I arrived to Brussels later than planned again due to train delays, but it allowed me to immediately check into my hotel and drop my stuff before heading out to explore. My hotel is centrally located, so it was a short walk to the Grand Place and the center of town. I thoroughly explored the narrow old streets around the Grand Place, and then walked up through all of the museums on the hill to the Royal Palace and the Parc de Bruxelles. As I was crossing the street, an Iraqi envoy zoomed passed in black cars with police escort. I've definitely noticed the presence of lots of black dignitary vehicles, as well as many soldiers on the streets wandering about.
After a stroll through the park, I wound my way back towards the center of town and stumbled across one of the grand gallery arcades and the Bourse. I didn't quite make it to the cathedral today, but I will try to see that tomorrow when I return from Waterloo.
Here are some impressions of Brussels from Calvin and Octavia:
Calvin (in a letter home to his wife, Temperance):
"Brussels is a beautiful city, and we had our lodgings in a house most aptly called, what it most emphatically is, Bellevue, which looked down Rue Royal and overlooked the Park (a little Tuileries) and the Place Royal, in which from our balcony we saw a review of some 2 or 3 thousand of the troops and they made a very martial & splendid display— we went to the lace manufactory (one that employed 1500 hands)..."
"Arrived in Brussels 5 o’clock — Hotel Bellevue. Brussels, miniature of Paris, as is said to be. Certainly a very elegant city; capital of the kingdom of Belgium; on the river Senne; 145,000 inhabitants.
Wet day. Rose with a view of going to Waterloo, but the day has proved too bad; however, we entertained ourselves in looking out from the balcony and viewing 2000 fine looking soldiers parade round about. Place Royal, and the tree of liberty planted in the Revolution.
Walked about the Park — saw the Chamber of Representatives, Palace of the Prince of Orange, Royal Palace, nice shops, cafe, restaurants . . . . Walked down to the cathedral, which is being repaired, a magnificent old building. Very tired — stopped in a cigar shop, while pa went to the bankers, and amused myself in partly comprehending their french remarks. Dined, wrote and went to see the manufactory of the far famed Brussels lace. 5 or 6,000 employees. Went to the Hotel de Ville (opposite the house where the Brussels bell was given the . . . Waterloo). Room where Charles V was abdicated (Alva) — Old tapestry, 300, Baptism of Clovis — his presenting a ring to Clotilda — their marriage feast — and his death. Also Gobelins, 200 old, relative to Charles 5. Napoleon here, too, had a finger in the pie. Brussels is a beautiful, clean, well behaved city — if the shop keepers do cheat strangers.
Received a small note from Mont.
The name of the proprietor or master (lace manufactory) Martin Van Beckhoot, a tall, fine looking Frenchman. His wife — oh, how corpulent.
Returned to the Hotel Bellevue."