Liège: An Architectural Mishmash
June 23, 2014
We jump off the bus at the Gare de Liège-Guillemins and I can immediately feel the humidity in the air, my hair clinging stubbornly to the nape of my neck.
Making our way down the steps onto the Place Pierre Clerdent, I’m thankful for the light sweater I’m wearing, clouds passing left to right in the gentle breeze. We walk with no real plan in mind, letting the Meuse river guide our steps. Eventually, we find ourselves at the Place Saint-Lambert, where St. Lambert Cathedral once stood before it’s demolition in 1794.
Nowadays, you can find the Palais des Princes-Evêques facing where the cathedral would have been. A former residence to the Prince-Bishops of Liege, it currently houses the Palais de Justice and the Palais Provincial (courthouse and government services, respectively). After a fire in 1734, the main facade was rebuilt in Louis XIV Regency Style. The Palais Provincial is located in a Neo-Gothic wing built in 1849.
Further down the street, we’ve come to the Place du Marché, where the Liege Hôtel de Ville (commonly known as La Violette) is located. The town hall has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, with the current iteration erected in 1714 in Mosan Baroque style. The previous form, destroyed in 1691, was a regional Gothic building.
Even though it’s only a little past noon, the lack of specific plans and my hunger-ridden stomach make us turn back around towards the Gare. We could have tried going up Montagne de Bueren, but neither she nor I have the condition nor the will to do so.
Stopping at the Neoclassical Opéra Royal de Wallonie, I believe there is some sort of construction work going on behind the Opera. Turns out, the weird scaffolding is an ultramodern structure added to the Theatre during its renovation in 2009.
The promise of a waffle keeps me walking until we arrive at place Cathédrale, and all food thoughts are forgotten after laying my eyes on the Cathédrale Saint-Paul de Liège, a dark, majestic building and the embodiment of my mind’s interpretation of Gothic architecture. Saint-Paul became Cathedral after the destruction of Saint-Lambert, chosen in part due to it’s proximity to the city center.
Sara breaks me free from my musings, reminding me that there are waffles around here somewhere with our name on it. Never in my life have I ever been this excited for a waffle. A. WAFFLE. Wafflewafflewaffle.
She orders, getting us both a Nutella-stuffed golden pillow. We find a shaded spot on the sidewalk to plop ourselves on, uncaring of strangers’ thoughts.
I stare at the fluffy rectangle of dough in my hand. It is crispy on the outside, yet extremely light and airy on the inside, save for the delicious hazelnut-chocolate cream. I quickly take another bite, and another, and another. I understand now why it’s Belgium’s national dessert.
After wiping the telltale crumbs and smudges from my face, we waddle onto a bridge overlooking the Meuse.
On the far right is the Port des Yachts, the Pont Albert Ier in the middle, and the tallest building on the left is Le 17 Liege Hotel. The breeze is warmer now, and the clouds have stilled over the city.
A couple of selfies later, we are back at the futuristic, Santiago Calatrava-designed Gare.
Up the steps and into the station, I turn around and take another look at this mishmash of a city, before heading to the buses.