S.L.U.T. reunion at Wimbledon and in Amsterdam

The past two weekends have been a S.L.U.T. reunion!!  The former Saint Louis University Tennis (S.L.U.T.) team met up for a European vacation!  Although not all the teammates made it, we had quite a good group of former players.  Katie, Amanda, and Caitlin were taking a Eurotrip through Dublin, London, Brussels, and finally Amsterdam.  I managed to meet up with them in London and Amsterdam.  Additionally, Katha (Jo) met up with us in Amsterdam since she lives in Germany and it wasn’t too far for her to travel.

The four of us girls met up in London with one major goal in mind: Wimbledon.  Obviously, since we are all former collegiate tennis players, we have some major passion for tennis.  Wimbledon is often considered the best of the grand slams, and it is definitely the most classic of the majors.  The grass courts, the all-white dress code for the players, the strawberries and cream; it is all so proper!  None of us had ever been, but we’ve been watching since we were little kids.  It was probably all of our dreams to one day play there, but we will have to settle with just getting to go there!  It was still like a dream come true!

First night in London! We were actually at a pub watching England lose to Italy in the Eurocup, but I probably shouldn’t mention that loss…

Tickets to Wimbledon are really difficult to come by.  You can’t just go online and buy them.  Here are some of the ways to get a ticket to Wimbledon: you can be a member of the All-England Tennis club, which would guarantee you a ticket (there are only 375 members if that tells you anything); you can buy bonds or debentures in the club which would get you a ticket; you can participate in a lottery or ballot process if you are a British Tennis member and a member of a participating British tennis club; or you can queue on the day of.  Wimbledon is very proud of the fact that they reserve tickets to sell on the day of the event since no other major sporting events still do that.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I managed to get two tickets to Wimbledon through the Rolls-Royce tennis club lottery since I am an official British Tennis member.  The two tickets were reserved seats for court 2 on the first day of the tournament.  However, there were 4 of us going, so that meant we had to queue for two more tickets.

The Wimbledon queue is an insane process.  People actually start getting in line the DAY BEFORE they want tickets and they camp out overnight.  There are a couple hundred show court (centre court, court 1, and court 2) tickets available, and after that, it is just general admission (somewhere around 8,000 general admission tickets).  The people that are camping out overnight are the ones trying for show court tickets.  We decided that since I already had two court 2 tickets, we could just rotate going onto that court, so we weren’t going to queue overnight. General admission would be sufficient for our two additional tickets.  However, even general admission is not guaranteed, so we knew we would have to get in line very early.

So on Monday morning, we got to the queue as early as possible.  We took the first tube train in the morning, which left at 5:33am, and we were in the queue by 6am!  As you get into the queue, you are handed a queue card with your number in the queue.  We were around number 1,500, so we were very happy with this because we knew if we were at least in the first 8,000 we would get in with a general admission ticket.  Only two of us took the queue cards, and the other two just waited in line for general moral support.  Also, we don’t get to see each other very often, so just chatting and catching up made the time go by pretty quickly.

Arriving to the Wimbledon queue on Day 1

Having fun waiting in the queue

The lines were all very organized, and there were restrooms (toilets as the British would say) and food stands nearby so you could leave for a short break and come back.  Also, there were people walking around selling all sorts of stuff from newspapers, to sunscreen, to blankets.  To me, the time seemed to pass pretty quickly.  By 10:30am, we had made it inside Wimbledon!  And guess what?!?  We were early enough in the queue that the two others were able to get court 2 tickets as well!  That meant we would all be on a show court and there wouldn’t need to be any rotating!  Also, matches don’t start until 11:30am, so we didn’t miss any of the action.

Wimbledon Day 1!

The day was filled with tennis!  And the weather was absolutely perfect!  It was sunny, not too hot, and there was no rain the entire day!  I would say it was probably around 70F with a slight breeze and you couldn’t have asked for better tennis weather.  I took TONS of tennis pictures, so I have tried to narrow them down to some of my favs.  Since there were so many matches in progress on the first day of the tournament, we tried to prioritize by watching the Americans play.  James Blake is one of our favorite Americans.  Even though he hasn’t been doing as well lately, we still went to show him our support.  He was playing on an outside court, which means it is all open seating.  Amanda and I managed to sit in the second row, so I got a lot of really good shots of him.  Katie and Caitlin were on the other side of the court, so I snapped a few pics of them as well!

