Guest Post: the rugby

Another post from the ‘rents today since their life seems to be a little more exciting at the moment…

Well I’m afraid to say that Kelly has roped me into doing a guest blog again. I managed to get out of the last one, and in fact it was so long ago I can’t even remember what it was meant to be about…phew! However, there is no escaping this one and pleading old age and forgetfulness is apparently no longer an option.
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So, last week, I got a phone call from Colin asking what our plans were for the weekend which were originally to take the Friday off and go to the lakes in Doris (afterall, we had to try out the new kitchen!). But with a last minute change of plan we were instead going to Twickenham to watch the rugby, England V Ireland in the Six Nations.
Now that all sounds simple doesn’t it? Except……trains to London with 4 days notice are incredibly expensive, hotels in London are incredibly expensive irrespective of when they get booked and the option of staying at the in laws is blighted due to Doris being a bit wider than a car and them living on a fairly narrow road with no off street parking – wing mirrors for a T5 are pretty pricey units! After giving due consideration of the logistics, and on the suggestion of Rob, my father in law, we looked at staying in Heathrow which has a direct tube link into central London.

After a couple of nights trawling through all the hotel booking sites I know, a couple of phone calls to some of the hotels which were answered by international employees who couldn’t quite get the grasp of my accent, we finally settled on the Park Inn at Heathrow which had the secure parking we were mainly looking for and was close to Heathrow Airport. Friday morning came and we had a lovely leisurely start to the day with no pressure on getting anywhere quickly which was good as the traffic on the A1 and M1 was horrible, I had forgotten how dreadful the journey can be as we haven’t done it for so long – gone are the days of doing it pretty much every weekend!
On arrival at Heathrow, we found the hotel, parked up and checked in. An exceptionally painless procedure and a very helpful receptionist, who gave us the bus numbers for the airport, told us we were in a free bus zone and where to catch the bus from.

The room was lovely, large enough to include 2 armchairs and a small occasional table, with a lovely huge bed (I know its really 2 singles zipped together but it was still really comfy and felt spacious!).

Leaving the hotel we followed Lara’s directions, found our bus stop and waiting no more than 5 minutes we were Heathrow bound. Fortunately we have 2 oyster cards that we keep for any possible trips to London (yeah I know in my dreams!). Topping them up, we were London bound. The tube journey was a fairly long one, taking about 45 minutes each way. Getting off at Piccadilly we had a lovely mooch about, getting our bearings and working out where to eat. We saw a nice looking Mexican restaurant next to the Palace Theatre, but doing our normal trick carried on looking ‘just in case’……..mind after looking at a couple of places in Covent Garden and deciding actually I was now hungry Colin managed to guide us back to La Bodegra Negra, for our tea!

We shared tortilla chips and guacamole (essential Mexican food!) and then Colin had a crab burger and I had a roast corn salad. Unfortunately both were disappointing, Colin’s burger came out way before my salad which when it came was literally a plate of sweetcorn, baked tortilla bits for crunch (at least that’s what we thought they were, they may not have been of course but they did add a nice change of texture!), chillies and coriander. It was very tasty but I think I may have made a different choice if we realised that was it, I guess I was expecting salad as we know it with the old lettuce and tomato bits! Although something to make if we ever get round to having our red neck party… Maybe if we had known we would have ordered some tacos or quesadillas with it but we didn’t so we didn’t.

Fancying a little something more we found our way back to the pop up Jamie’s takeout where we had planned to perhaps share a portion of chips………………I say planned because we actually had a burger as well as the fries with some coleslaw!! And blooming lush it was to!! I could of quite happily scoffed that whole burger but restrained myself to 3 ladylike (large admittedly!) bites. After a stroll, we found an awesome shop called Whole Foods Market . Oh my word, what a fantastic shop, seriously we could of spent hours walking round, tasting all the goodies. What a selection of food; I would never cook again if I lived near there! Fully stuffed we decided to head back to the hotel at Heathrow. The tube was heaving and so busy you really didn’t need to hold onto anything as there was absolutely no way you would fall over! Thankfully this eased off at Earls Court and we were able to breathe and sit down.

Somehow, a bottle of prosecco had found its way into Doris on Friday morning, so not wanting to leave that outside all night, we decided to collect it and then the cork popped so we just had to drink some, along with the top falling off a lovely tub of snackers……..a most pleasant evening ensued of nibbling crisps and drinking!

Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny, a good sign hopefully for the rest of the day. After a fortifying breakfast we got into London fairly early on as we had arranged to meet Colin’s mum and dad for the morning. We took them to Bill’s in Covent Garden, a small eatery we found last time we were in London with our friends Steve and Debbie that we had all enjoyed for a leisurely Sunday breakfast, and yet again it was lovely. I opted for blueberry pancakes as I had had pancakes on my mind for nearly a fortnight and hadn’t caved in, Colin and his mum had the sourdough toast, which would have been lovely if the staff had remembered to bring out some jam, but you know when the toast just looks proper scrummy and crunchy? Yeah that! Rob chose the full English breakfast which again looked superb. Although they had asked us to be fairly quick as the table was reserved, the staff did not hurry us or put any pressure on us during our time there, definitely somewhere to go again and perhaps try a slightly later meal than the brunch!

