Today was our second day in London, and our plan for the day was to go to Arsenal! I had booked us a stadium tour which started at 3:00pm, but I wanted to reach there by 1:00pm, so that I could take a full lap of the stadium from the outside and buy some stuff from The Armoury before the tour started. The tour would be for about 2 hours, and as everything would have gotten closed by 5, Arsenal was pretty much all we had planned for the day.
I woke up today around 11:00am, mom was already up by then and a breakfast of sausages, scrambled eggs and toast was on the table. I savoured every bite of it, and all that savouring would have taken me at least half an hour. Post that I was generally lolly-gagging around the house, watching TV and stuff, till it hit me – if we were to reach Arsenal, which was at least 1 line change and a lot of tube stations away, we should have been out by now! So we ran upstairs to get our act together. I ran in for a super-quick shower, before running out and slipping my jeans and Arsenal Away jersey on, and I was ready to go. Mom was about to take at least 15 more minutes, so In the meantime I locked up and had our oyster cards in my hands, so that when she came down all that was left for us to do was to start walking towards the bus stop.
We were out only by 12:15pm, which was okay, I guess, and it didn’t matter even if we were 15-20 minutes late, mom assured.
We got onto the District line, from where we were going to hop onto the Northern line and then onto the Piccadilly line to Arsenal (Yes, they have a tube station named after them). As I recalled, the District line was one of the slowest, and so it would take us at least an hour/ hour & a half to reach Arsenal. And so I whipped out my earphones and braced myself for a looong(-ish) journey.
It took us just under an hour to reach Monument. From there it took us maybe just 10 minutes to reach Kings Cross St Pancras, which was quite close to Arsenal. There was some ‘lunch-hour’ traffic, and so I had to stand for the short journey from Kings Cross St Pancras to Arsenal.
We reached the station, and just seeing the little sign-board, which read ‘Arsenal’, did something to my stomach :). We climbed the steps onto ground level, and right outside the exit of the tube station was a lamppost which had a little placard reading Arsenal F.C. and pointing in a direction. We started walking in that direction, but they didn’t really need to put that, cause the moment you step out of the station, you can see the stadium complex, and no-one can mistake that for anything else. You just know that something so huge, massive, magnificent and beautiful just has to be a part of Arsenal.
It was a short walk to the stadium, and this time, the stadium seemed huger, massiver, magnificenter, and beautifuller than last time. We took a full lap of the stadium, as planned, and I went berserk with my iTouch, clicking at least a 100 pictures of the stadium just from the outside, and everything that was in, around and red in general. The lap around the stadium took much longer than I expected it to, and although I had been to Arsenal before, I didn’t remember it to be so huge, massive, magnificent and beautiful.
After our little endeavour around the stadium, we made a slight change in plans and progressed to the starting point of the tour; firstly, cause the tour was about to begin in a few minutes, and secondly, the tour was going to conclude at The Armoury, so there was no point going there beforehand and missing a few minutes of the tour in the process.
We reached just in time for the tour, and were handed little ID card thingies which read ‘Arsenal Stadium tour’ and had the date stamped on the back. I kind of felt quite important with that thing on : P.
We started the tour at the Director’s Entrance and right there were busts of 2 managers, both, arguably the greatest to have ever walked the face of this Earth, yes; I am talking of Sir Herbert Chapman and Arsene Wenger.
Mom went berserk with the camera while I read Sir Herbert’s and Mr. Wenger’s little bio and official list of trophies written under the sculpture. The guide let us click all our photos before moving on and starting the actual tour.
We had a little introduction with the guide Joe, and after that he led us to the stairs which were to take us to the Director’s box – which was, of course, seating in the best part of the stadium, the mid section. As we climbed the steps I could hardly control my excitement. I had the camera ready in my hand, finger on the ‘click’ button, just raring to go.Emirates Stadium
At the top of the stairs, where I expected the Emirates stadium’s magnificent view to be, I found a huge dining room sort of thing. We were told this was a post-match dining hall for the Directors (VVIPs basically, I guess). We all rushed thru’ the hall to the door, which opened up to ‘The View’ and the actual seating area for the Directors. Joe opened it for us and ……….I was at a loss for words. It was beautiful, and about 10,000 times more majesticer than I had imagined it to be. It was huge, and to sum it up, just beautiful. I was ogling at the seats and wondering what it would be like to watch an actual football match here. The seats were all red, with some white seats in between, which actually made a cannon design if you looked at the seats from a distance. The pitch looked perfect from above, and the stadium basically had that modern-modern kind of effect, especially the top part of it. While I was thinking up all of that, my finger went onto auto- click, and I had clicked about a 100 pictures in the first 2-3 minutes. I took a video too, of the whole stadium, 360 degrees, from where I was standing.
