England

WIMBLEDON!!!

From Malaga I flew into London to fly home, but I made sure I timed it so that I would be able to go see at least one day of Wimbledon. I went on the first day of the 2 week tournament and even then it was crazy! How it works is that after they have the general lottery for tickets, they have a certain number of tickets available to buy the day of. I think there was somewhere around 6,000 grounds passes available, which give you access to courts 3 through 18 or however many courts there are. Then there’s about 200 each for Center Court, Court 1, & Court 2. So I got up really early (probably the earliest of my whole trip) and caught the tube down to Wimbledon! The trains were packed as expected, and I got talking to a old man who had been to every Wimbledon for the past 60 years and used to be aa chair umpire for the tournament.

They even had the tube stop decorated like a tennis court!

Just to show how crazy it was there, I arrived a little after 8am and this is what it looked like already…

To get tickets for the 3 main courts, you pretty much have to camp out overnight. It’s a good thing is was the end of June and it was nice out. I did meet some cool people in line, though. I finally got in around 1:00 in the afternoon right around when they were kicking off for the day.

How it works with the grounds pass is that you can just walk up to any court (minus the 3 main ones) and wait for a seat to open up or just stand and watch. I saw a lot of good tennis on the first day even though I really didn’t get to see any of the top players, but I did get some good action shots of the players I did watch. I can’t remember who these players were though.

More from the same match…

The most famous players I saw were Tommy Haas playing Alexander Peya and Tommy Robredo playing Luka Gregorc. This was a hell of a match, and Robredo ended up winning it. Here’s a couple pics from this match.

After getting my fill of tennis for about 7 hours, I headed back to my hostel and went out with my friends on my last night in Europe. Then I flew home the next afternoon, connecting in Chicago, and finally landing home in Detroit.

A GREAT END TO AN AMAZING TRIP!!!

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My Accidental Day in London

Since I hadn’t planned on being in London another day, I hadn’t really figured out anything to do. Ashley and Ryan were going to do some sight-seeing all day. Since Natasha and I have both been in London before, we decided to do our own thing. First, I had to go find an internet café and book another train ticket for the next morning. Too bad the only one available was at 6am again. On the bright side, it was a couple pounds cheaper than the one I had booked for that morning. I was bound and determined to make this one since I had already spent $130 between the 2 train tickets. Natasha wanted to go to Greenwich, and since I really didn’t have anything else to do I went over there again. I had just been there the day before, so I was basically like a tour guide. We did a lot of the same stuff as before but I guess I had missed this chapel next to the Painted Hall. We went in and heard the choir practicing.

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We skipped the museum and went up to the Observatory to see the view of the city. After walking around the city we found a few tapas restaurants (actually 3 or 4), so we called Ashley and Ryan to come meet us for dinner in Greenwich. They came down and we all had tapas and sangria. By the time we had finished it was starting to get dark out, so we were able to get some good night shots of the town.

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It was a fun night. We headed back to the apartment because I had to catch a train at 6am the next morning.


Greenwich

I really can’t seem to stay away from London for too long this trip. I had only planned on staying 1 night then heading off to Belgium, but my plans frequently change and ended up spending another 6 days there. By now, after spending almost 3 weeks in London between last summer and this trip, I’ve basically seen all the tourist sites so I needed to find other stuff to do. For the first 2 days I was basically just hanging out in London with my friends from Palmer’s Lodge (basically my 2nd home now). When Phil and I went to Regents Park to play Frisbee, we saw a giant yellow helicopter land maybe 500 meters from us across the park. We kind of wondered what it was, but didn’t really think much of it. The next day, though, while reading the free newspaper, it turns out that might have been President Obama. I had gotten back to London just in time for the G20 summit and all the riots that went with it. The newspaper said that because of the low visibility in the sky, Obama had been forced to take a military helicopter from where he was staying near Regents Park. The next day, I met up with my friends Natasha and Ashley from our Highland tour. They had stayed in Edinburgh a couple days longer than me, but now had come down to London. Natasha convinced me to go see the Jason Mraz concert with her on Saturday, even though I’m not a huge fan. The show wasn’t bad, but he reminds me of a less-energetic Dave Matthews. After the show, we came back across town to the Kensington area where we were staying. I never realized how big Hyde Park is because during the day you can walk straight through the center of it. However, at night the park is closed. We walked around the one side of the park, which didn’t seem so bad, to where her and Ashley’s hotel was. You would be amazed how hard it is to find coffee at 1am in London on a Saturday night. We must have tried 20 different places! After Natasha and I split up for the night, I had to walk around the park back to my hostel on the exact opposite side. Since we had walked around the one side before, I thought I would go around the other way this time since it seemed to me to be somewhat shorter. My perception was completely off! It took me about an hour and a half to walk around that way. I think I walked by about 10 tube stations along the way (too bad they were all closed). I finally arrived back at my hostel around 2:30am and had to be up again around 8:30. The next couple nights I was going to stay in an apartment with Natasha, Ashley, and their friend Ryan who was just getting in that day. This was Sunday and I had booked a Eurostar ticket from London to Brussels for 6am on Tuesday.

