Table of contents for London Trip - 2011
- Reaching London, Stay at Hornchurch
- Touring the Arsenal
- London Dungeons & Stuffing Up
- Paranthas & Steaks at Taste of London, Regent’s Park
- Trip to Harrods
- Hello Wembley, Hi Freddie – Day 7
- Thames River Cruise & Much More – Day-8
- A Quiet Day in Romford – Day 9
- Let’s Walk everywhere – Day 10 & 11
- Southend-on-Sea Visit – Day 12
- Portsmouth Ahoy! – Day 13 & 14
- Portsmouth & Spinnaker Tower – Day 15
Today was going to be quite a hectic day for us. I had stayed up late last night, booking us a tour of Wembley – the English National Football team’s stadium. I had also booked us a play, ‘We will Rock You’, for the evening. It was a very highly rated musical featuring Queen’s music.
We got up late-ish and had a nice, laid back, strictly non-vegetarian breakfast consisting of sausages, bacon, salami, turkey ham – the works. We were to leave for Wembley 12:30 pm for the 1:30 pm slot and even after finishing up breakfast we had one and a half hours to go before the ETD (Estimated Time of Departure). So I marched upstairs to the bathroom, filled up the tub, got in and stayed there for about half an hour, just lolly-gagging in the bubbly water.
I came out of my bath with about an hour to spare, so post slipping on my jeans & Arsenal jacket I headed downstairs for some Two and a half Men or Scrubs, whatever was on. Anyway, we left the house around 12:20, took the bus to the tube station and were in the tube by 12:30, comfortably on time – or so we thought. We had to make one change to get to Wembley and we were running a little behind schedule. The time the tour was to start was 1:30 and around that time we were still two stations behind Wembley. I was getting anxious-er by the minute.
The moment we reached the station I zipped out, making a run for the stadium, dodging people left & right, while mom followed closely panting behind. The stadium could clearly be seen from the station, but the speed with which I was sprinting did not exactly allow me to take my eyes off the road and the people on it – yes, the ones I was dodging – and so I couldn’t soak in its beauty, magnificence and all at that time. I decided to catch up with our stadium tour (which had already started by then) before just stopping in my tracks and looking for adjectives to describe that majestic piece of architecture.
So, as I was saying, I ran through the crowd and quickly cleared security at Wembley in order to catch up with the tour that was supposed to have started ten minutes ago, but had actually started just a minute or two before. The group had advanced barely 50 metres from the starting point and so it was quite easy to catch up.
The tour had started in a hall-like place, which had pictures of Wembley’s greatest moments and surprisingly it was not just all about football. Boxing matches, rugby games, live aid concerts and even the Olympics had been staged there. The walls of the halls were covered with pictures from top to bottom, and the guide, a Liverpool fan named Tim, told us the stories behind most of them. After about twenty minutes in the hall, we were taken to the top-most level. On the way we were told some interesting facts about Wembley, like how it has the most number of loos in it than any other structure its size in the whole world and of course the fact that Wembley is the second largest football stadium in all of Europe.
Anyway, we reached the top level and were taken straight to the stands; and there I saw it – The Wembley Stadium – from the inside. The seats were all red in colour, with some white seats sprinkled here and there, which actually formed the letters W,E,M,B,L,E,Y on either sides of the pitch. Compared to the emirates, Wembley was HUGE. It looked almost double the size and it did look ‘moderner’ than The Emirates. The pitch was covered with a white sheet type thing and the whole setting just looked amazing. Once I was done checking out the seats and all, I remembered and shifted my gaze to the skies and I saw, arguably the most iconic part of the new Wembley stadium, the white arch that supports the roof, rising 133 metres above the level of the external concourse. With a span of 315 metres, the arch is the longest single span roof structure in the world. We were told that The London Eye could actually take a full revolution under it. And that in the new Wembley, the leg room given to the normal seats was a good few inches more than the leg room of the Royal Box in the old Wembley. We were also told the fact that the stadium had been designed in such a way so that whatever you said above a certain decibel level echoed. Apparently, whenever a performer came to Wembley for the first time, the concert would start with his yelling of the words ‘Hello Wembley’ to get a feel of the acoustics. Thus, to complete the Wembley experience, on a count of 3, initiated by Tim, we were all to scream “Hello Wembley!!” I had the presence of mind to whip out my iTouch and make an audio clip of the greeting, and so even today I have the almost 3 second long echo of “Hello Wembley” with me.
