Day 32, Dublin

When Calvin and Octavia were in Dublin, the primary appointment on their agenda was to visit Daniel O'Connell in prison. Daniel O'Connell was an Irish political leader in the early half of the 19th century, campaigning for Catholic emancipation. He was often known as "The Liberator" or "The Emancipator." "Once Catholic emancipation was achieved, O'Connell campaigned for repeal of the Act of Union, which in 1801 had merged the Parliaments of the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. To campaign for repeal, O'Connell set up the Repeal Association. He argued for the re-creation of an independent Kingdom of Ireland to govern itself, with Queen Victoria as the Queen of Ireland. (Wikipedia)" In order to campaign for support of this repeal, he would hold "monster meetings," which gathered tens of thousands of supporters. After several such meetings, he heeded the request of the authorities to call off further meetings to avoid bloodshed. He was was subsequently arrested, for which he was serving the sentence when Calvin and Octavia were in Ireland. 

I will Octavia tell the story through her words:


Thursday — September 5th

Uninteresting, rainy day; however ’tis some amusement to sit by the window and see the people. Covered cars, jaunting do., fruit criers, etc. Mr. O’Connell has given permission for us to come and see him in his prison. Pa received a letter from Mr. Brown and Shipley, Liverpool, who have engaged our passages, but informs us of just the news we might have known, no letters from America. I’m quite sure I don’t care, for I shall see Mr. O’Connell tomorrow, go to the theatres, parks and entertain myself until I take my embarkation.

Am sitting down to a good dinner, keen appetite; suddenly roused from my seat with the shout, “O’Connell’s released!” “Hurra.” Workman from a house over the way flies to the window with trowel in hand to join the hearty welcome. Beggars, old women, children, everybody joined in Huzzas. Devoted people: How will the O’Connellism terminate? Man in the street crying, “Express from London, O’Connell liberated,” holding up some papers, “One for a penny.” I did not see one purchased from him; people are certainly very unbelieving or else very stingy.

Beggars are not quite so plentiful as they have been; however, I see a few, now and then, assailing carriages and gentlemen pedestrians. Streets are not so well lighted as in some cities; however, I’ve not seen many yet and am not able to judge. A larger room tonight — some room to open my trunk. Now for the land of dreams, where there certainly grows no grass! Well trodden paths!


The clerk says there is no doubt as to the verity of the express news from London as regards Mr. O’Connell. I hope it may be so — if for no other cause than to see an Irish Jubilee. People are plentiful in the streets today. I smiled to see the police so kind. At half past one went to the Richmond Penitentiary. After waiting more than an hour in the garden, Mr. O’Connell came, and we shook hands and congratulations, etc. “I have much honour in seeing you,” says he. Also, “You’ve not been long in Ireland.” “Liberator — tied by the leg.” Tall, small eyes, dark blue, or rather somewhat greyish; 69 years old, not grey, in good health. Went round the prison; saw [. . .] lads at the tread mill, boys washing. Much gratified with the days visit. Found much politeness mingled with the patriotic enthusiasm which pervades the city. Two ladies were Mr. O’Connells [. . .] but I neglected to make obeisance to them, as I was much engrossed with the liberation news from London. Left Wednesday and arrived in Dublin on Thursday with the “rapidity of light.” Mr. O’Connell certainly has a beautiful garden to refresh [?] himself; certainly a great [. . .]. Saw other of his compatriots and his son. Mrs. O’C. received the intelligence of his liberty with composure such as becomes a great mind. “The Ides of March are not yet over.”


I should venture to assert that there would be no procession today; however, we’ll see. What should be brightest day that ever dawned upon Ireland is a very dark one...

