Archive for April 17th, 2018

April 17, 2018

The Grand Place at Brussels!

I do not know but I love big squares with architecture or historical value. Luckily, Europe is full of them , and in my favorite places, there are just gorgeous. I am in the mood to tell you more about one of my all times favorites. The Grand Place of Brussels, Belgium.

I came to it way back in 1993 for the first time even with my parents in tow, and was magical. My oldest boy was just a year old and already visited France, we took him to Brussels this time. It is easy logistics for us, because the wife oldest brother lives in the north of France near the Belgian border, so we used it as lodging base.

Brussels

Early on 1993 in Grand Place my parents

Brussels

early on Grand Place 1993,P and M

After this early visit, and falling in love with the square, we came back repeatedly over the years, and even to spent Christmas in Brussels! Needless to tell you its one of our favorite countries in Europe.

Ok so enough of nostalgia, let’s talk about the Grand Place.

The Grand Place or Central square is bordered by corporation houses, the city hall and the house of the king.  The facades of the 19C are not always the exact of their construction after 1695. Several times the renovators have information that is not the original such as the mentioned of the king of Spain or without cohesions for the 19C styles. One example is the house of the Star left of the City Hall, the building was demolished to allowed for the enlargement of the street ; later it was rebuilt at the street level with a columns and a pedestrian gallery. The house of the king is a mixing styles of the 19C, the former building had a tragic history and was in bad shape; by the 17C the Archduchess Isabelle had decorated with a dedication to Notre Dame of Peace ,that was not pleasant to the renovators of the 19C; therefore, they replace the building with a new one, taking away all the religious figures and replaced them with political figures.

The history as I like in brief details is as follows:

In the 10C, the dukes of lower Lorraine had built a castle on the Senne island ,the birthplace of Brussels. By the end of the 11C, near the castle they installed an open air market in a dry swamp area with banks of sand which they called inferior market or Nedermerkt in Flemish.  This business district belonging to the church of Saint Nicolas, patron saint of the merchants was in a very important commerce route between Flanders and the Rhineland regions. Early in the 13C they built three markets in the square, one for meats or Great Butchers  ,one for breads and one for linen; these markets belonged to the Duke of Brabant allowing to exposed the goods and controlling the sales to make sure the taxes were paid.

The construction of the City hall in several phases from 1401 to 1455 in the square seat of municipal power responding to the central power symbolize by the Coudenberg palace. Facing the City Hall the power is omnipresent with the bread market taking the name of the House of the King because it was here that you paid your taxes since 1406. Around the square there was built rich houses of merchants and influential corporations mostly in wood but some on stone along the 17C. After the bombing and fires of 1695, the square is rebuilt almost entirely and even prettier.  At the end of the 18C the without britches or sans culotte destroyed almost all the symbols and statues of the old regime and the buildings were transformed as well as renovations in bad taste in addition to the pollution. Under the Burgomaster Charles Buls is progressively restored and rebuilt along the same representation of the reconstruction. . In the center of the square in 1856 there was a monumental fountain commemorating the 50th anniversary of king Leopold I, it was replaced in 1860 by a fountain of the counts of Egmont and Hornes in front of the House of the King. This fountain with statues on top of the counts of Egmont and Hornes  headless at the spot were moved to the area of the petit Sablon, and 30 years later in the Belle Epoque period a music kiosk was built. The market square has preserve its functions as a morning market until November 19 1959. It is still called the Grote Markt in Dutch or Gruute Met in Flemish today.

As said, the City hall was built between 1402 and 1455 and the only witness to the middle ages architectural style in the square today. The house of the king, in the 12C was in wood and bread was sold here; it was replaced in the 15C by a stone building to house the administrative services of the Duke of Brabant or sometimes called the House of the Duke. When the same duke becomes the king of Spain, it change to the house of the king; Charles V ordered built in the gothic style something like the one we can see today. The city had it rebuilt in 1873 in the neo gothic style after the bombings of 1695. The building houses today the Museum of the city of Brussels since 1887.

Each year on the weekend of August 15 the Grand Place is covered with a huge tapestry of flowers about 25×75 meters with over 500K begonias, something to see a must here.

Brussels

Grand Place

Brussels

Grand Place

Brussels

beer museum Grand Place

Brussels

beer museum Grand Place

Brussels

Grand Place

Brussels

City Hall Grand Place

Brussels

Grand Place

Brussels

City Hall Grand Place

A bit more detail on what you will see around the big square or Grand Place.

