At Wa-ter-loo Napoleon did Surrender
Who hasn’t heard of Waterloo? Maybe you’ve “met your Waterloo,” maybe you’ve sung along with Abba : “My my, at Wa-ter-loo Napoleon did surrender.” Who knew (and be honest!) that Waterloo was in Belgium? Yep, although it sounds British, is it really a Belgian town, and it was the location of today’s field trip.
Leaving Morgan at the apartment to take s shower, I started my day with a coffee and chocolate pastry for breakfast in Mokafe, the 18th century Galleries Royale Saint-Hubert (great atmosphere, interesting crowd of locals).
After getting our Metro tickets, we made our way to Midi Station and Bus W to Waterloo. Here’s a little tip: many European metro stations do not have a person to sell you tickets; they just have a machine. AND the machine ONLY takes coins, not paper money, and not credit cards. We had to go to the next main station to find a person who can sell us tickets using my credit card. We found this to be true in Paris as well. So today’s travel lesson is: buy your metro tickets at a main station, or have lots of coins.
Back to the bus. Not exactly knowing where to get off, I asked the bus driver to let us know when we got there. About 45 minutes later, we saw the sign, got off the bus, and headed to the visitor center. Now, if you’ve ever visited a former battlefield (think Gettysburg or Manassas), usually all you find is a big field and a building where they explain what happened there. You have to imagine the battle for yourself. However, Waterloo has the Lion Mound, a conical man-made (actually, it was women who carried the dirt, bag by bag, to make this thing) hill with a monument consisting of a concrete block with a lion standing on the top. It’s 226 steps to the top, where you can see over the battlefield clear to the next town. Besides the lion hill, there’s a panorama from the 1920’s and a wax museum from the 1940’s. There’s also a very well done and current film that describes the battle.
Here’s the history: after Napoleon failed miserably in his attempt to annex Russia into his empire (which was quite huge, including Spain, Italy, and most of Western Europe), he was deposed and imprisoned on the Island of Elba by the neighboring rulers. The Kings of Prussia, Spain, Austria, and England took their countries back and restored the French borders to about the same as they are today. After a couple of years in exile on his island, Napoleon escaped to the French Riviera and made his way to Paris, raising an army of 124,000 soldiers vowing to help him restore his glory.
England and Prussia were not about to let this happen. The Duke of Wellington got his 106,000 men and the King of Prussia got his 112,00 ready to go. Napoleon thought he could take his army and beat either one of them individually, but not both at the same time. He almost did, too, but ended up being surprised by soldiers hiding behind some of the rolling hills and was forced to surrender.
My favorite quote: Lord Uxbridge, from horseback, after his leg was shattered by a cannonball, to the Duke of Wellington riding nearby: “By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!” Wellington:”By God, sir, so you have!”
Favorite fun fact that I can’t confirm on Google: Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” was written in response to the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.
Back on the bus, we ride into Waterloo proper and have a fantastic lunch at Le Pain Quotidien, (Daily Bread). This is a chain of bakery/lunch restaurants that has stores worldwide (including a bunch in the Washington DC area), then headed back to the apartment.
Waterloo – promise to love you forevermore!