About to start to see the procession. Showery day. Leave me, Begone dull care! I pray thee begone. Took a jaunting car and mingled with Tom, Dick, and Harry to see the O’Connell procession. Had a good situation and sat in our carriage and waited long before anybody made appearance. At last came the different banners, followed by the persons of each division of Labour — Carpenters, Tailors, Smiths, Coach makers, Chimney sweeps and etc. Beautiful Banners; one that particularly struck me was a Picture of the old Parliament house with the inscription, “Our old house at home.” Several others, very expressive. Mr. O’Connell was mounted on a car, accompanied by the family, etc., drawn by milk white horses. A fine show, and now especially; the packs and crowds of people that placed themselves everywhere — top of monuments, houses, steps, scaffolds, walls, everywhere there was hope...

Day 30, Galway City

Today we drove to Galway City to see Rory's aunt and to see the tiny row house where his mom grew up. We had a nice visit with his aunt and then walked around the city and down to Galway Bay. It got really dark and stormy and we barely missed getting drenched, making it back to the car just in time. 

Day 29, Cliffs of Moher and the Burren

Today we took a long drive to County Clare to see the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. I've been doing all of the driving, and I am getting pretty comfortable on the left side of the road (although the narrowness of the roads I will never get used to.) The weather held out at the cliffs, and we had great views. We even saw puffins and whales. On the way back from the cliffs, we drove into the Burren and took a short hike. The landscape is otherworldly—it is a karst landscape "composed of limestone pavements with criss-crossing cracks known as "grikes", leaving isolated rocks called "clints." The limestones, which date from the Visean stage of the Lower Carboniferous, formed as sediments in a tropical sea approximately 325 million years ago. The strata contain fossil corals, crinoids, sea urchins and ammonites. This bed of limestone is up to 800 meters thick." (Wikipedia)

Day 27, Connemara

The Ireland portion of my trip was both a continuation of Calvin and Octavia's journey, but also a bit of a vacation. We spent a week in County Mayo with my family to celebrate my father's 70th birthday, but also to meet my husband's extended family, who live in the area. It was the first time for me to meet many of them, as well as the first time for them to meet our daughter. We are also planning on taking several day trips, and today we drove to Connemara and the coast, which was stunningly beautiful. 

Day 25, Edinburgh

Today I really wanted to go see some of the specific things Octavia had mentioned in her journal, namely Calton Hill and Holyrood Palace. We set off after breakfast to walk the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace. From there we had great views of Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park, and then wound our way up Calton Hill via some fortuitously-found footpaths. It was a bit of an uphill trek with the stroller, but Octavia was right, the views from there were amazing. Calton Hill is the site of several monuments and buildings, including the National Monument, the Nelson Monument, the Dugald Stewart Monument, the old Royal High School, the Robert Burns Monument, the Political Martyrs' Monument and the City Observatory.

In the afternoon we walked to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which was a worthwhile trek away. The exhibition on view was called NOW, and featured work by Nathan Coley, Rivane Neuenschwander, Glasgow-based artist Tessa Lynch, Pete Horobin and a display pairing paintings by Louise Hopkins and Tony Swain.

Day 24, Edinburgh

We drove back to Glasgow early so as to return the rental car, and then took a train to Edinburgh, which took about an hour. We got there around 11:30, and had the day to sightsee. We walked around the old city, which was swarmed with tourists (I know, I'm one of them!). Pondering what the tourist numbers might have been in 1844... 

Calvin (letter to John Houston Bills of Bolivar, 817)

The day I came into Edinburg I saw in Scotland and the north of England, traversing the road seeking harvest labour (just commencing) several hundred Irishmen looking for work, and many with their wives and children. They come over standing like sheep in a pen on the deck of a steamer, neither lie down or eat, and pay 6 and 1 S for their passage. They can earn when they get work from 2/ to 4/ a day during harvest. I forgot my contrasts— on the continent the country is for most part open without enclosures, while in Britain it is enclosed. In England with hedges in Scotland with stone fences and hedges. Both are rich, level enough and cultivated like gardens. But the most productive lands are those of Holland, Belgium and the Rhine. The climate for the whole time I have been in Europe has been too cold to be agreeable— except 2 or 3 days in Paris, when the Mercury was 81 and all complained of the heat. Every man, at all times wears cloth, even those who complain of heat do not wear light goods.