Caitlin and Katie on the other side of the court

Up close shot of James Blake

James Blake with Caitlin and Katie in the background

Unfortunately, James Blake ended up losing his match to Benjamin Becker 6-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-4, so it’s a good thing that we were there on the first day to watch him or else we wouldn’t have had a chance!

Over on court 2 with our reserved seats, we got to watch Radwanska, the ladies number 3 seed, beat Rybarikova 6-3, 6-3.  And then we watched Venus Williams lose to Elena Vesnina.  Wow, Venus looked horrible, like she had the flu or something.  She was hardly moving, and seemed to lack any of her normal fight and willpower.  Vesnina quickly beat her 6-1, 6-3.  FYI, Vesnina then lost to Radwanska in the next round.  Radwanska will be playing Serena williams in the finals, so if she wins it would be cool to say that I watched her in her first round match!

Action shot of Vesnina

Venus serving

Katie and Caitlin in their reserved seats on court 2

I managed to find Katie and Caitlin in the crowds at their reserved seats on court 2.  They obviously weren’t next to me and Amanda since we got our tickets at different times.  After watching a lot of tennis, it was time to get the traditional strawberries and cream!  Delicious!

Me and Katie with strawberries and cream… I wish I could say that champagne bottle was ours, too!

After our short break for food, it was back to more tennis!  We walked around all the outside courts and saw tons of players!  Like I said, we made it a point to try to watch as many of the American players as possible.  Here is a picture of Melanie Oudin, an up and coming young American player.  Unfortunately, she lost 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to Timea Babos.  Man, I think we are 0-3 in the American player department so far in this blog post (Blake, Venus, Oudin).

Melanie Oudin returning

Here we go!  We watched American Sloane Stephens win her match 6-2, 6-2 against Karolina Pliskova.  She also won her next match against the 23rd seed Cetkovska, before losing to 15th seed Lisicki.

Sloane Stephens

We also watched a really great match between Hantuchova (27th seed) and American Jamie Lee Hampton.  The match was quite a battle, with some really great points, and ended just before it got too dark to play.  Jamie Lee won 6-4, 7-6, but then lost in the next round to the British player Heather Watson.

Hantuchova

Jamie Lee Hampton

Those were some of the highlights from day 1 of Wimbledon.  Not only was it amazing to see world class tennis, but it was also really great to just walk around the grounds.  I had such an amazing time that I decided I was going back for day 2, even though I didn’t have any tickets and I would have to wait in the queue again.  Amanda had the same feeling as me, so we decided to go back to Wimbledon on day 2.  Caitlin and Katie wanted to do some more sight-seeing in London, so they didn’t come with us on the second day.

Amanda and I decided we wanted an extra hour of sleep, so instead of getting to the queue at 6am, we got there at 7am.  This also meant that instead of being number 1500 in the queue, our new number was around 2900.  That’s okay though because as long as we were less than 8000, we were getting in!  This time, we were not early enough to get court 2 tickets, but we still got general admission tickets.  And we also got into the grounds around 10:30am, so we had an hour less of waiting.

Amanda in the queue

Wimbledon Day 2!

While we were hanging out at the order of play board coming up with our game plan for the matches, we got interviewed by this radio guy.  He said it was Wimbledon radio, but that it would also be broadcast on ESPN radio on Sirius.  So not sure if any of y’all heard us out there, but we were the Amanda and Tara talking about watching Mardy Fish.  Also, I forgot to mention that we were interviewed on TV the day before while we were waiting in the queue.  They said they were iTV something or other, but they were interviewing a lot of people, so I’m not sure if we made it on TV or not.  But it was kinda crazy that two days in a row we got interviewed!