Between the rue de la Tête d’or , and rue au Beurre on the west side you have the house of the bakers corporation or the House of the King built in 1696. The house has been much change and totally rebuilt in 1901-1902; It has busts of St Aubert, patron Saint of the bakers and king Charles II of Spain.  By No 2-3 you have La Brouette, or the house of the graissiers corporation dated from the 15C , it was rebuilt in 1697 and is decorated with a statue of Saint Gilles, the Patron Saint of the Graissiers who also was restored in 1912. At No 4 you have the Le Sac or House of the cabinetmakers  corporation of which tools decorated the front since the 15C, built in stones in 1644 and rebuilt in 1697. The sculptures are Pierre van Dievoet and Laurent Merkaert.  The inferior part of the Sac has the symbol sculpture in 1644 and left intact as part of the third floor that the restoration began in 1697; and it is here that starts the sculptures of van Dievoet and Merkaert ; very decorative gable with torches and angles vases on top a globe on which there is a compass and on the windows heavy guirlandes of flowers and fruits, a shell, and heads of angels. This house was restored in 1912. Today it houses the house of Belgian master chocolatiers or the La Maison des Maitres Chocolatiers Belges. At No 5 la Louve, or house of the undertaking archers is built in 1690 and on 1696 the façade is rebuilt putting a phoenix born in ashes and coming out of flames symbol of the city reconstruction following the bombing of the city in 1695. The fronton is decorated with an Apollo following the original designs from 1890-1892, the lower reliefs are of Romulus and Remus fed by the she-wolf. At No 6 you have the Le Cornet, or house of the shipbuilders corporation since the 15C rebuilt in 1697. Design as  front of a boat, with sculptures even in the façade; house restored in 1899 to 1902. At No 7 you have Le Renard, or house of the craftmans corporation from the 15C rebuilt in 1699 with allegories from the four continents  and on top a statue of Saint Nicolas, patron Saint of the craftsman’s.

Between the rue Charles Buls ,and the rue des Chapeliers or south side you have at No 8 L’Etoile or House of the Amman rebuilt in 1695, demolished in 1852 and rebuilt in 1897 as an annex to the next house, and the street is rename rue Charles Buls, and a plaque on his honor is place there next to the monument of Everard t’Serclaes. At No 9, le Cygne,(swan) or bourgeois house rebuilt in 1698 with a façade not taken into account the three floors; it was purchased in 1720 by the butcher’s corporation and modified, restored between 1896 and 1904; here the Foundation of the Belgians workers party took place in 1885 and Karl Marx writes his Communist manifesto. At No 10, l’Arbre d’or or the golden tree you have the house of the brewers corporation ;that today is a museum; Dates from 1696 and restored in 1901. Decorated with sculptures and on top an equestrian statue of Charles Alexander of Lorraine put here in 1752 to replace that of Maximilian Emmanuel de Bavaria , governor while the reconstruction of Brussels took place. At No 11 la Rose or private house rebuilt in 1702, and restored in 1901. At no 12 le Mont Thabor, private house rebuilt in 16900 and restored in 1885.

Between the rue des Chapeliers,and the rue de la Colline on the East side, you have at No 12a former 2-4 rue des Chapeliers) the Alsemberg , a private house built in 1699 in blue stone with the mark of the stone cutter. At no 18-19 the house of the Dukes of Brabant, seven houses behind the same façade, modified in 1770 and call as such because of the busts of the Duke of Brabant the decorates it. Restored between 1881 and 1890. At no 13 the La Renommée, No 14 L’Ermitage, no 15 La Fortune, No 16, Le Moulin à vent or the house of the milling makers corporation; No 17 Le Pot d’étain or plomb house ,and it is the house of the carpenters and wheelers makers corporation. At no 18, La Colline or hill ,the house of the four crown corporation (for sculptors, stone cutters, roofmakers, and masonry); No 19 la Bourse or stock exchange.

Between the rue de la Colline and rue des Harengs on the north east side you have at No 20 le Cerf, private house rebuilt in 1710 and restored in 1897; at no 21-22 Joseph and Anne, two private houses in one façade, rebuilt in 1897 from an aquarelle of 1729  of Ferdinand Joseph de Rons. At no 23 L’Ange, private house rebuilt in 1697 and renovated façade from 1897 from older drawings. At no 24-25 La Chaloupe d’or, or house of the stone makers corporation, design in 1697 and with a monumental façade on the northeast side was refused by the neighbors; it has on top the statue of Saint Hommebon de Crémone, Patron Saint of the stonemasons; the bust of Saint Barbara below the entrance door from 1872. At no 2–27 Le Pigeon since the 15C the property of the painters corporation that sold it in 1697 to the stonemason Pierre Simon, the author of the façade; it house Victor Hugo and was restored in 1908. At no 28  Le Marchand d’or a private house rebuilt in 1709 and restored in 1882.

