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yk's Jan 06 Art Trip - NYC, London, Brussels, Antwerp, Brugge, Gent, and Leuven

yk's Jan 06 Art Trip - NYC, London, Brussels, Antwerp, Brugge, Gent, and Leuven

Jan 17th, 2006, 12:08 PM
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yk's Jan 06 Art Trip - NYC, London, Brussels, Antwerp, Brugge, Gent, and Leuven

Hi! I'm back from a 10-day solo trip to NYC, London and Belgium. I'll keep my report brief this time (if that's possible).

Some of you may recall my previous trip to London, Belgium and Netherlands in May 2005. This trip overlaps a little, but majority of the places I visited this time were not covered last time.

In the 10 days, I visited 11 museums, attended 2 operas, 1 concert, and 1 musical. The museums are:
NYC - Met, Whitney
London - Tate Modern, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts
Brussels - Horta Museum
Antwerp - Museum of Fine Arts, Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Rubenshuis
Brugge - Groeninge Museum, Memling Museum

If this interests you, read on!
yk is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 12:19 PM
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Even though this is the Europe board, I'll write the NYC part here as well, instead of posting it separately on the US board.

Day 1, Jan 6 - NYC

I flew AA direct from DFW to JFK. At JFK, I took the NY Airport Express Shuttle to Grand Central.

It's more expensive than the AirTrain + Subway, but a lot easier IMO. Despite being Friday afternoon, the traffic wasn't bad getting into Manhattan. It took 60 minutes (20 minutes at other terminal in the airport picking up passengers, 40 minutes actual ride). At Grand Central, I walked a few blocks to my friends' apt where I stayed for the next 3 nights.

After a brief nap, I headed to the Metropolitan Opera to see Wozzeck. Fellow fodorite 111op met me there. He had bought us Family Circle Standing Room tickets (only $15 each). I have to say, I'm not a fan of atonal music. Seeing Wozzeck was like something I should do in order to cross it off my list. It actually wasn't as bad as I had expected, and we both felt the opera got better towards the end.

After the opera, 111op suggested having dinner at Cha-An (230 E 9th St). We both had its dinner set. I tried a white tea (some kind of Silver Needle from China) and I really liked it.
yk is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 12:39 PM
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Day 2, Jan 7 - NYC

A Day at the Met

I arrived at the Met around 10:45am. I had quite a list of things I wanted to see there.
[FYI, I was in NYC in July 05 and spent an entire day at the Met then. Trip report: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...&tid=34662254]

I started off with the Fra Angelico exhibit. It was quite crowded already, and I found the display rather confusing. The exhibit was described by both the NYT and WSJ as "once in a lifetime experience." It was great to see so much of his art in one setting/location, but I really am not a big fan of early Italian Rennaisance art.

I then checked out the European Paintings section as well as the Lehman Wing - mainly for the Flemish Primitives paintings.

Next, I saw the Calatrava exhibit. I very much enjoyed it. Then, I headed upstairs for the Rauschenberg:Combines exhibit. I highly recommend getting the audioguide. It helped me have a better understanding of Rauschenberg's art.

I ate a quick lunch at the Petrie Court Cafe, then went to the Antonello da Messina exhibit. It is only 1 room with less than 10 paintings on view.

At 3pm, I headed to the auditorium for the viewing of a film on Calatrava - "God Does Not Throw Dice."

At 5pm, I attended a lecture by a professor from Oberlin College on Fra Angelico. I fell asleep during the lecture.

I finally left the Met around 6:30pm.

I met up with 2 friends for dinner in E Village. They suggested Pukk (71 First Avenue) - a Thai Vegetarian restaurant - great food and great prices. The 3 of us each had a drink, an appetizer, and an entree. It came out to $20pp.

After dinner, I headed to their place and watched the NE Patriots beat the Jacksonville Jaguars on TiVo.
yk is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 12:50 PM
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yk - I'm waiting for London...is it coming soon? Specifically hoping you went to the Three Emperors or something like that at the RA, wanting to know your views on it as I'll be in town from March 2nd.
kmowatt is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 01:08 PM
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Yes. London is coming up next. I did see the Three Emperors. Definitely worth going!
yk is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 01:25 PM
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Day 3, Jan 8 - NYC


I slept in, then went to lunch at Katsu-Hama (11 E 47th). Obviously, it's famous for its Katsu. I ordered a pork tenderloin Katsu curry. Even though it was a small piece, the meat was exceptionally tender and crisply fried. Lunch including tips was $14.

