Sunday, February 24, 2013

A walk around the EU neighbourhood - Brussels

Brussels is quite a puzzling city and not only linguistically with everything double written in French and Dutch. It is the capital of Belgium and the unofficial capital of Europe and as such one might expect to find a beautifully shiny new city embedded in historical neighbourhoods and buildings. And it is indeed so, only that the mix of old and new has not always been tastefully done, the city is gritty and grey and the only thing that shines are the buildings of the European institutions. The EU area is made of many buildings of steel and glass which look all the same, which mane people consider to be terribly ugly. However, if you take a closer look there are a couple of beautiful places to be enjoyed and you might even realize that some of those buildings aren't actually that ugly. Well, at least I thought so after having spent some nice hours strolling around the European district.

I've been to Brussels the last two weekends and as I already know most parts of the city, at least most of the touristic parts, I decided to get to know better the area surround the EU area and I discovered (and rediscovered) some beautiful places sometimes neglected by tourists. I started walking along many streets lined with similar buildings and among them, the European Parliament and the Berlaymont building, home to the European Commission, really stand out. I also found a nice street (Rue Archimede, I think) full of international cafés and pubs. Place Jourdan and Place Luxembourg are also fine options to have a beer or some frites. 

European Parliament

Berlaymont building

Later, I walked around Parc Leopold, a tiny park just behind the European Parliament with a small lake in the middle. It is a nice place to rest for a while if it's not terribly cold but the Cinquantenaire Parc, which is 5 minutes away is a more beautiful option. It was designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the indepedence of Belgium and it has some charming gardens and a triumphal arch at the end, shlightly similar to Paris' own Arc de Triomphe. The arch lies in the middle of two big halls which host the Museum of Militar History and the Royal Art Museum. 

Parc Leopold

Parc du Cinquantenaire

A touristic tour of Brussels would normally end here, however I kept walking along the Avenue Tervuren and I was delighted to discover so many beautiful Art Nouveau buildings, most of them housing embassies or permanent missions for the European Union. The avenue is really long but if you appreaciate architecture as much as I do it is really worth it to walk from the Cinquantenaire Parc to the next metro station looking upwards to admire the so many beautiful ornated balconies and windows that decorate many impressive villas along Avenue Tervuren.

Avenue de Tervuren / Tervurenlaan

And that was the end to my pleasant walk. As you might notice the photos are a mix and match from different trips to Brussels. The snowy ones were taken today as I woke up this morning to find Brussels totally covered in snow and I have to say that I have never found Brussels more beautiful than it was today painted in white. Maybe I'm obsessed with snow!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Deeply moved by Picasso in Madrid

Image from

Four years ago I went to Madrid for a long weekend with a dear friend of mine to visit some other dear friends of mine. It was a very cool trip which included eating tapas, partying on Sunday evening, visiting Toledo and soaking up on some world class art in the probably best museums in Spain. I was sure that I wanted to visit El Prado Museum and my travel companion wanted to go to the Reina Sofía Museum and in the end we did both. I wasn't particulary keen on modern art back then, so the Reina Sofía Museum, which focus on contemporary art, wasn't exactly my piece of cake. I was however keen on seeing the famous Guernica painting by Picasso. I had been told that it is really big and impressive and while I didn't find so impressively big something happened to me for the first time, I got emotional when watching this masterpiece. I had never got emotional when confronted with a piece of artwork. I was impressed by Rubens' huge canvases, I was delighted by the melancholic use of colour of impressionist painters, I let my mind drift away when staring at exotic paintings by Gauguin, but never ever was I so deeply moved by a painting, let alone a modern art painting. I had seen the Guernica hundreds of times before, I'm sure it appeared in every history and literature textbook I had at school, and back then I just thought it was a random composition of childish sketched. But when I was face to face with this monocromatic painting I kind of felt all the pain depicted on it. I closed my eyes and reflected on all the wasted lives and all the families divided by a civil war, I thought about the horrors and futility of armed conflicts, I felt a couple of tears rolling down my cheeks. I opened my eyes and stared firmly at this wonderful painting by Picasso all of a sudden I fell in love with it, the kind of love you feel when you don't need to speak any word to tell the most touching of stories. 
Have you ever been that lovestruck by art? Ever got emotional just by looking at a painting, a photograph? 

