A Travellerspoint blog

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A sudden surprise

TwitterBarryHearnYouWon.png

Every year in December, the greatest darts tournament of the year takes place in London as the PDC World Darts Championship is held in Alexandra Palace. I've been following the event for more than ten years now and this time, everybody's expecting Michael van Gerwen to win the tournament, since he's won all major tournaments in the last 12 months. The Worlds is the only title he's missing and he's craving to add this trophy to his incredible list of titles he's holding.

On December 15, 2016, Barry Hearn, the chairman of the Professional Darts Corporation, tweets a message: 'Ok here we go ! @OfficialPDC Name the 4 semi finalists and I will draw 2 names from the correct entrants to be my guest on finals day'. I already filled a bracket with my prediction for the whole tournament for the Dutch television and thought: well why not, let's give it a go and I tweeted a reply with the four players that would reach the semi finals in my prediction. After doing it, I started following the darts as the championship unfolded and forgot about the whole Barry Hearn tweet.

A few weeks later, the tournament was having its quarter finals played on December 30. I was sitting in a chair and watching the matches using time shifting. It must have been around midnight CET when I saw the last dart of Michael van Gerwen beating Raymond van Barneveld in their semi final. It was the closure of the day and after turning off the television, I looked at my phone to see if I had any new messages. This is when I learned that I had a lot of Twitter messages. Since I'm not somebody who uses Twitter that much, this wasn't a normal situation for me, and I opened the notifications just to learn that Barry Hearn told me I had won his bet for tickets on finals day. I really couldn't believe it and my first reaction was something like 'What did I win and why'? I knew the message really came from Barry Hearn, since his Twitter account was verified by Twitter itself, so there should be something true about the message. It took me a few minutes before I realised I had won the tickets by predicting the correct semi finalists.

Posted by leonard461341 23:59 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Preparation

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The last few days have been really weird to me. Both December 31 and January 1 were already full with appointments celebrating the new year and catching up with remote friends who were visiting our country. On December 31, I was trying to find a travel companion but my closest darts friend couldn't get free from work and I couldn't think of someone else who'd like to join me visiting the darts. I had already booked an hotel for one person when my brother in law said he'd like to join me on the trip. On New Years Eve we booked the ferry from Calais to Dover, but in the haste we booked tickets from Dover to Calais on Monday and back to Dover on Tuesday. Later that night, I discovered this mistake and corrected the booking which cost us an additional £10.
On New Years Day, we were busy visiting the families to wish them all a very happy 2017. Mine couldn't start any better, but I just needed to find some time to prepare for the journey. It wouldn't be before the start of the first semi final that I was able to start packing. I also had to finish some stuff for work to be able to take a few days off. Finally, I had to set up an emergency cellphone since my own phone had died after dropping it on the floor earlier this day. The match between Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld had already begun before I was able to watch it.

Tomorrow, I'll travel to a railway station near my brother in law's home. He'll pick me up and together, we'll drive to Calais where we'll take the boat to Dover. We have planned to arrive some 4 hours before we can enter Alexandra Palace, so no worries for our schedule once we've crossed the Channel.

Posted by leonard461341 23:00 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

The roadtrip to London

Fugitive fences at the UK border force checkpoint

Fugitive fences at the UK border force checkpoint

My day starts with a train journey to the railway station where my travel companion will pick me up. He lives closer to London and his car insurance policy covers whole Europe while mine doesn't. It takes some time before we meet each other at the railway station since he's waiting at the back of the station and I am waiting at the front. Once we've met, we start our journey. We will drive through four countries in order to reach London and our first goal is the harbour of Calais, France. We should arrive there an hour before departure of our ferry and we have approximately 35 minutes to spare. We expect queues on the ring road of Antwerp but we're lucky to have no queues at all during the trip. We reach the French border before we expected it and suddenly, we have to leave the motorway. We have to go round a roundabout and re-enter the motorway just to have the French border police checking our cars. The traffic isn't too busy so our delay is just a few minutes. We continue our journey along the North Sea coast and after some 4 hours driving, we reach the Calais ferry port.

Entering the ferry

Entering the ferry

Calais has been in the news for many times the last few years since many fugitives lived in the Calais 'jungle' while trying to reach England as stowaways. The French have built a fence to prevent the fugitives from entering the vehicles that are waiting to cross the English Channel and I see lots of fences but no fugitives. Before we can enter the ship, we have to cross 3 checkpoints. First, the French border police wants to check our car. We have to open our trunk and I think they're still checking on illegal passengers. The second checkpoint is the British border force. They're smart enough to have the passport control before the crossing. It would be nonsense to have people ferry to Dover just to hear they can't enter the UK. Finally, we cross the checkpoint where our ferry tickets are validated. We receive a number and have to line up in the lane with that number.

