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ODD, QUIRKY AND COMIC BRUSSELS PHOTOS

I expected amazing food and beer from Brussels, and it delivered, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of my Brussels photos. They reflect expressions of odd and quirky humor that I found throughout the capital. The Belgians seem not to take themselves too seriously, a trait I admire.

Ergo… this photoblog of odd, quirky and comic Brussels photos…

BRUSSELS PHOTOS IN THIS POST

ÉGLISE NOTRE DAME DU SABLONÉ

Ok, so the Église Notre Dame du Sabloné is neither odd, quirky nor comic, but it *is* photogenic.

Stained Glass, Église Notre Dame du Sablon, Brussels

PASSE MOI L’CIEL

Passe Moi L’Ciel (Pass Me the Sky) can be found close to the Église Notre Dame du Sabloné (it’s a fun neighborhood for walking, shopping and eating). The multi-story mural depicts various hedonists (unrepentant pot-smokers, topless sunbathers, boozers) blissfully enjoying heaven as an agitated Satan stews in hell beneath them. It’s clever, funny. The Belgians are really into comics and Brussels offers a comic strip walk.

Passe Moi L'Ciel, Brussels

BRUSSELS PARK

When I visited Brussels in July, 2012 the city was in the midst of Brusselicious (hilarious), an annual celebration of the city’s food culture, so I don’t know if the ginormous, punny food-related statues (chocolate bars, overflowing steins of beer, cones of fries) were/are temporary or permanent. I hope they’re permanent. I’ve named this piece Brussels Mussels ‘n Waffles.

Brussels Mussels n' Waffles in Belgium Photos

PALACE OF JUSTICE STEPS

So the Palace of Justice is this stately edifice located in the center of Brussels. It was undergoing renovation when I visited. The crazy part is that I was able to walk right into this government building and explore it undisturbed for at least an hour. Kinda creepy, mostly cool.

Here’s the main staircase. Was someone murdered and their body dragged down it?

Foreboding Steps, Palace of Justice, Brussels

ROMAiN!

Nope! Somebody hauled a leaky pail of paint up the steps. To what purpose? For this purpose:

RoMAIN, Palace of Justice, Brussels

To claim ROMAiN. What’s with the flower? And what’s with the lowercase i? Tooting my own horn here, but this is an amazing picture what with the stained steps in the background and its by far the best image among my Brussels photos.

It cracks me up. The lead-in was so dire and mysterious; the conclusion: kind of upbeat and weird.

PALACE OF JUSTICE SKYLIGHT

Having unfettered access to the building gave me an opportunity to really appreciate its subtle architectural details.

Skylight, Palace of Justice, Brussels

SPIRITED TP AT THE PANTONE HOTEL

I work in marketing so of course I had to stay at the Pantone Hotel. Pantone is a system for communication of color: even the sanitary products at this property reinforced its theme.  I’m not criticizing it — I appreciate the humor. Who says toilet paper has to be white?

Spirited Toilet Paper, Pantone Hotel, Brussels

GLAMPING AT VINTAGE HOTEL

The Vintage Hotel is just a few blocks from the Pantone Hotel.

An aluminum Airstream camper marks the entrance to the hotel and welcomes thirsty patrons into its lobby bar, which I just bet hosts a fabulous happy hour.

Cocktail Hour, Vintage Hotel, Brussels

ATOMIUM

play:

 

And last, there’s Atomium. The geeky name alone makes me smile. I don’t know if the structure even serves a purpose beyond being a proudly-proclaimed tourist attraction and weird icon.

Atomium, Brussels

AND, IN CONCLUSION

So there you go, my Brussels photos! Kind of odd, quirky and comic. But not nearly as odd and quirky as Leuven and Ghent, I was to discover….

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SURREAL LEUVEN and GHENT PHOTOS

LEUVEN AND GHENT

If photos of Brussels can best be described as odd and comic, then Leuven and Ghent photos are downright surreal and dark.

I had only two days to take day trips by train from Brussels, with four candidate destination cities: Antwerp, Bruges, Leuven and Ghent. Antwerp seemed fancy with all its diamond trade, but perhaps less “authentic” for the same reason. I ruled it out. And Bruges is like the show Modern Family to me: if “everyone” likes it then I can’t like it. Plus, the movie sucked. That left Leuven and Ghent.

Both Leuven and Ghent were easily accessible by train from Brussels — a quick ride. Leuven was wonderful but Ghent STOLE MY HEART! I swear, that day I was there in July, the town was absolutely abuzz and (after a beer or two) I was convinced that it was the best place to be in the world at that moment. I’ve never before felt such energy from a place …

Anyway, both cities proved to be extremely photogenic. I submit for your viewing enjoyment my Leuven and Ghent photos…

LEUVEN AND GHENT PHOTOS in this POST

GHENT PHOTOS

LIFE – DEATH – LOVE – HATE – PLEASURE – PAIN flashed above my head in neon splendor, clicking loudly from one mysterious term to the next. Photographs are forbidden inside the Saint Bavo Cathedral but I risked hell to capture the bizarre-yet-fabulous modern art being exhibited there.

Life Love Death, Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent

This exhibit just may have been the best thing I’ve ever seen. Such a juxtaposition. Historic building; modern images. Christian house of worship; nods towards violence, Islam, pornography. The wrath of God; devilish playfulness.

What’s up with the Islamic prayer rug? At least that’s what I think it is. Could be wrong.

Prayer Mat, Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent

And if that rug isn’t odd enough for you, there were bunches of daggers piercing the floor in the shadows of the priestly garments displayed behind them.

Daggers, Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent

And then upon exiting, the bigger-than-lifesize-photo of a naked woman. WTF?

