I had seen pictures before, and didn’t really know if I’d like the city: beach surrounded by buildings wasn’t what I’d call charming.
But ever since I came back, I’m all blue. I miss that city. It really got to me, like someone who, physical charm aside, managed to seduce you in a more subtle manner, revealing its charms one by one.
I’ll try to show you the different sides of Ostend I discovered during my 2 day stay… and there are quite a number of things to see and do (we took the City Pass, like in all the other belgian cities – it allows for illimited access to museums and city activities).
The beach and ALBERT Ier boardwalk
We had optimal weather, which of course, played no small part in the seduction process.
The Abert I boardwalk is the city’s must see. It’s by the beach, you can go by foot, bike, or in a cuistax (a cycling vehicule that can go from 2 to 8 seats! Who wants to pedal?)
MARVIN GAYE Midnight Love Digital Tour
One of my favorite activities. The idea is to rent an Ipod at the Tourist Office and walk around. This audio-guide retraces all the stages of the lengendary singer Marvin Gaye‘s stay in Ostend, at the beginning of the 80s.
But why would he leave London or LA for this teeny-tiny city? Apparently, it was to escape a career at its lowest ebb, substances and to work on getting both his physical and artistic health back on track. It was supposed to be a 2 week stay…he ended up staying over a year!
The tour brings us to places he liked (he played basketball in the royal stables’ courtyard!), his favorite cafés, his favorite dishes (curry braised chicken) but also in front of the building where he composed “Sexual Healing”, for yes! it’s in Ostend that Marvin Gaye composed this legendary song. Who would’ve thought?
Step by step, the direction to follow is clearly indicated, and videos punctuate the visit: there is some emotion in following the singer’s footsteps…following this blessed Ostend time, his destiny was far from happy.
He should probably have stayed in Ostend indefinitively, but that probably wasn’t meant to be.
MU-ZEE (Le musée d’art à la mer)
It showcases the artwork of the city’s emblematic artist: James Ensor, but also a lot of other belgian artists and painters.
On that day we visited, on top of the permanent exhibition, we saw Paul Joostens‘ dadaist works, made with collages and other patchwork style sculptures.
Our intense focus was disrupted by this papier maché stand, that reproduced the characters of Ensor’s work. As you can see, I’m easily entertained.
You need to take a boat (5 minute trip), you can reach this fort constructed by Napoleon the 1st, who feared English attacks that never occurred.
Well, Napoleon, thanks to your paranoia, I discovered a beautiful photo exhibition by Jacques Sonck “Encounters”, with singular anonymous portraits, exclusively shot on belgian grounds. I was sensitive to the strength that each and every photo emitted.
I had really enjoyed the Diane Arbus exhibition in Paris a couple years back: I noticed similarities, which didn’t keep me from really, really loving this exhibition.
AMANDINE, the fishing boat
One of the last Icelandic fishing trawlers – now a museum. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to visit the inside: we’ll have to come back!
The MERCATOR 3 mast
This time, we had time to visit the inside of this ship from the 30s, that was used to train merchant marine officers.
Here I am playing trainee-sailor with a very non-regulatory outfit comprising of Stan Smith and loud checks.
St PETRUS & PAULUS Church
To be admired in and out!
KONINGSPARK & its japanese garden
Ahh! Whereever we are, I’ll always manage to find a piece of Japan! The garden was closed to the public, but I managed to get a glimpse from outside the gates: looks promising doesn’t it?
DE HAAN AAN ZEE (Le Coq sur Mer)
De Haan is a 15 mn tram-ride from Ostend. The city has kept its Belle Epoque charms. You’d almost believe you’re in a giant Playmobil town (what a historical reference!). The beach is a little less combed, there is a different atmosphere, I really liked it!
So? So? What do you think? Are you as seduced as I was? I’ll be back soon with a “Yummy” post, for Ostend, apart from having adorable locals and a serene and charming atmosphere has great food.
The city is called “the Queen of beaches”… I now understand where it gets its name. (English translation by Bleu Marine)