Edinburgh — the best views Princess street, Calton hill and the Castle — Carson [?]Went to the jewel room and regalia — Cannongate — high street — Heart of Midlothian —bridge Calton hill monument — [. . .] statuary — Sir Walter Scott's Monument — Gothic architecture — Holyrood House. Impudent women — high buildings — dirty population of the old town — women brawny, carry fish — old clothes —closes, children, swarms, [. . .]. Highland plad [sic], bagpipes —costume. Balu Nicol [?] [. . .] Knox’s corner. Localities of Scotts novels, churches, public buildings. The most beautiful corner of the city. [. . .] Arthur’s Seat as from Calton hill. A nice place to eat [. . .] Holyrood. Edinburgh a handsome city. Soldiers. “mid pleasures and palaces, though we may roam — be it ever so humble there’s no place like home.”

 Went to High Church; heard a preacher, music. A. Arnotte preach. Trinity Church, 3 in one. One very readily recognizes Sunday in Edinburgh. So quiet. Every shop closed; all the booths shut; yet now and then in a close may be seen a sign, “Highland draught ale.” I doubt many partake the foaming goblet with a good deal of [. . .] of their great bard. Walter Scott’s [. . .] erected a magnificent to his memory of Gothic structure. 

As ’twas Sunday, the peasantry again flocked to the stations, attired in best bib and tucker, talking their broad Scotch. Saw some lying on the moss, others pulling blooms, handing them to the passengers in way of asking alms. Poor creatures. Since I’ve been in Great B. I've seen more objects of charity apparently than ever I saw on the continent. Great barefooted, brawny, hideous looking women, carrying fish in Edinburgh; the greatest collection of filth in cow gate and the closes.

Day 23, Inveraray and Argyll

We woke up to a very rainy day, and while my original goal and desire for the day had been to take a boat trip to Inversnaid on the other side of Loch Lomond in order to hike into the Trossachs, perhaps finding traces of Rob Roy, we quickly decided that was a bad idea with a 20-month old in this weather. I did some research and found Inveraray Castle (seat of the Campbell clan, Duke and Duchess of Argyll), which was a short drive away and seemed much more manageable in the rain. While this itinerary was veering off-course from what my ancestors did, I did feel a bit better about it when I saw the Duchess of Argyll talking to the gardner on the castle grounds, perhaps reliving some of the royalty-spotting that Octavia was so fond of. 

We first drove into Inveraray and had lunch and walked around before going to the castle, which we later found out also had a starring role in Downton Abbey, as the castle of the Scottish relatives (aka Shrimpy's family).

Day 22, Loch Lomond

We traveled from Glasgow to Loch Lomond, stopping first in Balloch to catch a boat for a two-hour tour of Loch Lomond and its islands. We lucked out with a beautiful clear day, and had great views of Ben Lomond and the surrounding countryside. We took the boat up through the islands in the middle of the lake and then to a small town called Luss on the western shore before turning around back to Balloch. At Balloch, we also visited the grounds of Balloch castle, which was beautiful and afforded additional views of the lake. Afterwards we drove to the top of the lake and over to Arrochar, which is located at the top of Loch Long, and where we were staying. We had a great view of the loch from our hotel window. Octavia was very smitten with Loch Lomond:


“A feast of reason and a flow of soul.”  Down the river Clyde — the first object which strikes the eye with most grandeur is Ben Lomond.…All hail Loch Lomond. As it first burst upon my view I felt an indescribable enthusiasm— so familiar to sound, oft painted in childish fancy — lowering mountains, the beach, islands, Inversnaid — cascades. Head of the Lake, back to Rob Roy’s cave, trail, Inversnaid, there took ponies. Journey over the mountain 6 miles to Loch Katrine which passes by the ruins of a castle built to oppose Rob Roy. House where his [. . .] was born, a lowly thatched cottage. 

