Up early the next day and off to Waterloo station for the Eurostar train to Brussels. Fourteen people making the trip, so naturally we had two games of Dip! The Brits promptly showed me how the game would go by eliminating me as Russia in the first game, but I got my revenge by topping the board in the second. The trip under the channel was quick and easy, and we switched trains in Brussels for Namur. Many thanks to Shaun Derrick, who organized the tickets and accommodations in Namur. The Grand Hotel de Flanders is just across the street from the Rail Station, so we checked in and got settled, and went out for some food.
(A note on the food on this trip: We had Chinese, American, French, and Belgian food on the trip, and for the most part it was good and cheap. New York City has spoiled our appreciation of such things, however!)
The Tournament started the next morning. The convention held a "multi-games" competition, a three round event which had Diplomacy as one of it's third rounds. I decided to play in the other two, playing Pente (tied for 3rd place) and Monopoly (fifth on my board, ack!). The first diplomacy round went well for me, I tied for top position, with an 8 center Germany.
(A note on the Diplomacy format. They played something called "C-diplo" in this tournament. The game was officially ended in 1907, and whoever had the most centers at that point was considered to have 'topped the board", and was awarded the most points. This, needless to say, is not Diplomacy as we know it in the States! It has a very different dynamic, and requires a different approach.)
And what was my wife Mary doing, whilst I was happily gaming the day away? The convention was at a Belgian Defensive Fort, called "The Citadel" which dates back to the 10th century or earlier. So Mary went exploring, spending three days clambering up stairways and through tunnels, wishing a)for a more powerful flashlight, and b) that they'd unlock some more of the tunnels so she could see how the whole thing interconnected! Needless to say, she was quite happy with the arrangements. I only spent about three hours total exploring, two of which were on the guided tour, which was not enough. What can I say, other priorities!
The second day of Diplomacy didn't go nearly as well for me as the first. In the first game, I drew Austria, which was fine by me! Unfortunately, Turkey was Vincent Mous. People who were at WDC8 in Chapel hill may recall that I, as England, rolled over Vince's France on my way to my solo victory, and the Championship. Vincent repaid me in kind, and together with Russia clobbered me. Vince went on to be on the Top table, incidentally. I managed to hold out in Venice until the game ended.
Round 3, and I drew Russia. I don't have tremendous success with Russia normally, and I thought C-diplo might provide further difficulties. It did. I got up to seven centers before the tide turned, and was eliminated in 1907. And thus were my chances of defending my title successfully sunk. I finished in 34th place, of 90-some. However, much to my amazement, I did win the "Best Diplomacy" award, and tied for "Favorite Player" with Emannuale, from France, who's last name I can't remember! (ack!) These awards were based on voting done by every player regarding the other players on thier board.
I will reserve my opinions and commentary on the tournament and format for a different letter, but let me say that Jean-Louis Delattre did a fabulous job of organizing and running the show. The fourth and last round of the Tourney I drew England, a favorite of mine, and managed to do two important things.
We hadn't planned to go to Paris, but it being so close, and with an offer like Jeremie's, well, we couldn't refuse. He took us on a tour of the main sights by car, and even drove us down to Versailles! (Alas, it was closed for the night -- but still, pretty darn impressive just from the outside!) The high point was midnight at the Sacre Cour (sacred heart) cathedral. It was amazing, with a tremendous view of the city. The next morning we went into Paris and walked along the Seine, from the Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower. We walked up the steps of the Tower, but ran out of time before we had a chance to get to the Top! Still, World Dip Con XI will be in Paris in 2001, so we should get another chance . . .
From Paris we went to Brugge, and this quaint medieval town is everything its cracked up to be. We spent two days here, in a hotel room overlooking a canal with it's resident swan, and also went on a tour of nearby Damme, and a Brewery. Beer is good food! (No surprise to some of you!) There are over 600 beers made in Belgium, and all of them ales. I had a Brugge Triple, 9.6% alcoholic content. Whee! The beer you can eat with a fork!
Before we knew it, it was time to go to Brussels. This rather dirty city only got a cursory going over by us, as we were knackered from all the traveling. Still, the market square was quite amazing, and the restaurants with their Hosts fighting for business in the streets was quite entertaining.
Back to England for a day, and down to Basingstoke (just a tad south of London) to spend the Evening with Emeric Miszti, his wife and there two children! It was a great time, a chance to re-hash the tournament, and chat about world events. Like World Dip Con XII, proposed for Australia! Woo hoo! Emeric and the Clan will be flying to the States for WDC X in Maryland, so we look forward to the opportunity to return the hospitality. Emeric kindly drove us to Heathrow in the morning, and thus did we return home. Boy were our cats pleased to see us!
So many other things happened, but this is the main of it. This really doesn't even do justice to all the wonderful people that we met. This was without question one of the best vacations we have ever had, and we really look forward to going to future WorId Dip Cons. I look forward to talking to everyone about this trip, and to find out what's been happening while we've been away!