Anyway, we were then taken downstairs to pitchside. On the way down we were shown The Royal Box from outside and a little ‘Football Trivia’ quiz was conducted. The 2 people who could answer the maximum number of questions correctly would get to ‘lead’ the ‘team’ (everyone else) onto the pitchside area. I was in the top 2, so this other guy and I were made the Captains. We stood in front of the doors which led to the pitch, with the rest of the group divided in two teams lined up behind us (my mom was in my team).
We got to play our roles, complete with hand-shakes with the opposing team. The doors were opened with ceremony, to the sound of crowds cheering and clapping (pre-recorded of course) for the two teams to proceed to the pitch. I had my iTouch in my hand, so the moment the doors opened my fingers went to auto-click mode as usual. We spent about 10 minutes there clicking pictures, feeling the grass & clicking yet more pictures before we were taken to what was considered to be the ‘most amazing’ part of the tour – The Walk up to The Royal Box and a chance to touch the FA Cup. ‘The Walk’ referred to the path from the pitch right up to The Royal Box where the FA Cup and the medals (winners & runners-up) were handed out to the players. We were all taken up the 126 stairs, in the footsteps of Patrick Viera, Frank Lampard, Thierry Henry and many other such legends of the game of Football.
We reached the podium where the FA Cup was awarded. We were called in front of the cup one-by-one to get our pictures taken with it. We were strictly advised not to lift it and so when my turn came I casually walked up to it, wrapped my fingers around the huge cup handles and smiled for the camera. Now, although the picture didn’t come out too well, you can’t afford to or even want to delete a picture which has the Wembley Stadium in the background, and you holding the FA Cup in the foreground.
Anyhow, post that we were taken to the players’ dressing room, complete with at least the First 11’s jerseys hanging in their cubicles. Now, considering our group’s track record, Tim (our guide) probably expected us to whip out our cameras and start clicking as if Joe Hart, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott themselves were sitting in their cubicles, but somehow none of us got too excited. I guess after laying your own two hands on the FA Cup, seeing the players’ locker room just didn’t cut it for any of us. That being said, I still did manage to click at least one photo of each player’s jersey and at least ten snaps of the locker room in general.
Well, that was the last stop of the tour, so we were taken to the place where you could buy your photo with the cup taken by the professionals (photographers, not footballers). Now, since none of us wanted to miss out on another angle of ourselves holding the cup, a professional one at that, there was a longish queue at the counter, but the ten minutes of wait was worth that picture. It was miles better than our own pictures, with the angle at its perfect-est. You could actually see the WEMBLEY written on the stands by the blue seats between red seats. So we ended up buying the picture with a Wembley frame, the same picture on two fridge magnets and on a key chain. Now don’t ask me how they managed to get the picture between two transparent plastic layers on the latter two in hardly five minutes.
Post that, we went to the Wembley stadium store, where we finally found Manchester City stuff for my dad, who, as you would have guessed, supports Man C (don’t worry, it doesn’t get bad during Man City Vs. Arsenal games, especially considering we generally have a Man United supporter on the same couch). There wasn’t too much Man City stuff, just some scarves, key rings, pin badges and piggy banks, so we ended up buying one of everything for dad, who couldn’t come with us to London this summer with us.
We got out of the Wembley complex and checked the time and as usual realised that we had forgotten all about lunch on account of our mesmerizing experience at the Wembley stadium. We found this place called The Wembley Diner nearby where we had some Fish & Chips with Tartar sauce. Oh, and did I mention that it had started to rain again?
Anyhow, we braved the rain to the tube station and took the tube to Tottenham Court Road, where there was this theatre called Dominion that staged plays. We were going to watch an evening show of ‘We will Rock you’, a musical based on; ah you guessed it – music by Queen. We reached just in time for the show. We were joined by Mausi and Deepa mami, and we had an awesome time. The musical was set in the future and it was about this guy and girl who were trying to revive ‘real’ music – stuff which had been banned in a future devoid of musical instruments and original music. They of course did not hesitate to break into a number as often as possible. I guess it was like one of those older Bollywood movies (no, not older as in the early 2000s, but older as in the 1950s and 1960s) where the story did kinda make sense and the music could actually be classified as nice.
After the show we took the tube to Liverpool Street and then the Overground to Gidea Park, and reached home around 11 pm. We were all too tired for re-runs and late night chatting, but to maintain tradition we did watch Scrubs till 2:00 am before drifting off to sleep and bringing an end to Day 7 of our London trip 2011.