We spent the rest of the evening packing. I wrapped some of the more fragile souvenirs in my newly laundered clothes and had a bit of trouble figuring out how to fit all my things in the two bags I had brought with me.
Thankfully our hotel room was much bigger and I had more space to spread my things out. I don’t know why, but I find it difficult to pack in a tiny room.
May 13, 2011 Friday
Maiko had gotten really sick during the night. She couldn’t sleep at all due to her stomach pains.
That morning, Maiko couldn’t even think of eating. She was feeling very ill and I was already beginning to wonder how we would survive the last day of our trip.
I called for a cab around 7:30am, thinking it should be enough time to get us to the station. After all, the station was only 5 minutes away by car.
15 minutes later, the cab still hadn’t arrived. I walked to the nearby Tesco grocery store where I had seen a line of cabs last night, but there were no cabs there either. At around 8am, I hailed an empty cab.
The cab driver stopped and asked where I was headed. I told him we needed to get to the train station fast. And then he asked me if I was the one who had called for a cab earlier.
I said yes, climbed in, and instructed him to go to the Qudos Inn across the street where I had left Maiko with our bags.
The cab driver helped us load our big bags, and Maiko and I got in. It was already 8am. The train for London would leave at 8:15am and we still had to buy tickets and walk to the platform.
As soon as we got to the train station, I paid the cabby, and Maiko and I hurried inside. Maiko purchased our train tickets from a young man who took his sweet time. As soon as he handed us our tickets, we dragged our heavy bags through the ticket gate and ran to the assigned platform.
I was worried about Maiko. She was sick and weak and had two big bags to carry. I would’ve carried her bags for her, but I already had 2 big bags, plus the extra duffel bag Maiko had brought to act as a catch-all bag for last minute things we might have forgotten to put away.
We ran to the platform. If we missed the train, we would have to wait a few more hours to get to Wimbledon. A train attendant saw us running and gave the train driver a signal to wait. We jumped into the train and five seconds later, the door closed behind us.
Maiko found an empty seat and I arranged our bags in the baggage shelf in the corner of the train.
Maiko slept the whole train ride. At one point, I encouraged her to eat some of the Danish pastry and drink some juice. One bite was all she could manage.
Two hours later, Maiko and I gathered our things and moved closer to the door. Our stop was still minutes away, but we wanted to be ready.
Before the train arrived at Clapham Junction, Maiko went into the train’s toilet and threw up again. She felt better after throwing up, but still felt weak.
I was really worried about her. She couldn’t seem to keep any food down and we still had a long way to go before we reached our hotel in Wimbledon.
We dragged our bags up some stairs, walked across to the other side of the station and lumbered down more steps to the platform. We got there just in time to see the train to Wimbledon open its doors.
We stepped inside the train and waited for our journey to end. I was cursing myself for bringing too many things and buying too many books. I promised myself that next time I would pack so light that all I’d bring was a toothbrush and some underwear—and my camera, of course.
As soon as we arrived at the Wimbledon Station, I immediately went to work looking for a cab. The construction going on around the station added to the heat of the day made for one uncomfortable journey. I left Maiko with our bags and asked a nearby shopkeeper where I could find some cabs. He pointed me in the right direction, and minutes later, we were in a cab bound for the Premier Inn Hotel.
The cab dropped us off at the parking lot entrance and Maiko and I dragged our bags through the elevator and up to the reception area. She rested on one of the chairs while I asked the clerk if I could check in earlier. Luckily, she said our room was ready.
She handed me the card keys and I picked up my bags and we trundled back toward the elevators up to our 3rd floor room.
Each floor of the building had a door that required a card key. I was getting annoyed at the many doors we had to swipe and push open before we finally got to our room. It would’ve been okay if I didn’t have three huge bags with me.
As soon as we got to our room, I threw the bags to the side and breathed a sigh of relief. Maiko found the nearest couch and lay down to rest.