It was a nice day and was actually quite warm (mid-40s), so I decided to walk from Katsu-Hama to Ito En (69th/Madison) to buy some tea leaves. I then walked to the Whitney.

I have never been to the Whitney before. It currently has multiple exhibitions, none of which I was too interested. Instead, I wanted to see its permanent collection.

Because of the exhibitions, very limited amount of permanent collection was on view. My favorite was definitely Calder's Circus. What on earth possessed him to create it? I also watched the 19-min movie shown next to the Circus. It was absolutely hilarious.

The 4th floor was showing Ed Ruscha's Course of Empire - which was the US' exhibit at the 2005 Venice Biennale (which I saw in Venice in Oct 05). I was going to skip it, but decided to see it again. This time, with the audioguide, I had a much better understanding (and appreciation) of his work. I was glad that I saw it again.

On the 3rd floor was a retrospective exhibit of Richard Tuttle. It turned out to be more interesting than I had expected. Some of his work reminds me of Rauschenberg.

In the end, I found the Whitney somewhat disappointing. I also thought the $12 admission (free audioguide) rather steep.

That evening, I had dinner with my friends at Typhoon Lounge(79 St Marks Pl). I ate there back in July, and I think the food was better then. Most of the dishes I found way too salty. Dinner came out to $25pp.
yk is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 01:26 PM
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Good, several of us need to know.
tondalaya is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 01:41 PM
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Day 4, Jan 9 - NYC -> London

Day spent traveling

I decided to try the day flight to London - something not available from Dallas. Even though the overnight flight saves time, I always feel so tired the next day that the day is somewhat wasted anyway. The day flight allows me to arrive in London at night, get a good night's sleep, and ready to sightsee the next day.

The problem with the day flight though, is that it leaves JFK at 8:30am.

I got up at 4:30am, arrived at Grand Central at 5:30am to catch the 5:40am Airport Express shuttle. The bus arrives at JFK in 30 minutes.

As I am a "Gold" Elite member of AA, I had the luxury of checking in at the Business Class line. [Note: the Exec Plat and Plat elites get to check in at the F Class line.]

When I bought my ticket, the plane was full already, and I could only select a middle seat. At check-in, I asked if there were any aisle seats available. The agent was nice enough to unblock an aisle seat in the exit row! I was so happy.

The flight was uneventful. As it was a 777 with 2-5-2 configuration, my seat was the aisle seat on the side. With the extra legroom, my seat mate was able to get in/out of her seat without waking me up.

Because of strong tail wind, we arrived in LHR 1 hour ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, our gate was not ready and we had to wait for 30 minutes. Still, we arrived 30 minutes early.

I booked the Jolly Hotel St Ermin's (at St James's tube station) via Priceline for $90/n. I took the tube there.

Transportation Options in London

As some of you may know, the London Transport System increased the fares in early Jan 2006. It is now much more expensive to buy single ride tickets, as they are encouraging people to use their Oyster Card. I spent the entire evening deciding what I was going to do.

The Day Travelcard is still available, but costs £4.90 off-peak. A single tube ride (zone 1-2) is a whopping £3. A single bus ride is £1.50.

Initially I was going to buy Day Travelcards. After consulting with the bus map, I decided to travel solely by bus the next two days. A one-day bus pass is only £3.50.
yk is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 03:56 PM
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I love the day flight - I take it from Toronto all the time now, practically no jet lag the next day! Can't wait to read about London!!
kmowatt is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 04:09 PM
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Day 5, Jan 10 - London

Tate Modern, Portrait Gallery, Musical

The Jolly hotel is located right next to St. James's tube station. I headed there to buy a one-day bus pass, and stopped at a cafe for a cup of tea.

The bus stop (with 2 convenient lines: 11 and 24) is a 2-min walk from the hotel on Victoria Street. Soon I was on the bus heading to Leicester Sq.

