The Original Way to discover the Borinage !!!
Vincent Van Gogh, "Les Sclôneuses" (collectie : Kröller-Müller Museum)
Vincent Van Gogh walks @ Petit-Wasmes
(open to all public)
Guided walks in Vincent Van Gogh's footsteps in Petit-Wasmes
where Vincent spent 6 months as an evanglist among the miners and their families.
Sunday, 26 March (9:30 - 13:00); 6 km
Saturday,29 April (09:30 - 13:00); 6 km
Saturday, 29 July (09:30 - 16:30); 12 km
Sunday, 24 September (09:30 - 13:00); 6 km
Practical info : email@example.com (guide)
Bookings via "Visit Mons" :
T : +32-(0)65-33 55 80 - E : firstname.lastname@example.org
Van Gogh Borinage bus tours
(open to all public)
Guided bus tours through the former coal mine region of the Borinage
along the different places where Vincent lived and worked
(Pâturages, Wasmes, Cuesmes, Frameries,Flénu, Mons)
Saturday, 1st April 2017 (14:30 - 17:30)
Sunday, 2 July 2017 (14:30 - 17:30)
Info & Reservations via "Visit Mons" :
T : +32-(0)65-33 55 80 - E : email@example.com
Discover Vincent Van Gogh’s heritage places in the Borinage (Belgium).
Guided walking tours for groups in GB, NL, FR, DE, including stops at the Van Gogh House and the Marcasse coal mine in Wasmes.
Duration: ± 3 hours
Découvrez le patrimoine de Vincent Van Gogh dans le Borinage (Belgique).
Promenades guidées pour groupes en GB, NL, FR, DE, avec des arrêts à la Maison Van Gogh et au charbonnage de Marcasse à Wasmes.
Durée: ± 3 heures
Ontdek het Vincent Van Gogh erfgoed in de Borinage (België).
Geleide wandelingen voor groepen in GB, NL, FR, DE, met haltes aan het Van Gogh Huis en de Marcasse kolenmijn in Wasmes.
Duur: ± 3 uur
Entdecken Sie die Vincent Van Gogh Erbe in der Borinage (Belgien).
Geführte Wanderungen für Gruppen auf GB, NL, FR, DE, mit Besüche am Van Gogh Haus und am Marcasse Kohlenbergwerk in Wasmes.
Dauer: ± 3 Stunden
Info & Reservations
Frameries – Belgium
Tel : +32-(0)487-68 58 59
Presqu'un Van Gogh - Almost a Van Gogh
Reportage photos de Maison Roth-Pino - samedi 07/03/2015
Télé MB :
2017 sera l'année du grand retour de Vincent Van Gogh
au Borinage !
Activités annoncées :
promenades Van Gogh walks @ Petit-Wasmes
Dimanche 26 mars (9h30 - 13h); 6 km
Samedi 29 avril (09h30 - 13h); 6 km
Samedi 29 juillet (09h30 - 16h30); 12 km
Dimanche 24 septembre (09h30 - 13h); 6 km
Infos pratiques : firstname.lastname@example.org (guide)
Réservations via Visit Mons :
T : +32-(0)65-33 55 80 - E : email@example.com
an Gogh Borinage bus tours
Samedi 1er avril 2017 (14h30 - 17h30)
Dimanche 2 juillet (14h30 - 17h30)
Infos & Réservations via Visit Mons :
T : +32-(0)65-33 55 80 - E : firstname.lastname@example.org
La Newsletter du Centre Culturel de Colfontaine
A cause d'une incompatibilité dans le calendrier du "challenge des Haut-Pays"
la date du Jogging Van Gogh sera modifiée.
Le jogging n'aura pas lieu le 12 mars, maiis sera reporté probablement au mois d'octobre.
On vous tiendra au courant dès que la nouvelle date sera connue !
Buste Vincent Van Gogh
Directors of Van Gogh Biopic Offer Painting Giveaway
It's billed as the world's first fully painted feature film.