Loch Arkey [i.e. Arklet], then Loch Katrine.A row boat — late in the afternoon; all was calm. Cannot [. . .] house where Rob Roy was born — where lady of the lake upheld from the foliage in her boat — where R sounded his horn, echo repeated many times — poetry, jokes, romance, notable places and associations, poetry.

Light did the boat row. Sheep, shepherds. Gallic language similar to the Bretagne of France. Hill where 3 counties meet — Perth, Argylshire, and Stirling. A town or hamlet called Ardlui. The mountain, the boatman pronounced the name but I could not understand it. “Spell it.” “It’s nae sae asie to spell — that’s my opinion.” Left the boat; walked a mile and a half over the Trossachs — lakes, islands, cascades — the tree on the side of the [. . .] where R. D.’s “gallant grey fell.” Inn covered with vines, the heart of Romance, overlooking a charming lake; full, deep moonlight on the water, clear. After that, strolled about the aromatic glades, went to the top of the mountain. French boys dancing “Polka.” Statue of Lord Brougham...

Thursday. Retraced our steps. On arriving at Balloch, all the omnibusses filled; much trouble on being refused the privilege of getting into a carriage. What was [. . .] called a little buggy race —and entered Dumbarton triumphant — Hurra! Villages full, full of children. Arrived in good time. Met some Americans; long walk to our hotel, Washington street, very dark; Argyll street, light. Hotel Ruch [?] Head. Two days of bliss. In coming years, I will look back and say — what shall I say!

Day 20 + 21, Glasgow

We left London by train at 10:45am on Sunday, and by 4 pm we were in Glasgow. We passed through some beautiful countryside, including part of the Lakes district. Unfortunately I had to skip a couple of England stops that Calvin and Octavia made because of time constraints. (I skipped Coventry, Warwick, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne, and Berwick) I am glad to be able to spend 2 nights in Glasgow to get a better feel for the city. We checked into our hotel, and then took a walk around the central part of town to get our bearings. Since Calvin and Octavia didn't mention any specific landmarks here, I decided to use it as an opportunity to wander and see what catches my eye. 

Here is what Octavia did say about Glasgow:

"Arrived in Glasgow at dark. Streets well illuminated — Hotel B[. . .] Head. Monday, August 26: A great attraction at a tailor’s shop, 6 figures, Highland parade. Although Monday, we had sausages for breakfast and [. . .] preserved strawberries. Mingled with the crowd perambulating the streets and gazing at the shops. Made some purchases. Music store — engraving shop, good collection. Submitted to a good deal of elbowing. Glasgow sixth largest city in Great Isle out [?] to London. A day without adventure. Blues. Low spirits, out of sorts. A bad chicken pie for dinner — will chase “Too early in the week for anything good.” Saw a funeral procession, plumed horse..."

Day 19, London

The main wish for today was to visit the Tate Modern, which we did. At the Tate, the permanent collection was thematically arranged, and I thought the Artist and Society exhibition was quite strong. Some images from that are included below. Afterwards, I wanted to be sure to visit St. Paul's Cathedral and to find Temple Bar, which is an old city gate separating the city of London from Westminster. It had been moved, but preserved, and is now located right next to St. Paul's Cathedral. The church bells at St. Paul's were deafening, so we took the #23 bus to Hyde Park to relax in the shade. 

Calvin's description of Temple Bar (in a letter to his wife):

"We came so far from our landing place to get out of the city as it is called, for the gate of Temple bar is the barrier between London proper or the city as it is called and Westminster. It spans the street that on the court side is called the Strand and on the other fleet street— and woe betide the claim to gentility that is found on the wrong side of Temple bar. Those below are called cockneys. Great ceremony is observed on Lord Mayors day at this place when he makes his splendid parade through the metropolis. We passed through [. . .] Victorias red coats tho’ they looked formidable stood quietly at their arms. Formerly the heads of great criminals, or those suspected by the king had their heads put up over this gate— now they do not cut off heads but give their great rogues pensions & titles to quiet them."

