Hello, my name is Jackson Anderson. I am an incoming senior at Waterford, and I have attended the school since nursery threes, making this incoming year my fifteenth year at Waterford. This European art trip has been the first Waterford summer term trip that I have attended, as well as the first time that I have left the continent. I initially wanted to go on the trip in order to ameliorate my French speaking abilities during our stay in Paris, experience new cultures that I had not previously been exposed to, and find inspiration for writing. The trip has thus far exceeded my expectations, and I am excited to share what I have experienced during the past two weeks.
The first city that we stayed in was Bruges, located in Flanders in the northern Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. Bruges was a quiet and charming town that preserved much of its medieval architecture, featuring stunning Gothic churches and gaudy administrative buildings. A personal highlight for me in Bruges was the climbing of an old bell tower, and the view of the medieval architecture juxtaposed with a far off industrial district featuring smokestacks and windmills.
In Bruges we were also able to see one of the few Michelangelo sculptures outside of Italy, attend a flea market complete with many antiquated and interesting pieces of Flemish culture, and go on a river tour to get a view of Bruges’s varied and storied architecture.
In between different activities in Bruges, we took one day to venture out to Belgium’s capital city of Brussels in order to attend a waffle-making workshop and visit the Magritte Museum. The waffle-making workshop taught me that honey goes very well with waffles (and pancakes), and the Magritte Museum was another highlight for me, with the surrealist movement being one of my favorite artistic styles.
After our last day in Bruges, we packed up and headed for Bailly, a small commune in the North of France, where we would stay in between our visits to the neighboring larger town of Paris, and the palace of Versailles. Bailly was strictly our place of residence, serving only as a place we passed through on our way to Paris, Versailles, and Normandy, but one of my favorite parts of the trip was when the French-speaking students had to go into a pizza shop with Mrs. Brewer to translate for the shop-owner, who spoke no English at all. He was very friendly, and we discussed art, language, and soccer with him (all in French) while we waited for our pizzas to cook.
Paris was the largest city (population-wise) that we visited by about a million people, but was only about half the size of Amsterdam, and it definitely felt like it. There was a lot to see in a little space. We saw countless incredible, moving works of art in the Louvre, the d’Orsay, and the d’Orangerie museums. We were also able to barely catch Notre Dame before it closed, and were lucky enough to witness a spectacle unfold inside that was unlike anything that I had ever seen before.
Versailles as a whole was another stand-out point in the trip for me. I had a personal goal to learn how to ride a bike over the summer in preparation for this trip, and this training finally paid off in Versailles. We languidly biked around the beautiful gardens, taking our time to absorb the natural elegance of the scenery, which was a nice break from the seemingly endless walking that we had been doing for about a week. Also exhibited at Versailles were portraits, sculptures, and furniture from the original, giving a nice mix of history and art.
Similar to Brussels in Belgium, we took a whole day out of our time to travel far to the North of France to visit the Utah Beach Museum in Normandy. The museum there was extensive and fascinating, providing a stark contrast to the usual affair of artistically-oriented museums that we had previously visited. I have always had a particular interest for antiquated military equipment, but as greater knowledge and understanding has come with the years, there was a sobering feeling knowing what it was used for.
At the time of writing this, I am still in Amsterdam and the trip has yet to conclude. We have thus far visited the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, as well as visited a flower market. I enjoyed all of these things, but when one is assaulted with so much world class art, where each painting could be appreciated for hours on end, it can be hard to remember personal highlights. What I definitely remember, however, was our visit to Anne Frank’s house. It was probably my favorite event of the entire trip, and something that I forgot we were doing until moments before we did it. I already knew the story of Anne Frank, her diary is required reading in seventh grade, but it seemed to hold new weight stepping in her house in the Netherlands. My own personal experiences have also shaped the way that I have thought about Anne Frank, she was a young person in incredibly difficult circumstances who wanted to become a famous writer. Writing is one of my greatest passions and something that I would like to pursue in life, which is ironically inhibited by a physical condition known as dysgraphia, literally meaning “impaired writing by hand,” and I really took her story to heart as an inspiration to continue to do what I love despite any limitations life may impose upon me.
This trip has been an amazing experience for me, and I have not regretted a second of it. I am glad that I was able to go out of my comfort zone and see and appreciate firsthand so much world class art of Northern Renaissance painters in museums. I am glad that I was able to learn how to make new Hungarian foods with Mrs. Brewer. I am glad that I got to know my thirteen fellow European travelers better. Je parlais français souvent, I feel that I sufficiently experienced and was exposed to new cultures and lifestyles that I previously had not, and I definitely have had countless experiences from which I can draw creative inspiration to write upon.