Brussels: More Seedy than Chocolatey

On a partly sunny late June morning, our redeye landed in Brussels. With dreams of chocolate and architecture, we waited in the immigration line, eager to hit the cobblestone, rather Belgian stone. Our plan, per Rick Steves, was to peruse the town for a few hours and later ride the rails to Bruges. We hopped the train to city centre, stowed our carry-on suitcases in a locker and approached our first outdoor look at Belgium with a warm welcome from…drunk bums. Upon exiting the main train station in Brussels, we found trash, drunk confrontational homeless people and open outdoor toilets. Yay, we made it!

Don’t get me wrong, we like to make our own adventures but since we were foreigners, I suggested we just keep walking toward the Grand Place or Grote Markt like Rick said and get the heck away from the train station. He did mention Brussels was a little seedy, but Brussels sounds so fancy and French, so the only seediness I envisioned was that of chocolate dipped strawberries. Still, each city has its less desirable areas, so we ventured on and found what our little hearts desired…cappuccinos and chocolate filled pastries amid tall and ornate structures.

It became more and more overcast and eventually started to downpour, but the flowers that lined the windowsills of La Grand Place were still beautiful. The architecture consumed hundreds of pictures on our memory card, with each angle or sculpted archway appearing more intricate and astonishing than the last. This was the Belgium I wanted to see, shortly followed by a little peeing baby. “Let’s go see Mannequin Pis”, I tell my husband. “A pissing mannequin? What? Why?” I expected a response like this, since the only portion of the Belgium book he read was on the beer. But we did find the tiny statue of the baby boy peeing into a fountain, which seems to capture quite the crowd of tourists. It is a national symbol afterall…and there are many different variations that poke fun at the original. I found these much more amusing and not quite G-rated enough to post for your viewing pleasure.

We continued to wander and saw a parade of Belgian police ride through the narrow streets on gorgeous horses. It was a procession that included drumming and what seemed like a ceremonious trot through the main square. And though it was raining and the sight was one that we’d remember, I remember most getting my jeans smattered by….”stuff” from a horse splattering on the Belgian stone. I think that is the most delicate way to put that. Wonderful, a post full of bodily functions. But luckily we had our handy laundry detergent and my husband stopped laughing long enough that I could get cleaned up and we could head over to Bruges, which would hopefully welcome our tired and cranky selves with open arms, clear skies and beer.

Graffiti: Art or Disrespectful?

Graffiti cement barrier. Looking out on One World Trade Center.

I tend to like things neat and tidy, but I also appreciate art and character. I don’t know that I consider graffiti art. I’ve never known an actual graffiti “artist”, so I’ve had no one to help me solidify the answer. The closest I’ve come is the random guy at an artist street fair who makes cool poster size prints from spray paint. They usually have a painters mask on while little kids sit right in front, breathing the fumes as their parents stare in fascination.

Back to graffiti; I won’t say I’m not intrigued by it. It’s hard not to draw your eyes from random splashes of color in places amongst plain brick or cement backdrops. There are times that I appreciate color on a decrepit and crumbling wall, in the form of a beautiful mural. There are also times I see spray paint on two hundred year old Continue reading

Things That Used To Be; City Style

When you look at the neighborhood around you, do you wonder what it used to be?

Did it used to be busy, or was it quieter? Is it safer than it was or a tad seedier? What kind of people roamed the road and what kind of wheels rolled down your street? Do your views today make you long for the past or yearn for the future?

Old Philadelphia, courtesy of thingamababy.com

We took a stroll around a pretty neglected area of Philadelphia over the weekend. We had no real destination. My pictures fail to capture the atmosphere unfortunately.  It’s something I’m learning to figure out as an amateur. I like to find the beauty in what “was”, and I like to dream about what used to inhabit the buildings and sidewalks that I walk.

When I see areas that are abandoned and half demolished, I wonder if the area is going through a transition to be rebuilt again or if the crumbling bricks are a true metaphor for the neighborhood. Time will tell.

I’m not foolish enough to think that the past was glamorous. Crime, corruption, drugs and heartlessness have always lurked in corners of every time period. There are still sights to be appreciated and customs that are appealing, particularly when we don’t know the pitfalls. The revolutionary buildings that I admire may not have seemed so beautiful with excrement being flung out the windows out into the alleys below.

There are times we can’t experience and life to be enjoyed today.  Generations will pass on, scenery will continue to change and traditions will be altered. That is how time works and it always will.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Today

Finally the redhead got it.

It’s a beautiful crisp morning on the East Coast. It almost feels like fall. As I hunkered down, I opened up the back screen door ever so slightly, as not to startle the chirping birds at our feeder. Beautiful creatures. It is the kind of day that I wish I could fly along with them into the crisp clear air. I think I could live on sunflower seeds for a while.

Insert Forrest Gump joke about Jenny here.