Eileen Kinsella, January 24, 2017
BreakThru Films of Poland and UK-based Trademark Films have just released the full trailer for Loving Vincent their much-anticipated biopic of legendary artist Vincent van Gogh.
The film—billed as the world’s first fully painted feature film— aims to tell the story of the tortured Dutch artist’s life. Every one of the 65,000 frames of the film is hand painted by 125 professional oil-painters who traveled from all over Europe to the Loving Vincent film studios in Poland and Greece to create works for the film.
Filmakers launched a competition ending January 31
and are giving away this painting created for Loving Vincent. Courtesy Loving Vincent.
An official release date has not been set, but the filmmakers have launched a competition, ending January 31, whereby anyone who signs up for the film’s newsletter is entered for a chance to win one of the paintings created for the film (above).
Courtesy Loving Vincent.
Loving Vincent was first shot as a live action film with actors, and then artists went in to paint, frame-by-frame, in oil. The mesmerizing visual result melds the modern day actors with the historic artist’s iconic portraits and landscapes. Among the famous actors who have roles are Saoirse Ronan, who starred in the film Brooklyn, and Chris O’Dowd, of Bridesmaids and Saint Vincent, as well as Helen McCrory, of Harry Potter fame.
Interest in the artist and his dramatic, albeit short life,has never been more intense. This past year saw the publication of Breaking Van Gogh, in which journalist James Ottar Grundvig posits that a painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wheat Field With Cypresses, is a skillfully rendered fake. More recently, an intense debate developed around publication of The Lost Sketchbook of Arles, in which scholar Bogomila Welsh-Ocharov put forth a detailed case for why she believes a sketchbook contains drawings that van Gogh created while in the South of France, near the end of his life.
Experts at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam have publicly disavowed the work, prompting the French publisher to threaten legal action.
According to a release from the filmmakers, they decided to “let the paintings tell the real story of Vincent van Gogh.”
Read more :
Van Gogh, l'énigme de l'oreille coupée
Comment et pourquoi Van Gogh s’est-il mutilé l’oreille un soir de décembre 1888 ? Dans le sillage de Bernadette Murphy, qui a rassemblé les pièces du puzzle, une enquête trépidante sur l’un des plus célèbres mystères de l’histoire de l’art.
Chacun a entendu parler de cette nuit du 23 décembre 1888 au cours de laquelle, à Arles, Vincent Van Gogh se plaça devant un miroir, attrapa un rasoir et se coupa l’oreille. À la suite de cet épisode tragique, la famille du peintre détruisit certains documents compromettants. Depuis, en l’absence d’éléments tangibles, des générations de chercheurs ont échafaudé des théories sur le déroulement des faits. Mais que s’est-il passé réellement ? Van Gogh s’est-il tranché l’oreille entière ou uniquement le lobe ? Que révèle cette automutilation sur son état mental ? Chercheuse indépendante installée en Provence, Bernadette Murphy a joué les détectives pendant cinq années pour reconstituer précisément le scénario du drame.
Pêche aux indices
Au fil de ses investigations, elle a plongé dans l’intimité de l’artiste et recomposé son quotidien à Arles : ses amis, ses ennemis, ses œuvres majeures, la visite houleuse de Paul Gauguin, qui marqua un tournant dans sa vie, le bouillonnement de ses émotions… Ce documentaire captivant retrace les étapes clés de cette enquête minutieuse, qui a permis, pour la première fois, de faire la lumière sur cet incident en identifiant toutes les forces à l’œuvre, et de comprendre comment il a influencé la démarche artistique de Van Gogh.
Voir plus :
Bernadette Murphy: The true story of Van Gogh's Ear
When Vincent Van Gogh shot himself in 1890 he had sold just one painting. One hundred and thirty years later he’s a superstar of the artworld pantheon, with paintings in every major museum in the world, each selling for millions at auction. Yet he is known more for his extraordinary personal life, and for one incident in particular. On 23 December 1888 in Arles, a small town in Provence, Van Gogh sat in front of his mirror, took hold of a cut-throat razor used for shaving and sliced into his own ear. It was an act of astonishing savagery and has come to define the man, the art and the myth.
