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Posts Tagged ‘brussels’

Many dragonflies are colored with muted shades of green and brown and blend in well with their environments. Some, though, are more boldly colored and are hard to miss when they are present.

That is definitely the case for this Scarlet Darter dragonfly (Crocothemis erythraea) that I spotted last week at the Rouge-Cloître Park in Brussels, Belgium. I first noticed the bright red color of this dragonfly when it zoomed across my line of sight and I was thrilled later in the day when one accommodated me by landing on the ground not far from where I was standing.

Scarlet Darter

Scarlet Darter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A few colored lights still stretch across some of the streets here in Brussels, but the signs of Christmas have gradually disappeared during my short stay here. The massive Christmas tree has disappeared from the Grand-Place—all that is left to remind us of the impressively beautiful tree is a hole in the ground and several sections of the tree’s trunk.
 
Seasons change and life quickly moves on, no matter how much we want to slow it down to better savor its special moments.

Brussels Christmas tree

Brussels Christmas tree

Brussels Christmas tree

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Every time that I walk through the Grand-Place in Brussels I end up with a sore neck. The ornate architecture of the buildings that surround the square is so amazing that I can’t help but spend an extended period of time with my neck outstretched as I take in the beautiful architectural details. This image shows the view that I had earlier this week as I approached the square from one of the side streets and suddenly was treated to the sight of an overwhelming number of spires and statues on one of the buildings.

Grand-Place

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the cool things about wandering through the narrow winding streets in the center of Brussels is that I will occasionally come upon wall murals that cover the entire side of a narrow building. They most often appear to depict scenes from comic book series like Tin-Tin, but most of them are unfamiliar to me.

This past weekend I stumbled upon this funny little scene on the side of a building. I am clueless about its context, but it made me smile as I stopped to examine it.

UPDATE:  I did a little research and think this may be a depiction of Nero, the title character of a Belgian comic book series The Adventure of Nero.

Brussels mural

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Under any circumstances it is a challenge to remove the ornaments and lights from a Christmas tree, but when the tree is several stories tall, a simple step ladder is not enough. Yesterday, when I arrived at the Grand-Place in the center of Brussels, workers had already removed the large red and gold ornaments from the tree and were working to take off the lights using a “cherry-picker.” They worked methodically to remove strand after strand of lights, carefully coiling them as they went along.

As I watched them work, I noticed the beautiful reflections of the square on the shiny surfaces of the spherical ornaments that reminded me of the images you would get with a fisheye lens. No matter which way I moved, my figure was always in the frame, so I decided to embrace the opportunity and create a kind of self portrait. The other images in this set feature the efforts of the workers from different angles.

It was a lot of fun trying to frame shots with my little Canon A620 point-and-shoot camera. As a result of its limited zoom range, I was forced to move about a lot, causing me realize that a big zoom lens tends to make me a little lazy in considering options for framing shots.

Brussels Christmas tree

Brussels Christmas tree

Brussels Christmas tree

Brussels Christmas tree

Brussels Christmas tree

Brussels Christmas tree

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was happy yesterday to see that the big Christmas tree was still up at the Grand-Place, the historic center of Brussels. It lent some light and color to an otherwise cold, wet day.

I am always disappointed when I see Christmas trees cast aside immediately after Christmas. When I was growing up, it was traditional to wait at least until Epiphany, the celebration of the arrival of the Magi, though I seem to recall some of my neighbors keeping their Christmas tree and lights going for an even longer period of time.

The Grand-Place is always so much fun to visit. The buildings on each side of the square are all different and different elements attract my attention each time that I visit. In the first photo below, you can see the tall town hall in the background. The second image shows the building directly opposite the square from the town hall.

Brussels Christmas tree

Brussels Christmas tree

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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Freezing rain has blanketed Brussels today, making footing treacherous, especially on the cobblestones in the center of the city. Needless to say, the outdoor cafes are not doing much business on a day like today.

I am in Brussels this week for work, so the photos that I post on this blog will be a bit different from my typical wildlife shots.

