We stayed in an amazing apartment we found through Airbnb. Now I'd been a bit disorganised with planning our trip so didn't have much of a plan when we arrived. So I looked  through the leaflets our host had and stumbled across 'The Concrete Canvas Tour'  which shows all the amazing graffiti in the town. I didn't realise that Gent had so much but boy did it make it special... I'm a sucker for street art!
 Our first day it tipped down but we were armed with our waterproofs and I was still able to take shelter to take photos, even if the angle is a little odd at times. 
 The first two photos were part of a Graffiti Jam featuring many artists, there are a few jams throughtout the city. 
 Bue the Warrior seemed to be the most prolific artist throughout the city. They were always so colourful and made you smile. 
 OK so this isn't graffiti but spotted this patch of green amongst the concrete.  
 We found these down a side street in a garage, without the map we would not have known  they were there. 
 As you can see the styles were so varied
 And weren't restricted to just walls. Above and below were on boardings covering building work in a retail area. 

 The following day the rain disappeared for the most part so I could take wider shots to give some of the art work context. 
 Here is Bue The Warrior again in a park. 

 And this was in a disused car park. 
 Now this is the longest tolerance zones in Europe. Here artists can work without being prosecuted. And it was so vibrant 



 We stumbled across an old house which had it's own kind of graffiti 
 It was everywhere, on garages 
 
 On walls 
 In car parks 
 And finally another tolerance zone. We found  this on our last evening after dinner. It was out in the docks in a huge abandoned warehouse which had room, after room, after room. 

 It was a little spooky being out in the docks which were pretty much deserted as dusk was coming in but I'm so glad I fought beyond my fears as it was stunning.

This was one of my favourite pieces. It's like an homage to cave painting but also reminded me of Degas' paintings of horses - mind blowing! 

Now there is an artist called Roa who's work I've seen across London and have mentioned in at least one previous post. Their style is very distinctive, black and white and so easy to identify. So imagine my surprise to stumble across more of his work and after a bit of googling I realised they are a Gent native. 
Loved these rabbits 

And also these pigs as part of another Jam (apologies for the angle of the photo - it was raining again...) 
And finally a stork. 

This other side of Gent was such a pleasant surprise. Will post soon about the touristy side of Gent - I promise. In the meantime if you're thinking of going to Gent I would highly recommend the Concrete Canvas tour.