The next day I went up to Greenwich (pronounced Grenitch) while my friends went on a tour of Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. I didn’t go on the tour because it was kind of expensive and I really didn’t care to see 2 out of the 3 things. Greenwich is a cool little city a few stops outside of central London. I was surprised at how touristy it was seeing as how it takes a little work to get there. First I went out to Greenwich Pier to take a few photos.

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After that, I walked around the campus of the University of Greenwich. They have a building called the Painted Hall which was pretty amazing inside.

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The National Maritime Museum is one of the big attractions for Greenwich, so I went over to see that as well.

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Next on the list was to walk through Greenwich Park up to the Royal Observatory, which is set up on a hill to give a great view of the town.

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Also up there is the Meridian Line, which is the zero longitude point running from the North Pole to the South Pole. Greenwich is the home of the Prime Meridian, basically meaning it is at the center of the world.

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I got back to the apartment and I wasn’t feeling good at all. I think I may have had some kind of food poisoning, but I don’t know what it would have been from. I basically slept the rest of that night hoping that I would feel better in the morning when I got up to catch my 6am train. Well there was a small problem with this. I woke up at 4:30am and still felt like crap, so I went back to sleep until around 9am. Obviously I missed my train, which put me in the hole about 60 pounds for the train and the hostel I was supposed to stay at that night in Belgium. So London for one more day.


More Fun in London

I hope I’m not rambling in these posts, but I am bored out of my mind on this bus and have absolutely nothing else to do but entertain you with my random travel stories, so bear with me.

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Yesterday was more of the same. I started the day by wandering around in the City of London, which is the name for the financial district. This is where the Bank of England is located and a few other bank headquarters. One of coolest buildings is the Lloyd’s Building. Lloyd’s is one of the 3 biggest banks in the U.K.

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This was another cool building, although I couldn’t seem to figure out who the building belonged to, unless it was just random offices on each floor.

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After a long excursion from here, I walked up the river and ended up at the Tate Modern Museum, the largest modern art museum in the world. It’s also right next to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (which doesn’t open for the season until mid-April). I hopped on the tube from the City to try and get to the museum. About 45 minutes later I finally arrived, only to find out that it would have only been about a 5-minute walk across the river. Oh well, what can you do.

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The museum was really cool, but it’s amazing what people can call modern art. You could pretty much do anything and somehow it could end up in a museum. Although they didn’t allow pictures, I was able to snap a few so here’s what I got.

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When I finished at the museum, I walked across the bridge to see St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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Then I journeyed across town to a store called Harrods. I had never heard of it before until a guy I met told me about it. Apparently it’s the oldest store in the world, but I’ll have to double check that. It’s really cool inside though, as it has an Egyptian feel to it. Too bad the only thing I could afford there were pictures, so here’s a couple. It was like a Nordstrom or Saks, but more upscale.They also had a really nice memorial to Princess Diana and some other guy in the basement, but I wasn’t sure who the other guy was.

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This concluded my day and I headed back to the hostel to pack up my stuff in order to catch my 9am bus this morning. Next stop: Edinburgh!!


Oxford

I spent an afternoon in Oxford, which is the oldest university in the english-speaking world, going back to the end of the 12th century. It’s about 2 hours from London by bus. It’s a big college town and sort of reminded me of Ann Arbor but about 400 years older. All the buildings looked really old but very well maintained.

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Then this is Christ Church, the largest school at Oxford.

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Finally, here’s a couple pics I took from the top of Carfax tower overlooking all of the incredibly tall spires in the city.

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Nice Suits and Expensive Cars

Currently, I’m sitting on an enjoyable 9-hour bus ride to Edinburgh, Scotland right now and we’re only about halfway, so I figured this is a good time to catch on my adventures over the last few days. This was pretty much the worst decision ever to take a whole day bus. I could’ve taken a night bus and been there this morning, but it was a little more expensive. This bus was only 19 pound (about $30), but the cheapest train I could find, which only would have taken about 4.5 hours, was about 50 pounds. To make this journey even more pleasant, I got stuck near the back of the bus by the toilet, so every time someone opens the door the whole back of the bus smells like piss for a few minutes. Gotta love excruciatingly long bus rides. Anyways, here goes.

