Saturday, May 05, 2007

Further Adventures in Belgium

Took the Eurostar to Belgium a couple weeks ago, for four days of exploration.

There are two train stations in Antwerp: Berchem (5 minutes outside town center- don’t get off there!) and Antwerpen Centrale (This is the one you want.) But my French-speaking friend got off at Berchem at the appointed hour and waited. And waited. At the same time I searched vainly in the central station, attempting to get help from the railway counter people- my French mobile wasn’t functioning in Belgium. Nobody would assist- finally a surly man grudgingly paged the missing individual in the cavernous place, but no luck, of course. Would anyone at the counter make a mobile call for me, even for money? No. Was the tourist office open? No. Last resort: the railroad police. Officer R. Renders and his colleague Officer Adriaensen worked with me to find out what had happened. They assisted us in reuniting – it took almost 2 hours and a ride in a paddy wagon to Berchem- and got us to our hotel, an incredible help to travelers at the mercy of the cold, hard world. They treated us with great sympathy and politeness, and really showed us the best of Flemish hospitality and compassion. They are to be commended- a great credit to the city and the railroad police force. Hats off to them.

Checked in again at Gin-Fish, my favorite restaurant in Antwerp- perhaps the world- for a taste of what Didier was cooking- asparagus had just come into season and he served a glorious presentation of morels, asperges and petit poids in a delicate sauté. Beautiful as always. Tried a chocolate mousse flavored with olive oil and sel de mer, marvelous! There’s a delicious and reasonable Rully on the wine list which paired especially well with the 4-course meal. Also spent two nights at Matelote Hotel, and loved every minute. The hotel continues to be fully booked, so reserve early, and the same holds true with the restaurant. Peter, the always-helpful maitre d’hotel can assist.

Spent the day in Bruges, chocolate shopping and checking out the Hieronymus Bosch at the Groenighe Museum. The Breugels are away on loan to some foreign exhibition, so it may be worthwhile to put off a visit to this great art collection until the Fall. Also got some white chocolate asperges in the spirit of the season.

In Brussels I attended the artBrussels vernissage of photographer Marguerite deCoster, (above, center). She has extremely interesting work which meditates on natural process. A large-format print of the surf is an especially powerful image.

At the same time I stumbled across works by Markus Hansen, surprised to find his dealer showing his video work entitled 'Other people's feelings are also my own', in which my own portrait appears. That was a shock, as the expression shows. Later I sent the photo to Markus, who's in Paris editing his new movie on Vietnam, up to his ears in film stock.