Some 30 minutes later, we can enter the ship, but I can't manage to start the car. We've been consuming power too long with the engine turned off and now, the battery's almost empty. With the help of a few passengers from another vehicle, we manage to start the car and once we're aboard, we keep the engine running for a few minutes to give the battery some time to recharge. We change the car clock to GMT and add some tape on our headlights before we leave our car and go to the passenger deck.

The White Cliffs of Dover

The White Cliffs of Dover

90 minutes later, we reach the port of Dover. We reprogram our navigation system to the Pembury Hotel in London N4. In Canterbury, we take a break to have lunch. We now have plenty of time to reach our hotel and by choosing Canterbury, we also have a smaller town to adapt to left hand driving. In our opinion, it's better to adapt in a small town rather than driving on the motorway all the way to London just to find us adapting to left hand driving in the London rush hours.

After we leave Canterbury, we continue our journey over the M2 towards London. As we pass Dartford, I can't help but think of it as the first dart we see in the UK, as many other darts will follow later that night. We drive on to Greenwich and pass the river Thames through the Blackwall Tunnel. As we approach the O2, I recognise its name as the location for the Premier League Finals Night. London has several locations where dart tournaments are or were held, and we're also not too far from Purfleet, where the PDC World Championship was held before they moved to Alexandra Palace.

Approaching the Dartford Crossing

Approaching the Dartford Crossing

The traffic in London is not too busy and with the help of our navigation system we reach the hotel some 3 hours before we should arrive at Ally Pally. We check in, park the car and while my companion tries to get some sleep, I go out for a walk to Finsbury Park to buy a few bus tickets. There's still some time left, so I walk back to the hotel to borrow a pencil and walk to Clissold Park, just outside N4, to find a simple geocache. I walk back to the hotel and plan our bus trip to Alexandra Palace. Google tells us that our bus W3 towards Northunderland Park might have some delay because of a football match of the Spurs, so we decide not to wait any longer and take the bus to Ally Pally.

Posted by leonard461341 08:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

Attending the Final as VIP

Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace

As we arrive at the Finsbury Park bus station we can't find bus W3. We're directed to the other side of the train station where a few buses are ready to depart. One of them is W3 and we stand in line to get on the bus. Next to us are two men in Scottish clothing and I ask them if they're going to 'the palace'. They confirm my question and will probably be cheering for Gary Anderson while we, being Dutch, will be cheering for Michael van Gerwen.
The bus reminds us that we're heading towards Northumberland Park but when we arrive at Alexandra Palace Palm Court bus station, many people leave the bus. Together, we cross the street to walk towards Ally Pally which is just across the street.
In front of us is the VIP entrance where some 30 people are waiting for the doors to open. It'll take some 20 minutes so we walk to the normal entrance to see long lines of visitors. We walk back to the VIP entrance and as the doors open, we slowly walk inside where we are being searched before we can enter the building.
We follow the path inside the building that brings us to the hospitality hall. Here, I ask for our tickets and we are brought to our table in the dining room. Diner is served at 7 o'clock but first we are getting acquainted with some other guests on our table while drinking our champagne. After a while, we go get our food and as we're eating, Barry Hearn, the chairman of the Professional Darts Corporation, joins our table. We have a short talk and he tells me that a huge number of tickets sold for the tournament were bought by German attendants. Last year, 11% of the tickets were sold to Germans and now, it may have been 20% or so! I tell him to take the Premier League to Germany and he tells me it'll happen in Berlin 2018, which he already told us some months ago but I didn't read it before today. Soon, Barry leaves us because he has some other things to do before the match starts in some 30 minutes and as we finish our meal, master of ceremonies John McDonald joins us for a short presentation where two known people of the darting world are presented to us. First, former world champion and current spotter for Sky Sports Keith Deller talks about the importance of having a spotter during the broadcast of a darts match. The spotter helps the director to show the correct camera images based on what the player might want to throw. It requires lots of knowledge of the playing style of all players, since each player has their own way of finishing certain scores.

