Thu 3 Oct - London, England

Football and fine art...all in a day's "work"...

A bracing start to our day with cold showers - yesterday the hot water appeared to have run out by the time we showered but today we realized that a boiler must be broken because still no hot water at 6am. Shower and hair wash in cold - that wakes Di up! She sent an email and SMS to let our hosts know about problem. Resident caretaker!

Yes, just to confirm we are still in London staying near Gloucester Road Station. Our guest house likes to remind us where we are with this foyer. Austin Powers would be proud.

We headed off around 8.30am by walking the 20 minutes or so west on Fulham Road to Stamford Bridge aka Chelsea FC. We had booked tickets for a tour of the football starting at 10am and we arrived early...of course. Plenty of workers around, not many tourists.

We were supposed to collect our tickets in advance and this map showed us the stadiums layout. Stamford Bridge is not a huge stadium with seating for "only" 42,000 spectators.

The front entrance to Stamford Bridge. The statue is of Peter Osgood aka "Ossie" aka "King of Stamford Bridge" a top Chelsea player from the 1960's. Hans had some recollections of "Ossie" when he was a youngster in the old country.

The plaque on the side of the "Ossie" statue.

It appeared that each home game is quickly sold out, including matches against weaker competitors like Cardiff. We understand that a lot of the tickets are season tickets, but this is more than 2 weeks into the future.
Up to 3,000 seats have to be allowed for competitor supporters. This made us laugh - the Shed End is the stand for away team supporters, and this is the entry. Shows you just how Chelsea FC feel about making their competitors feel welcome (not).

As we were waiting for the stadium tour to begin, we walked a lap around it, and took some silly photography...

Hans tested whether the warning sign was right...

...not really. He was fine and a moment later was matching off with Ashley Cole. Who's cooler now?

Di is doing her best goalie impersonation with Petr Cech. Our favourite Socceroo goalie, Mark Schwarzer, had recently signed on for Chelsea FC too (just for a year as he is 40 years old and this will see him through to World Cup in 2014). Go Aussie.

If you haven't guessed already everything here is Royal blue - the colour for the team - and the blue is used on garbage bins, cranes, painted doors etc.

Hans was a deliberate exception - he is a long time Manchester United Fan and wore red underneath to keep his teams' colour flying. So, what else matters...?

At least Di got colour co-ordinated for the day (she quite likes a few Chelsea players). Hans suspects that he may have married a traitor team supporter...

After collecting our tickets we had some further time to spare to went into the "museum". A bit unusual and heavily focused on team players, past and present and key victories (of course). Hans was doing some time travel.

And striking practice. He did actually hit the top score (50). Too easy. Once a footballer, always a footballer... although Hans wasn't really that good as a kid.

We were given Chelsea team lanyards for our tickets - and we were allowed to keep them after the tour. Di was happy.

Our tour leader was a young lady named Daisy - not quite what you expect on a football stadium tour. However, she was very sweet and also a very good guide.

Daisy asked which teams we all supported - many Chelsea fans, a few Swiss, Di said Socceroos and Hans boldly announced his allegance to Manchester United. Ha, Hans received a very interesting reaction and was ordered to leave by Daisy but this was recanted quickly. Very funny.

The Stamford Bridge stadium looked great. Daisy took this photo for us.

Of course everything is blue...

Then into the Press Room. This was great as we see this desk on any Chelsea FC home game, where captain and managers speak about game etc.

Hans was doing his best Jose Mourinho impersonation (the successful and flamboyant Chelsea Manager...)

A side note - we both like Jose. He's a great and funny coach.

Then into the dressing rooms. The away team have a pretty low key space with just basic facilities - old style massage tables. Basic hooks for clothes (no real lockers).

The dressing room for the away team also has some deliberate inconveniences - like the strategy white board being placed behind the door - and the door has to remain open during game days for OH&S reasons. So how does a coach use it? Very funny.

It appears most teams do this psychological warfare and away teams know to come prepared. Daisy mentioned that Liverpool FC give their away team's dressing room floor extra polish, to make it slippery in the hope that players do slip and hurt themselves. Chelsea FC bring their own carpet when they go to Liverpool.

