Wimbledon diary: The food! The royals! The All England Club experience!
Greetings from Wimbledon! I'm here at the All-England Club for the first time, and am very excited about this. It has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember to be here, and because of that enthusiasm, I'll be posting right here with my random thoughts and any fun off-the-court things I see (and yes, that most definitely includes royal family sightings and food pictures) throughout the fortnight -- in addition to, you know, writing actual tennis content.
And, as much as I've already made this very much about me, if there's anything you're looking to see or learn about from Wimbledon, or are desperate to know if David Beckham or anyone from "Love Island" is in attendance, please feel free to let me know on Twitter (@darcymaine_espn) and I will get right on it.
Monday, July 2
In addition to attending both of Serena and Venus Williams' matches (how lucky am I?), I knew there was just one thing I had to make time for during the craziness of opening day. I, of course, am talking about strawberries and cream.
I tried to cross this off the bucket list during Sunday's media day, but, alas, they somehow (inexplicably) ran out of cream. I instead had strawberry-and-cream flavored popcorn, which was much better than you're probably thinking. I would actually eat it again. Please keep this in mind and judge accordingly when reading any of my food thoughts. Clearly I have questionable taste.
Today, however, I went to one of the concessions stands to get the full experience and waited with other eager eaters. There were signs letting you know just how much time you could expect to wait from that point on, just like Disney World. This is not Wimbledon's first rodeo. After my 11-minute wait, the moment finally emerged. I ordered my first strawberries and cream. After receiving it, I took it to the first available table and ... it tasted like regular strawberries with less-sweet whipped cream. I am disappointed to tell you, it was just OK. I would probably order it again, but that's mostly because my fruit consumption has been low over here and I could use the vitamins.
In conclusion: whipped cream from a can > Wimbledon cream.
Tuesday, July 3
If you're a fan of Wimbledon, you've likely heard of the legendary queue, in which thousands of fans line up overnight and in the early morning hours to get tickets for the next day's matches. And because I'm a dedicated writer committed to getting the inside fan scoop, I waited in said line early this morning.
OK, confession time: I'm lying about the "committed writer" thing, but I did wait in the queue.
My mom is currently in London, and, as tickets are hard to come by, we were unable to score her one ahead of time. So being the world's best daughter and all, I made my way to Wimbledon Park around 6 a.m. to see if I could get her one. I had been told things like it's "an adventure" and "uniquely British." I came to discover that really just meant, "You stand in a long line for five hours," but you'll soon discover that for yourself.
Here are some dispatches I wrote on my phone so I could remember the experience:
6 a.m. -- I leave the flat where I'm staying, bright and cheery about the day. It's beautiful outside, with sunshine abound and a gentle breeze, and I gingerly start my walk. Wimbledon Village is empty aside from a few cafe workers setting up shop for the day and the air smells of fresh bread and possibility.
6:25 a.m. -- I see the first signs for the Queue, and few other people. As England has a World Cup game later, I had hoped significantly fewer people would be attending Wimbledon. I pat myself on the back for such ingenuity, and say proudly, possibly aloud, "You got 'em, D'Arc."
6:33 a.m. -- I turn the corner. I quickly discover I did not "get 'em." There are what appears to be no fewer than four million people in line. I see rows and rows of tents and people as far as the eye can see.
6:45 a.m. -- I am in Row K8. Even as I post this later, I have no idea if that was good or bad. I didn't see any other letters other than K, so I'm going to assume it was OK. Everyone around me is surprisingly friendly and alert despite the time. A worker comes around and gives everyone a ticket with a queue number to ensure no one can cut and that things remain organized. The best part about this is I can step out of the line temporarily to ... stand in another one for some much-needed caffeine.
7:10 a.m. -- I get myself what I can only imagine is the worst cup of tea in the United Kingdom and a packaged blueberry muffin.
7:20 a.m. -- Everyone around me is now leisurely lounging on the ground, on picnic blankets and folding chairs. Some are even drinking Pimms. Please again note the time here. This is the best-dressed and classiest tailgate I have ever attended. I am fully expecting Pippa Middleton to appear at any moment with party-planning tips.
7:30 a.m. -- Met a sweet greyhound named Willy wearing a "No longer faster than Federer" jacket. I think he's there with a handler to raise money for a foundation, but it's unclear as when I take out my wallet, they walk away. And here I thought we had a connection, Willy.
