Sometimes the best excursions begin when the utility of Google Maps goes out the window.
Meghan and I were set on visiting the Art Nouveau/Vienna Secession district in Brussels—in particular, Victor Horta’s Hotel Tassel, among the finest examples from one of my favorite movements in architecture. It was one of those places I had only seen in my art history books, and among the small percentage of them I had vowed to see in person one day.
We set out confidently in the morning, map in hand, right after breakfast. It was our sole obligation for the morning hours, so we meandered leisurely up Lemonnierlaan, skirted the Senne River, and over Rogiertunnel. As we approached Parc de Laeken, however, we started to suspect that Google had sent us on a goose chase in the direction of the Atomium, and a quick trip to a nearby petrol station confirmed that we were nearly five miles off course—an impressive distance when one’s only mode of transportation is walking. Somehow, we wound up in the suburbs of Brussels, and we weren’t wild about having to walk that distance back again. Meg and I looked for the nearest metro station.
By that time, we had been traveling for nearly two months, and unintentional little side-trips had become an expectation. We were tired, sure, and a little let down about missing Horta’s masterpiece—but those feelings were dwarfed by our deep sense of freedom and excitement, and we awaited the metro eagerly, as if we’d never ridden one before.
While we waited, we found that our hunt for art wasn’t for naught: there, across the tracks, was some of the most impressive graffiti I had ever seen. And those muralists, like the artists of the Vienna Secession, were attempting to break from more pedestrian versions of themselves.
And in a way, so were we.