London

Saturday, July 01, 2006, 11:01

British accent is.. charming!! I didn’t like it much up till now.. but it sounds very nice being “immersed” in it..
I didn’t sleep on the flight, which is extremely unusual for me.. couldn’t sleep.. watched 2 movies, restless.. I arrived at gatwick at 7 am.. took me more than 3 hours to arrive to the hostel! Changed trains, huge luggage.. friendly people – at the station, a guy saw me cursing the luggage up the stairs, grabbed short-notice one of the bags and took it to the top.. blessed be his day..
Ok.. tired.. will rest a bit, and then go to the city.. england is playing soon, wanna catch a good spot to watch the game.. cheers..

Wednesday, July 12, 2006, 00:40

I stopped writing… will give a short summary of what went on.

As said, I wanted to “rest a bit” after I checked in at the hostel.. thought an hour or so.. it was 11am.. I woke up at almost 4 pm!! Shit.. the game started at 4.. lightning speed to the concierge, asked them where I can see it.. they had a big screen in the “tv room”.. saw the first half there, england-portugal 0-0.. at the break I asked them for a local pub, I wanted to feel the english football fan atmosphere.. I got to the pub.. big screen again.. these people know business J.. was a great experience to watch them and the game… they got very excited when they scored their only penalty.. but eventually lost.. no problems whatsoever, nothing of the famous “hoolingans” mentality.. maybe because there were “normal people” in that pub, “the castle”.. hooligans were apparently not even.. apparent during the world cup.. policemen (with their funny hats) did a good job..
For the second game I went to the center. I had to take a train for 4 stations, about 15 mins.. I watched the second game in a more “international” setting, a fancy sports pub not far from picadilly circus.. france-brasil was a wonderful game, with zidane having probably his best game I’ve seen him play in.. I felt sorry for the brazilian artists, especially ronaldinho and kaka, but they didn’t “perform” by far as extra-terrestrial as old zizou. A lot of french people were singing “allez les bleus” in the bar, the few(er) brazilian supporters were grim, one of them almost picked up a fight with a french fan who was watching the game from outside the bar.. a big crowd got there eventually.. you could feel the world cup, the vibrance.. people who “live the phenomenon to the bones”.. very exciting, lots of adrenaline, and I felt uplifted, even though i.. frankly my dear didn’t give much of a damn who qualifies.. but the atmosphere around the world cup is simply GREAT.
Then I took a looong walk thru London, my usual “discovery walk”, to “feel the pulse of the city”. Walked from westminster palace to the tower brigde.. nice.. I like the place a lot. I can say London swipes you off your feet.. charming, cosmopolitan, yet seemingly friendly place.. huge city, but not as he as LA.. but not as crowded as Manhattan.. pleasant. At least for this short visit 🙂
Took the night bus home.. figured it out eventually, its very cool, they have an all-night bus service.. by bus it was about 25 mins.. way too far to walk. Especially at that time…
Since I got home late, plus jet lag, I woke up at.. 2 pm the next day. which suddenly changed my plans.. I had planned to “do the touristy thing” – the double decker bus london tour – in the morning and then choose what to do next.. so I did the touristy thing only, and I did it without pressure or temptation to step out of the bus.. I knew I had no time for that. was great, saw most points of interest, and then had another long evening stroll.
During the evening I had a random thought.. remembered the wimbledon tennis tournament is going on I don’t know how I remembered.. and thought.. hmm.. what if I check it out tomorrow..
Tomorrow I almost forgot about that thought, but remembered on the train.. and at victoria station I asked my way around, and there I was 30 mins later, in the wimbledon station, a suburb of london. I barely step out, to almost bump into … Roger Federer! WHAT?! I thought I didn’t see well, that it was some look-alike.. no.. I mean yes, it was Roger Federer himself, he was there for some promo action. They were trying to entertain people who were waiting in line for the buses to take them to the courts. So did i.. listening to Cliff Richard, who was next with some songs! O-k… interesting, I thought..
It took a while to get to the courts, and another to get to the right gate to get tickets.. eventually I got them, 17 pounds for a pass for courts 3-19. I wasn’t allowed on center court and 1 and 2.. but had plenty (actually, more) to see out there! Of course I got the traditional strawberries with cream.. and made a conscious decision to ignore prices.. dude.. stuff usually costs as much as stuff costs in the States in dollars, only in.. pounds. And a pound is 2 bucks nowadays.. ouch.. so I buried that in the back of my mind and went on. the only name I knew who was playing at that time was Jonas Bjorkman.. the old swede (34, old for a tennis player) was going to make it to the semi-finals, amazing performance.. at that time of course I didn’t know, I saw him in a great 5-sets game against the “beast from belarus”, his friend and doubles teammate (!) max myrnii.