Bernadette Murphy, author of Van Gogh’s Ear: The True Story, has lived in the south of France for over thirty years, just a few miles from Arles. She has spent years hearing local gossip about the crazed painter and his madness, but there always seemed to be mysterious lacunae in the story: how much of his ear did he cut off? Why did he do it? Who was the prostitute to whom he gave his grisly gift? How did he end up, just eighteen months after he cut off his ear, committing suicide at only 37 years old? She was determined to find some answers.
So began a monumental quest. Approaching these questions with a detective’s eye for detail, Bernadette Murphy compiled a database of over 15,000 people who lived in Arles in the 1880s, many of them people Van Gogh knew well, and spent months in local archives, sending queries far and wide.
In early 1889 Van Gogh painted two self-portraits with a bandage wrapped around his ear. What really lies beneath that bandage has been disputed for the last century. Van Gogh’s family had long sought to minimise the injury, claiming it was just the lobe he cut off. But contradictory rumours soon started to circulate. In the archives of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Bernadette read about a trip the American writer Irving Stone made to Arles in 1930. Stone was researching his fictionalised biography of Van Gogh, Lust for Life, later made into a film starring Kirk Douglas as the painter. Stone sought out Dr Felix Rey, who as a young intern had treated Van Gogh the day after he severed his ear, and asked him to draw a diagram of exactly what Van Gogh had done. In Stone’s archives in California Bernadette found this drawing and for the first time in a century laid to rest the question once and for all.
Dr Rey's drawing © The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
Read more at https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/find-your-next-read/recommendations/2016/jul/bernadette-murphy-on-van-gogh/#LyFGljyOkdmTEMBR.99
Using her database, extensive local knowledge and a forensic approach to research, Bernadette also managed to identify the girl, known only as ‘Rachel’, to whom Van Gogh gave his severed ear that night. Van Gogh sought out ‘Rachel’, who we now know was actually called Gabrielle, at one of the brothels on the rue Bout d’Arles, in the local red-light district, which had long prompted writers to assume she was a prostitute. The truth is far more nuanced.
These are only a couple of the many revelations, large and small, that Bernadette Murphy makes in the compelling Van Gogh’s Ear: The True Story. Bernadette set out to answer questions and debunk the myth-making around Van Gogh. And she succeeded: her new information uncovers mysteries, shifts perceptions and significantly changes the way we see Van Gogh. Her book is a detective story and a quest: we see her battling against reluctant archivists, finding friends in strange places, and having moments of thrilling revelation. It’s an emotional journey fraught with challenges, but it also proves that an everywoman can achieve the incredible.
Plan realized by Monique Van den Berg (Rotterdam - NL)
Marcasse and Vincent Van Gogh
Letter from Vincent to Theo van Gogh. Petit-Wasmes,
between Tuesday, 1and Wednesday, 16 April 1879.
Wasmes, April 1879
My dear Theo,
I went on a very interesting excursion not long ago; the fact is, I spent 6 hours in a mine.
In one of the oldest and most dangerous mines in the area no less, called Marcasse. This mine
has a bad name because many die in it, whether going down or coming up, or by suffocation
or gas exploding, or because of water in the ground, or because of old passageways caving in
and so on. It’s a sombre place, and at first sight everything around it has something dismal
and deathly about it. The workers there are usually people, emaciated and pale owing to fever,
who look exhausted and haggard, weather-beaten and prematurely old, the women generally
sallow and withered. All around the mine are poor miners’ dwellings with a couple of dead
trees, completely black from the smoke, and thorn-hedges, dung-heaps and rubbish dumps,
mountains of unusable coal &c. Maris would make a beautiful painting of it.
Later I’ll try and make a sketch of it to give you an idea of it.
Had a good guide, a man who has already worked there for 33 years, a friendly and patient
man who explained everything clearly and tried to make it understandable.
