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  • Victoria & Albert Museum, Snowy London

    Sunday morning I woke up to snow and sleet. I moved hotels and by Regents Park there was a lot of snow and it was slippery. I was happy to be wearing waterproof boots.

    I went to the Victoria & Albert (V & A) museum not far from Knightsbridge (home to Harrods). It has a lot of displays of British interior items from the past 800-100 years up to present including displays of furniture, clothing, fireplaces, wedding chests, doors, paintings, ceramics and more. It’s 6 stories high.

    In the center was a huge Chihuly glass piece. And an interesting Christmas tree shaped structure was by the entrance. Entrance was free.

    After leaving the museum I walked to Harrods and looked at the lights and Christmas decorations. Then I walked through Hyde and Green parks past the “Winter Wonderland ” (at which point my phone conked out. It was cold). The “Winter Wonderland” is part Christmas fair part amusement park.

    And that’s a wrap on this Europe trip. Two trains and two planes then home!


  • Wimbledon!

    SaturdayI had a chance to play at Wimbledon. No, not on the grass which is only open for a few months, (though I did have a chance to watch it grow), but on an indoor (because the outdoor clay courts had frozen and it was still very cold) hard court. Actually a bubbled court across the road from the main venue. Anne Clark had invited me and was nice enough to hit even though she’d already played 2 doubles matches earlier in the day.

    After tennis we had tea and cake and a quick visit to the Wimbledon shop.

    In the evening I went to see “An American in Paris”, lots of dancing and singing.. a remake of the Gene Kelly movie classic.


  • Au Revoir Paris, Hello London

    Today I took the Eurostar to London. It wasn’t like showing up and hopping on a train in Germany going to say Switzerland. I had to get there early (minimum 30 minutes), fill out a customs form, go through immigration and put my bags and myself through a metal detector. But once on board it was a nice ride. I took a taxi from the train station, (really bad traffic too), dropped my bags at the hotel and went back into London where I saw the Christmas lights, and had dinner at a nice neighborhood Italian bistro.

    Oxford Street, Bond Street, Regent Street and Canaby Place were all decked out in Christmas finery.


  • Quintessential London: Wimbledon & Theatre

    Tennis has made me into a traveler. The first trip I took was to visit a tennis friend who had relatives in France…I was 16 and didn’t even know how to say Bon Jour in French. I still remember my disappointment when ordering a milkshake only to find out it was milk..chocolate milk, no ice cream involved!

    My trip to Wimbledon was likewise due to the friendships I’ve made through tennis. Saturday I was lucky enough to play tennis at Wimbledon, specifically at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, as a guest of Anne Clark, who I know through the ITF World Championships. She’s a great doubles player with a wicked dropshot and fantastic hands. She played with Jenny, who is an international badminton player as well as a very good tennis player.  I played with Pauline who is another terrific doubles player. We did not play on grass (it’s just been reseeded and looked fantastic…no nets or lines though) but the weather was pretty good, low 60s I think and dry (in other words fantastic weather for Britain). We we played on clay (Wimbledon has all surfaces, indoor and outdoor hard, indoor carpet, green clay and of course grass.) I was rusty…first match in about 6 weeks but I’ve hit a lot of tennis balls, I didn’t forget how.  After tennis  we had a nice lunch on the balcony overlooking the field courts. When we came out of the locker rooms there was a group being given a tour and the guide jokingly said “no autographs” in that dry British way.

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    Wimbledon is under construction right now, as the Wimbledon Roof (which has its own twitter account) is getting a little competition, the Court 1 roof. FYI, the shop and museum are open year round to the public…if in London the museum is worth a trip out to the All England Club.

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    In the evening I went to see a play. I took the Tube to the Covent Garden station. If you don’t take the lift there are 193 stairs up to the street level and once you start up there’s no changing your mind. I definitely saw some people on the way up wishing they’d read the sign about the 193 steps (15 stories)! I considered it cross training.Once up at street level it was crowded but very vibrant.  I went to Matilda, based on the  Roald Dahl series. It was entertaining. I had an aisle  seat up front and the cast went up and down th e aisle and even swung out over the seats in my area which was cool. The set lighting before the show started was pretty nice.

