Tag Archives: Museums

A Breathtaking Trip to Bruges

I love two-day breaks.

Recently, in between trips to London and Scotland, I found myself looking for something unusual and somewhere I had never been to before. I was staying at the St. Pancras Renaissance hotel in London so I had immediate access to the Eurostar – literally located within elevator access! So, I started to think of taking a trip to Bruges, Belgium. First of all, I thought I had been there, but it must’ve been a memory lapse because I hadn’t. Secondly, I was keen to find out what the train connection was like between Brussels and Bruges. So, off we went.

The London to Brussels Eurostar journey is slightly shorter than the one to Paris – but both are incredibly efficient and are around 2 hours and 20 minutes. From the rather nice and grandiose Brussels Midi train station, the link between the local train and the Eurostar was absolutely seamless. As it turns out, there was a train to Bruges every 15 minutes and the journey is about one hour. The landscape is…well…it is called the lowlands for a reason! It is as flat as an English pancake. There are a few windmills scattered around but nothing too extraordinary until you pull into the actual city of Bruges.

That is where the fun begins.

Bruges is a tiny, beautiful town; medieval with gorgeous buildings sitting over medieval canals. There are some fabulous hotels including where I stayed, the Hotel Van Cleef, which backed onto one of the main canals. From there, we were able to walk everywhere and anywhere we wanted to. In Bruges it seems that everything is within 15 minutes of where you are.

We took the funky and fairly short sightseeing boat ride around the canals. This took about 20 minutes but was essential to get a perspective of the city. We walked the main square, the Markt, we ate moules frites, drank incredible local beer, gauged on the chocolates that were everywhere, and spent time in the Groeningemuseum. This is truly a little Venice. It is even the only place outside of Italy where a Michaelangelo statue sits inside the main church!

Bruges has it all – canals, museums, and access to the World War I sites like Ypres. It is also home to hundreds of swans and the Beguinage, which is a uniquely preserved enclosure that is still used to this day for religious women and has been used since medieval times. The town reminded me a little of Colmar, France; colorful houses, Medieval walkways cut through by canals, great food, great art, and fabulous accommodations. There is a reason they shot the movie ‘In Bruges’ here. It’s like a Hollywood set.

It is also easy to jump on the train and continue to the coast. You can be in Blankenberge or Ostend in 15 minutes. Beautiful art nouveau structures abound along the coast line with gorgeous sandy beaches. Of course, the only thing lacking there is the weather! But don’t let that deter you. It is easy to get to Bruges from Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, and London. The only regret is that you will probably eat too much! Go to Bruges immediately. I loved it!

The Challenge in Navigating Museums Like The Louvre

We struggle to come up with smart ways to navigate museums, especially if we are without a guide.

The Louvre Museum, one of the largest museums in the world, is always a challenge. First of all, it is impossible to cover the museum so you have to focus on the hot spots. Secondly, the crowds are unrelenting. Thirdly, everybody sees museums differently. For me, I like to stroll through a museum with about 10 pieces of art in my mind that I know I want to see. Then the rest is serendipity and upside—taking wrong turns, stumbling through centuries, occasionally sitting down, and pretty much going at my own pace.

I always try to imagine how complicated it is for a teacher and his or her group to pull this off; to give kids directions and yet still allow them the freedom to move around and interact with the art.

Recently, I was moving through the Louvre with a tablet pre-loaded with a game. It had lots of interactive activities with a time limit set on every question. I really wanted this to work.  But for me the problem was that I stopped looking at the art and focused entirely on the questions on the tablet.

I love museums and could happily spend days wandering through the past. Realistically, with two hours and some “must-sees” like the Mona Lisa, the Raft of Medusa, the Coronation of Napoleon, the Wedding Feast at Cana, and Winged Victory, plus the incidentals, you have to be organized.

If you are working off of a tablet, the navigation points have to work and it has to be clear. For me, it was not brilliant and it didn’t help that they had spirited away the Winged Victory (as it were) while they were doing some renovations. Oh, well.  Back to the drawing board as it were!Paris Louvre collage 111813

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