Keeping up of Picasso I would like to share one of his inspirational quotes. It was written in the wall of my art classroom at school and I've remembered it ever since:

"Inspiration does exist but it has to find you working"

He was so right about it. I was a very creative child but once I started studying at uni I stopped drawing and writing and every now and then I complain to myself that my inspiration has gone dry and that I cannot draw or write like I did before. However, blogging has somehow proved to me that Picasso was totally right. At the beginning I was very insecure about my writing and I usually lacked inspiration but the more I blog, the easier it gets to come up with ideas for new posts. Does it also happen to you?

Last but not least, I would like to thank you all for dropping by at Away from Tenerife and all your sweet comments, it makes me realy happy to see that you're enjoying as much as I do! I don't have that much time to answer to comments right now because I'm terribly busy with studying, work and writing my master thesis (yes! I finally came up with a topic!) but I really appreciate it!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Paul will always remind of Lille

Have you ever heard of Paul, a French chain bakery? I love it! Paul is a popular chain of fine pâtisseries that catter many delicious typical French baked treats, as well as yummy sandwiches and salads. Paul seems to have taken Belgium by storm, or at least Brussels, as there apperas to be one in every street. Ok, maybe not that many but I've already spotted four and last Friday I treated myself to a meal in the one located in the EU district. Despite prices being higher for eating in than for taking away, I stayed in as February's chill does not invite to eat in any of the parks nearby. And when I headed inside looking for a table I was delighted to discover an extra dining-room in the back which was nicely decorated and had a very beautiful antique chimney. I first went to Paul in Lille and the thing is that every time that I spot their sober logo of black letters over a white background I'm reminded of my wonderful daytrip to Lille.

I went to Lille almost five years ago with two great girlfriends I met during my exchange year, a French girl and a Czech girl (now fellow blogger at Klara's Point). As the school year was drawing to an end we thought it'd be a good idea to take a train to somewhere further than the Belgian borders and we decided to go to Lille, in the north of France. We had a lovely sunny day in Lille. We walked around, we did some sightseeing and some shopping as well, we cought some sunrays while lying on the grass in some city park and we had a delicious lunch provided by Paul, which also introduced us to the sweet pleasure of macarons.

I don't remember that much about Lille, but I do remember that a had a lovely day with two lovely girlfriends, I remember how good macarons tasted, I remember how much we enjoyed our train trip and how happy we were about doing something together before parting our ways after a wonderful year in Antwerp. I don't remember that much about Lille but I've never forgotten how adorably snob that Paul bakery was and everytime I come across another one, no matter where, I always think fondly of Lille.

p.s. The photos at Paul were taken last Friday but photos of Lille were taken almost five years ago with my  first camera ever by a non-skilled me. Not that my skills have improved that much but back then I didn't even have a memory card for my camera, so quality of old pictures is not very good.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Travel Romance is ...

Falling in love with the most unexpected place ...
Holding hands while wandering around a charming neighborhood you've never been before to ...
Realising that you smile more when you're travelling ... 
Finding out that the sky can be so many different shades of blue ... 
Feeling overwhelmed by how beautiful and powerful nature is ... 
Reading about your dream destinations ... 
Staring at the night sky and discovering hundreds of stars that you don't get to see at home ... 
Letting the anticipation build up before visiting a country for the first time ... 
Discovering a new favourite shop that doesn't exist in your homeplace ... 
Mesmerizing as seasons change in a different way they do at home ... 
Learning a couple of words in the local language ...
Being daring enough to try what local cuisines have to offer ...
Appreciating the ever-changing landscape from a train window ...
Being on my way to Belgium to spend Valentines with boyfriend.