Brussels panorama

cafe in Brussels

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Today was a beautiful sunny day in Brussels, Belgium and I had some free time to explore the city. I have been in Brussels for short business trips a number of times in recent years and have already visited many of the attractions in the center of the city.  Today I decided to look for some of the kinds of wildlife that I love to photograph, so I made my way to a park that leads to the Botanical Garden of Brussels.

I was encouraged a little when I saw some ducks and turtles in the small pond there and my level of excitement really soared when I spotted some dragonflies flying about. The only problem was that the dragonflies refused to land. When I have my normal DSLR and my favorite lenses, I’ll try to capture in-flight shots, but when I am traveling for work, I tend to leave all that gear at home and use a point-and-shoot camera. My current travel camera is a Canon SX50. It has an amazing zoom lens, but really is not responsive enough to photograph moving dragonflies.

A bit later, I made my way to the opposite side of the tiny pond and discovered the staging area for the dragonflies. Every now and then a dragonfly would perch very briefly on the vegetation. It took quite a few tries, but eventually I got a few shots. I don’t know anything about European dragonfly species, so I can’t really identify the ones that I photographed today. They look pretty similar to ones that I have seen at home and certainly they belong to the same families, but I’d sure welcome assistance in identifying the species.

Today was a day full of unexpected treats. I don’t expect to see bright days full of sunshine during trips to Europe and I didn’t really expect to find dragonflies in Brussel’s urban center.

UPDATE: I have done a bit more research on the internet and it looks to me like the dragonflies in the first two photos below may be Migrant Hawkers (Aeshna mixta).

dragonfly in Brussels

dragonfly in Brussels

butterfly in Brussels

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Brussels, Belgium at least twice a year in recent years. I’ve seen many of the primary tourist attractions, but what I enjoy most is wandering through the narrow, cobblestoned streets in the center of the city, where the details of the human and architectural landscape endlessly fascinate me.

One of my favorite elements is a storm drain cover on a side street near the Grand-Place. All of the other drain covers are simple metal grates, but this one is more elaborate and beautiful, depicting a man and a woman in mid-embrace.

How did this grate come to be placed here? Is it merely art or is it an extravagant expression of love? I’m romantic by nature and like to imagine that it is a public proclamation of the eternal love of this couple, a visual invitation to stop for a moment and celebrate the power of that love.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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I had some free time today and hoped to spend some time wandering in Brussels, but it rained all day, occasionally changing to freezing rain, so I didn’t take any photos. As I get ready to conclude this brief trip to Brussels, I thought I’d include a few photos of some of the beautiful buildings that I have seen here in the center of the city.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We finally had a clear night here in Brussels and I had a chance to walk around a bit and capture some shots of the Town Hall in the Grand-Place, the historical central square of the city.

I love the look of nighttime shots, find it a bit of a challenge to take them handheld with a point-and-shoot camera. I braced my camera against a variety of objects and even used my stocking hat as a cushion in trying to gain a more stable shooting position.

Grand-Place

Grand-Place

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Christmas season is gradually coming to an end in Brussels. Yesterday, for example, I noted that they had removed the large Christmas tree from the central city square, leaving a large hole in the cobblestones and a pile of discarded debris.

Beautiful decorations, however, still remain in a covered shopping arcade and in some of the streets.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Whenever I visit Brussels, I always visit the statue of the Mannekin Pis, the little boy who is one of the best known symbols of the city. On holidays and on some special days, the statue is dressed in various costumes and I am always curious to see if there is a new outfit. On this occasion, there was no costume, only a bouquet of flowers.

Mannekin Pis

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I arrived in Brussels early in the morning, when it was still dark. After checking into my hotel, I decided to take a short stroll to the Grand-Place, the wonderful historical square in the center of the city.

The sunlight was just starting to penetrate into one end of the square, which itself is a rarity in the winter, when, judging from my own experience, the skies are normally gray and the sun disappears for days at a time. I love the way that the light made the gold decorations on the buildings simply sparkle.

