UMass Rowing In England
15 June 2016
Yesterday morning we arrived to Heathrow at a perfectly normal hour for us rowers, 8 am. Having slept very little on the plane, our exhaustion level far exceeded that of a regular 6 am practice or 4 am race departure. But with the excitement of our arrival and the promise of coffee kept the jet lag at bay.
Soon enough we saw signs for the historic Leander Boat Club and got our first glimpse of the Henley course. Our hosts for the week are a sweet couple around my parents age or older who live an a beautiful house less than 10 minutes walk from the town and Leander. As courtesouly as we could we made ourselves at home and prepared for the rest of the day.
Dressed to the nines in long dresses and cardogans, blazers, or scarves we made our way to lunch at the Three Tuns. We were all looking forward to our first meal in town and were not dissappointed. I enjoyed a Greek Salad and some unwanted whitebait (due to its very fishy flavor) for a starter and a red pepper risotto with goat cheese for my main meal. While the lunch was fancy, this was not the purpose of our attire. Post-lunch we were headed for tea at Leander, set up for us by Abby and her aunt. Abby's aunt's father had won the Henley Royal Regatta which earned him an honorary membership at the club and thus was able to organize this for us. We were zombies by the time we arrived for tea but I enjoyed the experience and the view from the tea room. I must note that we are certainly not a proper enough group for such a place and I could feel the waitresses cringing throughout.
I went to bed at 8 pm and slept soundly through the night. It was a relief to wake up quite refreshed and ready for a big day. Our host served us a great breakfast and we headed off to row. The boats we are borrowing and the Women's Henley site is about a 25 to 30 minute walk. On arriving to Upper Thames Rowing Club I was assigned a gold fluid 1x, grabbed some Canadian blades, and headed out on the river. The Canadian blades were not an accidental choice, much better I feel to be taken for a Canadian rower than an American if you mess up the traffic pattern on the river.
There was no need to remind myself where I was. I was rowing on a historic and famous river and racecourse and it lived up to my expectations. The best part was the lack of motorboats on the water. Coaches rode their bikes up and down the bank coaching their boats from there. Some coaches had walkie talkies to relay thier instructions and corrections to their boats. So now I know my idea of a walkie talkie coxswain isn't crazy.
After practice and a quick lunch we were headed off on the train to London. Everyone was anxious and excited to see the city. We spent the day riding around on a Big Bus tour that stopped at all the major attractions and you could hop on and off at any one. Dan and I got off before the most dense part of the tour and walked down past a number of monuments and past Hyde Park to Buckingham Palace. The palace and the square in front of it were quite impressive. While there are plenty of flags hanging all over the city the nations pride reached its peak with massive flags lining the streets leading up to the palace and two or three flags per pole hanging in the square.
Since we wanted to take the rest of the tour we set off towards Big Ben and the Eye to catch the bus from there. On our way we walked through Hyde Park, which reminded me of Boston Garden. They both have winding paths with statues and bridges and a cute pond running down the center. Out of no where Big Ben popped out and we crossed the bridge over and got the full effect of parliment, the Eye and the surrounding buildings and bridges. Next to the Eye we hopped back on the bus which took us down the Thames to the London Bridge, the Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London. Despite being stressed about catching the 8:18 train back to Henley the ride was a great way to see all the sights and determine what would be interesting to explore.
We did end up missing the 8:18 train but there was another one following and we were back to our beds by 10 pm. Tomorrow we will get two rows in on the course before another Three Tuns lunch, an early dinner, and the regatta's international reception. Cheers, SK