We went down together, 700 metres deep this time, and went into the most hidden corners of
Your loving brother
Going down in a mine is an unpleasant business, in a kind of basket or cage like a bucket in a
well, but then a well 500-700 metres deep, so that down there, looking upward, the daylight
appears to be about as big as a star in the sky. One has a feeling similar to one’s first time on a
ship at sea, but worse, though fortunately it doesn’t last long. The workers get used to it, but
even so, they never shake off an unconquerable feeling of horror and dread that stays with
them, not without reason or unjustifiably. Once down there, however, it isn’t so bad, and the
effort is richly rewarded by what one sees.
Vincent van Gogh
c/o Jean-Baptiste Denis
rue du Petit-Wasmes
Wasmes (Borinage, Hainaut)
(Read complete letter : http://vangoghletters.org/vg/letters/let151/letter.html)
The Marcasse colliery belonged to the « Compagnie des Charbonnages Belges », which
exploited a total of 11 pits. The mine closed on October 24th, 1954.
(Source : « Cartes postales anciennes du Borinage », collection of Marcel Capouillez)
Present owners of Marcasse
Mr. & Mrs. Barberio – Gravis
E : email@example.com
Web : http://riccanad.blogspace.be/308353/ASBL-Marcasse-sa-Memoire-
Photo Theo Meedendorp (Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam)
What future for Marcasse ?
A small group of 5 motivated (and a little crazy...) persons have been working hard on the new future of the former Marcasse coal mine in Wasmes (Borinage). They are Carmen Azevedo (Brussels), Paul BErckmans (Antwerp), Paul Boutsen (Genk), Monique Vandenberg (Rotterdam) and Filip Depuydt (Frameries).
Please find the Masterplan and an additional note for our Marcasse renovation plan via the following links.
Masterplan document (in french) :
Masterplan - Note additionnelle (en français):
Masterplan - bijkomende Nota (in het Nederlands) :
Masterplan - additional Note (in english) :
Some reports about Marcasse
Marcasse - Commemoration ceremony for the 60th anniversary of the mine gaz catastrophe of January 13th, 1953 (24 victims)
Vous le savez , les asiatiques sont très intéressés par le peintre VanGogh et son passage dans le Borinage. La preuve encore, le 10 septembre après midi, puisqu'un groupe de japonais visitait le site de Marcasse. L'occasion de faire le point sur les projets de sauvegarde et de développement du site que défend une poignée de passionnés.
See report :
Marcasse by LDV Production (October 2016) :
The Marcasse Masterplan Team
Paul Boutsen, Carmen, Monique and Paul Berckmans "in action"
Paul Berckmans, Monique, Paul Boutsen and Carmen
Thanks for supporting Marcasse !!!
Exposition d'un tableau de la galerie d'art Albricht
Retour d'un Van Gogh à Zundert après un demi-siècle
Zundert - Un authentique Van Gogh peut à nouveau être admiré à Zundert après plus d'un demi-siècle. Du 21 décembre 2016 au 29 janvier 2017, la Vincent van GoghHuis expose le tableau Nouvelle église et vieilles maisons à La Haye (1883). Cette oeuvre, qui véhicule un message spécial en cette période de Noël, est prêtée par la galerie d'art Albricht d'Oosterbeek.
Le musée de Zundert est ravi de cette aubaine. La dernière fois que des oeuvres originales de Van Gogh furent exhibées dans son village natal, c'était en 1964 à l'occasion de l'inauguration du monument Van Gogh d'Ossip Zadkine. À l'époque, tout comme en 1953 pour le centenaire de la naissance de l'artiste, une exposition fut mise sur pied avec des oeuvres prêtées par la famille Van Gogh. Bien que de telles opportunités ne se présentent plus depuis longtemps, le musée créé en 2008 sur la terre natale du peintre souhaite ardemment exposer une oeuvre de Van Gogh de temps à autre. Grâce au prêt de la galerie d'art Albricht, cette aspiration se concrétise maintenant pour la première fois.
Bob Albricht a récemment acheté le tableau issu de la succession d'un collectionneur privé français. C'est un tableau des débuts de Van Gogh datant de sa période haguenoise avec, en premier plan, une rangée de maisons d'ouvriers, et la nouvelle église en arrière-plan.
