Sunday, 25 October 2009

Belgium's Worst Tourist Attractions Part II

You know how museums got quite good at some point in the late eighties/early nineties? I am well placed to know all about this, coming from York, home to the revolutionary Jorvik Centre. In a more innocent age, the prospect of riding in a rickety backwards pod as Magnus Magnusson muttered to you and the smell of synthetic Viking shit assailed your nostrils was so exciting it merited HOURS of queueing around Coppergate with only a half-arsed juggler in a hemp tunic to entertain you.

Yeah, well, not here. With a couple of notable exceptions that I will be pretending do not exist, Belgium is the land that interactivity forgot. Hence my thrilling new series "Belgium's Worst Tourist Attractions".

Do not think I am spoiled by my early exposure to the cleverly synthesised scent of a Viking fish market. No. I grew up seconds away from the Treasurer's House, the National Trust's most joyless property where ladies in elasticated waisted Laura Ashley skirts would materialise out of the walls to shout at you if you slumped against a historically important tapestry covered wall. York was FULL of crap museums. The motheaten stuffed horse in the Castle Museum. The endless, dizzying brass rubbing opportunities with the race to the single purple sparkly wax crayon. I know crap museums. You may rely on me.


Le Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée

Cartoons! Fun, right? Plenty of opportunities for interactivity. Even I, with my atrophied imagination can think of hundreds of things you could do with a Cartoon Museum.

The CBBD would like you to know that cartoons are NO laughing matter. We are not here to have fun. We are travelling back in time to around 1950. Now, come into the first of our seven apparently identical dimly lit galleries filled with glass cases. Peer into the glass cases at, erm, yellowing cartoons. Some of them are coloured in, some of them aren't. Oooh! Look over here everyone! It's a - hang on, what is that? Pig? Mole Rat? No, it's gone - thing called Plunk rendered in ancient pink sponge! What's that, small child? The case is set so high you can't see into it? Oh yes. Sorry about that. Admire the beautiful volumes of the magnificent Horta building, children! No? Ok then, on we go. Look, in this dimly lit cupboard there is a screen showing black and white Flemish cartoons. Don't cry, small boy. It will all be ok. No, don't look at that special exhibition cupboard. It's full of naked people doing.. no, just don't look. DON'T! I'll buy you a pony!

Moving swiftly on, let's go up to the second floor. There are - wow! Large squares of cardboard with pictures of cartoons on them. Um. Small cells intended to represent the typical environment of famous cartoon characters that are barely distinguishable from one another. Largest child gets briefly animated at the sight of a bowling ball and tries to pick it up. It's glued to the floor, of course.

"This is terrible" says the smallest child quietly.

We stand speechless in front of a stack of greying plastic waffles, intended to represent a cartoon none of us have heard of.

"Don't worry!" I say brightly. "There's a library! You can read cartoons! Loads and loads of cartoons"

We head downstairs, down a long, empty corridor. It smells of really old people and dust. We reach a dark, closed door on which a tiny handwritten sign tells us that the library only opens at midday. It's not even 11. We've been in the museum for less than twenty minutes. The CFO and I exchange a glance.

"There is no WAY we can last another hour in here" I whisper to him "someone will get hurt. Hurt in the BRAIN".

He concurs with a thin-lipped nod.

We retire, beaten. Noone complains.

"C'était naze" says the eldest. (that was crap). Neither of us bother to reprimand him.

"I promise you" I say, with some emotion "that we will NEVER come here again".

We have a group hug.

Le Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée

Tariff: Adults €7,50 Children €3

Opening hours: Tuesday - Sunday 10:00 - 17:00

Better alternatives: Watching 24 hours of Pokémon cartoons back to back, being crushed under a stack of Lucky Luke albums, wrestling Komodo dragons, french kissing Guy Verhofstadt, death.

(The shop is good though)


Jojo said...

Mme Waffle, that museum has done something to your sensitivity chip. Why have you polluted my already fervid imagination with thoughts of the tongue of Msr Verhofstadt? And why did you have to provide an actual LINK?

I sentence you to a visit to Saffron Walden Museum's stuffed lion, Wallace. It's what passes as excitement round here.

Anonymous said...

When I was last in Belgium, in 2006, I was most excited at the prospect of visiting le CBBD. We have nothing like that in Canada, so I had great expectations. But, sadly, I have to concur: it was not the best museum I have ever visited. You are right about the lack of interactivity - but also about the great shop. The stuffed Milou and the Japanese manga magazines translated into French that we purchased more than made up for a rather boring, staid museum.

(And I think the Jorvik Centre is still pretty amazing. Those Vikings are still quite persuasive, smells and all.)

ZeeKay said...