Amanda being interviewed

The weather on the second day was not quite as good as the first.  It started out quite nice, and we were lucky that it was sunny the whole time that we were waiting in the queue.  However, once the matches started, it pretty quickly turned ugly.  Here is one of the courts with the cover over it.  Those boys who pull out the covers are insanely fast, and also very disciplined.  You would think that they were doing a military drill or something.

Rain delay

Good thing we had our umbrellas

We got to watch some of American Sam Querrey’s match, and he ended up beating Pospisil 7-5, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4.  He also beat number 21 seed Raonic in the next round, and then lost to 16th seed Cilic in the third round.

Sam Querrey to serve

Sam Querrey game face

The second half of the day at Wimbledon got a lot better.  Once you are inside the Wimbledon grounds, you can queue again for returned tickets.  This means, as people leave Wimbledon for the day, they give their tickets back, and the tickets then get resold and the money goes to charity.  Amanda and I decided to wait in another queue for these returned tickets.  However, we had a game plan.  For one, Andy Murray was playing on centre court that evening, so since he is the British hopeful, everybody was queuing to see him.  However, that means that less people would be queuing to get on court 1.  Additionally, since it rained that day, we were hoping that meant that more people left and went home for the day.  It turns out that our game plan was right!  We only had to wait in the queue for about 20-30 minutes before we got tickets to court 1!  And they were only 5 pounds!  Sweet!

Already in play on court 1 was Azarenka, the ladies number 2 seed, versus American Irina Falconi, whom Amanda actually sort of knows through some friends.  Although Irina lost the first set 6-1, she really made a go at it in the second set and that’s the one that we got to see.  It was a much closer set, but she eventually lost it 6-4.

Azarenka serving

Our view on Court 1!

Nice volley by Falconi

After the ladies match, we got to see American Andy Roddick play British Jamie Baker.  Even though the other British hopeful (Andy Murray) was playing over on centre court, Jamie Baker had pretty good crowd support.  Roddick had won the first set, and was ahead in the second, when it started raining again!  No!  Boo!!  Although we waited for awhile, around 8:30pm they decided to suspend the match because even if it quit raining, it would get too dark to play before the courts were completely dry and playable.

Roddick running forehand

British Jamie Baker

The famous Roddick serve

Court 1!

Boo to rain delay

So that was the end of the Wimbledon experience.  It was all I could have hoped for and I’m definitely going again next year.  The goal for next year is to get on centre court!  It’s the only show court that I haven’t gone on yet!

Later that night, we met up with yet another former S.L.U.T. player, Sanjeev.  He is living in London, so it was perfect for continuing the reunion!  He also just recently got engaged, so we celebrated with some champagne.

Cheers to Sanjeev’s engagement

The last day of our London reunion did not include Wimbledon.  Instead, we did more sightseeing.  First of all, let me give a shout-out to Caitlin who did most of the planning for the Euro-trip.  She was super-organized with itineraries for everyone, and she found some really nice hotels to stay in.  Our hotel in London was ironically called Amsterdam Hotel (guess that was some foreshadowing), and it was really nice!  All four of us fit comfortably, and we even had access to the roof through our window!

Roof of hotel in London

We walked around the city some and saw the London Eye and Big Ben.  Caitlin and Katie actually went on the London Eye the day before while we were at Wimbledon.  They said it was really cool, so I’ll have to take Doug back there and we can go on it!

The London Eye

Big Ben

Then we made our way over to Westminster Abbey.  I’m really glad that I did this with the girls because Doug is getting sick of visiting old churches, so I’m sure he would have been really bored by this one.  However, we were extra excited about it because it’s where Will and Kate had their royal wedding last year!  We kept trying to imagine what the church looked like for the wedding, and how different it must have seemed!  It actually doesn’t seem to have a very good set-up for watching a wedding ceremony because there are these huge seats and organs for the choir that would block any view of the actual ceremony.  Maybe they removed that for the wedding, or maybe nobody cared to see the ceremony itself, and it was just enough to see Kate walk down the aisle.  We weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside the building, but here are some from outside.

