Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Races at Ascot

I asked Joe a couple months ago if he wanted to meet me in London because I was going to try and go to Wimbledon, and I figured he'd be game for any kind of sporting event, regardless of location;  he agreed and then developed an itinerary for our week here as well as for himself for a few days before meeting up with me. Before he got here, Joe went to two rugby matches near Leeds, we've been watching World Cup soccer in the pub since arriving, we had a great day at the tennis center, a nice evening at the cricket match, and our last sporting event was Ascot. I had such a fun time with Jen at the races in Lexington two years ago, I knew I'd enjoy the races at Ascot, and not just because they are featured in "My Fair Lady."  We got tickets for one of the fancy enclosures away from the riff-raff (and proceeded to agonize for a month about the dress code), got on the train, and arrived at an incredibly nice racecourse about an hour from London. I'm no big gambler, but there's no point in going to the races if you don't put skin in the game, so we bet on every race which for me amounted to a grand total of £12.00; I was betting to win and only one of my horses came in first which won me £4.20, so I still have enough money to get home.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Peaceful Protest

Today is the only day this week that Joe and I didn't have plans, so we were pretty happy when we found out that the Brits would be protesting Trump's visit to London with a march and a gathering near Parliament, and part of that protest would include a parade-type balloon of Cheeto-boy in a diaper, holding a cell phone in his tiny hand. On the way to Central London to see the balloon, Joe and I had a discussion about things like 'stooping to his level,' appropriate discourse, insulting allies while treating other/arguably worse statesmen and women with respect, how this would go if the balloon was of someone we supported, etc. And while I definitely wanted to see the balloon, regardless, I came to agree that it was in fact a reasonable reaction to national embarrassment. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Slide

We had two activities today. The first was THE SLIDE. The ArcelorMittal Orbit is a sculpture that was installed in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the London 2012 games. It is 375 tall and the world's tallest and longest tunnel slide (583 feet with all the curves and corkscrews) goes from the top to the bottom. It seemed like a good idea to go down the slide when I asked Joe if he was into it before we left... when we got to the top platform, I did wonder what the hell I'd been thinking. That being said, while it was about 20 seconds of mitigated terror (mitigated by the fact that I didn't actually think there was any danger; terror because I was going down a 583 foot slide at an incredibly steep angle), it was pretty fun. Not that I'm in any hurry to do it again. Ever.

See that small tube on the left side, corkscrewing down? Yeah, that's the slide. 
This is a sports-themed week, so the second activity of the day was a cricket match. Neither Joe nor I know anything about cricket, but I watched a fair bit of cricket on TV when I was in London for two months in 2008 and Joe has an affinity for pretty much any sport, so between the two of us, a few YouTube videos, and googling the rules, we figured we'd catch on. And we did. It was a beautiful night at the Kia Oval and there was a big crowd for the match between Surrey and Middlesex. We had no idea which team the crowd would be siding with, and Joe noted (because I left after the first inning, or half, or whatever it's called) that the crowd seemed to cheer equally for both sides.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Tennis, Anyone?

 I don't like the term, "bucket list." It seems morbid to have a list of things to do before the cold hand of death grips you. I prefer, "Life's Dream" and I achieved on on this trip. I have wanted to go to Wimbledon since I was 12 years old, and since my tennis skills were never going to get me there, I knew it meant someday going to England and somehow getting a ticket to the tournement. I took the tour of the grounds in 2010, but on this trip, I was determined to see a match, and since tickets on StubHub were out of my league, that meant joining the infamous 'queue.' Joe came in from Liverpool yesterday and met me here in London and we made a plan to head to the tennis grounds at 6am. We joined the queue just before 7 and stood with a couple thousand others for over three hours - but it paid off when we got tickets to the matches on Court #2, and those seats were ours for the whole day. They also entitled us to watch any of the other matches on the lower courts -- everything but the big matches on Centre Court and Court #1, and those big matches were shown on the giant screen so we camped out on Henman Hill for much of the day, soaking up the sun while watching the men's quarter-finals, after watching the ladies doubles quarter-finals on Court #2 where the American Abigail Spears and her Polish partner, Alicja Roslska, beat two French women. It was a spectacular day.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Mel, me, Brent
I left Portugal yesterday and made my way via plane, train, tube to the Putney neighborhood in London. Putney will be home for the next week while my friend Joe, who will come in from Seattle via Liverpool later today, and I pursue a variety of sports-themed activities, but first I took the train to Broxbourne to visit an old friend. I hadn't seen Brent in almost ten years; we worked together in the mid-aughts, then he moved to Portland, and a couple of years ago, I heard from a mutual friend that he had 'met someone,' that someone being British, and was dividing time between the States and England. Brent and Mel, the British 'someone' had recently married, and it was absolutely wonderful to see my old friend again and meet his husband. They live in a lovely, leafy village about an hour by train from Central London, and after picking me up from their village train station, they took me to a fabulous lunch in a quintessential British pub. I had fish and chips and mushy peas, all delicious. 

St. John the Baptist Church; across the road from the pub; built in the 12th century.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Jeep Tour, or, It's Gonna be a Bumpy Ride

My last day in Albufeira was spent roaming the countryside in a jeep with a handful of Brits and a couple Germans, down what were clearly Portugal's most rutted dirt roads. It was fun if a bit bone-jarring, and I probably wouldn't have done it if I could have come up with a single other thing to do.

We bumped along through orange groves...
... and tasted the sweetest, juiciest oranges I've ever had.

Medronho, another local specialty

Friday, July 6, 2018


I've been staying on the outskirts of town for the past five days and finally walked all the way in today. It's a nice town but it's chock full of tourists and tourist trappings. I bet it's lovely in the winter.