And what about you? What's your idea of travel romance?

Have a lovely Valentine's day!!!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Icons of Tenerife (part 1): Santa Cruz Auditorium

Tenerife's most iconic site is without any doubt El Teide volcano. It is really an outstanding natural feature but there are some other interesting places which are equally worth mentioning and one of them is the auditorium of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Officially known as Auditorio Adán Martín, this new building has quicly become an unmissable touristic spot, as well as an essential part of the cultural life of Santa Cruz. It opened in 2003 and was designed by Santiago Calatrava, featuring some of his trademarks such as curved lines and white materials. The auditorium is located facing the sea and is just beside one of Tenerife's old fortifications and it looks especially beautiful when the sun is setting, as all the tiny white tiles covering the auditorium reflect the sunlight in all directions shining brightly. The area surrounding is has been beautifully transformed into a leisure area in the style of Canarian architect César Manrique. There is a terrace bar, a swimming-pools complex and a museum dedicated to palmtrees. César Marique is especially renowned for his efforts to preserve the unique environment of his home island, Lanzarote, and this can be appreciated in all his designs which integrate perfectly with nature and make the most of local raw materials. I'm not a big fan of Calatrava but I really like this auditorium and I think that it fits very well the organic surroundings designed in Manrique style, which is not an easy task.

If you take a closer look at the auditorium you might notice that there's a small ball keeping the body and the roof of the auditorium together. A friend of mine who studies architecture told me that calculations for the design of the auditorium were not properly done, so when pieces were pulled together after being built in the mainland, the roof wouldn't stand on its own so a quick solution had to be improvised. Hence the concrete ball pulling pieces together so that the roof does not collapse.

But this was just a little unfortunate mistake that hasn't prevented the auditorium of Santa cruz to become one of the most emblematic buildings in Spain and ar architectural icon of the Canary Islands. Besides, more and more events are programmed there each year, including the season programme of the symphonic orchestra of Tenerife, musicals and a festival dedicated to film soundtracks music. And not only locals are proud and tourists enjoy it, some companies and singers have also profited from the auditorium beauty including it in commercials and music videos. As a proof, here's Lloyd Banks showing off his bling bling around my hometown!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The most beautiful bookstore in the world

Maastricht is a lovely and quiet city full of charming corners and cobbled alleys and today I would like to introduce you to one of its hidden treasures which is one of my favourite places in the city. And if you happen to love bookstores as much as I do, you're in for a treat! A couple of months ago I read this interesting post about the world's most beautiful bookstores at Two Sides to ... Jo, a nice blog full of travel inspiration, interior design ideas and some yummy recipes every now and then. I went through the list of wonderful bookstores and when I spotted the Maastricht Selexyz bookstore I felt really happy that I could at list tick one off the list. But this came as no surprise, as the Selexyz bookstore is really exceptional and it is often featured in every list compiled with the most beautiful bookstores. 

Selexyz Dominicanen, as it is fully named, is housed in an old dominican church and that's what makes it so special and beautiful. The church was built almost 700 years ago and its high ceilings are still decorated with old frescoes. The walls and columns are made of whitish stone and the tall windows are mostly covered by colourless stained glass. Books are spread all over the nave and the center has been  adapted to host three two extra floors. A Coffeelovers corner can be found at the altar and you might have probably never heard of Coffelovers before, as they're a local response to Starbucks, but they serve the best coffee in Maastricht  and also great ciabattas and cakes but their range is a bit more limited at the Selexyz corner.