Cette vieille église protestante doit avoir eu une signification spéciale pour Vincent van Gogh qui était le fils d'un pasteur et par ailleurs très croyant lui-même. Pendant son séjour à La
Haye, il a sans nul doute assisté à des offices religieux dans cette église et ce n'est pas par hasard qu'il choisit de peindre cet édifice. C'était le symbole de l'univers de son père. Par l'association motivée de la maison de Dieu avec, en avant-plan, des logements de gens simples qui touchaient profondément Van Gogh, il exprimait sa conscience sociale à la lumière de la foi de son père. De ce fait, le tableau est bien plus qu'une simple reproduction topographique. Il transmet un message qui s'aligne parfaitement sur l'esprit de Noël. Pour la famille Van Gogh, Noël était une fête spéciale réunissant de préférence tout le monde à la maison. En ce sens, le retour de cette oeuvre significative dans la maison de Zundert en cette période de Noël revêt une importance particulière.
Van Gogh a emporté cette toile avec lui jusqu'à Nuenen dans le Brabant. C'est là qu'elle est restée lorsqu'il partit vivre à Anvers. Sa mère fit transporter les biens meubles de son atelier à Breda où ils furent perdus. Les oeuvres de la période néerlandaise retrouvées ultérieurement furent vendues via la galerie d'art Oldenzeel de Rotterdam, sur recommandation de Hendrik Bremmer, un fin connaisseur de Van Gogh. Là, le tableau fut acquis par le riche collectionneur et constructeur naval Jan Smit d'Alblasserdam. Ses descendants le vendirent aux enchères à Paris en 1970, date à laquelle il disparut à nouveau et passa aux mains d'un particulier. C'est la raison pour laquelle ce tableau n'a été montré au public qu'épisodiquement.
Fondation Van Gogh in Brabant
La Maison de Vincent van Gogh (Vincent van GoghHuis) est établie sur la terre natale du célèbre artiste de Zundert. Le musée fait partie de la Fondation Van Gogh in Brabant. Celle-ci regroupe cinq institutions (le Village Van Gogh à Nuenen, la Salle de dessin de Vincent à Tilburg, l'Église Van Gogh à Etten-Leur, la Maison de Vincent van Gogh à Zundert et le Musée du Brabant-Septentrional à Bois-le-Duc) qui conjuguent leurs forces pour conserver et partager l'héritage culturel de Van Gogh au Brabant. À cette fin, la fondation collabore avec Van Gogh Europe, un partenariat international regroupant diverses institutions néerlandaises, belges et françaises qui s'investissent conjointement dans la préservation et la promotion collective de l'héritage de Van Gogh.
Pour les informations presse :
Ron Dirven, directeur-conservateur de la Vincent van GoghHuis de Zundert –
Tél. : +31 (0)76 597 8590 / +31 623 301 249 –
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Retour d'un Van Gogh à la maison
Du 21 décembre 2016 au 29 janvier 2017
Heures d'ouverture : du mercredi au vendredi, de 10 h 00 à 17 h 00 | les samedi et dimanche, de 12 h 00 à 17 h 00
(Fermé le jour de Noël et ouvert de 12 h 00 à 17 h 00 le 26 décembre)
Vincent van GoghHuis, Markt 26-27, 4881 CN Zundert
"Traces" - Annick Verbeiren
"Vincent, de toi à moi" - Elisabeth Breton
Samedi 26 novembre 2016 (9h - 12h) à la Maison Van Gogh de Petit-wasmes :
"Sur les traces de Vincent Van Gogh"
une approche de l'aquarelle avec Elisabeth Breton et Annick Verbeiren (Aquar Elles).
