The week after my trip to Berlin and Prague felt like a second spring break. I only had to go to school one day that entire week, so I spent my time exploring or on field trips. On Tuesday, my sports management class took a trip to see Wimbledon. We learned all about the tournament’s pride in tradition and prestige, and the efforts it makes in order to continue to appeal to both high society and the common public. I was particularly shocked by the meticulous processes it takes to join the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (most people just know it as the Wimbledon Club). Members have to either win the tournament itself to become members, or they have to be noticed by one of the members of the club, then obtain letters of support from four existing members of the club who have known the applicant for at least three years, then be placed in a drawing to get chosen at random to fill the vacant spot that is left after a member dies, and then are placed on probationary period before they become members. It is an extremely tedious process – winning Wimbledon seems like an easier way to become a member!
I was also shocked by the way tickets are distributed. Hopeful attendees have to send in a handwritten note asking to be invited to the event. Each note is crosschecked by an official handwriting specialist, who ensures that each applicant sends in only one letter. If chosen, the lucky few get two tickets that they are legally unable to sell. If for whatever reason they can no longer attend the event, they must give back the tickets to Wimbledon so they can be given to another applicant. Those who weren’t chosen in the official raffle can still queue at the door on the day of the event to purchase tickets that allow them to enter the grounds, and once inside, they can wait in line again for any tickets to Center Court that have been returned. We had a bit of a debate while on the tour whether or not this was a good method of selling the tickets, and settled on the point that it gives everyone a fair chance to attend the event, regardless of social status and income.
Another thing that shocked me was that Wimbledon actually hires somebody to count every blade of grass on the court before the tournament begins. This person takes his job incredibly seriously, and players often call him and offer to bribe him for information about the grass height, how the ball bounces on it, and how fast the ball plays on the grass. It was insane to think that something so minute plays such an important role!
I was glad I got to visit Wimbledon, especially since we had absolutely beautiful weather on the day we went. I interned for the ATP World Tour tennis tournament in Cincinnati a couple years ago, so it was interesting to compare and contrast how the two tournaments are managed. It was exciting to tour such a historic part of tennis!
That night we went to a club called Project to celebrate Adam’s 22nd birthday. I haven’t written much about the nightlife in London, but to sum it up, it’s very different from what it is in Syracuse, or even New York City. To get inside these extremely bouji nightclubs, you have to be escorted by a promoter. They make their profit depending on how attractive their guests are, so oftentimes, they are sketchy men who ask to see a picture of your group before they agree to place you on their guest list. It’s a pretty stressful process, especially since my group of friends and I look very young – something nightclubs aren’t too keen about. We’ve had a lot of fun nights at clubs, but we’ve also had some pretty bad experiences.
On Tuesday, we decided to call a new promoter that Adam had met a couple nights before. Her name is Amy, and she was nothing like the other promoters we had experienced. She was extremely friendly and easy to talk to, and we immediately felt at ease with her. Amy’s our age, so once we were inside the club, she stayed with us all night and partied with us. It was a breath of fresh air to actually be with somebody who isn’t just taking us to a club to make money out of us. We had a great night, and she even got us cake at the club!
Since we didn’t have a history of art field trip this week, Amy and I spent Wednesday afternoon working on a paper for our marketing class. The following day we met up with Amy again and she took us to a club called Mason House. The whole area was decorated like an old church with an eclectic vibe, with neon lights and candles and empty picture frames. We had a blast up until the very end, when our roommate Amy accidentally stepped back into one of the standing chandeliers and caught the tips of her hair on fire. We laugh about it now, but at that point in time, we were terrified and shocked. We couldn't believe she was actually on fire! Luckily, after looking at her hair the next morning, we couldn’t find any trace of burnt tips.
After a slow start to our day, Mel, Amy and I decided to go to the Embankment piers for some afternoon drinks. It was a beautiful day, and everyone who had just left from work seemed to be having drinks in the patios by the river. I got a Pimms, which is a sweet gin that makes for a delicious and refreshing summer cocktail. We walked along the pier and took in the sights, and after a while decided to drop in at Wahaca, a Mexican restaurant right by the water, for some dinner. We had a delicious assortment of tacos and quesadillas for dinner, and topped it off with an incredible sweet plantain dessert. It was one of the better Mexican meals I’ve had, and our waiter looked like a Spanish Bradley Cooper, so needless to say we were pretty happy.
The following day, we went to Portobello Market. It was a perfect spring morning, and we enjoyed getting lost among the hundreds of street shops that sold anything from antiques to street food. Carly and I split a burger that had over a dozen different ingredients on it. It was mouthwateringly good – I plan to go back for one more before we leave! We also found a cute indoor bar where we grabbed drinks and listened to a local band play. It had such a great vibe to it; everyone was happily chattering and singing along to the popular music, and outside there were people soaking up the sun in some of the outdoor seating areas. I was amazed at all the different trinkets that were being sold at the market. We spent all morning walking around until we reached the very end of the rows of street stores, and then worked our way back to our apartment for a very well deserved nap. We were planning on going to the Oxford and Cambridge boat race that afternoon, but we were so tired from a long day of exploring that we ended up sleeping right through it.
After our power nap, we headed over to Camden for a pub-crawl. The first bar we went to was very casual. We grabbed a beer and sat at a table and all talked about our day. It was a good start, as it wasn’t anything too crazy. The second place we went to was an oldies bar, where they only played throwback music that people danced to in the center of the bar. We found a spot in the lower level, next to the pool table, and cheered one of our friends on as she played a game with some of the locals. The next bar we went to was more of a club than it was a bar. It was a giant underground area with a stage at the far end of the room. A DJ played some EDM and other popular tracks while we danced around and got a few more drinks. We almost missed the rest of the group leaving, but luckily Adam noticed people were starting to clear out. Our final stop of the crawl was an old horse hospital that has been turned into a bar. The entire place is still intact, with private rooms and additional bars all in the stalls. The center of the hospital is a big, vacant area where all of us ran over to and started dancing. They played all sorts of music, and the vibe was incredible. We had an amazing time!
On Sunday, as a final birthday celebration, we went out to dinner with Adam. He made reservations at a place called Sushi Samba, which is located on the 38th floor of the Heron Tower. Since I’m not the biggest fan of sushi, I ordered teriyaki chicken, gyoza and coconut rice. For dessert, we all split mochi, which is a Japanese rice cake with an ice cream filling. It was one of the most delicious (and most expensive) meals I’ve had in London. The place had beautiful decorations, it was very contemporary and lively, and because the entire room was encased in glass, the sunlight filled the room, making it feel even more like spring. It was an awesome way to celebrate Adam’s birthday!
Our days abroad are starting to wind down, this weekend is the last weekend we have in London besides the week before finals, so we plan to crank out all the remaining tourist attractions we have left. It’s bittersweet to be leaving Europe so soon, I know a lot of us wish we could just rewind and go back to the beginning and experience everything all over again. I’ve had such an amazing time here, and couldn’t be more thankful for this opportunity!