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  • London: The Embankment & Windsor Castle

    London seems less intense somehow than New York but both are in the top 10 of any “World’s Greatest Cities” list. Yesterday I was in London and jetlagged!

    I dropped my bags at the hotel (motel?) and since my room wouldn’t be ready for hours, layered up (it was in the upper 50s but WINDY!), topped off my “Oyster” card for the Tube (subway to Yanks) and headed off to Oxford Circus/Regent Street and Uniqlo (because there’s not one near me). After perusing all five floors and supporting the London economy, I headed over to the Embankment which stretches for miles along the Thames and encompasses the Tower Bridge and Tower of London, the Shard, the London Bridge, Millenium Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Museum, Shakespeare Globe Theatre, the London Eye, and Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. I walked from St. Paul’s to the London Eye, because it was a rare beautiful clear day and taking some sunset photos seemed like a good idea…which it was. (Though i should have planned better and gone to the Tate first, but I blame jetlag!). The sun stayed out and just as we were at the peak of the Eye, the sun set which was nice. It wasn’t a spectacular sunset, it had been too windy, but it was decent.

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    Today I went out to Windsor Castle, which I hadn’t seen. My good friend Google Maps directed me to the proper train station and I arrived around lunch time. Windsor is the Queen of England’s residence and she spends quite a lot of time there. It looks like a proper castle should, with turrets, a defunct moat, battlements, a keep and huge public rooms for state dinners and such. There’s also a beautiful church from about the 1400-1500s, with amazing carvings. No photos though were allowed inside the church or state rooms (I bought postcards of those areas). The room where the armaments were located had beautiful geometric displays of guns, rifles, and swords, plus armor. (Yes, Henry the 8th was a tall and rotund guy judging by the size of his armor!).

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    After I finished my tour I walked through the city of Windsor, or at least the streets outside the castle and took the train back to London. There aren’t many castles in the USA, so it’s always fun to see some in Europe.


  • Lights On Regent Street; Is Rafa Back?

    Yesterday I wandered again in Green and Hyde Parks and down to Regent Street to see the lights, which were turned on Sunday night. It was an interesting display…a digital one where the message on the disks over Regent Street changed from pictures to “Merry Christmas” to “Tis the Season” to “Regent Street”. The lights on other streets were fun too…one street had lights looking like chandeliers, were stars and globes, yet another a light filled passageway.

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    After seeing the lights I went to see the tennis again, this time by the “tube”. Last night I wasn’t allowed to bring in my SLR, as any lens longer than 55 mm wasn’t allowed (just a warning to anyone wanting to bring in a camera to the O2). No food or drink is allowed either, which would be ok if drinks didn’t cost three or more times what they cost in the shops just outside or inside the arena. However, these restrictions didn’t deter the audience, as the arena was packed with people hoping to see some good tennis.

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    I saw doubles first and the French team, Mahut and Herbert looked to have the match sewn up at a set and 52 up. I was going to leave the arena then but couldn’t get out (too many people to step over). I’m glad I didn’t because Dodig/Mello rebounded, “holding” off two set points on Herbert’s serve (he double faulted three times in the game, and Dodig/Mello only had to win 1 point to win the game. The set ended in a tiebreak and again the French team forged a lead, 41, only to lose the next 6  points and the set 7-6. That set up a match tiebreak won by Dodig/Mello. Mello, a tall, lanky Brazilian is the #1 doubles player in the world and hasn’t lost a match tiebreak in months. He did pick up his game as the match went on.