Day 18, London

Yesterday was spent in transit from Amsterdam to London via Brussels. We took the Eurostar through the chunnel. Today we set out to visit the major sites that Calvin and Octavia visited, starting with Charing Cross and Trafalgar Square. From there we walked through St. James Park (where Octavia collected a flower for her book of relics), to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament and the river. 

Here is an excerpt of Calvin's letter to his wife Temperance:

"The first objects I saw were the Tower and the London bridge, and the shipping that nearly choked up the river, and the huge warehouses of St. Katherine's dock, where we landed and had our baggage for the 4th or 5th time overhauled by the custom house officers— nice chaps these, very expert in rummaging a trunk, but not very particular good hands in repacking it. Of course they were no great favorites of Sis, who values herself on the order of her arrangements. But here they pounced upon some gew gaws she had purchased at Paris— they pronounced them French goods and made her pay half a guinea, which she did not like at all. We took a cab and drove 4 miles up the city by the Tower, St. Paul's, the Bank, etc. and through Temple bar to Charing Cross, where we took lodgings at the Albion Hotel. We are now I think just in the middle of the world— at least just in the center of all the noise and bustle of it, but just where strangers ought to be. We have full before us the Nelson monument 150 feet high. The Duke of Northumberlands palace. The National gallery, King Charles statue (where new kings are proclaimed etc.). Charing Cross, a large open square is the terminus of the Strand, Whitehall street, Pall Mall and the Haymarket, the greatest thoroughfares of the city and through which it would seem all the world was pouring into this great Babylon...

We have seen a few lions, spent some hours among the monuments of Westminster Abbey, rode over the city and through the parks and I attended the galleries of the two houses of parliament. In the Lords I heard speeches by the Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst and the Lords Dalhousie Whaincliff and Campbell— and in the Commons Sir Robert Peel, Lord John Russell, Mr. Villiers, Col. Libthorp & Lord Stanley. They would not admit Sis (women are not admitted for the most extraordinary and unfounded reason, that it is suspected they would talk! O, these Englishmen) but she consoles herself by saying she got a salute from the Duke of Wellington whom we met going into the parliament house as we were coming away, and that in Westminster abbey she sat in the chair in which Victoria and all the kings of England have been crowned! So now!"

And more from Calvin:

"This morning I went early into St. James Park which is very near Charing Cross. A long row of cows are tied up there; a girl asked me if I wanted a glass of milk. She milked a tumbler full for which I gave her a penny... St. James Park, I will add a word to say, is perhaps 3/4 of a mile long and 1/2 wide with a lake of irregular shape more than half its length— two Islands in it— and it is full of all sorts of aquatic fowls. You will see them at the shores eating crumbs out of the childrens' hands. Then one walks around the lake and to see crowds of men women and children walking on one side of the lake while you are on the other is delightful. Sometimes the walk is fenced off from the Lake by iron railing and the space planted with trees and shrubbery, which increases much the fine appearance of the living moving masses on the opposite shore. St. James Palace a jumbled mass of old buildings is on this Park. The Queens great palace of Buckingham is on the rising ground at the head of this Lake, 2 or 3 hundred yards from it...The River here presents a striking contrast to the Seine at Paris. There the broad quay on both sides was a most pleasant promenade— no banks or boxes— no shipping— here you cannot but at places get a view of the river— all the way blocked up with warehouses, goods, shipping and all the streets near it choked up with wagons, horses, drays, goods and human beings— dog carts would do a bad business here."

