Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ixelles

ALTHOUGH ONE of Brussels’ largest suburbs and a busy transport junction, the heart of Ixelles remains a peaceful oasis of lakes and woodland. The idyllic Abbaye de la Cambre was founded in 1201, achieving fame and a degree of fortune in 1242, when Saint Boniface chose the site for his retirement. The abbey then endured a troubled history in the wars of religion during the 16th and 17th centuries. It finally closed as an operational abbey in 1796 and now houses a school of architecture. The abbey’s pretty Gothic church can be toured and its grassy grounds and courtyards offer a peaceful walk. South of the abbey, the Bois de la Cambre remains one of the city’s most popular public parks. Created in 1860, it achieved popularity almost immediately when royalty promenaded its main route. Lakes, bridges and lush grass make it a favoured picnic site. The Musée Communal d’Ixelles nearby has a fine collection of posters by 19thand 20th-century greats, such as Toulouse Lautrec and Magritte, as well as sculptures by Rodin. The former home of one of Belgium’s finest sculptors is now Musée Constantin Meunier, with 170 sculptures and 120 paintings by the artist, and his studio preserved in its turn-of-the-century style.