Inscriptions via le Centre Culturel de Colfonteine
Tel : 065-88 74 88 ou email@example.com
Frances Lincoln is part of the Quarto Publishing Group UK 74-77 White Lion Street, London N1 9PF T. 020 7284 9300 W. www.franceslincoln.com
STUDIO OF THE SOUTH
VAN GOGH IN PROVENCE
By Martin Bailey
Frances Lincoln | 3rd November 2016
£25.00 | Hardback
Studio of the South: Van Gogh in Provence focusses on the artist’s most productive period - his 15 months in Arles, where he produced his greatest paintings. It was in Arles that Van Gogh became a landscape painter, capturing the blossoming orchards, golden wheat fields, luxuriant vineyards and gnarled olive trees of southern France.
Studio of the South unravels the story of Van Gogh’s 444 days in Arles with a truly unique and fresh approach. Packed with new information, profusely illustrated, and featuring twenty or so images previously unpublished in the Van Gogh literature, the book examines the development of Van Gogh's work in a series of thematic chapters.
Whilst the primary focus is on his art, Studio of the South also tackles Van Gogh’s relationship with Gauguin and the personal, family circumstances which led to the infamous ear incident.
Martin Bailey says: “Van Gogh’s home was the Yellow House, which he rented two months after his arrival in Arles. It provided his own personal space to sleep and paint – a welcome change from a cramped hotel room. He described it as the ‘studio in the south’. Vincent regarded his beloved Yellow House as not simply a physical space, but a ‘living studio’.”
Martin Bailey is a leading Van Gogh specialist and investigative reporter. He has curated two Van Gogh exhibitions, at the Barbican Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Scotland/Compton Verney, as well as a display at the Wallace Collection. He has written a number of bestselling books on the artist, most recently The Sunflowers are Mine: The Story of Van Gogh's Masterpiece (Frances Lincoln, 2013). He is a correspondent for The Art Newspaper and lives in London.
Martin Bailey is available for interview.
Studio of the South: Van Gogh in Provence by Martin Bailey is published by Frances Lincoln, price £25.00
For further details and any requests, please contact: Melody Odusanya at Frances Lincoln,
tel. +44-(0)20 7284 9300, email firstname.lastname@example.org
This bed, first made famous by Vincent van Gogh's 1888 painting 'The Bedroom,' may today still be lurking in a home or attic in a small Dutch town. | VINCENT VAN GOGH (PUBLIC DOMAIN) / VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Is van Gogh’s ‘The Bedroom’ bed still lurking in a Dutch home?
THE HAGUE – A bed first made famous by Vincent van Gogh’s 1888 painting “The Bedroom” may today still be lurking in a home or attic in a small Dutch town, an art historian claimed Sunday.
British-based van Gogh expert Martin Bailey said the bed on which van Gogh slept while living in the scenic southern French city of Arles may have ended up in a home in Boxmeer in the Netherlands after World War II.
Bailey based his belief on his discovery of a letter written in 1937 by van Gogh’s cousin, Vincent Willem, in which he said he still possessed the bed of his famous uncle, who committed suicide in 1890.
“This was a key letter that showed that the bed had survived and had been taken to the Netherlands,” Bailey told Dutch public broadcaster NOS.
“This was a real surprise for me. That was (also) not known to van Gogh scholars,” said Bailey, who started off on an intriguing search to trace historic pieces of furniture.
Bailey contacted Johan van Gogh, the elderly son of van Gogh’s cousin “and he actually, to my astonishment, remembered the bed.”
Johan, 94, said the bed stood in his father’s house in Laren until 1945, when it was sent to Boxmeer, around 120 km (75 miles) to the south, as part of a donation to help Dutch who lost their possessions during the war.
Aided by a colleague, Bailey then found a picture of the actual truck used to cart the donated furniture from Laren to Boxmeer.
“That was the last bit of the puzzle. There is no question that the bed ended up in Boxmeer,” Bailey said.
“Of course, the intriguing question is: where is it now?” he said, admitting the bed may have inadvertently been thrown away over the years.
Van Gogh painted three versions of “The Bedroom.”
The 1888 version hangs in Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, while two later versions painted in 1889, are on display at the Art Institute of Chicago and Paris’ Musee d’Orsay.