Day 15, Amsterdam and Amersfoort

The plan was to get up early and go into Amsterdam with Rory to see the Rijks Museum and the Stedelijk Museum. That plan was thwarted by my daughter's jet lag. She was up half the night, so our early departure was delayed until midday. We still managed to see a lot and enjoy a leisurely walk through town back to the train station. We saw the masters (Rembrandt, Vermeer, et al) at the Rijks Museum and then a really interesting de Stijl exhibition at the Stedelijk. This year is the 100-year anniversary of de Stijl, so many museums are participating in big retrospective exhibitions. From the Stedelijk's description:

"The Stedelijk presents the breadth of its collection of De Stijl, and explores relationships between the movement and the work of other artists in the museum’s holdings. Part of the 100 years of De Stijl program. The presentation examines different facets such as use of colour, the diagonal, purity, architecture and the dissemination of the movement. Works of De Stijl that powerfully convey this ideology are juxtaposed with work by post-war artists. De Stijl was clearly an inexorable certainty for successive generations. Some artists offer an inspired ode; others explore what De Stijl means today."

We also saw a Rineke Dijkstra exhibition of which we realized we had already seen a lot of the work in New York, but it's always good to see her work. In the evening when we got back to Amersfoort, we went out to dinner and had a walk through town. 


Day 14, Amsterdam

Sunday, June 11 (day 13 of my trip) was a much-needed day of rest for me. My family arrived from the U.S., and it was so wonderful to be reunited! We are staying with family friends in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, which is about 35 minutes outside of Amsterdam by train. Today we took the train into Amsterdam in the afternoon in order to have a look around. Here are some photos from today.

Day 12, Amsterdam

I spent the day wandering through Amsterdam, even though Calvin and Octavia didn't make it here. I first went to the Rembrandt House and Museum. In addition to seeing the house and museum as it would have been, there was an interesting exhibition of his etchings, in particular the famous portrait he made of his friend Jan Six. 

After the museum, I spent the afternoon wandering along the canals and through the various neighborhoods. There were so many tourists everywhere—definitely more than I noticed in Paris, and more than I am used to seeing in New York, as well. It was hard to escape them and find a quiet moment. 

Day 11, Rotterdam

It was absolutely pouring when I left my hotel in Brussels this morning, and I was soaked by the time I reached the train station. Luckily, it cleared up as the day progressed, and I had good walking-around weather once I reached Rotterdam. Rotterdam was actually the last continental stop that Calvin and Octavia made before heading to London on the steamer Baatavia. However, since I haven't spent much time in the Netherlands, I am going off track for a few days to explore further. (Plus, my family is joining me here this weekend, and I couldn't be more excited to be reunited with them!)

The city center of Rotterdam was pretty much destroyed in World War II, so there is very little old architecture left in that part of town. It has been completely rebuilt, with many well-known architects having contributed buildings to its current landscape. 

Here is Octavia's description of Rotterdam from her journal:

"Arrived about 7 o’clock. Followed the porter through streets, across canal crowded with shipping, and after a long walk come to Hotel Pays Bas. Buildings tall, mostly red, and so clean. [. . .] pavements of small bricks. Mirrors at the windows — smoke. The impression is different from that I had of any other European city. No noise of heavily laden wagons lumbering over the town — boats gliding through [. . .], cool, shady yet [. . .]. The most relieving, if not the most pleasant day I’ve passed on the eastern Continent. Everybody so happy, and again I’ll repeat, so purely clean. What a contrast to the German villages — where a heap of manure is the only attracting object [. . .] that meets the senses. On the other hand these hamlets had the loveliest little gardens, parks, and everything pleasing. Great deal of shipping. The poet says that Holland “scarce deserves the name of land.” I think praises on the other hand should be lavished on the industry of its [. . .]. Determined to give a short examination to the streets of Rotterdam, drove through the town — Mr. Groot, chinese specimens — Great church of St. Lawrence, built in 1472, of brick; contains monuments of admirals De Witt and Cortnaer, and vice Admiral (Schondtbijnacht) van Brahel. Organ — the largest metal pipe is 17 inches in diameter — number of stops 5085. Six pair of bellows (windmill)."

