Saturday, September 05, 2009

London, Day 2: Rugby

On day 2 in London, our big event was a double header rugby game in West London.

Of course, we started with a wonderful free breakfast at our hotel. There was a full hot buffet, a table of pastries, a table of meats and cheeses, a table of fruit and cereal, and an array of delicious juices. I cannot stress this enough: our hotel was posh.

We had some time before our rugby game, so we walked down to take pictures of some of the sights, including Big Ben (at right), Parliament, the prime minister's residence at 10 Downing Street, and other sights on the River Thames.

We found a cute "Pest-ival" where they had bug-related exhibits and information, and we saw a bunch of rower boats speeding down the River Thames in the Great River Race, which apparently attracts racing rower teams from around the world. (Or at least from around Europe.) We saw the Americans lagging behind, and also a ship flying the Jolly Roger. Considering that the race only happens once a year, it was pretty cool to see.

Then over to Waterloo Station to catch a train out to Twickenham for the rugby game at, you guessed it, Twickenham Stadium. The trains were unbelievably packed, because all four London rugby teams were up against each other, so all the fans came out.

ALL the fans:

Upon arrival at Twickenham, we were swept into a massive crowd of rugby worshippers. (We found out later it was somewhere in the realm of 34,000 people.) Some wore jerseys, others wore face paint, and still others wore stranger attire. We saw people wearing the following clothing (sometimes in combination):
  • Fez hats
  • Ballerina skirts
  • Bee costumes
  • Jester hats
  • Wigs
  • Dresses
We walked almost the whole way around Twickenham Stadium to find our seats, so it was no surprise to us that the stadium was pretty darn big.

The first game was London Irish versus Saracens, which the Saracens won. We enjoyed watching the game with our delicious ale and stadium food, which in London consists of (1) fish and chips or (2) sausages. Both were delicious.

I'm not going to get too far into rugby rules, because I don't really understand them. Dave and Rob understand them much better than me, and Dave learned a lot more from the Brit sitting next to him. However, I can identify this formation, which is called a "scrum":

I'm not sure the tactics here, but there seem to be a lot of guys pushing, trying to get the ball, and possibly biting each other to do it. That's how they roll in rugby.

I also got to participate in my first crowd wave of all time! I don't attend many sports games, even in Chicago, so it was really fun (and dorky) for me.

Then it was the Wasps versus Harlequins, which the Wasps won. Dave's Brit seatmate told us that most British rugby teams except the Harlequins had been bought by rich foreigners, making the 'Quins the only authentic rugby favorite. However, apparently in the weeks before our visit, the Harlequins' coach was banned from the league for cheating, so I guess all the teams have clouds over them now.

After the game, I bought a fun Wasp scarf - not like I need any scarves, but hey - and we headed back to London. The crowds were huge and we got a little lost, but we eventually evaded the people peeing in the woods and found the train station again.

Then we walked back to our hotel, but this time past Parliament at night.

I have always loved photographs of Parliament, and it was as impressive as I imagined. I remembered seeing the Hungarian parliament building in Budapest, which is supposed to be modeled after the British Parliament, so it was interesting to finally see the original.

When we got back to Trafalgar Square, Rob couldn't help but pose for a photo op with the lions.

This photo was taken immediately after police told us to "hurry up, take your photo, and get down."

First full day down!

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