When it comes to books, Selexyz Dominicanen may not be the best bookstore, as it is a bit somber inside, the book selection is not particulary wide and sometimes books, and specially magazines, seem to be ordered in a rather chaotic manner. But it is indeed one of the most beautiful bookstore in the world and really worth on some minutes or hours of your time, depending on much you love books (in Dutch).
Have you been to any other most beautiful bookstore anywhere in the world? Any suggestions?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Aachen Cathedral

I was yesterday in Aachen and besides enjoying a nice sunny afternoon of window shopping I also spent some time taking some photos inside Aachen cathedral. I'm not usually fan of visiting religious monuments but I'm glad I made an exception in Aachen because its beautiful dom is something unique in western Europe and is has been added by the UNESCO to its list of World Heritage monuments. The cathedral of Aachen is rather small and it seems to have taken inspiration in buildings from the Byzantine Empire, including the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Its construction was started in the ed of the 8th centure, making it the oldest cathedral in northern Europe and Charlemagne himself contributed to its designed. His remains were later placed in a golden vault that would lay inside the cathedral and during six centuries emperors of the Holy Roman Empire were crowned there. 

The cathedral's central room is an octogonal chapel with a dome covered in hundreds of thousands of tiny coloured tiles which make really beautiful scenes with gold as the predominant colour. Hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the chapel lies an impressive chandelier which was donated to the cathedral by Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa. 

Just after crossing the huge doors leading inside the cathedral there's a statue of a heartless wolf. According to the legend, the construction of the cathedral was demanding too much money and one day the an unknown benefactor appeared in town offering to fund the ongoing construction of the cathedral receiving the soul of the first being who would enter the finished cathedral as payments. Locals recognized him as the devil and tricked him by sending a wolf into the building as soon as building works were over. Satan took the sould of this poor creature but knowing he had been cheated left the town furious.

Aachen might not be the imperial capital it once was and it may not even stand out among so many charming towns and interesting cities that Germany has to offer. But its city center still makes for a lovely daytrip and its cathedral is really worth seeing as it is a very beautiful building which doesn't compare to any other in western and northern Europe. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

February 2013: Follow your heart

January has been a month of mixed emotions for me. While I was really happy because it seemed I could do no wrong, I also got quite anxious because I realised that things might not quite go according to plan. I was planning to move out of Maastricht in June but now I will probably have to stay at least until beginning of August. It is a really small change but the least Spanish part of me is totally unable to cope with improvising, I really need plans and I like to stick to them. Anyways, in the end I decided to listen to my heart and realised that if there's a good reason to change plans I should just let go because I've learnt that following you heart is a key ingredient to happiness. I'm now trying to relax and to see the good in it. And oh, I made a list of all the trips I still would love to do while I'm still in Maastricht. Anyways, I'll be quite busy until June so I won't be doing much until then. This month I'm just planning to go for two days to Brussels and I might go tomorrow to Germany to check whether men's fashion is more sensible in there than in The Netherlands. Seriously. Pastel coloured shoes! With red or purple soles! And baby blue laces! Boyfriend really disappointed so we're changing shopping countries, yay!

January was an easy month to do for my 365 project. Maybe because I had almost three weeks of holidays and lots of free time to go outside and take pictures I didn't have much trouble finding something inspiring to upload everyday. And I'm already 8% done! This first month looks quite grey, as many pictures were taken outside and the weather was tipically winter. This is my favourite photo of the month, probably because it's very different to most pictures I make.

You can check my whole month here.

January has also seen my blog undergo some minor cosmetic changes, I would like to say improvements but that's up to you to judge. My best friend and my brother have been talking me lately into all the virtues of wordpress and giving plenty of reasons to move. But my heart says it isn't the right thing to do. Yet. blogging is just a hobby and I'll be having quite a full schedule in the upcoming months, so a low-maintenance and cost-free blog is currently the perfect thing for me. However, the idea is somehow growing on me and as none of them actually blogs, I would like to hear it (better say read it) straight from you, fellow bloggers. Been there? Tried both blogger and wordpress? Is wordpress really THAT cool thing? Is it worth the hassles?

So, that's all for now. Follow your heart and have a loving February!

p.s. Following my heart I also registered in Polyvore (recommended by a friend of mine) to indulge in my long forgotten fashion passion and I love it! You can find me there as Irentje.
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