Day 10, Brussels and Waterloo

I paid a quick visit to the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in the morning. According to Wikipedia, Henry II, Duke of Brabant instructed the building of a Gothic collegiate church in 1226. The choir was constructed between 1226 and 1276. It took about 300 years to complete the entire church. It was completed just before the reign of the emperor Charles V commenced in 1519.

After the visit, I bought a sandwich and boarded a bus to Waterloo, which is a 45 minute ride outside of Brussels. I went to memorial site, which also includes a museum and monument, and views of the battlefields. The exhibition was very thorough, and even included a 3D IMAX recreation of the battle, which as cheesy as it was, also gave a really good window in to how such a battle would have been fought in 1815. 

Visiting Waterloo also made a strong impression on Calvin and Octavia. Here's an excerpt from a letter that Calvin wrote to his wife:

"Here we took a carriage and went to the field of Waterloo 10 miles. Waterloo is more than 2 miles from the field of battle, but it was from here that the Duke of Wellington wrote and dated his dispatches— the town of Mount St. Jean, 2 miles further, lies between. We went to the edge of the hill beyond the town along which the British line was extended, to the opposite ridge three quarters of a mile beyond where the French force was displayed, went into the little beer house called la Belle Alliance, where Napoleon was during a considerable part of the battle, and drank a litre of bad Louvain ale in the room where the Walloon who kept the house said Boney had done the same, and where his picture hangs. (The front of the house has a flaring inscription importing that Wellington met there after the battle). We went also to the spot to which Napoleon led his life guards when he found the chances of the battle were desperate— and where he told them “onward— that is the road to Brussels— we will soon be there.” Poor fellow, he stood there till he saw his guards cut to pieces, and knew that all was lost, when he turned his head and fled with his routed army. This spot is not a ravine or a gully which some of the British say he got into— there is no such spot on the whole battle field— it is about midway between the position of the two armies, lower than either but higher than the ground between that and the British line. Here Sis [nickname for Octavia] stood some time— you must know she is a great Bonapartist and from this spot she gathered some flowers which I dare say she will bring home."

From the exhibition:

Day 9, Brussels

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."

Day 8, Aachen

My train from Frankfurt was delayed by over an hour, so I didn’t get to Aachen until after 2. This turned out to be fine, as it’s a small city and everything is easily walkable.  Aachen has a long history, dating to Neolithic times and later settled by the Celts and the Romans because of its thermal springs. It later became the political center of Charlemagne’s empire, and he was buried here in 814. This history was very interesting and important to Calvin and Octavia, so I went on a quest to find Charlemagne (whom I found…or at least his arm bone.) I was able to visit the treasures of the sacristy of the cathedral, so I saw many of the same relics that Octavia mentions below. I also made a stop at the sulfurous-smelling Elisenbrunnen and the medieval city hall, and as I walked around I became very aware of all of the empty storefronts.

Some excerpts from Calvin and Octavia:

Calvin (in a letter to his wife, Temperance):

"I went from Cologne (where my letter to Tom was written) to Aix la Chapelle [French name of Aachen] over an interesting country than I expected [sic] and far more hilly, for we passed through one Tunnel of a mile. In this city rendered famous by Charlemagne and many great events since his time we staid a day, rode over it, visited the baths, the Churches etc. (we are a mighty going people) and next day by Liege, Louvain, etc. to the beautiful city of Brussels."


"…Charlemagne here had a castle, and his beloved Fastrada died. He grieved over body until Turpin the wise came while he was asleep and removed the ring from her finger, and that broke the spell of melancholy.

Aix contains 40,000 — Roman Aquis Grani; they had baths here. Charlemagne was born and died here 814; he made it a place of eminence. Napoleon united it to France, but after the Peace of Paris, it was restored again to Prussia.

