In honor of the current fortnight of tennis being played, I thought I would do a review of my trip to Wimbledon last summer. I was lucky enough to be able to finally take my dream European vacation last July. One thing I knew when I started to plan my trip was that when I got to London, I was going to Wimbledon.
Originally my vacation started out as a week-long trip to London for the Championships at Wimbledon, but with the GBP being double that of the USD at the time, I opted to do a European tour instead. Our last stop was London. Unfortunately, the tour did not coincide with the tournament. But that was fine with me. I could still visit the hallowed grounds of the All England Club.
On my first free day in London, I bought my extended day pass, hopped on the Tube, and was on my way. After a short walk through the charming town of Wimbledon, I turned down the famous Church Road, and there on my right was the All England Club. The first stop was the Wimbledon Shop and the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum . While many museums come off as stuffy and boring, this one was unlike any I had ever visited. This was interactive! There were games that test your reaction time (“Reaction Station”), displays that let you feel the types of grass they have used over the years, and it even had dress ups! What girl doesn’t love dress ups? All the fashions the competitors had worn over the many years were available for you to wear. I even got to don a John McEnroe wig, headband and all!
After testing out the rain tarps and sitting in Centre Court seats, it was time to hit up the gift shop. I’ll admit I went a little nuts in the shop. I snagged a sweet Wimbledon pull-over, an official Wimbledon towel, some tennis ball shaped chocolate for dad, and some post cards of Andy Roddick, the Bryan Brothers and James Blake. I love tennis, I can’t help it! By this point, I was starving, so a quick pit stop at The Renshaw Café was in order. I had a nice sandwich and, of course, strawberries and crème, the traditional Wimbledon fare. After lunch, it was time to start the tour.
First off, our tour guide was awesome. He was adorable (in an old guy kinda way) and super knowledgeable. And who doesn’t love listening to British accents? Our first point of interest was Henman Hill or Murray Mound, whichever you prefer to call it. It definitely has a different feel when it’s devoid of people. The 2008 logo was proudly on display at the top of the hill. Aorangi Terrace and the Water Gardens, the official name of the hill, offers a great view of the grounds and the city of London. The day I visited, the sky was overcast (surprised?) so I couldn’t really see much of London.
After a tour of the terraces and gardens, we went to the roof of the Broadcast Centre. The roof offers great views of multiple courts. I immediately recognized it from ESPN broadcasts. On the roof, we could see the windows of the multiple studios that overlook the many courts. From there we were taken into the Broadcast Centre, where we were given a tour of the BBC Television Studios. While I really wasn’t familiar with the iconic set, others in our group seemed pretty thrilled to be visiting it. As we walked the hallways, I was on the prowl for the door to the ESPN set. Unfortunately, that set wasn’t on the tour.
Our next stop was the Millennium Building. This new building houses the press and the competitors during the tournament. We were taken in through the players’ entrance and shown the check-in desks for the competitors. We then climbed a staircase that took us to the players’ cafeteria. The outside seating area offered great views of the infamous Court No. 2, nicknamed the Graveyard of Champions. Many upsets have occurred here. We were told that this court would be torn down when the new Court No. 2 was finished sometime in 2009, so it was cool to get to see it before it’s demolished.
The next point of interest was the Press Interview Room. It was really cool to be able to sit in the “hot seat.” All the players have to go to the Interview Room after a match. So to know that so many legendary players have sat where you were sitting was pretty cool. I made sure I got a photo of me in the chair, as well. To think I was sitting in the same chair that Andy Roddick once sat in and leaned on the same desk as him made me melt a bit. I had a total fan girl moment.
Our final stop was Court No. 1. Usually Centre Court is the final stop on the tour, but it was under construction when I visited. The new retractable roof was near completion, so everything around it was a construction zone. Instead the tours were now diverted to Court No. 1, which was still pretty cool. We were able to walk around the stadium and sit anywhere we liked. Just to have access to the grounds was unbelievable, much less sitting center court on Court No. 1. Too bad I didn’t get to see any tennis while I was there.
Since I’m a huge tennis fan, this experience was something I’ll never forget. Watching the tournament on TV this week, I’ve been able to spot some areas I had visited, and it always feels cool when you can tell people, “I was there!”