…From Mr C’s perspective

Waterloo 200

Battlefield - Lion Mound

I was lucky enough to be able to visit the battlefield of Waterloo on the 18th June 2015, that date being the 200th anniversary of one of Europe’s most important battles. Waterloo, for those unfamiliar with the battle, saw the end of Napoleon Bonaparte’s reign as Emperor of the French 1st Empire and led to far reaching political changes throughout the continent.

The anniversary was marked by a re-enactment which that took place over two evenings (the 19th and 20th June). This evening arrangement did not fit my itinerary so I elected to be present on the anniversary day itself.

Initially, I had some trouble getting on to the battlefield because official ceremonies were taking place. However, this was not a complete disaster because at the site off the battlefield, the Scots Greys re-enactors were doing a film shoot which I would not have seen had the battlefield been open.

Battlefield - Mercers Battery

Britain - Scots Greys - Walking Crop

I found my way (circuitously) to the Lion Mound, which is the main memorial to the battle and encountered many re-enactors in the cafes and bars and in the tented market that was there to tempt the public into buying books, mugs, games, models and re-enactment equipment including muskets, leather riding boots and even reproduction saddles.

The battlefield opened to the public at 3pm and I walked along the ridge that the Duke of Wellington’s forces had defended arriving at the chateau of Hougoumont which saw some very heavy fighting throughout the battle, until the French eventually withdrew. It was interesting to see the terrain and to note how close the two armies would have been to each other. Napoleon’s headquarters, the coaching inn called La Belle Alliance, was clearly visible as I passed along the British position.

Hougoumont is not as large as I thought it would be but I was still impressed by it and gained a good appreciation of the difficulty the French would have had trying to assault it through awkward tree lines and up steep slopes. In my mind’s eye, I could imagine the heroic efforts of soldiers on both sides as they struggled for supremacy at this key site.

The photographs are of various re-enactors I encountered whilst at Waterloo on the 18th June and also, obvious from the building and cobbled streets, of some additional re-enactors that happened to march past as I was sightseeing in Brussels next day. I was amazed by the historical accuracy of the costumes they wore and equipment they carried.

Britain - HIghlanders - Black Watch Grenadiers - Group

Guest post by T.A.G.

I have only included a few of the photographs so I recommend you look at the full photo gallery here. Just click on any photo to enlarge it and scroll through the gallery.

2 Comments CherryPie on Jun 30th 2015

…From my perspective

Hotel Klooster

Today was the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and Mr C planned to spend the day on the battlefield. I was disturbed out of my sleep when he woke up earlier than usual and started to get things ready for his day out. After breakfast Mr C caught the train to Waterloo and I set off on a short walking tour to take in a few points of interest in Leuven.

The Dijle Duck fountain

The first stop on my route was a visit to St Anthony’s Church again, hoping to experience it alone in silence. The church itself was empty so I sat a while in the silence but the crypt had other visitors so I departed and made my way to the next place on my itinerary, the River Dijle Park. On my way to the park I came across the Dijle Duck fountain which is supposedly a good luck charm! If you rub your hand over its back three times, grab a hold of its tail with your little finger and then walk around the fountain until you reach the black button on the ground and the press the button and make a wish you will activate its powers.

Before you ask, no I didn’t…

The Small Iron Bridge

The Large Beguinage

I couldn’t quite figure out where the entrance to the park was, so I stood and pondered over the map for a few minutes. A lady stopped to ask if I needed help (how kind) :-) ) She was able to point me in the right direction to the park entrance and I soon found the small iron bridge that was the point of my visit to the park. I wandered through the park to the Large Beguinage and on arrival I found it to be lovely and tranquil with lots of photo opportunities.

I spent a long time in the Beguinage before making my way back to town for lunch. After lunch I retraced my steps to visit both Saint Michael’s Church (the Jesuit church we walked past the previous day) and also St John the Baptist Church which is situated within the Large Beguinage. After enjoying the interior of both these churches I spent more time in the Large Beguinage before making my way back to St Anthony’s Church. I knew that on this occasion that I would have the crypt to myself. It was so peaceful :-)

Bar Klooster

After my visit to the church, I made my way back into town and visited the Hush Puppy shop, in which I had been window shopping each evening as we walked back to the hotel after dinner. I came away with a pair of sandals and headed back to the hotel to drop them off in the hotel room. By this time my feet were rather sore from walking all day on the cobbled streets so I elected not to go back out.