The Van Gogh Museum, in response to Bailey’s claims, told the NOS on Sunday it “would be interesting if the bed is actually found.”
“We’ll closely follow the investigations,” the museum said.
Read full article :
Where to be wowed in Wallonia
Here are three places to take in the best Walloon sights and experiences – just don’t bring up CETA
MONS, BELGIUM The Globe and Mail Last updated: Monday, Nov. 07, 2016 2:20PM EST
If Wallonia got more than its fair share in Canada’s newly signed trade deal with Europe, you could say the same thing about its natural and man-made attractions. The French-speaking region of Belgium punches well above its weight when it comes to culture, history, scenery and gastronomy.
When the small region initially roared its disapproval over the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, many of us would have been hard-pressed to find Wallonia on a map. The southern half of Belgium rarely makes our news.
But as Wallonians continued to demonstrate against a deal they thought would give too much power to big business, we watched farmers on tractors protesting outside their capital city Namur, and saw pictures of a bucolic countryside with cows grazing outdoors, and people sitting and enjoying their food.
Instead of asking “Where’s Wallonia?” you probably started thinking “Wow, Wallonia!”
Yes, Wallonia may be less prosperous than Dutch-speaking Flanders in northern Belgium, but Wallonians know they’ve got something good and they want to protect it.
Luckily for us, they’re happy to share. The region offers a treasure trove of sights and experiences. Here are three places you’ll want to visit. Just don’t mention CETA, in case it raises their hackles.
Colourful old buildings and many outdoor cafés surround the Grand Place of Mons in the historic heart of the city.
Suzanne Morphet/The Globe and Mail
Crowned Cultural Capital of Europe in 2015, Mons boasts a dozen museums and art galleries, an imposing 15th-century church, a Gothic-style town hall and a 17th-century baroque belfry with 49 bells. It’s easy to walk the cobblestone streets of this small city and take it all in, but you’ll want to rent a car or book a tour to explore its coal-mining heritage outside town in an area called the Borinage.
Here you’ll find one of the architectural jewels of Europe’s Industrial Age – the Grand-Hornu, a former coal-mining complex. The neoclassical, red brick structure was pulled back from the brink of collapse by a French architect in 1971 and restored to its former glory, replete with columns and arches. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s a breathtaking example of transformation, and how industry can reflect culture. Inside, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) is a bonus. (An exhibition of postcards by American conceptual artist Peter Downsbrough runs until Jan. 8, 2017.)
Perhaps nothing is as intriguing about Mons as its link to Vincent van Gogh. The would-be artist arrived in the Borinage at the age of 25, not to paint, but to be a pastor. “He had read an article about the miners and wanted to work with poor people,” said local historian Filip Depuydt, who gives walking tours of van Gogh’s former neighbourhood in Colfontaine, with its narrow streets and humble row housing.
The enormous slag heaps where van Gogh often helped women scavenge for bits of coal to heat their homes still dot the landscape. For a close-up view, hike up the forested slag heap at the Parc d’Aventures Scientifiques (PASS) just outside Mons. The coal in these hills continues to slowly combust, warming the ground and allowing plants that wouldn’t normally grow here – such as butterfly bushes – to thrive. Incredible but true.
Before you leave the area, visit two of the houses where van Gogh lived, one still under restoration. When his six-month contract with the local church wasn’t renewed (church officials thought his habit of giving his clothes to the poor and dressing in rags was bizarre), van Gogh decided to become a painter.
The renovated Van Gogh House in Wasmes (Colfontaine)
In Mons, stay at the Dream Hotel, a restored convent in the old city with whimsically painted rooms.
The countryside of Herve
View of a village near Herve.
At the opposite end of Wallonia from Mons, get off the A3 highway at Herve and slow down to life in the countryside. Rolling hills are crisscrossed by hedgerows and dotted with black and white grazing cows. Church steeples punctuate the skyline above lush green valleys, where stone chateaux dating from the 16th and 17th centuries nestle beside clear flowing rivers.
