Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wanderlust takes me to Wimbledon - Day 2

Day 2 and I had tons of places to see, but another high priority place which I absolutely had to see was the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, better known to the rest of the world as the Mecca of tennis – the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon.

It was a glorious Sunday, with the weather being absolutely perfect for Wimbledon. I traveled all the way from Slough Station, changed at London Paddington into the district line and got to Southfields. From the Southfields station, it is a good 20 minute walk to the courts of Wimbledon.

Reached Wimbledon and I had 20 minutes before the tour started and so I decided to visit the Museum. You get see relics from a past age about how Tennis actually developed into the sport we now know.

There is an absolute brilliant must-see film about the science in Tennis that was made using a special 200° camera with 5 separate lenses with Maria Sharapova playing someone I don't know. The film talks about the technology infrastructure in Wimbledon, the technology in the clothes that players wear, the science in the shoes they wear, the racquets and the balls used, the science behind the hand-eye coordination required to play tennis. It is filmed in "The Matrix" style and the 8-minute film is awesome!

We were finished with the movie and people started pouring for the tour - There were Americas, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, British and me, the lone Indian in the group of around 25 people. We had a very knowledgeable guide who was passionate about the sport and took us all around the place telling us history of the place and funny stories about the players - My favourites were the ones about Andy Roddick and Boris Becker.

Wimbledon is a private club and one needs to be a member to play there - The easiest way they say, to become a member is to win a singles title! Non-members cannot use the changing area and it is only open to non-members during the Championship. Andy Roddick refuses to use the members area until he has won the championship and has become a member! I felt for Andy Roddick - I mean, with the kind of form that Roger Federer has been in during the last 4 years, it looks very difficult for anyone, not just Andy to lift the Wimbledon title!

During the Championship, since central London is a distance away from Wimbledon, players prefer to stay in the village, rather than spend time in traffic - So in the 2 weeks of the Championship, the rates around Wimbledon ranges from £500 - £5000 per week! Players such as Stefan Edberg and Martina Navratilova, both past champions, have bought property around Wimbledon so that they can use the facility whenever they fancy! During one such Championship, Becker saw this property that he really liked which the owner refused to let out at any price, and Becker came up with this incredible offer - For the duration of the 2 weeks when the Championship is played - he offered for the property owner to exchange his apartment in Monte Carlo and they would be even - and that was an offer that the owner could not refuse and that is how Becker stayed in Wimbledon!

The guide walked us around the Henman Hill (named after the then number one and the joke was that it could soon be named Murray Mountain - now that Andy Murray is the new British number 1), through the courts and then, to Court Number 1 and as we entered, I could not help myself but smile - This was something that I had seen so many times on TV - To see the place was a high! I am a non-player and I felt so fortunate to be there!However, what Pete Sampras said captured it the best showing us what most Tennis players think about the CHampionship, though I am sure Ivan Lendl will not subscribe to this train of thought!
While I did other things that day, it will be in another post - Wimbledon deserves its own special place!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Wanderlust takes me to London - Day 1

I had decided to see London even before I had landed and that is what I proceeded to do – whatever I could in 2 days which was the weekend! So after researching a lot on the net – I decided that the best option is to buy the LondonPass!

Now the LondonPass is available from 1-6 days – It gives you options and free entry into a lot of places though I will tell you what it does not give you:

Ø Entry into Madame Tussaud’s
Ø Entry into Victoria and Albert’s Museum
Ø Entry to the Natural History Museum

This only means that if you are so inclined, you need to pay to get into any of them! It also does not provide you entry into the National Gallery, but the entry is free there! So as far as I am concerned, the LondonPass is value for money!

Now I had to travel from Slough, where I was staying, to London! I did some research onto what was the best way to travel and what I did was to get myself into a Hoppa – a service that the National Express provides from Heathrow and hotels close to the airport and the Marriott that I was staying at was one of them! For £4 I could travel from Heathrow to the hotel one way. I headed toward Heathrow, having a hearty breakfast and went to the London Underground also affectionately known as the Tube. The London Underground consists of many lines and each line travels in a different direction. Only one of these line, the Piccadilly line runs to Heathrow. So I took the Piccadilly line and got off at, where else, Piccadilly Circus! From Piccadilly Circus, the office of the Britain and London Visitor Center is just a stone’s throw away and the address is No.1 Regent Street, London, W1. The office is where you can pick up the Pass, though they will mail it to your address also, if you book in advance.

So I bought myself one and it cost me £42 for 2 days of sightseeing. Now, one of the places I absolutely had to see was the Tower of London and with the LondonPass, the entry is free!
The Tower of London had been built around a thousand years ago and has been the seat of the government and has been used as a prison to house royal traitors of Britain.

The tower took about 20 years t
o build and in places had walls 15 feet thick!