The dining room

The dining room

After Keith Deller has left the room, mastercaller Russ Bray is our next guest. He's well known for his performances during almost all PDC darts tournaments throughout the year and requires no real introduction. Even my companion who isn't really into the darts, recognises him as soon as he starts to speak. He asks a volunteer to throw three imaginary darts and calls a 180. After that, he walks around for selfies with many people in the room and before we know it, we are asked to put our drinks in plastic cups and go to the tables since the match is about to start. My companion and I both take a cup and we fill three bottles of beer in the cups before we leave the room and go to our tables. We have table tickets at the front with only some 9 rows of people before us and we'll have a good view of what happens on stage.
At 8 PM, John McDonalds calls the players to enter the stage and from this moment, I realise that many friends and family back home are now watching the room we're sitting. As the match progresses, we try to find ourselves when the camera shows the crowd. We watch a very interesting match and soon I can see that Gary Anderson won't beat Michael van Gerwen tonight.
Almost at the end of the match, some idiot runs on stage, taking the trophy. I know that on television, one can hardly see what's happening at such moments and I decide to keep watching the guy and see him being pulled off stage. Soon after this incident, the match is over and the presentation party is held. We keep watching what happens after the Sky Sports broadcast is over. Several press pictures are being made and when Michael van Gerwen leaves the stage, we leave the building.
The bus back to Finsbury Park is very crowded with dart fans and there's a nice atmosphere in the bus. As we leave the bus at Finsbury Park, we walk back to our hotel where we soon go to sleep. We're already planning the journey back home and have to leave on time not to miss the ferry to France.

Posted by leonard461341 15:59 Archived in England Comments (0)

The journey back home

Country roads, take me home...

Country roads, take me home...

After a good night of sleep, we leave the hotel in time to reach the ferry in Dover on time. We want to stop at a supermarket before leaving London just to get some food and drinks for during the ride, but because we're not allowed to turn right at the place where I saw a supermarket the night before, we leave London and won't stop for food before Dover. The traffic in London is not too busy and although we think that we're navigating another route through the city, we both recognise the Blackwall Tunnel as we cross the river Thames at this point. In my mind, I say goodbye to the O2 which I'll see again in May when the Premier League finals will be held in this venue, though I won't attend the match like I did yesterday in Ally Pally. At least, I don't think I will.
As we finally enter the motorway, my companion tells me to drive at the second lane from the left, because in England, the most left lane can suddenly change to an exit lane and we don't want to leave the motorway until we reach Dover. It's a little bit strange since the Englishmen now overtake us on both sides, but at least we prevent a sudden departure from the motorway. After a while, we see a place where we can get some food, but the traffic sign shows too much information and we missed the exit number we should take. A mile ahead, we miss the exit and have to simply drive on.

Watching both sides of the sea<br />at the same time<br />(Left: Dover, Right: Calais)

Watching both sides of the sea
at the same time
(Left: Dover, Right: Calais)

We reach Dartford again and I see a glimpse of the sign that stands for 'congestion charge' in the inner city of London. I also see the text 'please pay by midnight tomorrow' and start worrying a little. Where did we pass a toll road and why didn't we notice? It'll take another day for me to find out that the toll was for the Dartford crossing of the Thames, but since we crossed through the Blackwall Tunnel, we don't have to pay any toll.
Towards Dover, we take another motorway than we did yesterday. We now drive on the M20 towards the channel tunnel and as we approach Folkestone, the fuel warning light is lit. My companion who owns the car can tell that we might reach Calais, but since we don't expect fuel stations before we reach Belgium, we decide to add some fuel in Dover before entering the ferry. In the fuel station, I look for the sports page in an English newspaper to see what they write about Michael van Gerwen's win over Gary Anderson last night, but all I find is an article about weather or not darts should be seen as a sport. We buy some food and drinks and go back to the car. It's now a very short drive to the ferry station since the fuel station is situated at the gate of the port of Dover.

Almost in France

Almost in France

We're well on time and make quick progress to the parking lane since there are no queues at the customs check points. At the parking lane, we leave our car and walk to the restaurant to get a burger. At 12:10 PM we leave England and after some ten minutes, we can see both the English and the French coast quite clearly. The crossing takes some 90 minutes, but we'll also lose an hour due to the change in time zones. At 3:30PM CET we leave the ferry and enter the continent. It doesn't take very long before we reach the Belgian border, but after we pass Ghent, I feel some fatigue and ask my companion to take over. I lookup the traffic near Antwerp, but we're lucky to find no queues at all. It's still the holiday season and although we're approaching home during the rush hours, we arrive home with no delay at all. We've had a very good time during this short visit to the World Darts Championship Final in London and I really liked this short and unexpected holiday.

Posted by leonard461341 01:00 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

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