We’re covering some ground today. From Brugge we go to Brussels. There we catch a train to Paris, where we have to change stations to catch our next train to Cosne-sur-Loire. Finally we’ll be met by a car to take us to Sancerre. So in keeping with the bitty nature of today’s travel I thought I’d use to opportunity to catch up on a few thoughts from the last weeks.
As we approach Brussels: Footwear errors
A few days ago when writing about Waterloo, I joked that the Prussian Field Marshall Blucher had not got any footwear named after him. It turns out I was completely wrong. He actually invented a form of boot called the Blucher which is the basic design for most men’s shoes today. In the 1850s Blucher noted that his troops had difficulty taking their boots off. He created the format we use today of a shoe with two side flaps bound by laces. For years the shoe was called the blucher and in particular it became refined to be a fashion accessory for men in the early 1900s.
So both Wellington and Blucher had footwear named after them. After having done some research I believe I’m fairly secure in saying that Napoleon did not invent any footwear. Imagine the shoes we could have today if he’d won at Waterloo.
In Brussels Midi Station: I was right
I had been concerned I was a bit tough on Brussels a few days ago. An hour in Brussels Midi Station makes me think I was right on the money. It is dirty, ugly and badly organised. What on earth are the Belgians thinking?
As we flash through Belgium and France: Declan’s exam
Declan got an A in his maths exam and has now progressed to year 4. Not to downgrade his achievement but he’d already finished Year 3 maths in Australia, so this was more about having to learn the US curriculum that’s different to the Australian. The earlier focus on fractions is one difference, and I guess that makes sense when you like Imperial measurements. The other is an obsession with sets – which I’m not convinced the Australian primary curriculum does more than glance at.
The US curriculum also seems to like tables of distances between places and travel times. All based on cars and planes. But then they don’t have anything like the Thalys which is currently whizzing us along at over 300km per hour.
In Paris: Spring is here too
I’m not sure what the temperature actually is here, but it’s positively warm. Parisians are going about without coats, people are sitting outside cafes. Spring is definitely here.
Having negotiated Paris and sitting in Gare Bercy: Websites
There are two websites we’ve found absolutely invaluable while travelling.
For train travel you just cannot go past The Man in Seat 61. It has absolutely all the information you need to travel by train in Europe and elsewhere. Apart from practical information there’re pictures, recommendations and all sorts of essential stuff. We had all the details of our transfer from Gare du Nord to Gare Bercy worked out well in advance thanks to Seat 61.
Then when you are travelling by air, there’s ihatetaxis.com. This great site tells you how to get from airports into town all round the world. It makes sure you don’t get ripped off and has nice clear instructions even a jet-lagged long-haul traveller can deal with.
The last bit: sacrifices for science
We were met in Cosne by the charming Marianne who runs the school we are attending. She drove us to Sancerre and gave us a brief but comprehensive guided tour of the town. Brief, because there’s not a lot to it. We settled into our flat which is on one floor of the school; and then went out to buy some groceries and find dinner.
Although Belgium and The Netherlands were flat as a pancake they are not known for quality pancake eating. But now we are in France we’ve decided to continue to sacrifice for science and try a wider variety of pancakes. Our crepes today were a validation of the Copernicus Effect – although Declan’s involved so much chocolate the rest of us could barely face watching him eat it. Clearly more experimentation will be required over the coming days.