So you’ve packed your summer clothes, sunblock, maps, sunglasses, Digene for those moments when you overdo the strawberries and cream, and—because it is London—your umbrella. After all, legend has it that moments after King George V inaugurated the current venue in 1922, the first match was immediately postponed because it was pouring.
Now that you are all set for Wimbledon, what next? A lot of tennis, did you say? There is much more to Wimbledon than just watching two individuals on either side of a net working away at repressed violence. First of all, the suburb is but a short hop on a train or bus from all the pleasures, vices and virtues of London itself. That leaves you with plenty of time to shuttle between a heated doubles match on one of the side courts, and a leisurely stroll through the National Gallery followed by a satisfying scone or two in the Gallery Café.
A spectator wears a hat sporting strawberries. Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images.
But if you’d rather build your entire trip around the All England, then this ready reckoner will help you make the most of your Wimbledon jaunt. The Lounge guide to Wimbledon 2011 includes must-see and must-do things not only within the club, but also within the larger Wimbledon region. However, we appreciate your tennis focus. So nothing on this guide will take you more than a couple of miles away from the action.
At the club
Begin your Wimbledon experience at “The Queue” at the Gate 3 turnstiles. This “long-standing”—a long-standing pun in itself—Wimbledon tradition may be considered the predecessor to those lines outside Apple stores whenever a new device is launched. Around 500 tickets are available each day for matches at Centre Court, Court No. 1 and Court No. 2, and fans assemble overnight for them. The club provides a highly stewarded experience for people who line up, including camping facilities, toilets and catering. If you’d rather watch matches on some of the side courts, you only need to queue up a few hours before the daily 9.30am start. One way or the other, do not miss this celebration of the English tendency to fall in line whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Once you are in, perhaps with one of the relatively inexpensive £20 (around Rs 1,460) daily ground tickets, stroll around and take in all the sights and sounds. In addition to all the statues, including one of Fred Perry, the ground is dotted with cafés, shops and interesting spots such as the Autograph Island near Aorangi Pavilion. Maps to the entire location are available from the Wimbledon website.
The side courts may seldom see stars or seeded players, but they often host great matches and have empty seats. Once you’ve bought a ground ticket, make sure to enjoy at least a few minutes of a match live. Keep your ears open for what the crowd is saying. Watch out for any lines outside the side courts. News of a good match tends to get around quickly and seats vanish. Who knows, you might run into another Isner vs Mahut on Court No. 18.
Fan fare: The early morning crowd queuing outside the All England Lawn Tennis Club for tickets in 1937, a tradition that continues—at the time, most of them were messenger boys standing on someone else’s behalf; and spectators on Henman Hill in 2010. Photo: JA Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images & Oli Scarff/Getty Images.
While still known popularly as Henman Hill, the Aorangi Terrace in front of the big screen behind Court No. 1 has alternatively been rechristened Murray Mountain or Murray Mount or even Murrayfield. But when the crowds are thinner, it is a nice place to picnic, lounge around and enjoy tennis al fresco. If you fancy a little fame, convince one of the journalists there to let you provide a “sound bite”.
Last year, a pot of strawberries and cream at Wimbledon cost a whopping £2.50. That is a criminal price for 10 berries and a dollop of cream. But the experience isn’t complete without a serving. If you find yourself developing a craving, then do the smart thing and stock up from a local supermarket. Last year, Asda sold double the number of the same berries for a pound.
If things get a little too warm, or you want a respite from tennis, gently proceed to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum with a collection of 15,000 objects that tell the history of the game. The most popular exhibit, perhaps, is John McEnroe’s changing room where a ghost of McEnroe appears and tells the history of the game and some of his opponents. Though exhibits and collections keep changing, there is a rich collection of objects and multimedia to keep you engaged. During the Championships this year, a major exhibit is a collection of pictures and memorabilia on The Queue. And how can a museum in the UK be complete without a museum shop?
Rich history: The All England Lawn Tennis Club Museum. Photo: Gary M Prior/Allsport. The great leap: Kish Jaguar, the eventual winner, in action during the Grand National final at the Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium, London, in 2001. Photo: Ian Walton/Allsport.
Don’t forget to carry a small FM radio receiver with you. Throughout the tournament, the exclusive station Radio Wimbledon will broadcast live till 10pm and is available on the 87.7 FM frequency. In addition, spectators on Centre Court and Court No. 1 will have access to ball-by-ball commentary via radio sets. But if you’d rather go high-tech, all broadcasts are available on the Wimbledon website and via the iPhone app.
Outside the club
On a Friday or Saturday night, drop in at the Wimbledon Stadium, a couple of miles away from the All England, for an evening of Greyhound racing, beer, food and some gambling. Entry is £6 per adult and there are package deals for families and groups.
After all the debauchery at the dog races, find redemption at the Buddhapadipa Temple, the oldest Buddhist temple in the UK. Visit the temple and the surrounding 4-acre monastic area comprising a garden, orchard and ornamental lake. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings, the temple conducts classes in “walking and sitting meditation”. Think of it as your mid-tournament detox opportunity.
Wimbledon Common is a large open parkland a stone’s throw from the All England Club. Besides housing a Windmill Museum, the park is also an ideal location if you fancy a spot of sporting competition yourself. Every Saturday morning, the Common hosts a parkrun—a 5km contest against the clock. Volunteers note the time and you are sent official results later by email. The event is entirely informal. Feel free to sit down and rest whenever you want.
Step by step: Several artistes test their material in London before heading for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Edinburgh. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.
PS—The best way to burn those strawberries and cream off your bones. For details, visit www.parkrun.com
Once the matches have ended— or the rains have wreaked havoc—retire to some of the excellent night entertainment available in the region. For instance, several comedy acts preparing for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe are currently testing their material in and around London, including at Wimbledon. Venues such as the Selkirk Pub and the New Wimbledon Studios are well worth a look. Pick up a copy of any listings magazine such as Time Out for ideas.
Want art? Too lazy to go to London? No matter. There is plenty of art at the Wimbledon College of Art exhibition of work by graduates. The exhibition is free and features paintings, sculpture, set designs and special effects. The exhibition is on till 22 June.
No trip to London, especially for first-timers, is complete without a musical complete with song, dance and camp. The nearest possible show is the excellent Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre. The trip from the club will take you an hour. But the sacrifice is well worth it.
So you don’t want The Queue, the strawberries, the McEnroe ghost or the radio broadcast. You just want to sit somewhere and watch the tennis. Maybe a movie after. A perfectly reasonable request. Great British Summer 2011 is organizing three public, free venues where you can plant yourself in front of a big screen and watch all the tennis and then a movie or two after. The venues are all close to tube stations and if you visit www.greatbritishsummer11.com right now, you can vote for the movies you want to watch. Dumb and Dumber and Meet the Fockers are in the running.
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