At least the hotel room was nice. Twice as nice as Qudos and ten times better than Arriva’s tiny room.
I inspected all the amenities and found that the lights wouldn’t work—and that there was no electricity. I was about to call the concierge when I noticed a small card slot by the door.
I inserted the card into it and the room immediately came alive. All the lights I had been testing earlier switched on.
“Cool!” I said, amazed at the whole “hi-techy” feel of the room.
I let Maiko rest on the bed while I organized our things. It was already 11am and the Wimbledon Tour we had booked was at 12:30pm.
Maiko was feeling so sick and I felt horrible that she had to go through that on this particular day. Today was the day she had been waiting for. This had been her only request when I planned our itinerary—she wanted to visit the Wimbledon Tennis Stadium. And now she was so sick she could barely sit up.
I asked her if she just wanted to stay in and rest. But Maiko, being the trooper that she is, said she didn’t want to miss out on Wimbledon. So she dragged herself from the bed and we walked downstairs.
We spent half an hour looking for the bus that would take us to Wimbledon. We followed the instructions the front desk clerk had given.
Halfway on our journey, we realized we were on the wrong bus. The front desk clerk had said to go on the 57, but when Maiko checked her London Pass guidebook, it said to take a different bus number to Wimbledon. We hopped off at the next stop and tried looking for the right bus.
I was getting frustrated. Maiko wasn’t feeling well and I didn’t want her to have to walk any more than she had to. I found a cab and we hopped in to go to Wimbledon.
We arrived at Wimbledon Tennis Stadium at 12:30pm. We went to the museum/shop and I asked one of the workers there about the tour. I explained that we had missed the tour we had booked because we had gotten a little lost on the way there.
They said it was no problem, and set us up for the 1pm tour. The tour would’ve cost us £27.50, but since we had our London Pass card, it was free.
Maiko just wanted to sit down so she found a bench at the museum below the store and just rested there.
I checked out the various things they sold at the shop so I could report to her, and then I joined her by the museum bench.
Five minutes before 1pm, we walked outside to wait. A tall lady appeared and introduced herself as our tour guide.
The tour guide led us a few steps toward the ticket office. She pointed to the several ticket booths, which were at the moment covered up with green tarp. This was where thousands of tennis fans would stream through in June to get into the stadiums.
The guide then led us up the road to our first major stop of the tour: the famous No. 1 Court.
Outside Court No. 1 Level 3
I didn’t know much about tennis, but I appreciated the sport and enjoyed learning about its beginnings and about the many historic games played on the various courts.
In front of Court No. 1 was a hill known as Henman Hill, where crowds without a ticket gather to watch live tennis matches on a giant video screen. Now the hill is known as Murray Mound, after current British No. 1 Andy Murray.
Beside the hill were some giant steps, and this is where the tour guide led us.
Maiko had a difficult time climbing the steps, but she slogged on through. From the top of the steps, we could see a good view of the various buildings within the Wimbledon stadium.
To the left was Murray Mound, and our guide let us walk on the grass and take pictures of the Wimbledon logo and year fenced in on the hill.
The guide led us back down the steps towards another famous court.
Court No. 18
Last year, history was made on Court No. 18 when John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played the longest game in tennis history. After 11 hours, 5 minutes and 183 games played over three days, Isner finally ended the match with a win.
Soon, our group was moving again. We stopped in front of a large well-tended lawn and the guide talked a little bit more about the various buildings surrounding us.
I made sure to take lots of pictures of the stadiums for Maiko. She was so weak she could barely walk. Every time Maiko found a place to rest, she would sit down.
Our tour allowed us special access into areas normally restricted to players and other court officials. So we lucky ones got to go into the Press Centre, where press conferences are held.
The Press Centre is where players go after matches for interviews. I could almost picture Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal sitting on the the stage and being interviewed by hundreds of media people.
