Our lunchtime park.

Simon Stevin was born in Brugge in 1548. Amongst many achievements he invented the sand-yacht and established the daily use of decimal fractions (0.5 for one-half, etc). I’d never heard of him until the other day when our Canadian friends used his statue as a reference point for a good waffle shop.

Simultaneously, Callum has been bogged down in Imperial measurements in his maths course. He’s finding it frustrating that the American course devotes a fair bit of attention on converting Imperial to metric.

The combination of the Brugge connection and Callum’s understandable frustration has led Jennifer and me to do a bit of research on the metric system and on why the US still uses Imperial. The short answer on the later question is that there is not a single rational reason I can find for the US’ tenacious refusal to join the rest of the modern world. What makes the US position particularly absurd is that their units of measurement are actually defined using metric units – so the official definition of an inch is so many millimetres, and so on.

Anyway, we’re now 25.47945205479452 per cent of the way through our trip – and in metric or Imperial it continues to go well.

We’ve had a run of good places to stay and interesting places to visit. Our last month hasn’t had the exotic feel of Egypt, Jordan and Israel but it has been more calm and easier to organise. We’ve also pulled back from what felt like a more frenetic pace earlier on.

Clockwork mechanism for the Brugge bell tower

Today for example we did schoolwork, visited the supermarket, had lunch in a park and then climbed the tower in Brugge’s market square. Not a tough day. The tower was good, by the way. There are 366 steps up, increasingly tight spiral staircases, to the top. The view from the top is good; but I must admit we found the exposed carillon mechanism even more absorbing. The bells are operated by a giant clockwork music-box apparatus built in 1743. It was fascinating to watch it click into action in the same way is has for almost 300 years.

As we’ve moved into Western Europe, the cost of living has gone up; but we expected that to be the case and were sort of ready for it. Even though we budgeted for more expensive food and accommodation it’s hard not to look wistfully at what we were paying in Singapore, Israel or even Eastern Europe. We’re still within budget though and that’s what counts.

The kids have got more schoolwork done this last month. Declan is about to do his final exam for his Maths course and both boys are becoming much better at their written stories. We are going to have to revise our approach a bit over the coming weeks though. Firstly there are a few elements we need to add in now that writing is becoming less of an issue and secondly because we need to find a way to keep up the boys’ French. I have two weeks in Sancerre, while Jennifer and boys attend French classes, to get that organised.

We’ve also been revising our itinerary a bit over the last week or so. We’ve decided to chop out the Galapagos because the weather will be to bad. As a result, we’re going to spend longer in Peru and hopefully go to the Amazon. Jennifer has got our Spain sojourn all locked down after I passively resisted going to Spain at all.  Our remaining issue is whether the spend two weeks in July in the UK or to go somewhere else. The problem with ‘somewhere else’ is that (a) it’s peak season and (b) we haven’t the foggiest which one of the millions of somewhere else’s in the world to go to.

Suggestions for how to spend two weeks in July would be appreciated. Just please don’t suggest Burma or Liberia – the two other countries in the world to hang on to the Imperial system.

15 thoughts on “25.47945205479452 per cent of the way

  1. I think you should go to Britain in July. There is so much for children to see and do there and it will all be referenced back to them when you return to Australia – there are so many references to British life in tv and general popular culture.

  2. In an odd coincidence, Column 8 is currently musing on which other countries apart from the US have hung on to Fahrenheit – with offerings including “there’s only one other and it’s Belize”, “there’s only one other and it’s Albania” and your pair of Liberia and Burma.

    1. For a moment there I thought you were just calling me names.

      From a practical viewpoint Turkey suffers the same issue as Greece – its a long way the wrong way. Other than that it’s a great idea.

      1. Don’t think of it as the wrong way, just hop on a cheap flight from London and think of it as a side trip. How can you resist all that fabulous history and culture, the friendly people and the wonderful food? And all relatively inexpensive! I’m more than happy to detail my recommendations in an email if you’re at all interested?

      2. Would love any thoughts. Jennifer and I visited Turkey 20-odd years ago and enjoyed it a lot. That was out of season though so it was far from crowded.

  3. We hold onto the Imperial system because we CAN. Bwah hah hah hah.


    Come to the UK in July because it’s so lovely then, but be prepared for three things: the tourist sites will be full of Americans complaining about the metric system, it’s not cheap, and the road signs are in miles per hour.

    1. OK, the whole we rule the world thing while stroking a fat white cat is just scary.

      The point about the UK still using miles is a good one. But then aren’t you living in a place where they fry Mars Bars? ’nuff said…

  4. Fourth of July in the US is a great celebration. Is that the wrong direction? Wasn’t sure exactly where you’d be starting from.

  5. Turkey Turkey Turkey

    The best courty I ever travelled. Just be careful travelling in Istanbul taxis. More like a rollercoaster designed by Evel Knievel that any rational form of transport.

    By the way why is Callum having a staring competition with a bust of Charles Darwin at Berlin museum:)

    1. Callum is using a bone-induction speaker. You put your elbows on pads on the desk and cup your hands over your ears. The sound travels up your arms and you hear the words.

  6. I suggest Morocco, its been on my do list for a very long time… I’d love to hear your impressions of it. I can also put you in touch with a friend with a travel business there. Then again, perhaps it is too close to Gaddafi-land. My other suggestion, would be Guernsey or Portugal.
    ps i’ve included J’s website for the boys to check out.

  7. As a follow-up, I meant to suggest some good places for kids in London. There’s the Tower of London, especially the armoury. The Science museum and Natural History museum, next door. Legoland at Windsor, where you could spend a long day. Roald Dahl’s house just outside northwest London. The RAAF museum in north London (forget the name – Edmonton? it’s on a Tube line) is very interesting. Wimbledon tennis museum if they have any interest in tennis. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, which is almost next door to the Tate Modern, in a disused power station (all free, so you can go in and look at the building) and just near the footbridge across the Thames that goes to St Pauls. Hampstead Heath and Richmond Park, which has deer. A trip to Kew on the river. The London Eye. Docklands light rail which takes you to Greenwich observatory and the Greenwich meridian.

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