I decided to check out the TKTS office for 1/2 price tickets for that night. I got there at 10:15am. The line wasn't long, but I still waited for 20 minutes for my turn. It was long enough to make me freeze. In the end, I settled for Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Woman in White." (My next choice was "Epitaph for George Dillon.")

Next, I walked to Covent Garden to pick up my opera ticket for tomorrow night.

From Aldwych, I took the RV1 bus to Tate Modern. The Rachel Whiteread installment is quite impressive.

I was getting hungry, so I headed to the top floor for lunch at the restaurant. I did not have a reservation, but fortunately I arrived early enough to get a window-side table (but I had to be done within 1 hour to give my table back). The view was very nice. I definitely recommend it, and make sure you make a reservation for a window-side table! Lunch was £21.

After lunch, I toured the permanent collection on Levels 5 & 3. I decided to skip the Rousseau exhibit (plus I didn't want to pay).

Instead of taking the RV1 bus back, I walked across the Millennium Bridge towards St Paul's Cathedral, then took a bus back to Trafalgar Sq.

111op had told me about the cafe on the top floor of the National Portrait Gallery. He went there for tea last year and said the view was nice.

I headed to the Portrait Gallery. I then realized I've never been there before, despite my numerous visits to London. I therefore took a (very) quick look. I don't understand the appeal. Maybe because I'm not into history? I don't see why it's interesting to look at paintings of people (who I don't know).

Actually, an interesting exhibition is being held there currently - Self-Portraits of artists (including Van Eyck, Van Gogh, and Chuck Close). Again, I didn't feel like paying for it, so I skipped it also.

I headed upstairs to the restaurant for tea. Even though it was only 4pm, the sun was setting already. I ordered their tea set, which was £9.95, and comprised of 3 finger sandwiches, 3 scones, 1 cookie, and 1 slice of cake, and 1 pot of tea. The food wasn't that spectacular, but I guess I was paying more for the view than anything.

I then stopped by at National Gallery to buy a ticket for the Rubens exhibit for the next day, and took a quick look at the 1250-1500 section. I only had about 45 minutes as the Gallery closes at 6pm.

I took the bus back to the hotel and took a 30-min power nap. Then I hopped back on the bus to Palace Theatre for "Woman in White."

My seat was decent. It was on the side in the orchestra stalls, but I still got a good view. The musical was ok - nothing too great or too bad about it. I disliked the set though. There isn't really a set per se. Instead, it was a semi-circular screen in the back with video projection on it which serves as the set. The video almost made me get nauseated.

I took the bus back to the hotel and skipped dinner that night.
yk is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 05:13 PM
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Day 6, Jan 11 - London

Royal Academy of Arts, National Gallery, Royal Opera

After a real breakfast at the same cafe as the day before, I walked through St. James's Park (my favorite park) to the Royal Academy of Arts. I was a bit early, so I did some window shopping on Old Bond Street. At 10am, the RA opens and I went in for the Three Emperors Exhibit (£11).


The exhibit focuses on the 3 famous Chinese emperors during the Qing Dynasty - Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong. All 3 were great patrons of the arts during a relatively prosperous and peaceful time in China. Most of the exhibits on view came from the Palace Museum in Beijing.

It was a relatively large exhibition (took up the entire floor of the museum) and I really enjoyed it. It has plenty of paintings, calligraphy, but also emperor robes, musical instruments, clocks, jade etc. Ok, even though I'm more interested in Western Art, I still managed to spend 2 hours there. One word of advice, get there early. It was getting crowded by 11am.

As the entire Gallery was taken over by the exhibition, there wasn't any permanent collection to be seen... except Michelangelo's Taddei Tondo. It's located at the top floor (a bit hard to find, actually).

I crossed the street and stopped at Patisserie Valerie. I cannot visit London without visiting Valerie. As I was still somewhat full from breakfast, I had a smoothie and a lemon & orange cheesecake.

From there, I took the bus to Trafalgar Sq to the National Gallery. I arrived around 1:30pm. My timed ticket for the Rubens exhibit was for 2:30pm.

I got the audioguide and headed back to the 1250-1500 rooms. Again, I focused on the Flemish Primitives paintings there.

