4th of March 2011 - 7th of March 2011
Arsenal - Sunderland
For the very first time in the history of our Sunderland trips there was a trip planned to an away game in London. (Apart from the Play-off final at Wembley, but that was a day-trip). Nick had tried to delay a London trip as long as possible (London is way too big), but Jon kept telling him about the Church and that the new Arsenal ground the best in the country is at the moment. So finally Nick agreed. Also in party were Drew, Frido, Nilis and Sven.
Fridaymorning: As usual the last couple of trips we met at the Nachtgaal busstop and from there by bus to Schiphol. We had Easyjet this time and we flew to London Luton. From there we had the train to our hotel that was close to train/metro station Kings Cross/St. Pancras. Jon had found this hotel. It was a nice hotel and the location was ideal for us that weekend. And at felling distance there was a great Irish pub (O'Neills). We arrived earlier than Jon (he would arrive late in the afternoon) so we checked in at the hotel, had a quick pint and a bite at O'Neills, because we had a lot to do on the first day.
It was time to discover the tube. First of all is memorizing the tube-map. It looks very complicated and you've got a big problem if you're colourblind. But after a good look and a walk underground everything was clear. The first stop was St. John's Wood (after a change of lines ofcourse). This was the stop closest to the Abbey Road Studio's. We thought it was way too quiet at the tube-station. Was this the correct stop? We walked towards the next street where the studio was. When we came closer we knew that we were at the right place. The famous zebra-crossing was full of people and photographers. Unbelievable to see that some white lines are that famous and people from all over the world want to have their photo taken on that crossing. Just because some years ago four famous people walked on the same crossing. Nilis was very happy to add this to his very own Beatles memory.
But his was just the first highlight of the day. To get to the next we had to get to the metro again. Tube-stop Wembley Park. We had booked a tour at the "new" Wembley. The famous "road to Wembley" brought back great memories to Nick of the famous 4-4 play-off final vs. Charlton. It was a red and white sea on that day, this day it were just five Dutch Lads. We had some time to walk around before the tour started. The arch that can be seen from very far out, and at the main-entrance the statue of Bobby Moore. We had to meet the tour-stewart at a lounge where the crossbar of 1966 was. The year when England won the world cup. And was it a goal or wasn't it? After all those years we finally know that Geoff Hurst his shot bounced back from the crossbar on the pitch and that it was 6 cm before the goalline. But at that moment the referee awarded a goal and 3-2 to England. That's why that crossbar is very important to English football history. What a start of the tour this was. Everyone listend very carefully to the guide. We walked all around the stadium, the dressingrooms with the England tops and we ended at the famous stairs where we had our photo taken with the FA Cup.
During the tour I missed some texts fro Jon. He had already arrived and asked where we would meet. I suggested that we would get back to the hotel and meet there. From there we had to go to a curry-house that was booked for the night. But this wasn't just an ordinary curry-house. It was the favourite restaurant of Mick Jagger! We had a look at the menu on the internet before we booked and noticed that these were prices for a restaurant that we normally don't get in. But we agreed to give it a try. The arrival at the Bombay Brasserie was already very special. We were taken to a lounge where we could have our first drinks. Our table was made and when we finished our drink we were taken to our table. The carpet was that thick that you could not see your shoes when you walked. And the chandeliers where that big that I thought they only existed in films. But we were there for the food, so not get too overexcited. We were almost whispering at the table, we were that impressed. Until Nick's phone had a loud text coming in sound. It was Mark. He managed to get las minute Arsenal tickets and he would arrive the next morning. I texted back that we would have contact again the next morning because we were in a very special restaurant and it might be irritating for the other guests to get those text message sounds in there. What followed was 14 loud sounds. The first text was: "OK", the second text: "NICK", the third: "SEE", fourth: "YOU", fifth: "TOMORROW", sixth: "I", seventh: "HOPE", eighth "YOU", ninth: "WILL", tenth: "ENJOY", eleventh: "YOUR", twelfth "MEAL", thirteenth: "GREETINGS", fourteenth: "MARK". The first thing that arrived was an amuse. After that we had a starter, a main dish, dessert and an Irish Coffee. And I have to admit: I have never had such a delicious meal in my life. Everything was perfect. What a brilliant experience. Nilis took a businesscard with him for whenever he had to be in London for work he will get in there again.
Saturday: Matchday ! We woke up nice and early. Nilis didn't have a good night. But he was next to the window where there were sounds of sirens for half of the night. When he had a quick look out of the window at 8.30 AM he just saw Nick coming out of Starbucks that was across the road. He had four coffees and a tea with him. Well, that's a nice room-service. Jon had offered to take us on a tourist tour in the morning. In two hours he would take us past the most touristic spots in London. So after breakfast we got into the tube and saw Buckingham Palace, the Big Ben, The Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. That was a quick cultural tour! And very efficiency timewise. We even had time for some pints in the Irish pub where we met Tony who lives in London at the moment and had just become a proud dad of a son. After that is was time to leave for the Emirates ground.
The Emirates is a quite new ground, so very good to get to by tube and it doesn't feel that busy around the ground. We had a burger and ejoyed the football mad people around us. Inside the ground we noticed why Jon said this was the best ground in England at the moment. The away area was situated in a corner and behind the goal. Very good spots and legroom more that enough. We'd also spotted Mark and Sam so we had a quick chat before the game started. The game was excactly like we thought it would be. Arsenal was in control and Sunderland was looking for a counter. Arsenal had to win to still have some chances for the title. But they didn't look like a fighting team. Nicklas Bendtner was the most dangerous player for Arsenal. Just before halftime he tried a spectaculair overhead kick, but Mignolet saved. In the second half Arsenal were a bit more dangerous and Wilshere crossed for Chamakh but it ended at the crossbar. Just before the end of the game the best chances appeared. First of all it was Sessegnon who got passed Clichy, crossed for Danny Welbeck who controlled the ball and placed it in the corner where Szczesny could only just divert the ball behind for a corner. Just after that it was a counter for Arsenal and Arshavin got passed Mignolet to place the ball in the empty goal, but the linesman ruled it out for off-side. The game ended in 0-0. One point won for Sunderland, but the Arsenal fans weren't that happy and they let that know. The title was gone.