I researched restaurant options for dinner, then freshened up and went down to the hotel bar with my book in order to wait for Mr C’s return from Waterloo. When he arrived he joined me for a drink before we made our way into town for dinner. The restaurant we chose had good food but towards the end of the evening the service was lacking in due care and attention.

8 Comments CherryPie on Jun 29th 2015

We are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act. Joy follows them like a shadow that never leaves them.

The Buddha

Beguinage

14 Comments CherryPie on Jun 28th 2015

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The weather was perfect for a visit to Cosford to watch Vulcan XH558 on one of its farewell flights. We allowed plenty of time to get to Cosford because I had a feeling the car parks would be fairly full. We had to queue to get in and cars were being squeezed onto every available grassy verge. The Vulcan’s pilot treated us to a spectacular ten minute air display where he banked sharply, climbed steeply and  impressed us with the noise of the Vulcan’s after burners. It was a treat to watch the world’s last flying Vulcan in one of its final flights.

After the flypast we decided to to go inside the hangars for a while until the queue of cars trying to leave the RAF museum calmed down. As I was looking at the WW1 aeroplane display, I heard one of the curators say that they hadn’t been expecting quite so many people and that the gates had had to be closed. When we went inside for a drink in the Refuel Restaurant we noticed it had run out of food. The visit wouldn’t have been complete if we hadn’t gone to see the Cosford Museum Vulcan in the Cold War Hangar; the Vulcan is a magnificent machine.

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The Avro Vulcan is an iconic example of British aerospace engineering at its world-beating best. Its impressive list of technical achievements includes being the first successful large delta wing aircraft, leading directly to Concorde and the Space Shuttle, and delivering performance and agility so close to a jet fighter’s that it was given a fighter-style control column in place of the traditional bomber pilot’s yoke. Today that agility allows XH558 to deliver amazing air displays, which unfortunately must finish this year as her time as a flying aircraft draws to an end.

But XH558 is not just for the pleasure of seeing her giant delta profile appear low over the trees and pull up near vertically as she climbs high into the sky. She is an iconic example of that remarkable period of intense post-war innovation that made British aviation technology the envy of the world. As the many displays at her hangar demonstrate, this allowed her to play a fascinating role in keeping the peace during the Cold War, a period of terrifying global tension. It’s a truly remarkable story.

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22 Comments CherryPie on Jun 27th 2015

The Botanical Gardens

We had another lazy start to the day and after breakfast we decided not to venture into the garden just in case we got locked in again. Instead Mr C decided to walk me to the Botanical Gardens so I could enjoy them whilst he made his way to the station to buy train tickets to Waterloo for the following day. After quite a long walk which he was directing, I said ‘Are you sure we are going in the right direction?’ I thought the garden was not far from the hotel.

During the walk we came across the lovely and peaceful church of St Anthony with the tomb of Saint Damien of Molokai in the crypt below. We also walked past Saint Michael’s Church which is considered to be the main Jesuit church in Belgium. Eventually we got back on track and found the Botanical Gardens (not far from the hotel) which I found to be an oasis of calm contrasting with the hustle and bustle of the city.

The Small Beguinage

When Mr C returned from the station with the appropriate train tickets I showed him round the garden before we went to find a cafe for lunch. After eating we walked to the Small Beguinage which was once housing for Nuns but now after restoration had become homes to private individuals. Unfortunately St Gertrude’s Abbey which is situated next to the Beguinage is only open at weekends so we did not have the opportunity to see inside. We made our way back to the hotel along the River Dijl and stopped off at the Dijl terrace which is a stepped seating area. We noticed an unusual lady who appeared to be sunbathing!

The Dijl Terrace!!!

Once back at the hotel we were disturbed by Mr C’s mobile phone. The interruption turned out to be an annoying and disappointing phone call. Once again I got the urge to throw the mobile phone into a nearby waterway!

After freshening up we made our way to the restaurant of choice for the evening where I chose salmon, potato and salad for my main course. For dessert we shared an intriguing sounding dish of strawberry soup,basil ice cream and tiramisu cream. It was delicious!  We then made our way back to the hotel for a nightcap before retiring to our room for the night.

The Town Hall Square

6 Comments CherryPie on Jun 26th 2015

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We were both a bit slow to emerge from sleep due to the previous day being so long. When we arrived at the breakfast room we found it was stocked with all the basic needs for a no-frills breakfast. After enjoying breakfast, we decided to step into the hotel’s garden quadrangle and found that we could not return because the door had locked itself as it shut!! The quadrangle was completely enclosed and all other exits were also shut. After a few minutes we were able to flag down an amused member of staff who fortunately was able to open the door.