Naked Woman, Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent

I was so, so, so impressed with the modern art exhibit at Saint Bavo, I applaud the Belgians’ open-mindedness towards art, sexuality, religion…You would never find this thought-provoking display in any church in the uptight U.S.

I wandered only a few blocks from Saint Bavo and stumbled upon a grafitti-filled alley. Ghent seems to just embrace this alternative form of expression: a shop on not insignificant street not far from the alley sold only cans of spray paint in greater than 250 colors.

Grafitti, Ghent

I’m fascinated by the fact that this college town of approximately the same size as Madison, Wisconsin is home to not only a cathedral of the magnitude of Saint Bavo but also a design museum, the Design museum Gent, worthy of New York City, London or Hong Kong.

Design museum Gent

LEUVEN PHOTOS

My Leuven photos don’t quite measure-up to my Ghent photos — and the city paled slightly in comparison to its big sister. On the other hand, where else have you seen architecture like this in a town with a population of only 100,000?

Wrath, Grand Place, Leuven

The stunning structure in the pictures above and below is Leuven’s town hall in Grote Markt (Grand Place) square. You aren’t likely to miss it.

Surrender, Grand Place, Leuven in Belgium Photos

And lastly… those wacky Europeans! Out walking their ferrets on a leash in their leopard-print skirts. I hadn’t seen anything that weird since, well, since only 3 days earlier when I encountered a woman in Stockholm sitting at a bar with her cat…

Ferret on a Leash, Funny Photo, Leuven

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A GRAPHIC REVIEW OF THE PANTONE HOTEL

Warning: The following post on the PANTONE HOTEL  is eXtremely graphic in nature.

Graphic, as in graphic design, that is. The PANTONE HOTEL in Brussels (book through Unusual Hotels of the World) has carved out a very specific, unique target customer niche — graphic designers, marketing types (such as myself) and printers — by designing a property around the Pantone Color Matching System, a well — color matching system — used to produce the brochures,  posters, banners and other propaganda that we graphic designers, marketing types and printers like to foist upon unsuspecting consumers like you.

The PANTONE HOTEL mostly succeeds: I give them an A for cleverness, an A- for aesthetics, an A for originality and a big, fat F for floor coverings. The Pantone people are clearly artists first (they’ve created a very sexy brand, considering they’re dealing with a color matching system), hoteliers second. Read on, I’ll explain…

GETTING TO THE PANTONE HOTEL

From Brussels Airport: buy a Zone 7 ticket to Midi/Zuid Station (two names because maps and signs are in both Dutch and French): it’s a quick trip. From there, take either a taxi or the subway. The PANTONE HOTEL website tells you which direction to take (Simonis), which stop (Hotel des Monnaies/Munthof), and how many stops it is away (2), but the instructions abandon you from there. When exiting the subway station, head down Rue de l’Hotel de Monnaies (you can go in only one direction) one block, turn right on Rue Berckmans, continue two blocks and it’s on your right.

PANTONE HOTEL ATMOSPHERE

Whimsical. Bathed in natural light and sprinkled with Eero pastil chair confetti, the lobby is cheery and welcoming. The connected restaurant is open and minimalist – lots of shiny white with splashes of color. Unfortunately the corridors on the sleeping floors are dark and confining, nearly claustrophobic.

Pantone Hotel Lobby Brussels

PANTONE HOTEL SERVICE

The guy who checked me in was genuinely outgoing. He offered several sightseeing recommendations and highlighted them on my map. He asked about my room preferences and emphasized that if I need anything, to just call.

PANTONE HOTEL GUESTROOMS

Yikes. Hit and miss here. Although the palette of my first room was quite pleasing (Pantone 7441C and 2725C), I had to stack the furniture to make room for Bagzillo, my trusty Harmann suitcase. Worse, it smelled funny, like a Belgian shepherd left out too long in the rain. The stink likely emanated from the nasty BLACK SHAG (sounds like a porno) carpet. I was skeeved-out: who knows what was growing/living/dying in that stuff. BLACK SHAG CARPET. I expect more from the sophisticated Pantone tastemakers, like, polished concrete floors. On another note, I had but a small window overlooking the fire escape.

Pantone Hotel Guestroom Brussels

I took the front desk guy up on his offer to help if I needed anything, and he changed my room to a larger one with windows encompassing an entire wall. Calming blue (Pantone 2718C, 301C and 277C) accents this time. Alas, more nasty 70’s style BLACK SHAG carpet. I applied a layer of socks every time I walked from the bed to the bathroom.

PANTONE HOTEL VALUE

Good. I paid 250 Euros for three nights.

THE PANTONE HOTEL, IN CLOSING…

I appreciate the PANTONE HOTEL for its quirk and clever nods to the spectrum – Mondrian toilet paper; mardi gras shampoo and soap containers; the green plant – it’s clever marketing and definitely unique. However, I expect a few quality hotel basics: a working thermostat; decent towels; standard-size pillows and sanitary floors. I don’t regret staying at the PANTONE HOTEL because it was a unique experience and the pros outweighed the cons. Plus, I can brag about it to my fellow marketing types.

OTHER BOUTIQUE HOTELS FOR NICHE MARKET

If the PANTONE HOTEL is your glass of beer, you may like:

The Commons Hotel (Minneapolis, Minnesota): This hotel targets smart geeks (not a group I’m sure I want to hang out with). It’s currently going through rennovations and receiving unfavorable reviews.

Hotel Red (Madison, Wisconsin): This hotel targets Badgers fans, and is conveniently located vomiting distance from the University of Wisconsin stadium.

The Iron Horse (Milwaukee, Wisconsin): This hotel ostensibly targets bikers (it’s near a Harley Davidson dealership) but don’t let that fool you: it’s a sexy, swanky property with exposed bricks, loft-style rooms, open marble showers, an edgy/classy lobby bar, library, etc.

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