This is where you come to taste Wallonia. Many of its agricultural products are protected by gastronomic confréries or brotherhoods, of which there are 129 in French-speaking Belgium alone. Pick up a map at the tourism office in Herve and watch a short video introducing the area’s flavours, then explore nearby villages by car or bicycle.
If you visit in fall, you’ll see pears and apples being boiled and hand-stirred in large copper vats at the Siroperie Artisanale d’Aubel, now run by the 11th generation of the founding family. Belgians enjoy the thick syrup, which improves with age, with chunks of raw milk cheese, another specialty of Herve.
At the Fromagerie du Vieux Moulin (Old Mill), see how cheese is produced and sample an assortment of unpasteurized varieties from mild to piquant.
To quench your thirst, stop at the Val-Dieu Abbey in the delightful Berwinne Valley, where beer is still brewed in the tradition of the Cistercian monks who settled here in 1216. The last monks left in 2001 and the abbey was taken over by a group of Christian lay-people. Inside the abbey’s attractive stone walls, a cafeteria offers three kinds of beer: blonde, brown and triple blond.
Just up the road, enjoy lunch outdoors on the patio of the Aux Berges de la Bel, or better yet, check in for the night. The bed and breakfast has four guest rooms, each named for a different variety of apple and painted in a matching shade of red or green.
Lunch might be wild venison bagged by hunters in the nearby Ardennes, with a rich brown sauce made from one of those abbey beers.
Aside from the food scene, this area has two other highlights. The Henri-Chapelle American military cemetery sits on a high plateau with gorgeous views. And near the particularly pretty village of Clermont, the Remember Museum vividly recalls how the Second World War played out here, with dozens of displays enlivened with realistic mannequins and hundreds of artifacts, including trucks and tanks left behind by American soldiers. The husband and wife who built and run the place are a delight.
Collegiate Church of St. Bartholomew in Liege, Wallonia’s second-largest city.
The second-largest city in Wallonia, Liège is a breeze to get to by high-speed train from Brussels and other European capitals. Arrive at the relatively new (2009) train station, designed by celebrated Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, and step out from its soaring glass ceiling to a city of more beautiful buildings, most of them just a lot older.
Liège claims to be the birthplace of Charlemagne, first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. What’s not disputed is the city’s unusually rich religious heritage from the Middle Ages. Seven large churches still survive, including the red-trimmed sandstone Collegiate Church of St. Bartholomew, known for its 11th-century baptismal font. The bronze font is considered a masterpiece of regional Mosan art and one of Belgium’s historical treasures.
One church is notable by its absence. St. Lambert’s Cathedral was demolished during the French Revolution by locals who were tired of church authority. Take a guided walk to learn fascinating tidbits such as the fact it took more than 30 years to methodically and peacefully tear down this cathedral, piece by piece. Theirs was a happy revolution. Much of the artwork was later installed in nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral. The empty square where St. Lambert’s once stood is now the site of Liège’s famous Christmas market, which attracts more than two million visitors every December.
Across from the square, the Palace of the Prince-Bishops’ still commands authority, both by virtue of its occupants (the courthouse and provincial government) and its grandiosity. Gothic arches mix agreeably with Italian Renaissance columns. Look up and a grotesque face will be grinning down at you.
Visit Liège on a Sunday, and you’ll want to see the weekly market, La Batte, the largest and oldest in the country. Stalls line the River Meuse for almost three kilometres. Sellers offer fruits and vegetables, cheese and flowers, along with Belgium’s famous frites and waffles. Biting into a crispy-sweet Liège waffle – sweeter than those in Brussels and made with yeasted dough – is to experience momentary bliss. Meatballs – another Liège specialty – are sometimes served with a sweet sauce made from syrup of pears and apples from Herve.
When you’re ready to burn off some calories, climb the so-called Mountain of Bueren, an enormous staircase with 374 steps that cuts a straight and steep line through the city centre. You’ll be breathless at the top, and it won’t just be because of the effort. The view is spectacular, like so much of Wallonia.
The writer was a guest of Tourism Wallonia. It did not review or approve this article.
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