Behind the Tourist Information Centre


The M Museum

After our escape we made our way to the tourist information centre where we picked up several information leaflets and gleaned additional information from the lady behind the desk. We had a drink of tea in the market square whilst deciding our plan of action for the day. After Mr C had booked a Town Hall tour for later in the day, we briefly visited the church of St Peter before making our way to the M Museum. The museum was a very interesting art gallery and we found the electronic guided tour system was a lot more advanced and discreet than we are used to in the United Kingdom. The current exhibition was a display of silver objects, some of which were from St Peter’s church. After a break for lunch we completed the M Museum tour which was a display of art and silver housed within St Peter’s church. We finished looking around the church with only a few minutes to spare before it was time for our guided tour of the Town Hall.

The Town Hall

The Town Hall tour was excellent and our guide explained many interesting facts and features, one of particular interest is that the statues on the higher levels increased in height to give the building a sense of height. After the main tour, a few of us stayed behind for an additional tour of the attic, reached by a spiral staircase, where we were able to view the original stonework which had been copied and replaced with more durable material on the outer edifices of the building.

After our busy day we returned to the hotel to freshen up before returning to the city for our evening meal. I had rabbit with prunes for my main course. Whilst dining we chatted with a Finnish chemistry professor and his Chinese student who were preparing for an eight minute talk in the Catholic University next day. I once again observed the white robed monk I saw  the previous evening passing by. When it was time for dessert, I asked how many scoops of ice cream would be served because the menu was unclear. I was informed that all the dishes had three scoops unless I wished for less so I ordered one scoop. When the waiter served the dessert he said, “Here you are miss” and as I looked down I noticed that the serving bowl seemed to have two black (Disney-like) mouse ears protruding from the side. On closer inspection I found Minnie Mouse hiding underneath my ice cream… The amused waiter was enjoying himself and referred to me as Miss for the rest of the evening.

After our evening meal we once again retired to the hotel, where I once again had a nice glass of Rose wine before retiring to our room for a good night’s sleep.

Martin's Klooster

8 Comments CherryPie on Jun 25th 2015

Martin's Klooster

The taxi arrived on time to take us to Stafford station for the first part of our train journey. I felt a bit sorry for the taxi driver because Mr C hadn’t factored in enough time to cater comfortably for slow moving traffic but we made it in time. When we arrived in London the London cab driver was dismayed and put his head in his hands when we said we were only going round the corner to St Pancras station. Apparently he had waited 40 minutes and had been hoping for a more lucrative fare.

As we neared St Pancras station, the traffic was chaotic and when we arrived at the station we realised why. All of the Eurostar trains were delayed so the terminus was full of people milling around. We wern’t quite sure what was going on until we heard an announcement saying that there had been an incident on the French TGV line. There were plenty of staff available to answer questions and we were informed that we would be called to our train when it was ready for boarding. This was done by waving a card about with the train time and destination as there are no digital electronic screens to keep passengers updated there.

Despite the delay, the experience wasn’t stressful and when we were called to our train it was only about half an hour behind schedule. As we were queuing to go through border security and bag checks, we found out that the delay was due to one of the French high speed trains colliding with an animal. Oh dear…

Following the delay, the journey ran smoothly and we were served with a light lunch of salmon accompanied by a bottle of Grenache Rose whilst enjoying sunny scenes through the windows of the train. We changed at Brussels for the last leg of the journey which took about thirty minutes. Rather than carry our luggage through the city to the hotel we caught our third taxi of the day.

On arrival at the hotel we had a momentary scare; the receptionist struggled to find our reservation. She asked for the booking code which I was able to produce and it was only then that we all realised she had misheard our name. We had just enough time to unpack and settle into our room before it was time to go out for dinner. We asked the hotel receptionist for a restaurant recommendation (we were looking for traditional Belgian cuisine) which she provided. We found the restaurant she recommended and were able to sit outside, soaking up the atmosphere. We ended up talking to a lady on the table next to us who wondered what we might find to fill a week in Leuven. As we were talking, surprisingly, a monk dressed in white robes emerged from the restaurant next door.

After our meal we returned to the hotel where I had a nice glass of Rose wine before retiring to our room for a good night’s sleep.

The Town Hall

8 Comments CherryPie on Jun 24th 2015

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