At 2:30p, I headed downstairs for the Rubens. Having been to the Sainsbury Wing for an exhibit before (for the Caravaggio show last year), this time I headed for the movie before the show.

[FYI, the 15-min movie gives a good overview of the exhibition. Unfortunately, the way the exhibit is set up makes the viewer to visit the paintings first, and then watch the movie in the end. I personally feel that one should see the movie before the paintings, which is what I did.]

The Rubens exhibit (which closed this past weekend) focuses on the decade he spent in Italy. Apparently, he was only a so-so painter initially, until he went to Italy and spent 8 years there. During those 8 years, his skills improved dramatically, thanks to the Italian influence. He only returned to Antwerp because his mother had died, yet his fame preceeded him before his actual return.

I never really like Rubens' paintings that much, maybe because there're so many of his works everywhere. I believe he and his workshop produced over 2000 works during his lifetime.

The most impressive (and haunting) painting in the exhibit is "The Massacre of the Innocents." This painting was only discovered in 2001. It was heart-wrenching to see his depictions of dead babies.

After the exhibit, I stayed at National Gallery for a few more hours until 5pm, then headed back to the hotel for a nap.

I took the bus back to Leicester Sq and headed to Covent Garden. My ticket that night was for "The Barber of Seville." I splurged and bought the 2nd most expensive priced ticket. Despite that, I was still sitting in the Balcony, but middle of first row.

It is a new production, and I have to say, I'm not a fan of the new minimalistic stage set. It was quite ingenious though. The set is like a box (with the opening towards the audience, of course). At the end of Act I, the entire box went up in the air (with the cast singin inside) and started swaying back and forth. At multiple times, it was swaying at such a degree that I was worried the singers might fall!

Another interesting yet annoying thing, was the presence of a sign language person signing throughout the entire opera at the side of the stage. I found her extremely distracting. The Royal opera spent an entire page of its programme explaining why it was done, and that even most deaf people can read the English surtitles, the British Sign Language is their 1st language and that's why the signing was necessary.

Well, first of all, according to the programme, there're 70,000 deaf people in the UK (out of 60 million people living in the UK). Is it really necessary to provide sign language for such a small population? 2nd, honestly, how many of the 70,000 deaf people go to the opera (after all, don't we all go to the opera for the music and the singing)? 3rd, even if they go, unless they're paying £165 for the top seats, it's impossible to the signer's mouth and lips.

After the opera, I went to Chinatown for a late dinner. I settled for a cheap place called Cafe TPT (21 Wardour Street). Maybe I ordered the wrong dishes, but what I had wasn't that great. I ordered a rice porridge with beef and fish, and a plate of stir-fry vegetables. Dinner was £12. As I was leaving, I looked for the cheap Malaysian place that I had eaten at last year (also on Wardour Street). It looks like it no longer exists.
yk is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 07:53 AM
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Did you like the view from the National Portrait Gallery?

I think that my mom and I went to TPT and I complained the food was so-so. Let me see if I can find that blog entry later on my old blog. That's funny.
111op is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 12:19 PM
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Yes, the view from the Portrait Restaurant was quite nice.

Please let me know if you really had gone to Cafe TPT. That would be too funny, wouldn't it? I don't recall that name from your blog, but maybe subconsciously I remembered it and that's why I picked it?
yk is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 12:25 PM
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Ha! I was in London, at the Tate Modern the same day as you! I also skipped the Rousseau exhibit because I didn't want to pay and instead enjoyed the art on floors 3 and 5! Maybe we crossed in the hallways!

Marzipan is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 12:35 PM
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Hey, we may very well crossed paths at Tate Modern! What a coincidence!

I read your other post. I'm sorry you got sick and didn't enjoy London or Paris that much. I think some people enjoy traveling alone, and some don't. I have traveled solo many times and thoroughly enjoyed it - don't have to wait for anyone, I can eat whenever and whatever I want, can go whichever direction I feel like, spend as little or as much time at any particular site.

I have traveled with other friends and family, and always had some friction with them one way or the other. The only person I can travel with and get along well is my husband (probably he's the only person who can stand me 24/7)!

If I had known your travel dates, we could have had tea or something together in London!
yk is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 01:33 PM
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I republished that specific entry. We exchanged a series of comments about Cafe TPT. Look under the May archives.

