Monday, 18 July 2011

Voyage into the past


I always think of this beautiful piece of Art Nouveau designed by Victor Horta as a piece of my past. Many years ago I often stopped to look at it as I walked by, and I still think it is arresting, and a symbol of the city where it stands. Does anyone recognise this small but exquisite corner?

It’s in Brussels, where I lived with my family, at two different times, for quite a few years while I was growing up. It was where I learned to speak French, aged six, a lucky chance which has enriched my life. It’s also the city where I spent my late teenage years, for a while at an international school, and then returning every holiday from boarding school in England.

And last weekend I was in Brussels, at a celebration party for one of my nearest and dearest, Josine. A wonderful time was had by all, and the next morning we made our way to the rail station and the journey home via the Grand’ Place. The square of seventeenth century guild houses has been re-gilded – appropriately for the occasion! – and gleams newly minted.


On the corner of “L’Etoile”, The House of the Star, is Horta’s 1899 memorial to Charles Buls, pictured here in a wider view. Buls was a politician and a man of culture, a progressive of his time in that he fought to preserve and restore the dilapidated old buildings of the Grand’ Place, successfully fighting any ideas of redeveloping the site. If that were not sufficient to honour him, Buls was also a prolific author and travel writer.

Brussels is Victor Horta’s city, too. His name is synonymous with Art Nouveau, with its distinctive flowing elegant lines. One of the city’s subtle delights is the way this style is incorporated into doorways and windows and gates, in the most unexpected places. I can’t think of anywhere that echoes that style and era better.

So, layers of the past then: both the past of the place and my own. It’s always thought-provoking when you return somewhere you know well but haven’t seen for a few years, especially when you then add the memories of a friendship of more than thirty years.

Perhaps I’m too nostalgic but I’m always fascinated by the then and now, and how the two interweave. If I had known then what I know now - how my life would turn out, I mean – I would never have been so worried, quite so determined to push so hard. But then, of course, perhaps it all might have turned out differently…   

18 comments:

Richard said...

Moi aussi, Deborah, j'aime beaucoup l'art nouveau, sous toutes ses formes. Et j'en profite aussi pour te féliciter pour ton bon français.
Bon début de semaine!

Lisa Erin said...

I, too, have been rather nostalgic as of late. Seeing objects, places, photographs, that conjure images from the past. Most of the time the things that I remember are wonderful and meaningful rediscoveries. Looking back to 'then' and comparing it to 'now' can be so fascinating.

aguja said...

It is important to feel past and present side by side. When I am in parts of Ireland I feel their past welling up from the ground. I always sense empathy, although I am not Irish.

This is a beautiful tale of history and nostalgia, woven into a post.

Thank you for sharing.

renilde said...

The places we've been, the people we've met, they all together are part of what we became, they enriched our view on life, gave us beauty or ugliness, joy or pain, good or bad to varying degrees. They all have or had their value and that becomes very clear visiting them again.
I'm glad you had a good time in Bruxelles, x

josina said...

it was wonderful and emotional, how lovely to have such good friends

josina said...

old friendhsips are like old wine, they disclose their depth slowly but it is all the more potent

Blu said...

I too love art nouveau, and the past fascinates me.

Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Lovely post. I visited Paris and Brussels in my college years and keep a spot in my heart for both.

Helen Smith said...

A lovely post, as always.

BookGeek said...

I always think the same thing - "If only I had known..." But you said it right, my life might have turned out differently and I quite like where I'm at.

Elizabeth Young said...

It's always captivating to think what might have been, but that's all it is, a might have been. Sounds like you've made good choices and along with hard work have reaped the rewards that come from this. Thank you for sharing about Europe, it's always fascinating!

Ann said...

One of my favorite spots in Brusels is the shop of Daniel Ost on Rue Royale. The Art Nouveau building is stunning.

OK, let's face it, Brussels is stunning!

Spangle said...

This is a wonderful post. I often wonder about the pasts of buildings objects and books and imagine what sort of experiences these things have encountered.

I think that it is important to remember the past, because as you say, our present and past weave together to make us the person we are today.

Janel said...

My recent trip brought back memories of childhood vacations. I found myself hoping that my children were as excited as I had been.

Forest Dream Weaver said...

Beautiful artwork......can we ever have too many good memories?

vicki archer said...

Our choices in life are always open for question....but that is what makes it interesting doesn't it? Beautiful Art Nouveau examples Deborah....xv

Kenza said...

Bonsoir Deborah,
Au premier coup d'oeil, il me semblait bien que je reconnaissais ce bronze! Nous sommes bien à Bruxelles sur la Grand place! Ben, oui...
Comme tu me l'as écrit dans ton dernier commentaire, nous sommes toutes les deux sensibles à un certain art, et l'Art Nouveau en fait partie!
Merci pour ce joli billet et très belle soirée

Totsymae said...

Deborah,
I can see why your house is the setting for your novel. It has a lot of character. I got a peek at your video. Very nicely done.

Nice to meet you.

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