Our first morning in Belgium. It is about 10 degrees but it is not raining. The internet in our room did not work so at 6am Chris went to the lobby in his pyjamas to check the news and read emails. It turned out that Brussells was hosting an international seafood convention and that is why we were forced to get accommodation out of town. We decided to catch the bus 4 km south into Waterloo for a late breakfast. Having arrived in Waterloo we find a boulangerie and settle down for breakfast. The kids select the most fattening cakes they can find while Di and I go for hot beverages. After finishing we wander up and down the main street of Waterloo looking at the shops. After a while I decided to go to the information centre to see what Waterloo has to offer tourists. Not surprisingly the main, and perhaps only, tourist adventure on offer is related to Napoleon’s defeat by Wellington just a couple of kms south of the township. At that stage we were planning to go to Brussels in the afternoon so we did not buy tickets.
It was pretty much lunch time so we started to contemplate where to eat. After some initial discussions Matthew decided we must have pizza for lunch. So after some hunting around and finally asking we discovered that Waterloo had a pizza hut at the other end of town. Having stuffed ourselves with pizza we decided to spend the afternoon looking at playing tourist in Waterloo. We bought tickets for all the major exhibits and started at the biggest museum which once was Wellington’s forward command post. The museum appeared to be in a small building but had a significant extension out the back. I expected that we would only spend 20 or so minutes in the museum but it was surprisingly good. We had audio guides and it told us all about the main combatants and their history as well as an hour by hour account of the battle. The most interesting bit of trivia for me was how few people actually died. From memory there were about 200 thousand people on the battlefield but only 10% died. It was very gentlemanly in comparison to modern warfare. It seems we have improved many things since 1815 including killing. The other thing I remember is the brutality of the cannons which would rip through all in their path. An unfortunate commander called Oxenbridge was next to Wellington when a cannonball ripped off his leg. He had the presence of mind to say to Wellington “I seem to have lost my leg”, to which Wellington was supposed to have responded “So you have”. Oxenbridge lived on after this, his artificial leg is on display in the museum and one of the gardens outside has a sign that says, “Herein lies the leg of Oxenbridge”.
We were due to be at Julie’s for dinner at 7pm. It was approximately 5pm and Chris decided to go for a jog. Having jogged for 10 minutes around the streets Chris decided to take to the inviting forest tracks. Jogging on the forest track was great fun and I decided to stay and make it a round trip. I think being in the northern hemisphere has thrown my sense of direction because after 30 minutes I came across a major road which was not what I was expecting. I jogged down this road for two klms and realized that I had no idea where I was. No problem I tell my self I will just go back the way I came. So I jogged back to my exit point in the forest and started back along my route. Soon enough I came across a 5 way junction in the frost and could not remember which way I had come. By now Di would definitely know I was lost. She had arranged for a taxi to pick us up at 6:30 and it was now 6:25. The thought of being lost in the forest all night did not seem like a good idea so I made my way back to the major road to arrange some sort of rescue. The road was two lanes wide in either direction and there was nowhere for someone to pull over. I walked along the road until I found a service phone and rang the person at the other end who thankfully spoke good English. He suggested that he would call the police to rescue me, to which I readily agreed and I waited the predicted 30 mins for the police to arrive and tried to stay warm in the meantime. I had hoped that the police would take a poor stupid Australian tourist home but they insisted they were not a taxi service and it was decided that they would drive me 7km to waterloo from where I could catch a taxi or bus the 4km back to my hotel. I was concerned that Di might be worried about me but it seems that she and the kids had left for dinner on schedule and had, rather sensibly, left my wallet with the concierge so I could pay the taxi diver and then take a taxi to dinner.
At dinner we caught up with Julie and Gauthier and met the famed Laurent. A good night was had by all (except possibly Laurent who was disappointed that Chelsea drew, and therefore, beat Barcelona in the European championship).