7:45 a.m. -- I could be hallucinating but I'm pretty sure the beginning of the line has started to move.
7:48 a.m. -- It has! But it looks like they're going to stand in another line, so I really have no idea how this process works.
8:15 a.m. -- My ticket number is 5953. Woman in front of me says cheerfully, "My friend was number 6000 yesterday and he got in by 12:30!"
I check the time.
8:35 a.m. -- For some reason the four inches of space between myself and the couple in front of me has become the unofficial walkthrough for people. I watch the last of my blueberry muffin disappear on the bottom of a woman's sandals. Bye, muffin. Thanks for the memories.
8:55 a.m. -- In my eavesdropping of those around me, I have determined the fans directly around me are from seven countries: United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Canada, Italy, France and the United States. OK, well at least I'm from the U.S. and I'm hoping that adds up to seven but am too tired for addition.
9:03 a.m. -- The row next to us gets told to start packing up and get ready to walk. Could it really be the time has arrived?
9:05 a.m. -- The answer to that is a clear no. They are merely walking 500 feet to join another line.
9:10 a.m. -- Spot Willy again. OH MY GOD, HE IS NOW JOINED BY TWO OTHER GREYHOUNDS. BE STILL MY BEATING HEART. PLEASE LET ME PET YOU, AND TAKE MY MONEY.
9:16 a.m. -- A man comes by selling subscriptions to The Economist. Just in case you were unaware of the type of crowd Wimbledon draws.
9:19 a.m. -- "Next to walk," yells a worker as she walks by my row. Even though I know I'm really not going anywhere, I'm still excited. It's like waiting to get on a roller coaster, only without the ride part, and three more hours to go.
9:35 a.m. -- Have I mentioned my mom hasn't actually been with me? Wimbledon is strict about one person per ticket, but as I don't actually need one, we've gotten around this. She arrives at this point after spending an hour looking for me, takes one look around and declares, "I don't think I want to stand here." I know how my mom felt during all my difficult teenage years at this one moment. "Oh, you're staying young lady!" I bark at her. She stays.
9:45 a.m. -- WHERE AM I AND WHAT IS LIFE AND DO I LIVE IN THE QUEUE AT WIMBLEDON PARK NOW?
10:02 a.m. -- In the distance -- the far, far distance -- I can see people moving briskly, as if they're being let into the venue. Could it be?
10:15 a.m. -- As I have real work to do, I have to leave and go find Serena Williams' practice session. I leave my mom, and am somehow simultaneously racked with horrible survivor's guilt as I walk away from all those I spent the past four hours with and resisting the urge pulling out my credential badge and yelling, "SUCKERS!" as I skip away.
While I understand this is the most non-conclusion of all time, I am happy to report, my mom stayed in the queue and made it onto the grounds by 11:30 a.m. She was happy she remained, and ending up having a great time. Or at least, that's what she told me. I would not have accepted any other answer, so we just have to hope that's true.
Thursday, July 5
I didn't have to time to scope anything out yesterday other than, you know, actual tennis (ughhhh, work gets in the way of everything) but I was determined to find something today. Of course, then Garbiñe Muguruza, the defending champion, had to lose, and Simona Halep had a shaky start and Eugenie Bouchard pulled a Eugenie Bouchard, but I eventually went in search of the most ridiculous thing for sale at the All England Club, and I'm pretty sure I found it.
We all know the grass here is incredible, but is it so incredible, you want to buy it?
Take a second to think about this.
In addition to a "Grass" perfume, you can buy actual Wimbledon grass seed to bring home, and plant in your favorite three-inch section of your yard. It costs 14 pounds (or about $18.50) and comes in a lovely glass container.
When I initially took the picture on the right, I was laughing to myself about how ridiculous it was and wondering who would buy such a thing.
However, 20 minutes later, I can now say I am the proud owner of three of these containers because if this doesn't say "Perfect Wimbledon souvenir" for that grass lover in your life, I don't know what does. I'm just sorry Father's Day has already happened this year.
I understand you're now harshly judging me and wondering if you can value my opinion on anything anymore. I get it. It's cool. But just wait till you see my tiny patch of amazing grass next summer. WE'LL SEE WHO'S LAUGHING THEN.