Pretty funny, isn't it?
111op is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 01:45 PM
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I cannot believe this! That is outrageous. Now I do think subconsciously I picked TPT because I've heard it from you (but selectively excluded your negative comments)?
yk is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 02:42 PM
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Tips on London

Even though this was my 12th trip to London, there is always something new to discover. A few tips I have learned this trip:

1. For frequent travelers to London, the Oyster card is the way to go. Each ride comes out much cheaper than buying single ride tickets.

2. For INfrequent travelers like me, I think the 1-day Bus Pass is a great (and cheaper) alternative to the regular Day Travelcard (£3.50 vs £4.90 off-peak). Taking the bus is easy as long as one has a copy of the bus map (free from tube stations).

3. The Modern Restaurant on the top floor of Tate Modern is a great place to eat and have a great view. Call ahead to make a reservation for a window-side table. +44 (0) 207 401 5020

4. No matter what, DO NOT go to Cafe TPT in Chinatown - we have 2 negative reviews, by me and by 111op.
yk is offline  
Jan 19th, 2006, 02:34 AM
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Day 7, Jan 12 - Brussels

Horta Museum, Art Nouveau, and Piano Recital

I took the 7:43am Eurostar train to Brussels-Midi, then changed to Brussels-Central. I then walked to my hotel - Hotel Arlequin.

I found out about Arlequin while I was surfing on Orbitz and Travelocity. It was one of the cheaper hotels offered. The reviews on tripadvisor weren't too bad. When I checked Arlequin's own website, I found out the rate it offers is cheaper than all the other hotel websites. I booked a double room (single use) for €60/n with breakfast included.

After dropping off my luggage, I went to lunch at Chez Leon. I was surprised to see how many locals eat there. I had their 3-course lunch special (fish soup, mussels with fries, and dessert) for €14.

I stopped by the tourist info center after lunch and asked about self-guided walking itineraries for Art Nouveau. I bought a map (with 5 Art Nouveau walks) for €3. One can download those for free at

I also picked up the "Bulletin" magazine, which is the weekly English magazine in Brussels, with a complete list of What's On that week. I spotted a piano recital to be held that night by Daniel Barenboim at the Palais des Beaux Arts, so I headed there next to buy a ticket for the concert.

With BTilke's helpful information, I caught Tram 92 heading towards Horta Museum. The driver was extremely helpful. He told me where to get off, and pointed out which street the museum is located on.

The museum was Horta's home and office. It was an ingenious design. On the left is his house, with its famous staircase and dining room, filled with Art Nouveau designs. On the right is his office/studio, which is much plainer. I highly recommend visiting Horta Museum if you are visiting Brussels.

I then did a abbreviated tour of Art Nouveau buildings in that neighborhood. I stopped at at Paul Hankar's house (rue Defacqz No.71), and two other houses designed by him (Nos. 48, 50), then rue Faider Nos. 83 & 85, and Hotel Tassel by Horta (rue Paul-Emile Janson No.6). I finished my tour by crossing Ave Louise to No. 224 - Hotel Solvay - also by Horta.

As I was on Ave Louise, I decided to walk along it all the way back to the city center. It turned out to be quite a nice walk and took maybe 30-40 minutes.

I headed to Grand Sablon, and decided to treat myself for a break at Wittamer Cafe. The prices there are exorbitant. A pot of tea was €5 (Mariage Frères tea bag), and a piece of pastry was €7.

On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at Galler to buy some chocolates.

After a 1-hour nap, I went to the Barenboim concert. At that time, I noticed that I had no idea what he was going to play, so I bought a programme. It turns out that he was playing the entire Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2! I kept falling asleep during the concert, and decided to leave at intermission. There's only so much Bach I can take in one night.
yk is offline  
Jan 19th, 2006, 04:02 AM
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yk, I love your trip reports. Your energy and stamina amaze me.

I would have loved to hear Barenboim play Book Two of the WTC. I heard Angella Hewitt play it at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa a year or so ago and sat entranced through the concert.

Bring on the Groeninge and the Memling!! (Hans Memling and the fifteen-century Anselm Adorne were contemporaries in Brugge.)

AnselmAdorne is online now  

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