Our fourth day in London, once again, dawned sunny and warm. We’ve certainly had a nice stretch of weather for our visit. Since our initial trip to the National Gallery was made on our sleepless first day, we decided to stop back and see a couple of the works we’d missed on our initial stop. Afterwards, it was back to Embankment station to catch the Tube (a.k.a underground or subway) to Wimbledon.
When planning your visit to London, you read that the Tube is the fastest and easiest way to get around town. Wendy and I prepared with maps and iPod apps to plan our underground commutes. What they don’t prepare you for is the fact that certain stretches of the Tube can be closed with little or no warning for repair, forcing you to find a bus route instead. Bus routes in London are a bit more complicated. Those famous red London buses bustle around like an army of red ants and finding the right one can be a bit dizzying.
Nevertheless, we made it to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (otherwise known as Wimbledon) just before they were going to give away our reserved spots on the tour. That would have been a shame because the tour of Wimbledon was one of our favorite stops on our trip. Wendy and I love watching the annual summer tennis tournament with all it’s pomp and tradition. Being on those famous grounds and learning about the tournament was really fascinating. The tour takes you to many of the places that only players get to experience during the tournament, including the players entrance, the television studios, the interview room, the underground tunnels, etc. We even got to see the Wimbledon trophies. Unfortunately, Center Court was under construction, having a retractable roof put on, but we were able to see Court No. 1.
I had made an appointment in the afternoon to meet up with Jonty Pierce, who publishes an on-line magazine called Call Centre Helper here in the UK. He’d named my blog, qaqna.com, one of the 10 best Call Center related blogs in 2008. We were supposed to meet at the Victoria Terrace Cafe’ in Kew Gardens at 3:30. What was estimated as a 30 minute trip (which would have put us at our destination about five minutes late) turned into a 60 minute bus and taxi fiasco. After waiting around the cafe for a half hour hoping that Jonty hadn’t completely given up on us, we decided to give up and made our way back to the bus station. As we were waiting for what we hoped was the right bus, I saw Jonty and his family walking out of the gardens and head the other direction. So, I ran and caught him. They were on their way back to their hotel, but we were at least able to personally apologize and chat for a few minutes.
We did get back to Richmond and found the Richmond Theatre where we had tickets for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performance of “The Tempest.” Now we were a few hours early, so we found a place to eat. It was an Irish pub, but as we entered past the two security guards we found things a bit in chaos. We’d been told that there was a huge rugby match between England and Scotland at one of the local stadiums, followed by a rugby match between Ireland and Wales. The Ireland Wales match had just started as we arrived and the pub was packed with rugby fans (you could tell the Scottish fans by their kilts). It was really crazy, but the table furthest from the television was vacant, so we decided to stay and eat.
After ordering our meal, I had to use the restroom, but 1) I couldn’t find it in the crowd and 2) there was no way I could get to it. So, I decided to exit the pub and go to the McDonalds next door to use the facilities. When I made my way back I was stopped by security and told that I couldn’t enter because the pub was too full. They had started to make people line up outside the entrance. I tried to explain that I’d just left, my wife was inside, and I’d already ordered my food – but they didn’t care and refused to listen. So, I found myself standing in line hoping that I’d get in before my food got cold. I did, but it was a bit surreal. By the way, Ireand beat Wales.
The Shakespeare performance was the best performance we’ve seen in London and among the best performances we’ve ever seen in our lives. Royal Shakespeare combined with a South African Theatre to produce the show. “The Tempest” takes place on a deserted island off the coast of Africa, and the production brought rich African tradition and music to the production (think Hamlet meets the Lion King). It was amazing!
After the show, we had to find the right bus to the right Tube staion where we could catch the right line back to our flat. We made it without a hitch, but were really glad to be back at our apartment!
- The players’ entrance to Wimbledon.
- Wendy stands on “Henman Hill” outside Court No. 1
- Wendy looks over the grass courts.
- Tom sits in the players’ after-match interview chair.
- Tom & Wendy with Court No. 1 behind.
- Richmond Theatre where we saw Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of “The Tempest.”
- Wimbledon Court No. 1 [click on picture to enlarge]
- Wimbledon Complex from “Henman Hill” (Cranes are working on retractable roof over Center Court) [click on picture to enlarge]