Paris: Discover The French Impressionists

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In the 1860s, when Impressionism first made its appearance on the Parisian art scene, Impressionist paintings were considered scandalous. The painters captured modernity by choosing subjects that represented modern life, and by using different painting styles from the ones traditionally taught in Parisian schools. Impressionists also symbolised a Bohemian life that many were opposed to. Let us take a little Parisian tour of the museums where you can admire Impressionist collections, and cafés where Impressionists used to « refaire le monde », in other words, think the world anew.

Many wonderful museums have extensive Impressionist collections in Paris, and I cannot imagine a visit to the city without going to at least one.

The Musée Marmottan Monet has 300 Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings. Among them, Impression Soleil Levant, the piece that gave the movement its final name. Interesting fact: the term “Impressionists” was first used by art critics as an insult!

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Monet’s “Soleil Levant”

At the Musée d’Orsay, the whole 5th floor is dedicated to Impressionism, with paintings by Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Manet, and many others. Even though many museums place paintings by Manet in the same room as Impressionists, it is interesting to note that Manet refused to associate with these new painters, and refused to exhibit with them in their time. The Musée d’Orsay currently hosts a wonderful exhibition. You can visit Beyond the Stars, The Mystical Landscape from Monet to Kadinsky which will run until 25th June. Even if you are only visiting the regular collection, make sure to buy your tickets in advance as queues to the museum get extremely long.

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Eduard Manet’s “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe”

Across the Seine from the Musée d’Orsay, in the Jardin des Tuileries, is the Musée de l’Orangerie, where the impressive Nympheas, Monet’s masterpieces, are kept in two dedicated rooms. Sit in the centre and surround yourself in this river of colours, of greens and blues. I could stay there for hours! On the bottom floor, 144 Impressionist and post-Impressionist pieces are also waiting to be admired.

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Have a sit down and enjoy Nympheas by Monet

Cafés were an important social place for Impressionists. There, they painted their modern subjects, discussed techniques with other painters, and discussed art with other artists: writers, poets, musicians…  Unfortunately, time and the requirements of urbanism have transformed almost all the cafés, but I still like to walk through the streets often frequented by Monet, Baudelaire or Renoir.

At the Café Guerbois, Emile Zola was a regular, and Manet started coming in 1866, when his studio was at 34 boulevard des Batignolles. Today, a shoe shop at 9 Rue De Clichy has replaced it. It is a known fact that, in 1870, Manet slapped his friend and art critic Edmond Duranty in the Café Guerbois because of an article the latter had written. They had a duel, but thankfully no one got seriously injured, and the two eventually made up.

The Café de la Nouvelle-Athènes at the Place Pigalle was a meeting-place for artists like Manet and Degas around the end of the 1870s. It was destroyed in 2004.

Last but not least, the Brasserie des Martyrs. It is the only place that has not been destroyed, and is in fact still a place where art is discussed. It is now called the Divan du Monde (the world’s sofa) and is a cabaret-restaurant at 75 Rue des Martyrs and is just a short walk from our Sacré-Coeur Charme Residence.

Enjoy your time in Paris, the city that witnessed and contributed to the development of French Impressionism!

Brussels: Top Gourmet Restaurant Picks For 2016

Although Brussels is described by many as small, the capital of Europe houses many innovative, modern restaurants that experiment with new flavours and dishes, all the while keeping a certain Belgian style.

Head down town to the Belga Queen, a refurbished building dating back to the 13th century and one of Brussel’s most famous restaurants. Its modern adaptation of Belgian dishes at reasonable prices will leave you wishing you had left more room for desert. For after dinner drinks, head downstairs to the bar where you can enjoy craft cocktails in a bank’s old safe room.

If you’re looking for something a little lighter, enjoy a glass of wine accompanied by exquisite tapas at Etiquette-Wine in Louise. Their vast selection of wines and carefully thought-out Spanish tapas will certainly leave you with an appetite for more. Opt for their patatas bravas with a mildly spicy sauce and selection of hummus, aubergine and olive dips to pair with your wine.

For a romantic and more luxurious evening out, two-star Michelin restaurant Bon-Bon is considered one of Belgiums best restaurants. Highest quality ingredients combined with a surprise menu will certainly make your evening eventful. Let your waiter know if you have any food allergies or dislike any ingredients upon arrival, and your meal will be fully personalised to your taste. Don’t forget to reserve, the popularity of this place makes it hard to get a table on short notice.

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A dish at Bon-Bon (credit: passiongastronomie.be)

Visiting Brussels for the first time will probably mean you’re eager to try the Belgian speciality dish ‘Moule et Frites’, mussels and chips. Although many restaurants offer this seasonally, Chez Leon by the Grand Place is famous for this dish. Look for the green logo, located in a more touristy part of Brussels amidst many Belgian restaurants, is it offers good traditional food that makes it stand out from the crowd.

Walking around town sightseeing, shopping and exploring Brussels’s unique charm might leave you peckish and wanting a pick-me-up lunch. You’re not looking for anything too snazzy, something quick but tasty. A few places can satisfy those cravings : if you’re in the St Catherine area and in a mood for asian delicacies, head straight to Makisu, a small yet charming create-your-own sushi boutique with great value for money. For fish lovers, wrap up warm and stand outside on high tables at Mer Du Nord, the small yet diverse selection of fresh fish tapas are highly recommended by locals.

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For a more traditional yet stylish evening out with friends, book a table at Skievelat in the Sablon area. Their elegant decor combined with their selection of Belgian beers will add a certain charm to your dinner. Their menu is composed of classic Belgian dishes with a small modern twist, you won’t be disappointed.

Last but not least, if you’re looking for something classy but aren’t too sure what you fancy, book a table at La Quincallerie. A treat for the eyes and the palate, their seafood platter and oysters will make heads turn. If you’re a meat lover, don’t worry, their meat dishes are equally as appetising.