After the game we walked together with Mark and Sam to a pub close to the stadium. But we weren't allowed to get in because we were away supporters. So back to the tube and to the hotel. We had plans ready for the night so we had to change our football-tops. Close to the hotel there was a venue called Monto Water Rats where the Detroit Social Club would play that night. In history the Monto Water Rats was also the venue where Bob Dylan played his first ever gig in the UK (1962). It was also the place where the Pogues played their first ever live show (1982) and also the first London based venue where Oasis played (1994). Across the street of the venue there was a pub, so ideal to get some food. Around nine we went into the Monto Club. It was very small. There were two big "living"-rooms. The place was packed and it was so packed that some of us even went back to the front room where a very loud DJ was playing. The band was alright but we didn't know any of their songs. In the venue Jon bumped into Chris Andrew's (from Sunderland) sister Nicola. Unbelievable. And the Detroit Social Club is also a band from Sunderland. This can't just be just by incident... Most of the Lads went back to the hotel when the gig was finished. Jon, Drew and Nick didn't and were thrown out at closing time together with the band. It was a good night.
Sunday: The breakfast in the hotel wasn't that good, so we decided to have breakfast at the Subway shop, just around the corner. Well, I can understand that it's not the best job in the world and that it's not nice to work on a Sunday morning, but to have this written all over your face is not nice for the customers. Some real uninterested blokes made our breakfast, and irritated we tried to enjoy our breakfast. We needed some stomach fills because at 11 AM we had to get the train to the Church. Jon was talking about this for years and we finally had to get ready for this concept. For the third time in a very short period the Church had changed venues because of complaints from the neighbourhood. It was now in a club that looked a bit like the Paradiso in Amsterdam, but it looked much older. Jon expected a queue so we arrived early. Start was 1 PM and we were the first in line. We immediately got the question if we had interest in joining the boatrace. We had no idea what it was, so we refused. In the end that was a good choice.
The place opened, we bought some tokens (5 Pounds per token) and we went inside. It was comletely empty and cold inside. Should this be fun? Well, off to the bar, we had some tokens to spend. For 1 token you got a plastic bag with 3 cans of beer and ice to keep them cold. What an idea. The volume of the music was turned up and we noticed there were lots of dressed up groups that came in. On the balcony (that was closed for the public) there were three camera's that were filming the crowd. On the big screen on the stage you could watch stills of these recordings and some funny one-liners underneath. Mostly the women in the crowd were filmed, but Jon, Frido and Nilis were also spotted. About an hour later the place was filled, the music was very good (most of it rock) and the bags of beer kept coming in. There was also entertainment on stage with a nail-swallower and a striptease. Then it was time for the boatrace on stage. They started in the quarter finals. Two rows of four people sitting behind each-other. They all had a can of beer in their hands. The one on front had to start drinking and finish the can as quickly as possible. When he/she finished it it had to be placed upside-down on top of your head (to make sure it's empty). That is also the sign for number two to start drinking and so on. The winning team got into the semi-final and after that the final. Anyway...drunk ! We agreed that this wasn't a good game for us. Only Nilis knows how to finish a pint quickly. Because of all that beer you have to visit the toilets a lot. A huge dark bloke would welcome you and after giving him a tip, you could get some refreshing perfumes or eau de toilettes.Frido only had a 2 Pound coin so the big man never forgot his face. And after five visits Frido smelled like a complete perfume store. At 5PM the lights went on and the brooms appeared. A huge mountain of empty cans was the result.
We followed Jon to the exit and from the dark inside we went into a complete light London afternoon. Your eyed had to get used to this light for about fifteen minutes and then we realised how drunk we already were. Jon's female colleague from London (with who he had agreed to meet in the Church) took us through the London city centre. Well try to follow someone who knows her way in London when you are drunk. Within a couple of minutes we had everyone missing. We went to a huge square with a high building where you could get in. Inside you could get a drink and go to the balcony with view over the square. After that we went to a sports-bar for some pool-playing and nachos. We also phoned Frido's mum who had her 25 years wedding anniversary with Frido's stepdad. Because they never celebrate their anniversaries Frido thought it wouldn't be a problem to join the Sunderland trip. We ended in a Happy Days 60's restaurant where we had some spare-ribs.We said goodbye to Jon's colleague and were in a conversation with the barman who was Dutch. After some ribs we decided to leave for the Irish pub close to the hotel. It would be easier to get back to the hotel for everyone when you feel you've had enough. Well, we never thought, because some Irish Coffees later the lights went on and we had to leave the pub.
Monday: This was the day of departure. But we still had some shopping to do and we were in London, that must be some experience. We said goodbye to Jon and thanked him for all the help and fun we had and took a bus to a shopping area. There was a huge HMV in that area, so that was also all we needed. But when we arrived it had closed it's doors since Saturday. We had some looking around for other shops but it remained shop-disappointing. And we didn't have that much time because we had to get back to Luton to be on time for our flight. We arrived safely in Amsterdam at the end of the afternoon and had the bus to the Steenfabriek. San and Drew's dad were already waiting for us and we said goodbye to each-other. The end of our first London trip. It was much better than I thought it would be and we will absolutely be back one day.
(written by Nick)