At some point I looked at the huge screen which was showing to the outer world what was going on on the center court, and saw all games going on on every court.. and spotted a name.. Cirstea.. WAIT! This is a romanian name! where? Court 15. quickly! I went there, and there was indeed this lady with (Rom) next to her name.. yay! I watched the game, together with ilie nastase, whom I spotted in the audience.. she won.. after a while I realized it was a junior event.. nevertheless, was very happy to see a compatriot win at wimbledon. Then I hurried back to check out Leander Paes, an old “friend” I used to support many years back. He played a doubles game, was surprised to see how young he looked.. played very well, I think they won that game.
Didn’t stay to the end, was going to leave.. on the way out a name popped out of the big game table.. Navratilova.. WHAT?! MARTINA Navratilova?! THAT Navratilova?! Yep… she was playing on court 15… of course I hurried there.. and saw the whole game this legendary player won (doubles).. she is 49 years old!!! Unbelievable.. it was not an “oldies but goldies” game, like nastase and the like is playing.. she competed with some girls who could be well teenagers.. I think her partner is 30 years younger.. mind-boggling!! Respect Martina.. she played awesome.. The tribunes were full, people cheered a lot for her.. a young and very pierced girl in the audience summed it all up: “Martina, you rock!”
At the end, was waiting in line to get out, I heard someone shouting: “David, David!”.. I turned around with a wtf in my mind and saw… a very tall laughing David Hasselhoff taking pictures with fans. So I took a snapshot and moved on.. I liked this day.. and was thinking.. no, I am NOT thinking “oh, how lucky people in London are for coming here every year”… no.. actually, I took a moment to internalize that I think it is me who is the luckiest, because for me this not a “yearly event”, this is larger than life, I have been dreaming of attending such an event since I was a kid.. was not a fundamental dream, but one of the great “nice to haves” I dreamed about since I started to play tennis with my sister in front of the house, with plastic rackets and a sponge-ball.. I used to “be” Michael Chang, and she “was” Stefan Edberg.. so.. thank you.. for a great day.. tick..
The last day was time to do the king kong. A habit I have to climb the tallest “observation” point in every place I go to. The views have been worth it every time… this time, it was St.Paul’s cathedral, which has the second largest dome in the world, after St….Pe
ter’s in Rome. Before that, I checked out Westminster Abbey, where the Brits crown their kings /queens since.. 1308 (!!) on the same chair (!!!!). I saw it.. very very cool.. crazy to imagine all those famous people on that now humble-looking old wooden chair..
Climbing up the dome was dizzying, but rewarding as usual.. luckily, I started this day early, so I had time to go to the british museum as well. It was 5 pm. I asked: when do you close? 5:30. hmm.. what can I see in this time? She knew the drill… well, most people come for: rosetta stone, the assyrian Ram statue, parthenon basoreliefs and the mummies. All set – 5th gear, tick for all of them – I liked the rosetta stone most, was another “discovery channel live” moment – had watched quite a bit when I was a kid about how Champolion decyphered egyptian hieroglyphs using this stone.. cool. Tick.
And then, there was time for only one more thing. The Game. Italy-Germany.. I asked around and was recommended a place where italians gather.. indeed, they occupied a whole street, and shouted like they were on the stadium.. incredible.. especially since the screen was minusculous.. so I went on to watch it at another place, an italian pizzeria, watched it from the street, with other italians.. cool… the atmosphere.. the second half I changed again, to a bigger screen.. after the game, central London became Little Italy.. celebrating like only italians know to celebrate.. went to Picadilly Circus, FULL… people jumping in the fountain.. nice.. unfortunately I couldn’t stay very long, had to catch my night bus from Trafalgar Square – the next day I had my flight early morning..

London was great.. I got lucky of fantastic weather.. heat wave, sunny.. it rained only on one day, for.. 5 minutes, that’s it.. from home I saw that after that wimbledon was often interrupted because of rain.. I got lucky with that. yes, my pockets / wallet are clearly “lighter” now.. but that place is definitely worth a visit.

Tick…

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