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    Then it was on to the main event, Wawrinka/Nadal. (I got there early enought to see Rafa and Uncle Toni practicing and went courtside to see them.) Wawrinka came out strong, breaking Rafa to win the first game, but then Nadal broke back and broke again at 3-3, serving out the set emphatically..he aced Wawrinka on set point. Stan fought very hard…many deuces in the long first game, before winning it…it would be the last game he’d win for a while. Stan did go up break point on Rafa at 0-1 30-40. He hit a seeming winner but Rafa got to it and hit a brilliant lob…that point was the match. Stan never recovered from it and didn’t get another game till he was down 5-1 in the second. Rafa won 63 62.

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    And that’s the wrap from London.


  • Buckingham Palace and Tennis Royalty, Roger @ the 02

    Changing of the Royal Guard at Buckingham Palace happens every other day during the winter months and Sunday was one of those days. Last time I tried to see this event it happened to be Veterans, or as it’s called here, Remembrance Day and nothing happened. Yesterday though, the changing of the guard did occur, but I found out that unless you are glued to the fence nearest the palace all you see is the top of the guards’ heads. So I ended up just seeing the soldiers marching and heard the music. The palace is very impressive and so are the parks around Buckingham Palace…Green Park and then on the far end, Hyde Park, which is huge and a nice oasis in the middle of a big city.

     

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    After viewing the changing of the guard, and  a late lunch, I walked along the Thames, then took a boat to the 02 to see the World Tour Finals for the men. The Bryan brothers were playing doubles and Federer was  playing Berdych in singles! The Bryans lost; they had a tough time holding serve, and were broken 5 times in two sets. Mike played pretty well, but Bob was staying back on his serve all night and was off. They lost to Bopanna from India and his Romanian partner.

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    After a break, Federer came out and lost about 8 of the first nine points, double faulting to break himself, but then he found another gear and won 12 of the next 16 games. He sliced and diced Berdych to death, dropshotting him so much I’d say he was practicing for the seniors tour! Then he pulled out the SABR (Sneak Attack by Roger) which didn’t work at all.

     

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    After the match, Fed was presented with the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship and the Fan Favorite Awards. The latter should be renamed the Roger Federer Fan Favorite Award!

     

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  • Saturday in London: Wimbledon, Theatre and the Embankment

    Saturday was a busy one in London. I was lucky enough to get to play tennis in London with Anne Clark (thank you Anne), Pauline Fisher and Pat Wire. No, not on grass, the grass courts were down and anyway it was raining. We played indoors on carpet..green carpet of course. I had only clay shoes which was a problem, they stuck like glue to the carpet. However a quick phone call by Anne to the Ladies Lockeroom solved the issue, as they had a few pairs of carpet (smooth soled) shoes on hand. We had two good sets The carpet was low bouncing but not super fast, but quite different from the green clay I’ve been playing on. Since both Pauline and Anne like to drop shot I had to serve and volley.

     

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    After tennis Anne had to go to an Awards banquet but Pat and Pauline and I had lunch before I headed back to my hotel, then to London. I had tickets to a musical which was good (Kinky Boots, thank you Abbi Neuthaler for the recommendation). I was going to just go back to the hotel from there, but saw the London Eye, all lit up in French Tricolor (in sympathy for the shootings which had just occurred in Paris) and so walked along the embankment (both sides) to take it in and also walked by Big Ben and the houses of parliament.

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    It was a busy and late day which is why this post is so late.


  • A View from the Top

    It was about views of London today. It wasn’t raining and there was some blue sky, so I decided to to up to the top of the “Shard”, the tallest building in Europe (though much shorter than the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower or New World Trade Center Tower, measuring only 72 stories high. But since London is mostly pretty low, it gave good views of the city, particularly of the Tower Bridge, though I could pick out St Paul’s and the London Eye and even Big Ben (which was pretty small from up there). starred photos 11 12 15-011 starred photos 11 12 15-053starred photos 11 12 15-016   starred photos 11 12 15-030          starred photos 11 12 15-001

    After taking in the view I decided to get closer to the Tower Bridge, which of course is near the Tower of London. As I walked along the Thames and got close to the bridge, the city lights began to come on (sun sets here early, around 4:15) and it was very pretty.

