Monthly Archives: June 2007

Queuing it up Wimbledon style

London, England

 

So I had these grand plans that I was going to queue it up for Saturday’s centre court Wimbledon tickets on Friday evening… 

Rewind: I had booked a hostel for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights in London, but decided that to save money, I would just keep my bag locked up at that hostel and camp out overnight in the queue for Saturday’s matches. Well I wake up Friday morning to a lot of rain. I do what I can tourist-wise and get the sense that the rain is not going to let up anytime soon. So I’m thinking it’s a good idea to find a hostel, clean myself up, get some rest and head to the queue before sunrise.

Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to a hostel with a bar.

So yeah, I end up at this great, social hostel in Bayswater, near Hyde Park—tons of people, great atmosphere, nice little bar and pool room. I end up down there for most of the night. I finally head to bed around 3 with the idea of waking up at 5 and high tailing it to Wimbledon.

Fast forward: I overslept my alarm. Wake up just before 8 am and half-ass, somehow find my way to the tube (a whole block and a half away) and make the trek to Wimbledon in the rain. As I make my way toward the queue under the impression that there are 500 Centre Court tickets, 500 Court 1 tickets and 500 GA tickets. So I’m a bit dismayed when I get in line and am handed a ticket letting me know that I’m number 2321st in line. I ask the purpose of the card “Is it to rub it into my face that I overslept?” Nope, I need to present this at the front of the line in order to get a ticket. No queue card, no Wimbledon.

Woah! I must have gotten that dejected look on my face, but the line person quickly assures me that I’ll get GA tickets. I say to the guy, “So what you’re saying is that there is a fat chance in hell I’m going to see Nadal play?” He smiled and pointed me to the end of the queue. As I head to my place in the queue, I keep thinking of what luck I have that it’s raining out. Here’s the only day left for me to go and it has to be this weather. I’m hoping the rain doesn’t become a pattern.

Just when I think it can’t get any worse, I get to my spot and discover that I’m standing behind a group of students all decked out in their Maize and Blue Michigan gear…honestly, what next, a group of Bear fans behind me! I wanted some cool Brits to converse with, not some sophomores from Ann Arbor (Ok, they weren’t that bad, but not the ideal for me!).

In other news, the Brits sure know how to make a queue interesting. You’re given a 35-page guide to “Queuing for the Championships.” It tells you the fine art of queue code of conduct (“Please have regard for our neighbours and others in the queue by adopting reasonable social behaviour at all times”), a map of the courts, and how to enjoy the championships (You can rent a cushion for only 2.50 quid a day!). I also got some cute little stickers saying, “I queued for Wimbledon 2007” and “I queued in the rain.”

So I spent a couple hours in a queue, in the rain, and finally got to the ticket counter. It cost me 18 pounds for a GA ticket, which included the standing room only section of Court No. 2, which happened to be the court Venus Williams would open up on. I headed to Court No. 2 just to get into another queue for a half hour. Around noon I make it up there, but no need to fret missing that half hour of action, b/c we’re still on rain delay. Around 1:30 the match commenced. Then, 1.5 sets into the match, we go back to rain delay.

I decided to leave Court No. 2 and buy some Centre Court resale tickets in the hopes that the rain would lift and I could watch Nadal, who was due up next. I get a resale ticket 5 rows up from the net. Now I know the rain’s not going to stop. I headed to the huge outdoor theatre screen and watch an old match b/t Federer and Sampras. Finally, some good tennis.

Once that was over, I opted to get my strawberries and cream. Let me tell you, it lives up to its hype! I’m about halfway through when they call all the matches on account of rain. Since the rain had never let up, it’s almost a good thing I overslept, b/c otherwise I would have been outside freezing cold and wet for a lot longer. Plus, even if I had gotten Centre Court tickets, I still would have opted to watch Venus Williams in the first match of the day. Nadal was to be the second match on Centre Court.

So went my Wimbledon experience and everything in my backpack (it was the second coming of the flood inside it).

Rain and all, I’d do it again.

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Tony Blair’s final Prime Minister Questioning Session

London, England


I planned this trip around sporting events:  Wimbledon, the Running of the Bulls, the Tour de France and the British Open, so you’d think they were what I was most excited about.  Nope, not even close.  I had a ticket to Tony Blair’s final Prime Minister Questioning Session (“PMQ’s”) my 2nd day in London.  It was a ticket from the American Embassy that a lawyer I worked with in DC got for me.  I had watched the PMQ’s on the BBC or C-Span before and loved how the House of Commons got the chance to hold their Prime Minister accountable for actions in person.  I could only hope that one day we would stick Bush in the middle of a room to answer questions from the Senate and/or House alike (preferably the House, a lot more there).
I didn’t know a whole lot about the process of getting in, other than that those with UK tickets from their MP’s got in first, then if any spots were still available, it would go to those with Embassy tickets and then the general public that showed up.  I got up early and headed to Westminster right away.  I headed to security to ask the protocol and when I should be coming back to get in.  The guy I talked to explained that with Embassy tickets it would be first come first serve if seats were available, so he registered my ticket.  I was already 4th in line behind 3 Germans and the PMQ’s were over 3 hours away!  He also explained that since it was the final one for Blair that odds are the Brits would use up all the MP tickets, but that there might be a sliver of hope available for me.