Between the rue Chair et Pain and the rue au Beurre on the northwest side you have at no 34 Le Heaume, private house ,restored in 1920. At no 35, Le Paon, style of houses of the 18C restored in 1882.  At no 36-37 Le Petit Renard or Le Samaritain et Le Chêne , two houses dating from 1696 and restored in 1884-1886. At No 38 Sainte Barbe (Santa Barbara) private house built in 1696. At No 39, L’Âne private house restored in 1916.

You have plenty of ammunition to come visit this place; gorgeous all around if busy very popular and the side streets are humming with restos ;bars; cafes and shops galore. To help you plan your trip and read more of it, here are some webpages.

webcams of the Grand Place : http://www.ilotsacre.be/images/virtualvisit/grand_place-grote_markt.htm

360 degrees view of the Grand place in English: http://cuicui.be/belgium-brussels-grand-place/

City of Brussels on the Grand Place: https://www.brussels.be/grand-place-brussels?_ga=2.77125333.1193796075.1523960972-1438831985.1523960972

Unesco on the Grand Place: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/857/

Brussels heritage site on the Grand Place in French: http://patrimoine.brussels/decouvrir/patrimoine-international-a-bruxelles/la-grand-place-de-bruxelles

Tourist office of Brussels on the Grand Place: https://visit.brussels/en/place/Grand-Place

Enjoy the ride or walks the best way to see a city. Have a great week you all, happy travels, good health, and many cheers!

 

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April 17, 2018

The Royal Palace of Madrid, Palacio Real de Madrid!

Let me take you back to my Spain, always memories and wonderful times of old and new. When I lived in the city going to the Royal Palace was a treat, coming from Quintana working class neighborhood. We had no money to go in back then in the old regime.  It took me to leave Madrid and Spain , spent some years in America; and finally come back to it in 1990 to see it inside. It was a treat I will always cherished for me and for the fact that I was there with my girlfriend , today wife of 27 years!!! and 3 wonderful young men.!!!

Oh yes this is the Palacio Real or Palacio de Oriente as some locals might call it.  I have written bits of it in other posts on Madrid (too many to mention, just search in my blog) ,but decided to do one for it alone. After all, it is all worth it me think. Therefore ,here is my story on it.

It is the official resident of the king of Spain even if only uses it for protocole functions and the rest is open to the public as a museum. Located in the Plaza de Oriente, right along Calle Bailén with metro Opera station lines 2 and 5 , as well as Bus lines 3, 25, 39 and 148.  The walk from Puerta del Sol takes approximately 15 minutes. The current king Felipe VI and queen Letizia and children live in the Palacio de Zarzuela. The Zarzuela palace was built in the 17C by king Felipe IV about a dozen km from city center Madrid to served as a residence for hunting and pleasure. You can find out more of the Palacio de la Zarzuela at El Pardo webpage in Spanish here: http://www.elpardo.net/palacio-de-la-zarzuela/

The current Royal Palace was built between 1738 and 1755 on orders of king Felipe V and lived by the king Charles III in 1764. The Royal Palace was built on the site of the former Royal Alcazar fortress destroyed by fire in 1734, and the king wanted to rebuilt it at the same spot to mark the continuity of the Spanish monarchy.

Madrid

left side of court parvis back of Royal Palace

Madrid

on Calle de Bailén Royal Palace

Madrid

gates back court parvis from Cathedral Almudena

In 1735, he call upon Filippo Juvarra, considered at the time the best architect in Europe to Madrid. Juvarra suggest a huge castle  with four courts to allow housing the Royal family, aristocracy, ministers, and necessary services of the palace sort of like the work done in the Chateau de Versailles. However, Juvarra died in 1736 before the palace work was to begin so the king call upon a disciple of Juvarra, that was working since 1736 in the La Granja Royal Palace near Segovia, another Italian name  Giovanni Battista Sacchetti with instructions to minimize the cost of construction. Sacchetti suggest a palace with one court that is approved in 1737 and he is name architect of the palace in 1738. He worked there with the help of Ventura Rodriguez( amongst his work is the Royal palace of Aranjuez) , and Francesco Sabatini (that designed the wing that gives out to the street Calle de Bailén ,stables, and imperial stair) , and the garden by his name as well as Fray Martin Sarmiento with the Marquis de Balbueno as treasury administrator of the construction.