Walking round London with Rob is always so interesting, knowing London so well and knowing the history you get to hear the good stuff, it’s like having your own personal tour guide and just makes the day.

Rob guided us gently to Waterloo Station, telling me that Waterloo was the biggest station in London and the Eurostar used to depart from there but sadly the purpose built terminal is now defunct and not used. He was right, Waterloo station is enormous and the Eurostar terminal is just there and looking very sad and unloved. Rob had also suggested that we could perhaps make part if not all our journey using the oyster cards but we were better off checking….just in case! Queuing up was a mare, I did think we would be there forever with the length of the queue but in no time at all, it was our turn and I have to say I am most impressed with all the train and tube staff we spoke to, they were all incredibly helpful and friendly and never made it seem like a stupid question which was really rather nice actually.

Fortunately for us, we were one of the first few on the next train to Twickenham, I say fortunately because within minutes the train was packed with the very humorous and sarcastic train guard requesting that all the ’very selfish passengers’ move down the aisles as much as possible to allow their fellow travellers on board. Once at Twickenham you could almost feel the carriages sigh with relief as the majority of passengers disembarked!
Not really knowing where to go was not an issue, it was pretty much one way pedestrian traffic to the grounds. The walk through was amazing, so many homes had converted or hired out their front gardens to sell merchandise or provide refreshments, everything from doughnuts to hot dogs, to bratwurst to boerewors, the sights and sounds were amazing and to be honest if I lived on that walkway I would be serving food and drink as well!
The stadium is huge, much bigger than I had thought, Colin has been there before whereas this was my first (and hopefully not my last) visit. The organisers have it down to a T. It’s a very well oiled machine from start to finish with marshals available to help where you needed to be. We had a wander round, just nebbing at all the sights, eying up people’s picnics in the VIP area, (we saw Bill Beaumont, well Colin did, I only did when he pointed him out to me!). We did a full lap of the outside of the stadium; there were so many people in various outfits from leprechauns to English knights and shades of green in between!

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Colin also made use of his O2 priority moments for the first time ever which got us into the O2 Blue Room, a free drink and free pie and mash for both of us….a great time to use it in my opinion!
We had heard that Stuart Lancaster was walking the team a bit further for this round instead of the coach dropping off at the normal gates and seeing as people were beginning to form a ‘wall’ and the high viz jacketed personnel were forming a human barricade we guessed it was nearly time to watch the teams arrive. Being a person of short stature at least within my household, I held my camera up and prayed for the best.

The atmosphere between fans was fantastic as everyone just wanted a good game between the 2 teams with no animosity showed at all which makes it all so much more enjoyable.
We headed up to our seats, and by up boy do I mean up!! I don’t like heights so it was a very interesting stair climb to the top of the stadium

What a view though! A quick whizz round the stadium checking out all the different views from each area, looking at the countless queues for the bars and the toilets and then that was it……time for kick off……Well it was electric, we were in with about 3 other English fans amongst a sea of green and the depth of passion for the Ireland anthem was spine tingling, what an atmosphere, I loved it, I loved every second of it, from meeting Janine sat next to me, giving me hints about how its best to drink Guinness if it wasn’t really my bag, telling me she had got the tickets for her (English) husbands 40th birthday, to listening to the Irish guys who seriously could see so clearly on the pitch they were noticing incidents before the ref was blowing. The game was so fast paced from the first whistle to it suddenly being half time.

Did I say how much I loved it? The second half was as good as the first and was as fast again, how both sides maintained that pace throughout is astounding. I couldn’t have hoped for a better game to go and watch for my first international. Words cannot describe fully the atmosphere, the hair standing on end when the crowd got behind England and started singing Sweet Chariot, or when the crowd, whichever side started shouting ‘heave’. In my own personal opinion I wouldn’t have minded which team won, but I was mighty pleased it was England.
We had been warned that leaving Twickenham after the match was a bit of a nightmare with being held in pens etc for trains but it wasn’t like that at all, we queued for one bus, thought it was a bit wrong, asked for advice, walked half a mile down the road, jumped on the double decker waiting and within minutes we were whizzing our way to Hounslow Bus Station and from there it was a short walk to the tube station and back in Heathrow within the hour.
Just time for a meal before retiring off for the evening still reflecting on the match and how impressed we had been with the organisation and the friendliness of everybody we had encountered.
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Sunday morning we woke leisurely, packed up and went and filled up on another scrummy breakfast before making our way homeward. With fortunately less traffic than the outward journey we were home in time for the shopping run to Sainsburys and back to the Sunday night routine of prepping for a normal working week.
Its strange sitting here writing this, to think we packed all that into a weekend, but what a weekend!
Maybe next weekend I can try my new kitchen…

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