I especially like the girl giving the peace sign in the background

Amanda and Katie

Westminster Abbey

After the abbey, we made our way over to Trafalgar square to do some more sight-seeing.  Caitlin (affectionately know as Spaz) decided that she just had to climb this lion.  It was hilarious.  She was totally spazzing out that she couldn’t get up it, so Amanda had to go help her out.

Spaz!

I also met up with another tennis friend, Nyssa, who is/was living in London for her masters.  Although Nyssa didn’t play tennis for SLU, I grew up playing tennis with her in Texas and she also played in college.  So she fit right in at the tennis reunion!  I also met up with Nyssa the last time I was in London, which was for my birthday in March.  Nyssa actually went back to Austin on Monday, so I’m a little jealous that she’s probably getting sunburnt while eating some legit Mexican food right now.

Nyssa and me

Trafalgar square has a bunch of cool fountains and statues, but it also has an awesome Olympic countdown clock.  Of course, the S.L.U.T.s had to get a picture in front of that!  I had to leave to head back to Derby shortly after this, but the rest of the girls headed over to the Olympic village to check it out.  Luckily, Doug and I are going to see the Olympics later this summer (beach volleyball in fact), so we’ll get to see the Olympic village as well.

Only 30 days until the Olympics! (even less now)

I went back to Derby to get in a few days of work, and the rest of the girls went to Brussels before we all met up again in Amsterdam.  While in Derby, I got to see the Olympic torch come by!  The torch route went right down Friar Gate, which is the street we live off of, so it was really easy to just walk out of our flat and to the street to snap some pictures!

Olympic torch!

And now on to Amsterdam.  I know that Amsterdam has a certain reputation as a city just for sex and drugs.  In fact, I feel like it has such a bad reputation that I was almost embarrassed to tell my manager that I was visiting there.  But the city was actually way more than just coffee shops and the red light district.  It was quite beautiful, with all it’s canals, and also very cultural as well.  Caitlin, Katie, and Amanda met us there after visiting Brussels, and our other teammate Katha traveled there from Germany.  And Doug also came with me!  He was quite the pimp with all the ladies.

Doug and his ladies in Amsterdam

I didn’t realize it, but about half of the land in the Netherlands has been reclaimed from the sea, and that means much of it is below sea level.  Because of this, the Dutch have engineered all sorts of dykes and canals, which is why Amsterdam has so many canals.  It was almost like Venice, except the canals were laid out more orderly, and it was way easier to navigate since there were also roads.  Also, the city was extremely flat, which might explain the huge number of bikes.  Apparently, there are more bikes in the city than there are people!  There are 1.4 bikes for every 1 person, according to some local Dutch guy.  This is because everyone typically has an extra bike lying around in case they have guests.  So if Doug and I lived there, we would not only have a bike for each of us, but an extra bike in case someone came to visit.

Beautiful canal

We stayed at a really cool hotel called Hotel Weichmann (props again to Caitlin for finding it).  They had free candy at the front desk, a really cool dog named Taz, free breakfast, free wifi, and the steepest staircases I’ve ever seen.

Hotel Wiechmann

The girls room… this picture cracks me up. Doug missed the memo.

So we did take a walk through the red light district because we wanted to see if it was like everyone said.  And yep, it really was.  There are girls in the windows only wearing lingerie.  And guys were walking up to the doors, negotiating a price, and then going into the rooms.  Then the red curtains would be pulled shut.  It was really crazy to see that sort of thing going on and it being completely legal.  There were also coffee shops all around and you could definitely smell weed.  It felt very unreal being in this area. I didn’t take many pictures because surely that’s gotta be illegal, right?  Well, it didn’t seem like anything was illegal, so maybe not.

Red Light District

We also took a canal boat cruise which was a really great way to see the sites and have a guide explain everything.  The city is not that big, so everything is really crowded, and real estate is very expensive.  There were tons of house boats, too, which was cool to see!

Girls on boat cruise

Me and Doug on boat cruise

You can see a house boat here

A really cool building we saw on the boat cruise: NEMO, the science museum

One of the coolest views in Amsterdam according to the cruise guide. You can see seven bridges from here.