It was a beautiful way to start this short business trip

Grand-Place

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I conclude another brief trip to Brussels, I thought I’d include a number of the photos that I managed to snap while walking in the streets of the central part of the city. As is typical of this time of the year, the weather was often gray with intermittent light rain, but I did manage to see some interesting sights.

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towers_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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While briefly in Brussels on business, I was able to take advantage of a beer festival held at the Grand-Place, the historical central square of the city. Booths were set up in the center of the square and there was an extensive variety of beers to taste. I initially visited the square in the post dawn hours, when workers were cleaning up the area after Saturday night’s festivities and then returned with friends on Sunday afternoon to sample some of the beers.

View of the Grand-Place and some of the booths

View of the Grand-Place and some of the booths

Beer weekend

Beer weekend

“Proud of our beers”

Troll beer

Troll beer

“The Beer of Bravery” Previously  “Beer of Victory,” but sales in France were low.

it's a family affair...

It’s a family affair…

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Whenever I am walking through beautiful cities in Europe, I spend a lot of time with my eyes pointed upward, marveling at the amazing architecture. I’ve learned the hard way, though, that it is also important to look downward in order to avoid potentially unpleasant situations.

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Dogs seem to be welcomed in many places in Europe and it is not rare for me to see them on public transportation and even in restaurants. Unfortunately, the dogs have to periodically answer the call of nature and not all owners seem to fulfill their civic responsibility to clean up after their dogs.

I ran across this sign in one section of pavement here in Brussels near the Bourse (Stock Exchange). I am sometimes confused by signs without words and often hesitate when confronted by symbols on public bathroom doors representing genders. In this case, I think it means that dogs should do their business elsewhere, though I suppose it could also be a warning that there are guard dogs present or that dogs should not even be in that area.

One other reason to look down from time to time is that there are sometimes beautiful things to be seen, like this artistic grate in one of the streets near the Grand-Place, the main square of Brussels. I don’t know the background of this little piece of art, but I am always happy to rediscover it each time that I return to Brussels.

down2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The skies finally cleared a little and yesterday evening I had a chance to take a walk in the Grand-Place, Brussel’s central square, one of my favorite locations in this city. The cobblestone pavement was still wet, helping to create nice reflections in some of the shots and the crowds were somewhat sparse, so I was able to get relatively unobstructed shots of some of the buildings that surround the square..

As is usually the case when I am traveling for work, I used my old Canon A620 point-and-shoot camera and used a variety of railings, posts, and other objects to steady myself for these nighttime photos.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am back in the beautiful city Brussels, Belgium for a short work trip and so far my opportunities to take photos have been limited. I am struck by the limited number of daylight hours and it’s been cloudy, windy, and occasionally rainy.

I hope to get some new images, but in the mean time decided to post one from my trip here almost exactly a year ago. It is a night shot of the main tower of the Town Hall, the tallest building in the famous Grand-Place, the central square of Brussels. If you are interested in the history of the Grand-Place, check out this Wikipedia article.

The weather may not improve much—this is what I consider to be typical European winter weather, but I’ll be out and about a bit later today trying to capture some of the sights of Brussels.

Brussels Town Hall

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although I am here in Brussels for work, I did have some time to play tourist and visit some of the beautiful sights of the city, including the wonderful historical buildings on the Grand-Place, the ancient center of Brussels. Even with my old point-and-shoot camera, the details of the buildings really sparkle.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What is street art? I tend to think of street art as a category that encompasses a broad range of artistic expressions in a public area. As I walked through the streets of Brussels during this trip, I saw art everywhere—underfoot, in the form of a brass grate in the street; in the air, in the form of a Tintin mural on the side of a building; and at eye level, in the form of a grafitti-covered security cover for a shop and in a stenciled image on the side of a potato delivery truck.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of Brussels’s notable tourist landmarks, the Manneken Pis, was wearing a different set of clothes today. The costume is that of the Red Knights of Belgium 1, the local branch of an international firefighters motorcycle club. According to a city website, “The costume was offered to honor the many firefighters, but also the American Red Knights, who vanished during the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001.”

