Sunday, June 20, 2010

How does it feel that we’ve won the war? Pretty damn good, obviously.

*Yesterday's post below.*

Today was the holy of holies for me. We got to spend the night in Waterloo, then attend a re-enactment of the battle on the actual field where it was fought. I’m a mega-nerd, I know, but couldn’t care less – it was awesome.

We started the morning at 7.30 looking for a light breakfast (because we weren’t going to pay the 15/30 Euros for the buffet breakfast at the hotel) and found a little bakery in the town of Waterloo where I got some sort of yummy pastry and Dad got some mini-rolls and a croissant. We then started driving out to the battle field, which isn’t too far. What we didn’t count on where the hundreds of other people trying to make the same drive. The local police did a really poor job of organizing the traffic in the town, so by the time we were about 1.5km from the site, we decided to park the car in a back alley and walk the rest of the way in. It was only a 10 minute walk, and lots of other people were doing it, but by the time we got to the battle field, we had passed 2 different farmer’s fields that were roped off for parking, but almost empty since people couldn’t drive into the area. Oh well.

Dad had pre-paid for our tickets, so it just remained to turn in our proof-of-payment for wristbands to get into the band-stands, but by this time it was shortly before 9, the battle was supposed to start for 9.30 and people were in a panicky-rush to get to where they were going. The result? I almost got mowed down by a fat Belgian man. Literally, his gut knocked me slightly off balance – but at least I got to practice swearing in French. From the ticket area, we headed into the bandstand area and grabbed seats at the very back and looking up to the ridge that Wellington held during the battle. We had almost 45 minutes to wait since they were late getting started, but from where we were sitting we got a prime view of the French re-enactors organizing themselves behind our bandstand.

Two big problems with the whole affair: 1- it rained on and off through the entire thing, bad enough to need an umbrella. 2- We were stuck sitting behind people who stood through most of the battle. And that wasn’t a common occurrence – in the entire bandstand they were pretty much the only ones doing it, which meant that we had to stand to. The complete lack of consideration and awareness of surroundings was the main characteristics of these 4 jerks and at several points I tugged on sleeves asking them to step down off their seats so we could see.

After the battle, we left the sight to drive back into Waterloo for lunch. We spent less than an hour in the village, then headed back out to the site since our wrist bands got us into the other attractions there. It was such a good idea that we left, because by the time we had gotten back the crowds had thinned out considerably, but it was still really busy. We wandered up the Waterloo monument for a view of the surrounding fields, through the gift shops, and at a couple of other attractions in the town. As we were heading out, the event staff was breaking down their security barriers which were all covered in signs announcing the re-enactment. We saw one of the staff pitch a sign to guy walking past and I asked if I could have one too, and they were totally cool with that! So, my favorite souvenir of the trip so far is a 1.5m X 0.5m felt sign for the battle of Waterloo re-construction. Such a good find!

Since it was only 3ish, we decided to save ourselves some time tomorrow and drive into Brussels today. Such a good idea. With the late afternoon-Sunday traffic, it was no problem getting in and out of there. Unfortunately, we didn’t find the touristy shops I wanted to find for postcards and stamps, so my Belgium postcards are going to have German post-marks on them. On our way out of town, our GPS sent us through the skeeziest, sketchiest part of town – the kind of places that you couldn’t pay me to get out and walk around in. It was a real contrast from the big-businesses and royal palaces we past on the way in.

Back to the hotel, dinner for 7, and then off to Amsterdam tomorrow!

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