Yesterday was our last day in London and we got the opportunity to spend it at one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world. Upon arriving at the grounds of the Wimbledon Tournament we were Oh so politely greeted by the Honorary Stewarts (England's versions of the angry people in yellow jackets that you may encounter while trying to find your seats at a baseball game), and were directed to the "Queue". Instead of standing in a roped off, never ending walkway, the English place you in parallel lines where you can sit down and relax until a steward directs your line to the entrance. The new friends that we made while Queuing, Richard and Margret, described queuing
as "the civilized way of doing it". Richard and Margret can only be described as quintessentially British.
The assumed brother and sister duo made it their goal to fill us in on every aspect of British culture. Richard was an insurance sales man and avid community watchman, Margret was a former ballet dancer for the second company of the Royal Ballet. Just seeing the way Richard and Margret carried themselves and the manner in which they spoke was a cultural experience that we both thoroughly enjoyed.
Knowing little to nothing about tennis we were unsure how we were going to utilize our time at this tournament. Initially, we decided to randomly select a player from today's bracket and become that player's most passionate fans. Our first selection was someone from Argentina. After some reflection we decided it was stupid to come all the way from the United States and not support the red, white, and blue. So American Ryan Sweeting became our man. Once in the grounds, we made a beeline to Court #5 to ensure that we would have front row seats for his matchup. We were surprised to find a single row of benches that separated court 5 from court 6. So we grabbed a couple seats near the middle of the court and mentally prepared a series of patriotic and anti-Spain chants (He was playing Spaniard Pablo Andujar). Unfortunately, our enthusiasm was diminished after our first cheers of support were met with dagger-like glares from the other spectators. At a professional tennis match cheering is quiet at best and only appropriate in specific situations
. We were fortunate to be next to a tennis expert who was willing to educate us throughout the game. This expert was 7 year old, Remy Mitchell, who was also attending the Wimbledon for the first time, an event he had been longing to attend since he started playing at the age of 2. Despite being the underdog, Sweeting beat his competitor. We would like to credit this to our loyal support, but two hours into the match, the monotony of tennis was too much to bear so we went into the town to grab some lunch. Through some investigation we have come to the realization that we came to a premature conclusion on the topic of fish and chips. It seems that the first place we bought this meal was in London's version of Time's Square and was most likely the same fish you could find in the frozen isle of your nearest grocery store. After having some 'proper' fish and chips we retract our previous statement. Fish and Chips WERE all that they were cracked up to be. While eating lunch, we met yet another interesting friend Michael, a professional ticket scalper. He showed a lot of interest in our trip and gave insight on some of the cities we plan on visiting from his travels as a ticket scalper. The most valuable of this insight was the name of a bar in Prague where you can unload an M-16 in the back alleyway. After lunch, we headed back to Wimbledon to check out a few more matches and drink the bottle of wine we got from a grocery store in town. While sitting on the lawn watching the conclusion of the Nadal match on the huge LCD screen near center court, we reflected on how incredibly pleasant the city of London is.
During our stay in London we have made countless remarks on how polite everyone we encountered was. In fact we came to the agreement that if we could sum London up in one word that word would be "Civilized". Everything about the city is civilized, from the kind announcers on the tube requesting that you please gather all your belongings and mind the gap, to our criminal friends like Bobby Brown (see blog London Days 3/4) and Michael, the ticket scalper
. While riding the tube everyone is quiet and respectful of the people around them, and even the homeless man who gave us directions and was ever so gracious for the few P we threw his way. If you are looking for breathtaking tourist sites at reasonable prices then there are better cities. If you are looking for a cultural experience that is vastly different from life in the USA… London is not your place. Matter of fact I would call London a polite Boston, but don't get us wrong we liked London. It is interesting and charming and very pleasant to visit. If we were to re-plan our trip we would not exclude London by any means.
Now on to Dublin!
Ryan and Patrick
Greetings from a ferry between Holyhead, England and the port in Dublin, Ireland.