Fourteen Months Abroad – Brussels, Belgium

July 21.-After supper last evening I went out alone and bought souvenir postcards of Antwerp and Brussels. The Gare du Nord (railway station) was brilliantly illuminated by gas.

This morning has been devoted to the boulevards, on which we rode nearly around the city. Brussels, sometimes called the Paris of the North, is certainly a beautiful city. The Boulevard of Waterloo, a very broad street, contains six rows of splendid, large elms. There is a roadway for trams and other vehicles, a horseback way between two rows of trees, a broad central way for pedestrians with four rows of trees, and another roadway for vehicles and trams. Sidewalks are on each side, with solid rows of buildings.

The boulevards form a continuous broad belt around this capital of Belgium.

At one point we saw the magnificent Palace of Justice which is said to be “the largest building in the world, covering 270,000 square feet. It is of sculptured and polished marble, surmounted by a marble tower 400 feet high.” I wished much that we might leave our car and visit this enormous structure on which seventeen years were spent before its completion in 1883. Enormous lions on high pedestals guard the entrance to the Royal Palace grounds—one on each side of the gate. The coach to Waterloo passed our hotel this morning on its way to the battlefield. Passengers were riding on the top of the coach. The coachman blew his horn as he went by.

July 22.—After writing in my journal yesterday afternoon, I started out for a walk all by myself. L., being ill with his cold, thought best not to go with me. As I re-turned late for dinner, he had become alarmed about me, but I had been having a good time seeing this second Paris. The only thing to mar my pleasure was that L. was not with me. I saw elegant stores and handsome buildings. The word Patria in large letters on a tall monument attracted my attention. Crowning the monument is a large figure holding in its hand an open book in which it appears to be writing the names of the soldiers who fell in a battle fought here between the Dutch and the Belgians in which the latter were victorious—the battle which made Belgium independent. The people here are now celebrating their independence for three days. The streets are gay with bright flags. I saw a large, beautiful fountain and walked through the Passage du Nord. Noticed the Royal Theatre, the Post Office and the Merchants’ Exchange building. I finally reached what is considered the finest part of Brussels.

Suddenly, greatly to my surprise, I found myself in a delightful little square. Flowers and flowers were there—cut flowers, blooming plants in pots, and a fine array of foliage plants. Around the square were magnificent buildings. I stood transfixed, and wished so much that L. had come with me. I learned the name of this little square—Grand Place,—and also learned the names of the sumptuous looking buildings that were all about me. The Hotel de Ville (Town Hall)—a gilded edifice of the fifteenth century, half covered with marble statuary and canopies, has a splendid high tower. The Maison du Roi, Maisons des Corporations and Maisons de la Grand Place are all very showy structures with much rich gilding. The beauty of this charming spot is greatly enhanced by the flowers. It is really a flower market. The lovely blossoms were for sale. I have been told since that this is thought to be the most beautiful medieval square in Europe.

La Colonne du Congres, a very high column, is surmounted by a gilded figure.

On my way home I went into a store and bought illustrated postcards of the fine buildings on the square from a man who could speak only in French. I found that I had not quite forgotten all that I once knew of that language.

We crossed Belgium from west to east last summer and are now crossing it from north to south, in both cases passing through Antwerp. We are resting this morning trying to store up a little strength for the journey today. I would like very much to see Brussels lace manufactured before leaving. A lace factory is close by, but we have neither time nor strength to visit it. The coach to Waterloo has again gone by. It stopped opposite this hotel and two passengers climbed to the top of the coach on a ladder which is carried for that purpose. I saw a dog drawing a milk cart this morning; a young woman, bare-headed, was walking by the side of the cart. The wheels of these dog carts are of good size and quite heavy. Some of the harnesses are elaborately trimmed with metal.