boy3_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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You can find fine Belgian chocolate everywhere in Brussels, but if you want other kinds of candy, this is the place to go to find almost every kind of sweet treat that you can imagine. Of course, I smile every time that I pass by the store and read its name—I can’t quite imagine a candy store with the name of SUCX succeeding in the United States.

sucx_blog

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Whenever I am in Brussels, I always try to be sure that I see the Manneken Pis, the little boy who is one of the symbols of the city. Normally, he is naked and is peeing into a fountain, but on special occasions he is clothed in one of his many costumes. Yesterday, he was wearing an athletic suit, with what appeared to be a Belgian flag, and running shoes. The statue of the boy is not very big and I am also posting a shot of the alcove in which he is located to give you an idea of his size.

I will try to check him again before I leave and see if he has changed into a different set of clothes. If so, I’ll be sure to post another photo.

boy2_blogboy1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of favorite things about walking around in the old area of Brussels near the Grand-Place is that you can unexpectedly come across giant murals on the sides of buildings illustrating scenes from the Adventures of Tintin.  This series of comic books was created by Belgian artist Georges Remi (who wrote under the pen name of Hergé) and was one of the most popular European comic series in the 20th century.

Although I am fortunate to make trips to Brussels a couple of times a year, my trips are short in duration and I never get to know the city very well. As a result, it’s a real joy to rediscover a Tintin mural when I am wandering through the winding streets of Brussels, as I did yesterday, when I stumbled onto one of my favorite murals, depicting two boys walking together.

CORRECTION: It turns out that there are a lot of different comic book artists have works depicted in murals throughout Brussels and this mural from a series by Frank Pé with a main character called Broussaille, not from the Tintin series. Broussaille is the blond character on the right and his girlfriend Catherine is on the left. The mural was painted in 1991 and then repainted in 1999 to make Catherine appear more feminine—many believed the mural depicted a gay couple, given the proximity of the mural to Brussel’s gay district.

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You also can see some interesting signs in the streets of Brussels, like this one, which seems to be advertising a beer by using a baby.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During this past week in Brussels, I experienced extremes of weather, ranging from dark, threatening thunder clouds to gorgeous light late one day that bathed the palace in shimmering gold.

clouds_bloggolden_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Another short business trip to Brussels is coming to an end. Here are some images of this beautiful city taken during the last few days with my old point-and-shoot Canon A620.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The city was mostly deserted when I took a walk through the center of Brussels at 5:00 this morning, my last day in Brussels for this trip.  It was a little eerie to visit some of the major tourist sites in the moonlight and to be mostly alone.

Mountains of bulging trash bags and folded cardboard were piled up outside the businesses as I made my way through the cobblestone streets of the pedestrian area. The buildings of the Grand Place were as beautiful as ever, though I didn’t really care for the series of off-and-on lights that illuminated them (and they made it tough to get a proper exposure). I finished up my early morning stroll with a visit to the Mannekin Pis, the little boy who is one of the symbols of Brussels. Occasionally I have seen him in one of his many costumes, but this morning, he was au naturel.

Despite seeing again some of the famous landmarks, my favorite subject this morning was the moon as it lit up the clouds in the sky. I tried to capture some of the feeling in the first photo, where the moon shows itself in between parts of the roofs in a downtown house.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Words exist in a cultural context and here in Brussels, perhaps nobody smiles when they pass this sign for the “Bimbo Fashion Store.” As an American male, though, my imagination goes into overdrive as I imagine the type of clothing that would be deemed suitable fashion for a bimbo. Tight jeans and a tube top? Plunging necklines?

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I really like the different types and colors of light in this shot of a portion of Brussel’s nightime skyline, taken from an overlook near the city’s Central Train Station.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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What kind of music can they possibly play in a place that advertises itself as an Irish pub disco bar?

I did a double-take when I saw this sign as I was walking around in the center of Brussels and suffered a moment of cognitive dissonance—there is little room for overlap in my preconceived notions of the clientele of an Irish pub and that of a disco bar and the main activities seem different too.

I wonder if the pub has a big mirrored ball hanging from the ceiling.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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