In comparison... The home team dressing room is fabulous. A locker for each player, including a "bling box" per player where all Rolex watches, diamond rings and Porsche keys go (Daisy's words).

Fernando Torres is their most expensive signed player. He cost Chelsea FC £50 million in 2011.

Go Aussie (again) for Mark Schwarzer.

Fabulous baths and showers. We noted no doors or walls on anything except toilets.

Full medical suite with all the modern tech massage benches and ice machines.

Then into the famous corridor where 2 teams line up, home on right (led by Di) and away on left. Hans was "away" of course. A leopard can't change his spots...

A cheer and we are out. Of course we could not step on the grass (pitch) but it was still very cool.

Then we sat in the dug out for the home team and who's chair did Hans choose? Jose Mourinho's of course! Wonder how Jose feels about a Man U fan taking his seat? Peace man.

Di looked more than happy as an assistant coach in her Audi car seat (seriously, that is what they use. Of course, the chair can be tilted and warmed up if the air is too cold).


The grounds keepers work on the grass every day and then 24 hours before a home match they do a special cut and add markings etc. To do this job surely you must have a passion for the perfect pitch?

Betting is a big deal in football here. They bet on so many variables.

The Sky Sports broadcasting grey box.

And above the word Chelsea below is where the team owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich sits.

These corporate boxes cost a minimum of £10 million for a 10 year contract. Whew. Big money. The big sponsors - Adidas and Samsung contribute about £30 million per year combined to the club.

We were all footballed out (for today, nah, not really) and we opted for a change of pace anyway...

The 414 bus went from outside the stadium all the way up Park Lane to Marble Arch. We got on it to get to the next destination - Hertford House and the Wallace Collection, at Manchester Square.

A synopsis about the building and it's then owners.

Non flash photography was allowed inside most of the Hereford House and we took a few pics here and there.

These guns and pistols were absolutely beautiful. One wondered how often they had actually been used for shooting.

Di could not contemplate plating a meal on this platter...say that 3 times fast!

Hans favourite piece.

These walls were all covered by Dutch paintings from the 1700s.

This is an old Fremch almanach. Hans found it absolutely fascinating.

And an overview of the almanacs and what it was that they showed.

As you can see, different rooms had their walls painted, or wallpapered, in very stark and different colours.

This is a very erotic (Hans says dirty) picture and it drew a fair bit of interest among the visitors. No more words, just look at it closely...

Yes, the female body appeared in many of the paintings, in various degrees of undress.

Several rooms were dedicated to armours, but seriously, how much of this can you take.

Even the horses were "dressed up"...

We left Hereford House around 1.30pm to look for a place for lunch. We found it in this Nicholson pub which offered those meal and pint deals for £8 that we had sampled in the past.

Well, the food this time was nothing special (prefab frozen ingredients fried up) but it was a nice environment and with free wifi on offer, we spent some lazy time there. The pub was split over 4 levels, including a basement level.

We decided on a final destination before we headed home, and then suddenly we saw a high security compound with armed guards and huge fences. US embassy of course. There were Syrians on hunger strike according to their signs under the blue canopies to the right.

Ahhh...Park Lane and The Dorchester. We had to go see it as we were nearby and also it is where Rod Stewart is reported to go to for afternoon tea (sounds just like Rod the Mod, doesn't it?). We did like the Bentleys and other glam cars parked outside.

We enquiried about the famous afternoon tea - £41 each for a "set menu" of finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries, no alcohol but coffee or tea.

To get a seating here on a Saturday you should book a month in advance. It did look nice though and the staff were lovely and friendly, allowing us to wander through and take some photos.

Unfortunately the dress code looked like too much hard work for us - one guy was even in a tuxedo (sitting to the right). We were not (far far from it).

Not this time. Back out on the streets and we took a bus (not a Bentley) home.

Back home just before 4pm, being lazy until catch up with Mark Dwyer at 7.30pm.

This is where we went, the Hereford Arms a Gloucester Road.

The man himself... Mark was all good.

Yes, Mark liked his hamburgers, while we both had today's blackboard specials; Hans had a fried salmon and Di had a risotto.

A couple of night time pics to follow. This is also Gloucester Road...

... And this is our street where we stay called Brechin Place.

That will do for today. Writing this around 11pm so yes, that will do. Good night.

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