The tour guide encouraged us to go on the platform to take pictures. We were on the first row of seats, so Maiko got to go on the platform and take her picture first.
I wanted to take a better shot, but Maiko was already so weak, she didn’t want to stall the tour any further. We followed the rest of the group out of the press centre room and into another part of the building.
The guide led us to the players only area. This is where players would sign in before their tennis matches.
Behind the counter hung pictures of the 2010 Wimbledon Champions Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams.
The guide then led us out onto a gangway leading to another building.
We entered a small door and found ourselves in a room where the names of all the tennis champions were displayed.
We didn’t stay too long in this room however. We walked down some steps and followed the guide outside toward the final stop of our tour.
The Centre Court at Wimbledon is the most famous of all the courts there, as it is where all the championship games are played.
The guide told us that the Centre Court is only used for two weeks out of the whole year. It is tended to by a gardener, whose only job is to maintain the lawn and keep the grass at a specific length throughout the year.
I wish Maiko had been felt better. As it was, she was too sick to fully enjoy the view. But being the trooper that she was, she struggled to finish the whole tour and even put on a brave smile for the camera.
Once everyone had finished taking pictures, the tour guide left and we all went our separate ways.
Maiko and I passed the great wall near the Centre Court, where giant posters of past champions hung.
The tour had taken an hour or so. It was already 2PM by the time we got back to the museum, where we had started. We needed to each lunch, so we headed for the cafe across the museum/shop. A quote by Goran Ivanisevic hung on the wall right at the entrance into the cafe. I took a picture of Maiko beneath the quote. I felt that it fitted her nicely. She was a champion for finishing the tour despite her sickness.
Maiko being a champion on tour day
I ordered some sandwiches for myself and some bread and soup for Maiko. I didn’t mind that the food was overpriced and not so tasty. We both needed to get some food into our system. Maiko was afraid that she would throw up again, but thankfully she managed to keep the food down.
After a quick lunch, we went back into the museum/shop. Maiko immediately found a chair to sit on. She just wanted to go back to the hotel and lie down.
I felt really bad for her. She had been looking forward to Wimbledon the whole trip. She’d even withdrawn extra cash so she could buy tons of souvenirs at the shop. But now she was so sick, she couldn’t even think about shopping.
I didn’t want her to miss out, so I quickly went around the shop and bought her some souvenirs. As I paid for them, I asked the cashier where we could find a cab. She offered to get us one and quickly picked up the phone to call us a cab. I thanked her, and Maiko and I went outside to wait for our cab.
We were finally Wimble-done with our tour. We took pictures outside the gate while we waited for the cab.
The cab arrived 15 minutes later. Maiko tumbled in gratefully, and slept the whole way back to the hotel.
As soon as we got to our room at 3PM, Maiko changed into her bedtime clothes and slept.
She slept from 3PM until 8am the following day.
Meanwhile, I went about quietly, organizing my things and trying to get internet service so I could check my email.
We were supposed to meet up with my former student Frances again that day. Maiko said I should still meet up with Frances and she was fine just sleeping at the hotel.
When Frances heard that Maiko was sick, she insisted on meeting up with me at the hotel so that we wouldn’t be too far from Maiko if she needed us. We ended up having dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.
I had my first taste of bangers and mash while Frances ordered some kind of curry.
Frances and I talked for three hours, and were the last customers to leave the restaurant that night. At the end of our long dinner, I asked one of the waitresses if she could take a picture of us. The waitress must have been wondering about why it had taken has 3 hours to finish dinner, and I felt the need to explain that Frances and I hadn’t seen each other in 7 years.
I invited Frances up to our room so she could say hello to Maiko and give us our goodbye presents. Maiko woke up for a little bit to talk to Frances and drink some water before falling right back asleep.
Then Frances and I said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch.
Tomorrow Maiko and I were leaving for home and I prayed that she would feel much better as we had a long journey ahead of us.
Tomorrow–The Journey Home
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