Since Irene did such a fantastic job of describing our daily adventures, I thought I’d save you all from reading a less entertaining version (and likely longer winded), and just tell you about the part she couldn’t: my day at Wimbledon. When Irene invited me to visit while she was in London for her Masters, I immediately called the two-week span around the tournament. I am a huge tennis fan and it had been a dream of mine to go to Wimbledon and eat Strawberries and Cream. Luckily I was able to do that and so much more.
Like Irene said in her post, she had to work on Monday. So I spent the morning at the Charles Dickens Museum and the afternoon at the behemoth that is the Victoria and Albert Museum. Early evening I hopped on the tube and arrived at Wimbledon Park (the stop is actually Southfields if any of you are interested) just before six. After a short walk to the complex, I was directed to a large lawn that was already half filled with tents. I found my way to the end of the queue and was handed a ticket that indicated I was number 751 in line. I had decided to forgo buying a tent for one night’s use and sleep under the stars. It was a beautiful evening so I laid out my blanket and plopped down to read my book. Around 8pm it began to rain, so I pulled out my umbrella and tucked myself and my blanket under it. The rain only lasted about 20 minutes, but unfortunately the temperature had dropped. Not so much that it was freezing, but it was going to be an uncomfortable night.
Around nine, two gentlemen three spots down from me had set up another tent in front of their first tent, in the middle of the walkway. The stewards immediately came to inform them that this was prohibited, as it blocked the path. Because each tent is set up right next to each other, there was no place for their second tent. Unfortunately neither of them spoke English very well, and the stewards were having trouble communicating with them. It was at this point most people in the area, including myself, had begun to watch what was transpiring. After a few minutes of this, it was determined that the extra tent was for their luggage. The stewards were trying to inform them that they should have set up the second tent next to the first when they arrived, but now it was impossible. Luckily someone in the tent next to them suggested that they put the extra tent in my tent-less space and I sleep with their luggage. A win, win as he put it. After I introduced myself and we convinced them that I was trustworthy and wasn’t going to steal their belongings, they moved the tent into my empty spot. An incredible stroke of luck in my opinion.
The guy who had the brilliant idea that gave me a tent to sleep in, invited me over and offered me a drink called Pimm’s and Lemonade. It was surprisingly good. His name was James and he was here with his other friend James and two of their friends from University, which they had just graduated from. We all chatted and hung out until the stewards called lights out at 11.
The morning is quite boring, and a lot of just waiting around in line, so I’ll keep it as short as possible. I woke up around 4, it was chilly and I was happy to have the use of the borrowed tent. I finally got up around five and bought tea and a breakfast sandwich at one of the food carts (I love England, so much tea). Around 6:30, the stewards came around letting us know it was time to pack up and move closer together in line. The two gentlemen came and packed up their tent and we thanked each other. Around 7:30 the line started moving into the park. When I say park, I mean an area that is surrounded by trees and fence that just has a lot of rope keeping the extremely long line in check. I was chatting with the James’ about what court we wanted to get tickets to. They wanted Centre Court like me, it was where Rafa Nadal would play his match. And because Roger Federer was playing on Court 1, we had a pretty good chance. At 8:30 the stewards came around with wristbands. They indicated what court you wanted, and when they ran out, they were out of tickets for that particular court. We all ended up getting a wristband for Centre Court. Around 9 the line started moving. We went through security and made our way to the box office. After getting in another line, we got up to the window and asked for their best seats, because all of the seats were £48 no matter where they were in the stadium (that would never happen in the US). We ended up with amazing seats in section 105, eleven rows up. We were finally inside the grounds, but they still had ropes blocking off most of it. At this point all you could get to was the gift shop, the entire grounds didn’t open until 10:30. So I said goodbye for now to the James’ and went to the gift shop to pass the time. I bought one of the player’s towels and looked at the hats because I had forgotten mine, but they were really expensive so I decided against it. At 10:30 the stewards removed the ropes and the grounds flooded with people.
So it’s still a bit long winded, but I swear the actual tennis part is coming soon. Play didn’t start on Centre Court until 1pm, so I had time to see at least part of a match at one of the smaller courts. But first I wanted Strawberries and Cream. Watching Wimbledon every year, I had always imagined Strawberries and Cream was strawberries and whipped cream, so I was slightly shocked when I saw it was strawberries in a bowl of real cream, although I knew I shouldn’t have been. But I have to say, it was so much better than I had always imagined. I probably should have taken a picture, but I was to busy enjoying its creamy sweet goodness. I ate it as I made my way to Court 10 to see Mahut play. The smaller courts are really intimate, and I had gotten a seat on one of the benches, so I was about 10 feet away from the players. I watched that match until noon. Mahut wasn’t doing so well when I left, and he ended up losing the match.
I had only been sitting in the sun for an hour and I had put sunscreen on three times, but I still felt like my face was burning off. So I decided to invest in one of the hats. After I went to find the lawn. If you watch Wimbledon on TV, they always show the hill inside the grounds where people can watch some of the matches on a giant screen. It was another thing I absolutely had to do while there. I was hungry again, but instead of real food I decided to get more Strawberries and Cream and went to find a seat on the lawn. Best decision ever. Sitting on the Wimbledon lawn eating Strawberries and Cream was one of those amazing moments that feel nostalgic while they happen, and I will never forget it.
As I’m writing this, I realize that the most interesting parts of the day were not when play was going on, but when I was walking around the grounds and enjoying just being there (also when Nadal takes off his shirt). This is why the post is more than halfway through and I’m just getting to tennis.
Just before 1, I made my way to my seat on Centre Court. Like I said before they were amazing seats. There was a short ceremony before the first match, honoring last year’s Woman’s Champion, Marion Bartoli, who had retired. The first match consisted of Sabine Lisicki and Julia Glushko. Lisicki was last year’s runner-up and she won the match pretty decisively in straight sets. They are really strict as to when people can come and go. They only allow people to enter and exit the stadium when the players get a chance to sit down, because they don’t want anyone making too much noise and disrupting play. The James’ came in just after the first match started.
After Lisicki’s match ended, there was about a 15 minute break before Rafa Nadal and Martin Klizan arrived on court. And understandably, the crowd went crazy. Nadal ended up dropping the opening set, but came back and won the next three sets to win the match. I had seen him play last year at the US Open where he did the same thing, so I wasn’t too worried. Plus more sets means more of shirtless Nadal (he changes shirts in between the sets).
Following that match, I waited long enough to see Serena Williams and Anna Tatishvili arrive on court. But I was hungry, so I left in search of something other than Strawberries and Cream to eat. Also, the James’ informed me that I needed to try a real Pimm’s and Lemonade, because apparently the one they made wasn’t as good as it could have been. And boy were they right. Pimm’s and Lemonade is absolutely delicious and I heartily recommend it to anyone visiting the UK. My sausage sandwich wasn’t as noteworthy. When I was finally let back into the stadium, not only was Serena’s match was already in progress, the first set was almost over. She doesn’t waste any time and easily won in two sets.
Normally only three matches are played on Centre Court a day, but because of the rain delay the night before, there was going to be another match. Most people left anyway, and the James’ had left after the first set, so I moved to a better seat. I actually can’t even remember who was playing, but I left halfway through to get one more Strawberries and Cream and sit on the lawn (definitely not ashamed of getting it three times).
At this point it was getting late and starting to rain, so I packed it in and made my way out of the park. As I walked to the tube station with everyone else, I couldn’t believe the day was over. I had looked forward to it for so long, and I couldn’t have had a better day.
Thanks to all who made it all the way through this enormously long rambling post. And a huge thanks to Irene! We did have the best time geeking out and drinking it up.