Manufactories of cloth and needles. Hotel de Ville (Rathaus — in the market place, erected 1353, in the same spot where stood the palace of Frankish kings, where Charlemagne was born. Tower of Granus — east — Congresses met here in 1758 and 1818 — artists of the Düsseldorf school — Lord Sandwich, the English minister — Napoleon’s in the center of the square — bronze statue of Charlemagne — Don Karl — Ch.’s Chapel — he designed it for his burial — form of the holy Sepulcher, consecrated by Leo III. 365 archbishops and bishops were to have been present but 2 were missing. Church destroyed by the Germans and rebuilt by Otho III of the old materials; one of the oldest buildings in Germany. “Carlo Magno” on the slab under the dome. The place built after the manner of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

Aix La Chapelle July 30
The treasury or sacristy — skull of Charlemagne — arm bone — his hunting horn formed of elephant’s tusk — virgin’s hair [?] — Leather girdle of Christ (seal of Constantine on it, as the priest tells me) and the cord that bound the rod which smote him — nail of the cross — sponge — the arm of Simeon, which bore the infant Jesus — blood and bones of St. Stephen — [. . .] of St. Thomas and tooth — manna from the wilderness and some bits of Aron’s rod are still preserved here. Upon the relics, the Emperor swore at his coronation. The choir image presented by Mary Queen of Scots. Charlemagne’s throne, precious stones; great many jewels presented to Charlemagne by Sovereigns. Frederic Barbarossa —Eastern Gems — Models [?], diamonds, pearls, jasper — all the precious st[ones]…Fountain of Elise — a very handsome place — [. . .] etc. Boulevards — Music — nothing from 12 till night but music. Went to the opera accompanied by Mr. Lewis, the performance was truly excellent; music also, of course. “One night in Grenada.” Cafés brilliantly illuminated; promenade at the Font Elise; very much crowded; all gay, all enjoying themselves. I wrote a few lines and now in time to fall beneath the leaden scepter of the sable goddess."

Day 7, Frankfurt

Calvin and Octavia didn't write a lot of description about Frankfurt, but there was a list of places with an "X" marked next to some. I took that to mean that they visited the places that had the "X." It wasn't too much to go on, but it was something. The issue (or the interesting thing) is that Frankfurt would hardly be recognizable as the same city today. It was significantly damaged in the war, as well as now being a a fairly huge city with skyscrapers and lots of new construction. I decided to do my best with their list, and otherwise just wander and see where the day took me. I ended up spending a fair amount of time in the Städel Museum, which had a great photo exhibit up called "Fotographien Werden Bilder" (Photographs Become Pictures), about Ernst and Hilla Becher and the students they taught who went on to become well-respected photographers in their own right: Volker Döhne, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Tata Ronkholz, Thomas Ruff, Jörg Sasse, Thomas Struth and Petra Wunderlich. I also spent a good amount of time with their contemporary collection, which is housed in an amazing underground gallery that is lit via skylights that are embedded in the courtyard behind the museum. 

Here is the list from Calvin and Octavia:

X Mr. Jugel, Bookseller
X [. . .] Bethmann, Banker
Pipes, Toys, Caps, Stock
Opera — Theatre
Shoe Store — soles
X Madame Rothschild
X Baron Rothschild
X Jews Quarter
X New Streets: Zeil, Mainzer Straße
X Dom [cathedral] X town House or Römer
X St. Les
X Museum of Pictures
X Library open Tuesday 11 to 12
X Where are Luthers shoes
X Goethe “House F” No. 74 Hirsch Graben
X [. . .] Gate — Synagogue
X [. . .]’s shop on Dom Platz — maps
X Tacchi glass shop in the Zeil
Paper at Jugels in the Hotel

And here are the places I managed to see. (I also saw the Zeil, which is a big shopping district, but didn't take any photos, and I saw Bethmannstrasse, which is named after Bethmann, and his bank still exists today, as well.)

...and some of what I saw in the museum.