After I had filled the camera with such photos and videos I generally took a look around to see if here was much difference between the stand-seating and the Directors Box. I have to admit, I didn’t see much difference. The seats were of a dark brown colour in the Directors Box and had the Arsenal team crest embossed on the leather in Gold, while the normal seats were just a plain red, although rather impressively, upholstered. Now I know you could argue that the Directors Box has a little food place inside it, and so is superior. But let’s face it, if someone is still hungry after a match, they could just save their money and head off to a pub, where they could get to watch the highlights of the match, plus hear criticism of every decision of the referee by have/has-been players & answers to some very common post-match questions asked by Arsenal fans. For e.g. how many goals Bendtner missed, how many goals could have been saved just by Lehmann’s jersey that Almunia let in, and just how long will players of RVP and Fabregas’ calibre stay at our club. (Fabregas has moved on since…)
Moving on, we were then taken down to pitchside, where the subs, ‘management & staff’, and of course, Wenger sat. The actual seats were covered by a black wind-cheater kind of material. Joe pointed out to us the seat; yes – THE ACTUAL SEAT – Arsene Wenger sat on! We were all gazing in amazement at the thing that looked like a seat, but was actually a throne fit for Gods. Yes, the very seat which bore the weight of Mr. Wenger, or if he had been English, Sir Arsene’s frail body, week in- week out, since 2006. It would have taken me 10 minutes just to snap out of that moment of awe. I guess it took me a little more time than the others because by the time I actually came back to my senses, I could see people forming a queue in front of it. Yes, those people ACTUALLY wanted to SIT on it. They seriously felt themselves worthy enough to rest their bodies where the greatest football manager since Sir Herbert Chapman, Arsene Wenger rests his. Although, after a lot of my mom’s “it’s OK, sab kar rahein hain, tum bhi baith lo”, I did sit on it. I still feel guilty about doing that to this day.
Anyhow, we were then taken to the conference room, which was almost like an auditorium, where the coaches and ‘Men of the Matches’ were interviewed post matches. We all got our chance to sit on the chair and get our pictures. But let’s face it, after standing pitch side and seeing Wenger’s seat this just felt, I don’t know, kind of lame.
We were then taken to the locker rooms. There were little open – cell type things, in which hung every Arsenal player’s jersey, including the subs. The room was quite simple, with just one table in the middle. We were told that the Home and Away rooms had been designed by Mr. Wenger, or as I said earlier, if he had been English, Sir Arsene. There were some sly differences in both the rooms. For e.g., the floor tiles in the Home room were slip-resistant while he ones in the Away room weren’t; the centre table was higher than eye level (when sitting down) in the Away room so that the players couldn’t talk to each other comfortably. Mr. Wenger’s office was a door apart from the locker room but entry was restricted.
Post all the queuing to sit on Fabregas’ & Van Persies’ cubicle; we were guided to the player’s entrance. Pictures of all of Arsenal’s recent triumphs were lined up on the wall. I could recognize the entrance very distinctly as we had seen it about a 100 times before on TV. The red and white doors, thru which so many legends of the football world would have passed thru’, was before us. Mr. Wenger, Thierry Henry, Nwanko Kanu, Emmanuel Adebayor, Jens Lehmann, Francesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie, the list is endless. The doors were opened and we were led thru’ the last actual ‘attraction’ of the tour – the parking lot where the Arsenal team bus swaggered in, carrying on it some of the greatest players in the world today and arguably THE greatest football manager of all-time. And although the lot was totally empty, the only motorised vehicles standing there being a bunch of fords (which probably belonged to the tour guides), no one hesitated to start ‘snapshotting’ the place.
That was the end of the actual tour, and the tour guide dropped us off at the Arsenal store, The Armoury. I went wild again, seeing all that Arsenal stuff, tho’ I had been to The Armoury last year. In all that excitement I didn’t exactly notice, but my hands had already picked up a basket for me, and by then it already had one piece of almost every item available in the store. Mom was looking at me aghast, and by the time we reached the billing counter my basket had 4 jackets, 1 watch, 1 scarf and about a dozen body-washes for friends back home. I was quite content with what all I got, and I came out of The Armoury a happy gooner .
We were off the stadium premises by about 4:30 pm, approximately 4 hours, 900 photos and 2-big-bags-full-of-Arsenal-stuff later. I realised that all this time in which I had been surrounded by greatness and Legendarity, I had forgotten all about Lunch. And so we rushed to the nearest McDonald’s. We had a nice and relaxed meal, after which we started on our way back home. I listened to music for most of the way, but I roughly remember, it was a long journey.
We would have reached Mausi’s place by about 8:00pm. I plonked myself on the sofa in front of the TV. Everyone joined me in a while, and we watched re-runs of “Who wants to be a Millionaire”, Scrubs and Two and a half Men. I ate a light dinner of Sainsbury bought frozen pizzas and drifted off to la-la land, bringing a close to Day-2 of London 2011.