An International $20 Adventure

Our adventure began when Dave Clark sold Elaine a $20 raffle ticket last fall.  The raffle was a fund raiser for the Baltimore Bays soccer teams (we’ve now learned that it is really ‘football’, but more about that later).  The prize was two tickets to a Premier League Football match in London and include the flights and four nights in the Copthrone Hotel at the Chelsea Football Club – what a prize.

Life is complicated.  My shoulder injury and subsequent surgery in mid December prevented us from getting to London until April. The Bays folks worked out tickets for a match on April 14 – Chelsea/Newcastle United.  With hotel reservations and airline tickets in hand, there was yet another twist; the FA Cup semi-finals were scheduled for April 14 and the Chelsea game was postponed.  The Bays and their friends at the Chelsea Football Club came through yet again! We had tickets for a pair of great seats to the FA Cup match in Wembley Park, one of the newest and largest stadiums in the world.  Liverpool was playing Everton for the right to play in the FA Cup finals on May 5.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Elaine and I flew from Dulles to London on Tuesday night, arriving early on Wednesday morning. We figured out how to purchase Oyster cards, the London transit multi-trip payment card, and headed for the Hotel; about an hour from Heathrow. Once our bags were dropped at the Copthrone, it was time to start doing London.  First stop, Keningston Castle and a walk up the Broad Walk.  After looking for a museum that didn’t exist anymore (I finally remembered that my Pop-up Map was over 10 years old and just possibly out of date), we bought two day tickets on The Big Bus loop tour. These tickets included a river trip up the Thames river to Greenwich, the time place.  We were tired enough so that sitting on the boat was great and provide some unique views of London.

Thursday, after completing most do the Bus tour, we started our real museum quest.  It appears that we picked a Spring Vacation week for all London area school kids and most of the museums were FULL of families. We attempted to scheme our way around the crowds, but we only had limited success.

We started Friday by finding half priced tickets to Rock of Ages for an 8:30 performance (3rd row, no less).  Then it was off to do more wandering, museums, wandering, and dinner before a great show – now I’m starting to get tired of trains and walking.

The Chelsea stadium was at our hotel – getting to a game would have been super simple. The trip to Wembley Park took about an hour of bus and Underground, that  was mostly above ground – London public transit is really something! It wasn’t hard to find the way, we just followed the Red and the Blue football jerseys – there were thousands of them going our way!  We noticed that the fans even separated on the broad walkway heading to the stadium – Red on the left, Blue on the Right.

Our seats were great – in NFL terms, about the 10 yard line, in the center of the lower section of the very Red, Liverpool half of the stadium. The eastern half of the stadium was Liverpool territory (Red) and the western half was filled with Blue, Everton fans – we were possibly the only neutral folks in 87,231 crowd! These fans LOVE their teams.  The passion is deep enough so there is a “no man’s land” between the stadium halves, enforced be lots of security folks – no one crosses the zone! And these folks go LOUD when about anything happens, except the other guys scoring.  Their cheering includes multi-verse songs! We were lucky enough to be near the goal where all the goals were scored – some crazy stuff! I played “American fan” by leaving just after Liverpool scored their second unanswered goal, less than 10 minutes left on the clock – the crowd hadn’t started to move as we made our way to the train station. The London Police were pretty much ready for ANYTHING!  We walked through row after row of mounted police and hundreds of foot patrol officers.

What an experience! Thanks to the Bays, especially Hope Lookingland and Kevin Healey for their hard work to make it happen for us!

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