We ATE at the CBBD. As we are tourists and only speak a small amount of French and no Flemish, that did not go down well. We were quite chuffed by the presence of Asterix and Tintin and the shop was indeed the best part of the whole day but, dear god. Stay away from the restaurant. They were so mad at us for being in there I thought our meals might actually have contained the previous day's clientele.

On the plus side, Brussels was covered in far more inspirational graffiti, which we got to see for free.

plummyplummy said...

The Textilux Center near the Mannequin Pis is pretty rubbish. I was there last Tuesday and stayed for about 5 minutes. Brussels does still have a few nice record stores mind you although second hand My Bloody Valentine 12"s are not very suitable for entertaining les gosses.

Anonymous said...

Dear lord, according to the website they do birthday parties...

Laura said...

Oh, it's so awful in there!!! My French FIL spent hours happily looking around at the cartoons of his youth while the rest of the party sat on some hard chairs, close to tears.

Don't forget the bit where they justify the racist cartoon by saying they were just good friends, not slaves - it's like Christmas all over again!!!

ZeeKay - I agree about the resto. I asked for a lemonade (in French) and then got lectured for 20 mins about the fact that Lemonade doesn't exist in Belgium. Well, give me a bloody SPRITE then!

fabhat said...

I have been there, with the graphic designer in tow. I liked the building and the shop, he as a beano addict, tried to like the rest but mostly failed. We had consumed beer before attending, which I think helped. But I still couldn't get the Graphic designer to buy me a plush snowy doll..

The Jules said...

If anything was crying out for a statement to be made in the medium of arson, that sounds like it.

Fat Controller said...

As naff museums go, the naffest I have tried is Barometer World, near(!) Okehamptom. The tedious drive stuck behind a cattle truck would almost have been worth it for a view of the famous 'Tempest Prognosticator' or 'Leech Barometer' where live leeches crawled up little tubes and tripped tiny ivory catches to ring bells, presaging inclement weather. Sadly, when we were there the leeches had escaped or had succumbed to leech-pest or something. The offspring have never forgiven me and whenever we are at a loose end on holiday in the UK, one or other of them will inevitably pipe up with "I know, let's go to Barometer World". What on earth was I thinking?

Mind you, the website does have a lovely picture of Michael Fish, manhandling an antique barometer.

Lucy Fishwife said...

You have never been dragged, hopelessly weeping with fear and loathing, to Bovington Tank Museum (although I have been asked to point out it is not just a museum of The Tank, but of all armoured vehicles). I promise that can cause severe hurt in the brain. But then I am a woman, and evidently have no sense of the vital importance of the armoured vehicle in Britain's past. Sorry, I dozed off there, exhausted by trying to chew my own eyelids off.

The Subtle Rudder said...

Nothing to do with belgium or the sharp awfulness of life...instead, let us rejoice in the birth of 3 baby capybaras:

Triplets, even!

Soda and Candy said...

The shop is always the best part.

But it brought you and your children closer together, right?

Fat Controller said...

To Lucy Fishwife I would suggest that next time she is in the proximity of Bovington Tank Museum that she diverts to 'Monkey World' instead.

I have long intended to make 'Teapot Island' my first port of call on emerging from Le Tunnel Sous La Manche one of these days.

Elsie said...

Here's where I often went first dates, NOT at my request - The Mutter Museum "A stately yet fun medical museum of human pathology, so dignified that you almost forget that you're looking at skulls, conjoined twins, and a giant colon."

Waffle said...

Jojo - I am very sorry. It could have been worse, honest. I was considering Jean Luc Dehaene who would crush you to death. Nice lion...

Pinklea - ha, I am glad you like our vikings. I am just blasé.

ZeeKay - your warning is timely, I quite liked the look of the brasserie and might, in an unguarded moment, have gone back. Not any more.

Plummyplummy - no. They are disappointingly unreceptive to mid-9Os Rough Trade rare vinyl. I might do a field trip to the textile thing, it sounds promisingly rubbish.

Anon - what child could ask for more?! I almost want to do this, just to experience it.

Laura - craptastic. Any other piss poor museum recommendations?

Fabhat - the plush Snowy was great. You are very brave going there.

The Jules - It can definitely be added to the list of arson-worthy attractions.

FC - Barometer World! Apparently Brussels used to have a Lift Museum, now sadly defunct.

Lucy F - oh, Lucy. Too cruel. Did they have ladies selling victoria sponge at least?

Subtle Rudder - no, far better that we admire the disapproving countenances of the baby capies. So furious to be born! So superior!

Soda and Candy - I really don't know. I bought them off with a book, but those scars run deep.

FC - see, Monkey World I could get quite excited about. Ah, I am having a flashback to the moulting listless penguins on the Isle of Wight now.

Elsie - what more could one possibly hope for from a first date? Giant colons!

Laura said...

The room full of Manekin Pis costumes is terribly dull - as is the MP himself, maybe you could review him next???

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