 

I’m A Brick – Part Two

Philadelphia was built by innovators and blue collar immigrants. Though we’ve housed our fair share of wealthy folk, it has never been an upscale or rich city; rich in culture and history, yes, but not in money. Like other old East Coast cities, Philadelphia was built by people like my ancestors. They mixed the mortar, carried the bricks, polished the marble and bend the heated iron.

The city has beautiful areas that are captured of Philadelphia based movie and TV sets. It also has beautiful materials left in rundown neighborhoods that share marble steps amongst trash and crumbling concrete. It may not all be polished, but it’s ours.

To coincide with my last post, here is Philadelphia and its brick.

 

I’m A Brick!

If the walls in these shots could talk, they’d mimic the words of Ralph Wiggum.

For me, I think the way to appreciate beauty is to capture the good and the bad.  My eyes sway toward the gritty truth of the world around us, so I know I’m not meant to be a wedding photographer.  Though the Philadelphia tourism board would likely burn my pictures of trash, destruction and neglect, there are plenty of beautiful things that can be grabbed from the background.  It’s the truth of what a city is outside the paths that tourist take.  Today, I just share bricks.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Blue

After posting about the Air Show at the Maguire Air Force base this weekend, “blue” was an obvious choice.

These pictures were worth the back breaking effort as I strained backwards to take shots of impressive planes that whizzed by with speed and precision.  It was often hard to capture altogether, particularly when we were unaware of when the planes would appear and out of what direction.

I only wish I could capture the sound of the planes to complete the sensation of these shots.  I suppose that is what video is for, however, my videos would be accompanied by sounds of frustration equal to the plane noise as I tried to capture all I could with zoom and focus.  These videos would leave you more annoyed than blue, so pictures, take it away.

Enjoy “blue”.

Mach 3 Warms My Heart

I was affected by propaganda, in a good way.  We went to the Air Show at Maguire Air Force Base this weekend and it was quite a patriotic event.  It was a bit like “Bring your daughter” to work day, but for the public.  My husband was in the Navy but it’s been a few years since I’d been on a military base.  It seems the pride and respect for the military was not too far under the surface.

Once a jet breaks the sound barrier and hits Mach 3 over your head, it’s hard to not pay attention to the precision and pure awe of what some of our men and women are capable of.  While I’d be getting sick, they reach heights with twists and turns that make my body hurt just thinking about it.  They flew prop planes, helicopters and exhibited mission-like exercises.

Besides giving the tax payers a peek into the equipment that the military has thankfully splurged on, the event is emceed in a fashion reminiscent of old WWII news shorts that would play before a movie.  There is pomp and circumstance to backdrop the expansive array of aircraft on display on the ground and in the air.  You’d have to be made of stone to not feel proud of the Air Force capabilities.  For a second, I had wished my husband had stayed enlisted.

Then I think about the days when he was my boyfriend, and he worked for fourteen hours at times or inconveniently had gate duty on a weekend and how annoying it seemed.  When I saw the men and women who were forced to spend their weekend guiding civilians on how to park their cars or which direction to walk, I didn’t see the discontent in their faces.  They were respectful and kind, while parents dragged oversized strollers onto the shuttle buses and grubby little hands touched everything that they scrubbed and shined for the big weekend.  There is pride there.  Though I’m not naive enough to know there weren’t gripes, they didn’t show it.  They give a lot more than their time, they’d give their lives and that’s the hardest part of having military in the family.

Though we took probably a hundred photos of various types of aircraft, old and new, I’ve attached a brief sampling.

My husband was right; the military must get a really great deal on flat gray paint.

Irish Sheep

I always just liked my photography the way it was. Not the fact that it was simple and mostly luck, but I might have felt it was cheating to alter it in any way. That being said, I had a Groupon for a large canvas that I needed to order and I need a nice piece for my new home office. I played around with an image I found that just felt so calming to me. It is of sheep.

This picture was captured while my husband drove us from the tip of Northern Ireland to Dublin, at the very end of our last trip there. We were desperately trying to beat the huge snow storm we had dodged our entire trip and this was taken just before we lost our luck at outrunning it. There is something calming about sheep; except the sheep that have the red blotches; this just seems morbid to me. I can deal with splotches of green or blue on their coats for farmer identification, but the first few times I saw splotches of red on a sheep my first reaction was
Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual

Unusual.

Not much surprises me or strikes me as unusual.  So as I perused my photos, I came up with something that might be a little usual.  Us.  My husband and I have an odd habit of posing with manikins or any likeness of people really.  Not in a creepy way; at least I don’t think so, anyway.  Either way, I enjoy them because you can make up different stories about what is happening in each picture and add your own subtitles.  Hell, if anyone actually likes these, we might have a valid reason to continue embarrassing ourselves in public.  We really do get a kick out of it.  Here is just a sampling.

"Excuse me, do you know where the exit is?"
"Don't talk to me about exits, I've been locked in here for 10 years!"