A new year, a new blog, a new way of looking at things. Words I have chosen for this year: EXPAND and EVOLVE. To expand my life in new directions and to continue to evolve; these are just two of my resolutions for 2013. (Other resolutions are to be more creative. And enterprising.)
January 1st was celebrated in the northern city of Lille with friend Rosemary visiting from London. One doesn’t feel entirely in France when in Lille. Situated not far from the Belgian border, the visitor imagines herself to have one foot in France and one in Brussels due to the Flemish architecture that graces the squares and cobbled streets of the old quarter. The good citizens of Lille, referred to as Lillois, are friendlier and more laid-back than their fellow compatriots in Paris, so it’s a refreshing break to slip out of the capital for a few days and travel one hour northwards on the fast-speed train, the TGV (train à grande vitesse.) Tip – If you book in advance on the SNCF website, you can get reduced fare tickets in first class.
We stayed at the friendly and affordable IBIS hotel for one night (firm beds, excellent breakfast buffet included in the price of the room) and, as a holiday treat, at the magnificent Hermitage hotel for the second night (fabulous room, very expensive breakfast buffet.) This was only possible because I took advantage of promotional end-of-the-year rates offered on the internet. I don’t normally stay in 5-star hotels. The Hermitage Hotel is a historical building that was once a 16th-century hospice.
The highlight of our trip was a visit to the national art museum called the Palais des Beaux Arts to view the exposition called BABEL. It was extraordinary. I must admit that I never gave much thought to the mythical tower of Babel, but after viewing this exposition I came away more enlightened….and isn’t that the whole point of visiting museums and art galleries?
Thanks, Rosemary, for taking the last two photos. The last photo is a Babel-like tower constructed from books.
Here’s what I learned:
The following words aren’t mine, by the way. Written on the walls of the exhibit hall, I diligently scribbled them down on the back of an envelope.
“The Tower of Babel serves as a parable about human vanity and as a means to assess our present life. The myth of Babel calls into question man’s thirst for power, symbolized by the construction of increasingly tall towers. (Donald Trump would love this exposition.)
The origin of the word is biblical. Babel is the Hebrew name for Babylon, the capital of Mesopotamia (present day Iraq). It is also the name of the town founded by Noah’s descendants in Genesis and represents “a place full of confusion.” The town and the tower of Babel was seen both as a marvel and a curse.
The Babel allegory, be it of religious inspiration or not, corresponds most accurately to the idea of a whirling aspiration, swirling up to distant heights, continuously projecting towards pinnacles and the giddiness of inspired elevation. This visual metaphor marvellously illustrates the ziggurat, temple, fortress, cathedral, skyscraper and high-rise urban towers, all symbolic of a race to the top, like an absolute quest. The spiral anticipates the end of the world and the beginning of another one.
Babel’s tragic dimension has fascinated artists. The devastation of the city and tower, followed by the dispersal of the bewildered population, presents a striking visual drama enriched by an edifying allegory of mankind’s vanity. From there, mankind can only start again to rebuild.”
I came away from this exposition feeling utterly inspired.