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    I took in an exhibit on the Tower Bridge and was even able to peer down from some clear glass sections of the bridge to the traffic and boats below.

     

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  • London!

    You know you aren’t in Florida any more when:

    1. You observe that people are wearing jackets and long pants and not flip flops and shorts (or not the majority anyway).
    2. Cars are driven on the left side of the road and no one is honking!
    3. Christmas lights are up in the streets and say “Merry Christmas” (not happy holidays)
    4. There are double decker red buses everywhere
    5. There are no palm trees anywhere
    6. Cricket bats can be found at a normal sporting goods store as well as hockey sticks.

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    Did you catch the hints that I’m not in California either? I arrived today in London, where they are having warm weather for here, which means highs in the 50s. It was pleasant, if a shock to the system after the muggy 90 degrees/90 per cent humidity of the past two weeks.

    I walked around Oxford and Regent streets (had to hit Uniqlo) and also ran into some nice holiday decorations on Carnaby street.

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    The lights go on Sunday night on Regent Street. On Oxford Street the stores such as H & M and Selfridges were already lit up and color coordinated. .

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    It was a pretty sunset yesterday in Florida…but I’ll be back soon.

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  • Wimbledon!

    Monday and Tuesday I was lucky enough to go to Wimbledon, which is a wonderful slam to attend. There are various ways to get in, the most obvious is to queue, that is get there very early in the morning, before 6am most likely and line up to buy a grounds pass. I was able to buy tickets, and if you can do this, they are pretty reasonably priced, under $100 and all seats in the stadiums are pretty good ones.

    My cousin Bonnie flew over from the San Francisco area to attend with me. She hadn’t been to Wimbledon before so it was an item checked off her bucket list. I checked off Roland Garros earlier in the trip.

    Anyway, Bonnie flew in Sunday and met me at my airport hotel at Heathrow, then we went to drop off our bags in Putney and headed into London on the Tube to do some shopping. I’d been into London the day before so had scoped things out. There were sales everywhere.

    Bonnie had watched the PBS series Selfridges, so we started there. It’s a huge, very nice department store and wasn’t too crowded, unlike say Harrods. It was pretty interesting, especially the food hall (A-Z chocolate bars, what could be better?).

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    We found shoes and other items and then headed back to our hotel, as Bonnie was jet lagged.

    The next morning I had a great early morning walk along the Thames and got in a light workout in the park and hit the grocery store for some snacks and to just look at all the different foods here (Lamb flavored potato chips anyone?).  Then it was off to Wimbledon!

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    On Monday we took the Tube to Southfields and     walked the 15 minutes to Wimbledon. We were there early so did some shopping before taking in some matches on the outside courts. We learned that trying to take a seat at 11:45 wasn’t going to be possible, so I took Bonnie around the grounds and we sat by an empty court. It was a perfect location because a couple minutes later out came Maria Sharapova and her coach, physio and hitting partner. She had a very precisely choreographed 30 minute workout; a minute short, then some ground strokes, then a few slices hit low to her forehand and backhand short to attack, then some volleys, overheads, swing volleys, swing volley/forehand volley combos, serves, then serve, and the next shot after the serve, then returns. All the while her coach had his eye on her and the clock and the physio was shagging balls.

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    After 30 minutes, Jo Konta, from GBR a wild card who was to play Sharapova that day came out and seemed to have a less disciplined warm up. She had no entourage, just one guy who was a combo coach and hitting partner and ball shagger. She did however also practice swing volleys.

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    We went next to Court 1 and saw Serena play. The first set was tight but Serena in the end was too consistent and Gasparyan’s serve too inconsistent. That match was followed by a five setter Nishikori/Bolelli. The drama came at the end, in the 5th set when Nishikori had an injury time out and had to have his leg wrapped and seemed to be favoring his calf. He sort of won from 3/0 up on one leg with excellent serving. He’d pulled out of a warm up tournament with the same injury a little over a week earlier, so it will be interesting to see if he can recover for today’s match. After Nishikori we saw Gregor Dimitrov, a semifinalist last year and Sharapova’s boyfriend. He’s stylish and won pretty easily over Delbonis from Argentina, a guy who won a clay challenger in Italy just the day before. So he basically showed up to collect first round loser’s prize money!

