This summer was going to be different, but not THIS different. For most summers, dating back to the late seventies, there have been trips to Europe in late June and July which allowed for a dabble into events and venues far different from the American summer sports staples of baseball, golf and football training camps. However, I was going to cut back on travel days, but did not anticipate none at all.
That allows for reflection on the European sports scene.
The French Open and Wimbledon take place back-to-back, in June and July; the Henley Regatta is squeezed in there along with the running of the bulls at Pamplona with the Tour de France lasting three weeks and providing an ongoing backdrop for the summer sports calendar. The third week in July is reserved for the playing of the British Open golf tournament, which got its start in 1860, a few months prior to the shots fired at Ft. Sumter to start the Civil War.
There are so many adjunct opportunities available that covering any one of these events allows for you to reach out and touch history, literally; and when the day is done, there is more to experience and savor whether it is a country pub in Britain or a French café in a charming village surrounded by vineyards and sunflower fields.
Strawberries and ice cream at Wimbledon with all the British traditions, wine ratcheting up your mood at Roland Garros in Paris, the white tablecloths for picnicking at Henley-on-the-Thames and non-stop serenading when the Tour shuts down for the night in some French village with which the Internet is not very familiar. If you make it to Pamplona, you will be overwhelmed by sangria, the Spanish nectar which never ceases flowing.
At the British Open, you can enjoy the competition during the day after playing a round of golf yourself on some no-name golf course which nonetheless is not a pushover or you can watch the golf first and get in a round before daylight subsides.
Having been fortunate to have “covered” these events over the years allows for warm reflection the year round, especially in winter when the chill outside is ameliorated by a wood burning fire and well-aged bottle of wine.
You remember seeing Diana being whisked away from Wimbledon after John McEnroe threw a temper tantrum on Centre Court. You remember putting on a red tie and wearing a blue blazer at the Henley Regatta and enjoying the lunch with a nice food spread and recurring servings of champagne—good manners in abundance and made you wish every sporting event could be so classy and kempt. (Thankfully, we can counter with the Masters, where none of the competitors show their backside.)
While it doesn’t get out of hand, Pamplona’s “Feast of San Fermin,” is a party that never ends. It gets rowdy, but never violent. The guess here is that with these typical sangria ingredients—sugar syrup, Triple sec, cinnamon and red wine—that forgettable hangovers leave one with nothing to write home about.
The staple of previous trips has always been bed and breakfast options in the United Kingdom. Years ago, the rates were a bargain. Not anymore. Today, you have to stay in a neighboring village for decent accommodations and enjoy a nice train ride to the championship venue. That is not too bad unless a goodly portion of the golf-crazed Brits, with the golfing fever, are connected to the same idea. Then you might find yourself standing cheek to cheek on a train, with swaying to and fro, that brings about unintended dancing.
The golf, the golf courses and the passionate fans give the grand old championship a twist that no other major championship has. Pub food might not make the Queen’s day, but the simple menu is part of the enlightening experience.
A pint of lager and an assortment of dishes such as sausage and mashed potatoes, mushrooms, beans and fries are for sure filling. The environment makes a British Open meal fulfilling. Stick with the lager unless you brought a bottle of duty free wine with you. There is no Bordeaux region in the United Kingdom.
You can’t beat lager anyway when it comes to dining in the U. K. where the atmosphere takes up the slack for all shortcomings, real or imagined.