Madrid

Entrance to Jardines de Sabatini

The building was to be square around a huge court and done with granite, white stone of Colmenar and marble for the details. The building is higher on the façade on the street with three floors, it has an interior floor and two with windows link by a colossal ionic stone; a large cornice with a baluster on top the superior area. The façade to the garden has a lowering position with lots of windows. The Royal palace is one of the biggest in all of western Europe after that of the Louvre, taking about 135K square meters and having 2800 rooms with 50 open to the public!! On its three floors and three mezzanines under the ceiling of each floor. The facades measure about 130 meters on the side for 33 meters high; and has 870 windows and 240 balconies that open ups over the facades or to the patio. It ,also, has 44 stairs and more than 30 main salons or big rooms.

Worth mentioning me think, the statues of the Visigoths kings that decorate the Plaza de Oriente were to be put up in the Palace above roof but been too heavy with the risk of falling, they were put in the square now. The main elements you should look for when visiting are the Throne room or Salon del Trono, also called Salon del Besamanos or kissed hands room as it is here where the reverence to the king are done. The patio and gate of the prince or Puerta del Principe, the area living of king Charles III (Carlos III); the hall of mirrors or Salon de los Espejos; The columns room or Salon de las Columnas; the room of Halbardiers or alabarderos; the Porcelains room or Saleta de Porcelana; Royal Chapel or  Capilla Real; and the Royal armory or Real Armeria.

The Royal Palace is richly decorated with portraits done by painters such as Goya, Velazquez, El Greco, Pierre Paul Rubens, Tiepolo, Mengs, and le Caravage. Several Royal collections of great historical significance are also in the Royal Palace including the Royal Armory with weapons and armor dating from the 13C, and the world’s biggest collection of Stradivarius, as well as collections on tapestries, porcelain, furniture, and other works of arts of great importance. Starting in 1636, the Flemish painter Frans Snijders painted several potraits of hunting scenes for king Felipe IV to be put in the hunting pavilion of the tower of Parada and the Royal Palace.

The change of the Royal guard in the Royal Palace is done every Wednesday from October to July and at 11h; need to check before going as this can be change without notice due for official acts or weather conditions.

You have two gardens around the Royal Palace, these are the  Campo del Moro (moors) on the west and Manzanares river, and the Jardines of Sabatini on the north of the Royal Palace next to it. The Royal Palace is bordered on the east by the Plaza de Oriente separated by the Calle de Bailén; on the south or Armories you have the wings of the Palace; on the south of this square you have the Cathedral of the Almudena,one of Madrid’s patron Saint.

To help you plan your visit here is the official site of the Royal Palace by the National Heritage Monument organization. http://www.patrimonionacional.es/real-sitio/palacio-real-de-madrid

And from Madrid tourist office;  https://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/royal-palace

And for a closer look at the Spanish Royal Family here is the official link: http://www.casareal.es/ES/Paginas/home.aspx

The current king of Spain, Felipe VI:  name as his Majesty the King, Don Felipe de Borbón y Grecia,(Bourbon and Greece) is the third child of the former kings Don Juan Carlos and Doña Sofía. Born in Madrid January 30 1968 in the clinic of our Lady of Loreto. He was baptized with the names of Felipe, Juan, Pablo ,and Alfonso of All Saints in memory of respectively, the first Bourbon that reigned over Spain (grandson of Louis XIV of France and born in Versailles, Felipe V); of his paternal grandfather chief of the Royal House of Spain, of his maternal grandfather king of Greece,and of his great grandfather Don Alfonso XIII, king of Spain. His godparents were his grandfather Royal Highness Don Juan de Borbón, Count of Barcelona, and his great grandmother king  Victoria Eugenia. Curiosities of life, the current pretender to the throne of France as legimirate king Louis XX is named Alfonso also a Bourbon and born in Madrid. The current king’s Father Juan Carlos is a cousin of queen Elizabeth II of UK, and great (or is it another great ) Grandson of queen Victoria of UK, nephew of Emperor Frederick II of Germany and 5th in line to the throne of France ! blue blood….

Hope you enjoy the bits of history here, and a fine tradition I like. Have a great week with plenty of happy travels, good health ,and many cheers!!!

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