We also did some cultural things which included the Anne Frank house and the Van Gogh museum.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures in either place.  However, the Anne Frank house was cool, and I was very glad we had pre-booked our tickets because we got to skip the queue.  Even though I’m a queuing expert after the Wimbledon experience, I think I have exhausted all my patience, so it was nice to just go straight in.  Anyway, the Anne Frank house is the actual hiding place of Anne Frank and her family.  Although the furniture has been removed, you still go through the secret door to get inside the hiding space, and there are pictures so you can see what it would have looked like at the time.  It really gave you an idea of the life they were living, and it was very moving.  I can’t imagine living in that small area for 2 years of my life.

S.L.U.T.s outside Anne Frank house

The Van Gogh museum was less impressive.  They had some of his famous paintings like his self-portrait and the sunflowers, but overall I’m not sure it was worth the 14 euros that it cost to get in.  And there was no mention anywhere of him cutting off his ear!!  We were all searching for some information about that, but couldn’t find anything!  We even started doubting that Van Gogh was the artist who cut off his ear.  A little google search reaffirmed that it was him, but there is some controversy over whether he cut it off or his other artist buddy cut it off in a dispute over a prostitute.  Classy.

Van Gogh museum

Amsterdam had something else that I had never seen before: public urinals right on the sidewalk.  I guess this makes it easier for guys to go whenever they need to, and also stops guys from just going wherever they can find (like maybe a canal?).  So that seems like it would be a good idea, but what about the girls?!?  I snapped a picture of Doug using one, hehehe.

Street urinal

And of course, we had to go by the “I amsterdam” letters.  We took a bunch of pictures there, and here are some of my favs.

I amsterdam

The whole group

Just the S.L.U.T.s

Doug and I also went to the Heineken experience.  Actually, we went to the brewery, saw that the experience was 17 euros per person, looked around the gift shop, and then went across the street to a local pub to have our own Heineken experience for much cheaper.  It was delicious!

Heineken brewery

Our Heineken experience

We also rented bikes for a day so that we could explore the city like the locals!  It was really the best way to get around!  We had tons of fun on the bikes, despite almost getting run over or crashing multiple times.

Bicycles!

Snapped this bike picture while riding. It was a lot harder than it sounds. I probably almost crashed after taking this.

We took our bikes to the Bloemenmarkt, which is the world’s only floating flower market.  The Netherlands are known for their tulips, so of course there were tons of bulbs that you could buy, along with tons of other flowers.  It made me really wish I had a garden so that I could get something cool!  But alas, our 3rd floor flat is not going to work with that.

Bloemenmarkt – floating flower market

We also took our bikes over to the Albert Cuyp market, which is probably the biggest street market in all of Europe.  It was enormous!  And there was everything that you could imagine!  Fruits, veggies, clothes, souvenirs, fish, baked goods, crafts, and even toothpaste!  It was really cool and we didn’t even see all of it because it was so huge!

Albert Cuyp street market

The Dutch aren’t really known for their cuisine, but we did have plenty of good waffles, fries, and pancakes.  Here is a shot of Doug stuffing his face with a waffle served with ice cream.

nom nom

Amsterdam also has a large Indonesian population, so we got Indonesian food one of the nights.  It was delicious!  And decently spicy, which is a plus for me, although not so much for some of the other girls (ahem, Spaz).  I got a mixed platter which was basically a sampling of a bunch of the dishes.  Really delicious!

Indonesian food

So that about wraps up the S.L.U.T. reunion.  I’ll include a few more pictures of Amsterdam because it was so pretty and I can’t resist!

Picturesque Amsterdam

Cool shot

View from hotel room at night

I know this was a really long post and it took me about two nights to write it.  Hope you enjoyed it if you’ve made it this far.  It was a really great reunion and so nice to see some of my best friends!  I’m actually going to see them again really soon because another S.L.U.T. (Rach, who couldn’t make this trip) is getting married in August in Vail, Colorado, and we will all be there!  Can’t wait to see y’all again!

xoxo

Tara

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