Mind you, I doubt I could've afforded a trip to Russia just then anyway!
I was very pleased to learn that our expensive 'Combi' tickets, which give us access to the bivouacs, the Inferno, and The French Attack (on Friday 19th), also give us access to the visitor centre. More on this later!
The Duke of Wellington, who I talked to and photographed, was sitting atop a rather skittish horse. He at least was actually English! I had read somewhere that Napoleon was being played by American re-enactor Mark Schneider. But it turns out they have a French lawyer in the role, Frank Samson.
I filmed a really cool march past of the band of the Imperial Guard, lead by a group of ten drummers. I've tried uploading the clip below in numerous formats, and numerous time, but it always comes out looking pixellated and very low res (not like the actual video I shot!). There's also a lot of rumble from wind across the microphone (that is the same as the original clip!). Can anyone more au fait with blogger advise me as to how to improve the video image quality?
stall selling cheap vintage postcards.
Here's the little stash I poichased.
This poor planning on my part resulted from some confusion which had arisen, in my view, due to poor displaying of info on tickets and elsewhere; some of which info related to multiple components, without making it clear enough which bit of info related to which element of the various component events. This wasn't the only organisational element which, to my mind, left a lot to be desired!
Another logistical pain in the derriere concerned what turned into something of a pain for us (quite literally), in that the parking arrangements were not clearly signposted, either on the ground, in the online literature, or in the printed program and other material. The maps of the event do display disabled parking, bicycle parking, and even campervan parking, but not ordinary automobile parking. As the latter is the form of transport which probably accounts for the vast majority visitors who aren't using public transport transport, that seems a bit odd, to say the least!
The bizarre and not very good Inferno event of the 18th, which was staged very late (and actually ran significantly later than the 22.00-24.00 advertised) - oh, and walking miles and miles between bivouacs, etc.- left us both, and me in particular, so drained that I spent most of the 19th recovering in bed! Teresa made us something to eat whilst I typed most of this. I realised, as I sat typing this at our accommodation in Sint-Genesius-Rode on the 19th, that we might've screwed up, and missed our opportunity to see the new visitor centre. I'd far rather have seen that than the damned Inferno!
It turned out that parking was almost as big a pain on this occasion as previously. This time we were on the right (as in correct, or northern) side of Waterloo. But we were a very, very, very long way from the event. Despite paying for parking on both days, we ended up walking what felt like a Napoleonic campaigns worth of miles around the various sites. The traffic in both cars and pedestrians was far busier on this day, the event being a much larger one. Despite logistical annoyances, however, the excitement was intoxicating.
Indeed, a good deal of the seating, especially those stands along the main axial north-south road - the Brussels/Waterloo to Charleroi road - suffered from the same issues. Numerous blocks, including ours, had, to all intents and purposes, very little other than empty fields directly opposite them, with the bulk of the action occurring either on the reverse slope of a hill, also directly in front of us, or so far away as to be nigh on invisible, especially once the smoke started to build up.
En route we passed a memorial to artilleryman Cavalie Mercer, Captain of Troop G, the Royal Horse Artillery. This really gave me a thrill - the first time such a memorial has done so - as I'd been reading an abridged version of his memoirs during our trip. So, to stand where his battery had fought actually had a powerful resonance.
We met Blücher and some of his staff, as attested to by the above pic. I'd been doffing my cap, and exclaiming 'Vive L'Empereur' as a thank-you, every time I snapped any French troops, so I tried to recall the catchphrase associated with the old Prussian commander - 'Vorwarts, mein kinde'. But my head was so addled with trying to think and talk French that it came out as 'En avance, mes enfants!' The stony-faced General looked distinctly unimpressed!
I'd photographed a far more friendly Wellington on one of the preceding days. But, aside from the really rather pathetic long distance shots of Napoleon, taken when he did one of several ride-bys along the stands during The french Attack, I didn't get to see Boney up close. This last point has a funny relation to both historic and fictional sightings of the emperor that I've encountered during this sojourn, in that during Sharpe's Waterloo it's the desire to see Napoleon that causes Sharpe and his Irish pal Harper to return to Waterloo, after leaving 'Silly Billy's' staff and the battlefield, and Mercer mentions his two sightings of Napoelon with evident glee.
Even now, 200 years on, Napoleon - or even someone pretending to be Napoleon! - exerts a magnetic and charismatic effect!
We're now back at home, eating dinner sat on our couches in front of the TV, watching Rod Steiger as Napoeon, in the epic Waterloo film by Dino de Laurentis and Sergei Bondarchuck. I now need a second holiday to recover from all the Napoleonic footslogging we've been through in the last few days!