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    It was a beautiful day but our seats were facing into the sun so it was pretty toasty anyway. We took some ice cream and lunch breaks and at the end of the day headed out to Wimbledon Village on foot. All the stores there have tennis themed windows during the Championships. We walked down the street a bit to a pub and had traditional and very excellent fish and chips for dinner.

    On Tuesday I again had a nice walk and worked out in the park by a pond and fountain. It was peaceful and the weather in the morning was nice and cool. We changed tactics and took the bus to Wimbledon and walked from there, a shorter walk. We had the routine down…we picked out a match, Lepchenko, an American and Muguruza from Spain, a young talented player. Behind us were Aussie Delacqua and Pazek from Austria, so we could stand up and see that match on changeovers. Lepchenko is a lefty counterpuncher; Muguruza is a hard hitting and tall player. At 4-4 there was a very long game on Lepchenko’s serve. Being a lefty the sun was bad (matches started at 11:30 on the outside courts). It really was the match and Muguruza basically overpowered Lepchenko and lost only one more game the rest of the match. Delacqua won easily over Pazek.

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    We had Centre Court seats, and since it was considerably warmer Tuesday than Monday we were happy to see that they were in the shade, under the edge of the roof. The roof had been slightly closed too, in consideration of fans. First up, as is tradition was Kvitova, the defending champion, and Bertens from Netherlands. Kvitova was in perfect form, using her lefty flat groundies to power through the grass and Bertens had no chance, losing 61 60 and really winning only a hanful of points. Kvitova when she doesn’t make errors is scary good. The match was over in 35 minutes!

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    Federer was up next against Dzuhmur from BIH. That match went almost as fast except that the men play three out of five sets. Federer won in three quick sets, breaking early in the first and later in the second and early again in the third…once he broke he was in full flight.

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    So Andy Murray was up by just after 3pm. His match was a little longer…he was playing Kukushkin. Murray took the first but the second set was a dogfight. interestingly, both players have women coaches. There were tons of breaks in this match. Kukushkin served for the second set at 65 and was up in the game but Murray slowed things down, used his slice and foot speed to good advantage and played an excellent tiebreak to escape with the set, and won the third more easily.

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    Since the matches went so quickly Wozniaki was put into the Centre Court as a fourth match playing a Chinese player, SaiSai Zheng. Zheng started well and had a definite game plan play Wozniaki’s forehand at all costs. It worked too for a while as she led the Dane 41, but Wozniaki started hitting her forehand harder and down the line more instead of cross court and pulled out the set 75. At 3/0 Wozniaki in the second Zheng took a time out, but Wozniaki was too grooved by then and finished off the set 60.

     

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    We looked over the grounds from the staircase and saw that Madison Keys had just started her match on Court 3. So we queued for tickets, and got to sit courtside for that match. Keys was playing a Swiss player, Voegele who seems to be a counterpuncher. Keys is anything but a counter puncher, she smacks the ball. She led much of the set but had a spell of missing balls into the net, or was hitting too short. Keys ended up in a tiebreak where she led 52, but eventually lost it, and got down early in the second set when something switched on for her and she stopped missing her forehands and once they cleared the net they mostly didn’t come back. She also was rocketing first serves. She won the second set 63 and it was getting pretty dark. It was almost 9pm so we left and they did call the match at 2/2 in the third. Wimbledon doesn’t use tiebreaks in the final set so who knows how long it might take to complete.

     

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    We hit Wimbledon Village again and went to a different pub. Sitting at the next table were Brad Gilbert and Chris Fowler, ESPN announcers.

    I’m off now to California…my plane left quite late so I’m not sure if I’ll get home today, Wednesday, or tomorrow morning…but I’ll get back to the USA today!