This link is extremely useful if you are a history buff:

From the Tower of London, I walked to the Tower pier and had taken some photographs of the London Bridge. I then had an ice-cream a really nice one, while I waited for my cruise ride on the river Thames, which is also part fo the LondonPass. The cruise takes you through the Thames from the Tower Pier via the Westminister pier to Embankment Pier.

I got off Embankment pier and then walked my way on the Victoria Embankment to Parliament square where you will see the magnificent architecture of the Parilament Houses and Big Ben. The sight is just spectacular!

From here on, walked again on Whitehall, where you will pass Downing Street – unfortunately the street was cordoned off and then I walked ahead towards the Monument raised for the Women in the wars, then towards Horse Guards, Admiralty Arch and onwards to Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square is simply beautiful. It has fountains and statues and lots and lots of people sitting all over the place – you see children skating, evangelists pontificating, couples romancing, lots of people just sitting and eating ice creams and a few others contemplating! You will definitely see a lot of tourists – it is a huge draw.

Just ahead is also the National Gallery – the entrance is mostly free unless you would want to see Renoir landscapes and a collection names as Dutch portraits and the collection in the museum is simply awesome. Personally, my favourite was Samson and Delilah by Rubens and the Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci. It also has a prints of a few works and my favourite there was a Monet – The Gare St. Lazare, which was simply superb!

Please remember, to see London – prepare yourself to walk and walk a lot – This time of the year, the weather was glorious and it is easy – I would recommend you to wear easy shoes – preferably sneakers to be comfortable!

This is how I ended my day one – took the tube and train back to my hotel and fell blissfully asleep!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Carole Middleton: Is being ambitious a sin?

So while I am in the UK, the big news right now, is the fact that Prince William has broken up with Kate Middleton because of her “middle-class” upbringing.

This is indeed sad.

Most royal analysts are placing the blame squarely on Kate’s mother Carole Middleton. She is said to have willingly pushed Kate into joining St. Andrews where William had enrolled, though statistics have shown that the number of women joining St. Andrews did actually go up once Prince William had announced that he would be studying there. So along with other girls Kate also joined.

Carole is also being vilified for being a social climber because she made Kate join St. Andrews. We know this now, because Kate did actually see Prince William, but do we for how many other girls, this is true? We never will know, will we?

What I truly do not understand why is someone getting crucified for having an ambition? Can you name one person on this planet who does not want to rise above his station? Can you name one person who does not have a burning ambition to do something with their life – some want to become doctors, others want to become rich, and some want to become philanthropists and others want to climb the social ladder. So what is wrong with that? Carole tried and failed – Give her that much – she tried – most of us would not even try and give up and that, as far as I am concerned, is a much bigger sin than having an ambition! In any case, Princess Diana's father had said that he and his family was ostracized after she married Prince Charles, so Carole would not even have benefited as far as climbing the social ladder is concerned!

Remember, Carole actually did it for her child – parents generally want to do something for their offspring and Carole was no different! If a parent donates a kidney to his child to save his life, becomes a hero and a parent wanting a better life for her daughter becomes a vamp? Is there no consistency while judging parents?

My take on this: Leave them alone – Kate is still very young – she has a long life ahead and she can yet make a huge success out of it. As far as Carole is concerned – my kudos to you – you did what you had to do!

England: Here I come!

So, I have had to visit the UK for work for 2 and half weeks and had decided to make the best use of the trip! Who knows what happens tomorrow, might as well live it up today was the motto and I started with great gusto!

I have been shacked up at the Slough/Windsor Marriott for the duration which is pretty nice place – You actually have enough space to walk around in the room and people tell me that it is a luxury in itself. The company I have come to work with has a deal with the Marriott groups and is offering rooms at £105 and I understand that it is good rate which includes breakfast also. The breakfast is great with good choice, but the food otherwise leaves a lot to be desired! If you are vegetarian – then it you barely have any choice!

Now, I had landed in Heathrow Monday last, because it was a holiday here because of Easter. Started work with gusto, with the thought of me wanting to see the place at the back of my mind.

Do wait for my next article on London and what I did see during the weekend!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Do we Indians need moral policing?

First it was Valentines Day, with the moral police up north in India taking it up as a slur on their souls, then we had the Mumbai police clamping down on couples holding hands in public! Now we have channels (AXN first and now FTV) going off the air because they are showing content that displeases the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting! I mean – how the hell is it possible to do a show on lingerie or bikini show without showing either beats me!

Why are we Indians not given the right to choose in these matters? Why do the powers that-be think that we Indians cannot decide what is good for us or not?

If they are worried about corrupting young minds – it is time they take a look at Bollywood, which is really a mode for titillating and vicarious entertainment!

Are we yet living in a democracy? Do we have a right to make choices?