We were on a mission. With three kids during COVID in semi-lockdown in Belgium, an extra week of Easter ‘vacation’, and the vaccine roll-out going painfully slow. . . what were we to do? How could we entertain the kids while still being wary of social distancing rules? We’ve made our library visits a weekly occurrence. We’ve scootered/biked/walked all over town. We’ve done the museum-reservation-thing which is okay but my museum-savvy kids become a little reckless when they can’t interact with the exhibits.
While the whole of Belgium flocked to the coast last weekend, temperatures turned colder and yesterday we headed to Oostende with jackets, pants, and tights beneath my skirt. I don’t care for crowds on a good day, much less during Corona, so the dispersed (masked) crowd in the cooler sunshine suited us all just fine. The kids went barefoot into the sand while Vinny and I sipped coffees from the promenade.
I had read about The Crystal Ship walking art tour online, but I was hazy about the details. With curiosity and determination, my husband entered the Oostende visitors center to inquire. Unlike most visitor centers where you can just grab your pamphlets and go, he was instructed to queue to talk to an employee. (Don’t be intimidated, they’re nice!)
The Crystal Ship is an arts festival that began in Oostende in 2016. Each year, the city invites and hosts artists from around the world to create street art in the coastal town. With over 60 impressive and gigantic murals throughout the city, the artwork is both accessible to the masses and educational thus a living testament of the mantra: “Art is for Everyone” (Catch that sign headed into town on the A10!)
Walking tour guides are available at the visitors center for adults and just as importantly, there’s a Crystal Ship Kids Guide – which had my kids entertained for hours making the experience both interactive and educational.
We only sampled a fraction of all the sites, but each of the guides was informative and entertaining for all of us. In a time where creativity and inspiration meet the outdoors – the Crystal Ship delivered what we needed – a COVID-friendly experience, a bit of fresh air and exercise, and an introduction to art in a new way.
About the cover photo: Students Ensorinstituut – On March 13th, 2019 more than a hundred pupils of the local Ensor institute took to the streets of Ostend to march for more art in public spaces. Their collaboration with the Crystal Ship and their own artistic determination and creativity was projected onto one of Ostende’s public walls. It is now part of the city’s permanent outdoor street art exhibition.
Note: Captions modified from The Crystal Ship’s walking tour guide.