I walked around for awhile and around 11:30 headed back to Westminster to wait in St. Stephen’s Hall to see if I’d get in.  There were quite a few of us lined up with Embassy tickets.  The docent went around and asked everyone where they were from and I was the only American waiting.  The Germans ahead of me made it clear that if only 1 or 2 spots were available, they’d take them, so I was sitting on a wing and a prayer.  While waiting, Sherry (sp) Blair, Tony’s wife, and children walked past.  I was the only person sitting that made any comment in regards to recognizing them.  Only because the last time I saw Euan Blair, he was getting dragged out of Madam’s Organ in DC for trying to light his table on fire inside the bar, while he was interning on the Hill.  I thought that if I could recognize the PM’s family, I should get in…nope, didn’t work…
…neither did my ticket.  Around 12:30 when the PMQ started, the docent let us know that we weren’t getting in.  If we wanted, we could wait around and after we could still go see the House of Commons and Lords.  I asked if I was allowed to leave and come back later since I had a lunch date and she said sure.  I then asked if she knew where I could buy a phone card, as I wanted to call the lady that got me the ticket to let her know the outcome.  She said there was a post office further inside Westminster, but I had to go, grab the card and come right back because I wasn’t allowed in while the PMQ was going on.  While on my way to the post office, a whole 20 feet from where I had been sitting, I saw a room filled with guys watching a live feed of the PMQ.  I gave a smile to the security guard, knocked on the door and asked if I could join.  I was more than welcomed, grabbed a seat and watched Blair talk in front of the MP’s for the last time from within Westminster.  Blair’s PMQ lasted a little longer than the normal half hour and I didn’t walk back into the hall until 45 minutes later.  I thought the docent was going to kill me.  I let her know that I was able to watch a live feed, so I stuck around to check it out.  I let her know the security guard was cool with it, as were the guys I interrupted, so she shouldn’t worry, she wouldn’t get in trouble.

Even though I wasn’t able to watch the final PMQ in person, I was happy with the chance to watch from w/in the Palace of Westminster.  Once Blair was done answering questions and speaking, he headed strait to Buckingham Palace to formally resign to the Queen.  I on the other hand, headed to my lunch date and came back later in the day to explore the place a bit further.  It amazed me the ease of being able to walk around.  While yes, security is tight, it was still a 100 times easier than trying to walk around Capital Building in DC (don’t even get me started on getting into the White House).

I was able to be a part of history in another country and that always makes for a great day for me.

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You be the tour guide, I’ll be the tourist

London, England


So my first stop off of the tube from Kings Cross was the Monument stop.  I really didn’t know a whole lot about the area other than a lot of people were getting off there, so I figured a good as place as any to start.  So I start walking around, grab my bearings and begin exploring a lot of the “must-sees” in London:  The Tower Bridge, Tower of London, London Bridge and the Monument.

I ended my night of walking around at the Monument where I was taking pictures and reading up on the history as much I could, when a guy in his late 40’s approached and asked if I’d like to hear a little bit about the history of what I was looking at.  He explained that he was a tour guide in training so he was a plethora of information.  He explained how it was erected as a monument to the great London fire of 1666 by Christopher Wren.  If the Monument were to fall strait down toward Pudding Lane, its tip would mark the exact spot where the fire started.  I then got a history lesson on the great fire and a couple more that occurred after.  After, he explained how Wren took advantage of designing the Monument to turn it into a science lab–telescopes, meters of some sort, a pendulum, etc.  He also highlighted the dark side of the Monument as a place to commit suicide.  I found that odd, considering there wasn’t a shortage of bridges in the area.
The “tour guide” and I talked for quite awhile about my plans in London, other sites he thought I should see and the NFL game that would be played at Wembley in October.  I let him know that I felt bad that Londoners were going to be seeing what I assumed to be 2 not very decent teams playing–the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants (yeah, I know, I bit my tongue later that year).  He mentioned that he had been at the last NFL game played in London when Dan Marino and the Dolphins took on Joe Montana and the 49ers.  He said that because of that game, the Dolphins are a team that locals like, just because they’ve seen them play.  He also went on about how the NFL did a poor job back then of explaining the game across the pond and that it was as if the players could care less that they were playing abroad to a whole new potential fan base.  It was pretty interesting to me to hear someone who is not an American football fan give their take on the sport, since it’s my favorite sport to watch and play.  Of course, the convo went from American football to soccer and the guy proceeded to lecture me on why soccer is the best sport in the world.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love the sport, but for me personally, it’s not my favorite.  He tried hard to convert me, but it was getting late and I had a Prime Minister Questioning Session to get to in the morning…

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