One thing I’ve noticed about London is the amount of money here. Every time I turn around I see expensive exotic cars. I see more Aston Martins, Bentleys, and Rolls Royces in a day than I think I’ve ever seen back in the states. It’s crazy!!! I still turn my head every time I see one, and that’s not even mentioning the number of nicer BMWs, Mercedes, and Porsches.

I’ve done a lot of randomly wandering around the city the last couple days. Two days ago, I walked up to Regent’s Park, then up Oxford Street (which is one of the main shopping streets in London), over to Piccadilly Circus, then over to Trafalgar Square where the National Gallery is.

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They had a Picasso exhibit going so I decided it would be worth the 6 pounds to go see it. It was definitely one of the better choices I’ve made in London, unlike that Dali Museum. They had not only a lot of his cubism paintings that he is famous for, but some of his earlier works as well. I wasn’t able to snap any pictures so I guess if you want to see it, you’ll have to come to London in the next two months or so before the exhibit closes. After I went through the exhibit, there was a mime street performer right outside the museum and that was pretty interesting.

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Then I walked over to Leicester Square (for some reason pronounced Lester), then through Chinatown and around the Soho district. Even though Soho has some good nightlife the neighborhood is kind of shady, kind of like a smaller version of the Red Light district in Amsterdam. This is an amusing name for a restaurant.

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London, My Favorite City (so far…)

When I arrived back into London last week I met up with Gloria and Lee, who were in and around London on a tour for a week. That afternoon, they wanted to go and visit Westminster Abbey and I wanted to go to the Dali Museum, so we caught a cab down to the river and broke off for the afternoon. The Dali Museum, on top of being 10 pounds to get in, wasn’t nearly as good as the one I had seen in Figueres, Spain. That was probably because Figueres was his home town and they had most of his famous works there. This gallery was a lot of sculptures of paintings he had done, with only a few of his actual works.

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Later, I met up with Gloria and Lee for dinner before we went to see Billy Elliott that night. I really enjoyed the show, even though when I had first heard the storyline it didn’t seem that interesting. The basic storyline is a kid named Billy Elliott grows up in a small mining town. His father wants him to take boxing lessons, but he accidentally stumbles into a ballet lesson and decides he enjoys that more. The story goes that he wants to do ballet, but his whole family won’t let him and he finally gets accepted into one of the best ballet schools in the country. A subplot that is going on through the whole thing is the government is trying to nationalize and close the largest mine in this city, which would put several thousand people out of work so the union is fighting it. I don’t know if that’s the best description or not, but I liked it.

The next day I visited the British Museum, which is one thing anyone who comes to London has to see. It’s gigantic and could possibly take a whole day to see everything. I spent about 2 hours and only saw the first floor. There was a really good exhibit about the Egyptians. I think I spent half of my time in there. Then there were African, Native American, and Asian exhibits that were really cool. Here are some pictures I was able to take. I took a lot, but these are some of the better ones.

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The next day after I got back to my hostel, I went with a few friends over to the Camden markets. This is a huge market and you can pretty much find anything there that you would want, no matter how random.

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During my time in London, I’ve come up with 4 things you have to do to look like a Londoner. First, you have to dress nice all the time (usually a suit and tie), even if you’re only walking up to the grocery store or something. Second, you always have to have headphones in your ears and act like you are oblivious to everything going on around you. Third, every time you’re on the tube you have to be reading one of the 35,000 free newspapers passed out everywhere. Fourth, and probably most important, you always have to rush like you’re 2 hours late to the most important meeting of your life, even if you’re only having a casual stroll through the park. It reminds me of the way New Yorkers are. If you follow these 4 steps, you too can look like a Londoner.


Oh Rainy London

I’m sitting here in a pub in London with a couple friends I met at my hostel, one Canadien and the other Aussie, around 4pm because its raining outside. People always say it rains alot in London, but you really have no idea until you come here how much it actually does rain. I love the city of London but when its raining there isn’t much to do. Tomorrow morning I take off bright and early for Cork, Ireland to kiss the Blarney Stone.


And the Adventure Begins…

So I got on a plane from Detroit yesterday afternoon and when I woke up this morning I somehow made it to London Heathrow. The flight was long and boring, but that’s to be expected I guess. Everything was going good until I got to UK customs and they decided it would be funny if they held me up for an hour and searched through all my stuff. I guess I must have looked shady or something coming off the plane. Now I’m in London and I feel like I know my way around the city pretty well since I was just here last summer. London definitely has one of, if not the best, metro system I’ve been on. It’s like the one in New York, but its actually clean and looks new. I guess that’s it for now until I go on a bar crawl tonight. LET THE ADVENTURES BEGIN!!!