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But, Can We Play Tennis on Our Trip?

By Marney @marmiscellany
But, can we play tennis on our trip?

Wozniacki practices her serve at Eastbourne

“Let’s go to Iceland!”

“No, Australia!”

“No, someplace else!”

When you’re planning to travel with your family, the difficult decision is choosing where to go. If you were to poll us, you’d likely get the three answers above.  Iceland has been at the top of my places-I-want-to-go list for a couple years. Australia is at the top of my husband’s, and Ruby’s top choice is constantly changing. When there’s more than one person packing luggage and you can’t hit the road indefinitely, you’ve got to make some choices.

The decision for part of our recent trip was, in a way, made easily for us. We do a lot of home exchange trips, and someone contacted us asking if we’d like to exchange our home for theirs on Mallorca in June. It took us less than two seconds to say “yes!”

We have friends living in Barcelona, so we knew we’d stop there for a couple days as part of our trip. But, I didn’t want us to arrive on their doorstep jetlagged from the trip over and sleep the entire time we could be doing stuff with them. (Thanks for the bed! See ya when you move back to the States!)

Where to stopover to reset our body clocks? That was the question. Enter tennis.

Mr. Miscellany and Ruby are fantastic tennis players. (I wouldn’t call what I do on the court anything remotely resembling tennis, but I do enjoy watching it). One thing I’ve learned over the years in travel planning is that if there is a tennis court, they will go. So, when discussing travel options, if there’s a place I’d like to go, and it has tennis options, I’ll always mention that.  I learned to do this five years ago when we thinking about going to Paris for two weeks and our dates could possibly overlap the first week of the French Open. All of a sudden, Paris was definitely on! (In all fairness, I should say that I am the same way about hiking. If there are great hiking or biking trails easily accessible, I will immediately become more interested in a destination.)

When we were discussing where to go before Spain, London came up and I idly mentioned that it was too bad, if we went to London, that we would just miss Wimbledon. The light bulb went off above Mr. Miscellany’s head. we might miss Wimbledon, but we could attend one of the smaller tournaments that are the warm-ups to Wimbledon and watch part of the Wimbledon qualifiers [note to self: in future, check potential travel destinations for all levels of tennis options.] The upshot was eight days in London with quite a bit of tennis sprinkled in.

We got tickets to Eastbourne, a tournament held just before Wimbledon, that is a short train ride outside of London.  These smaller tournaments are great to attend for the following reasons: 1) they’re less expensive; 2) smaller venues  mean smaller crowds; and 3) you can see world-class players up close in a way you can’t at a major tournament. The day all three of us went, we arrived an hour or so before play was to begin. As we were walking around, we realized that we had come up on the practice courts, which were separated from the spectators only by a simple chain link fence, and that the women’s tennis player were taking their turns on the courts. You could hear them talking to their coaches and hit partners, and you could clearly see them practicing all their shots.

Out there were, among others, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki. A little later, Ruby got to see her favorite player, Agnieszka Radwanska, hit with Daniela Hanutchova.

Unlike major tournaments, where you often can’t see players practice and there are special tunnels and walkways for players, at Eastbourne, the players have to walk around where everybody else does. We chatted with a man near us, who knew a lot about all the players and had been coming up to Eastbourne each year for several years to watch the tournament because he liked the fact that the venue let you get close to all aspects of the sport.

But, can we play tennis on our trip?

Agnieszka Radwanska hits with Daniela Hanutchova

There is something fun about making the effort to watch or do something you enjoy while traveling, whether that be tennis or archery or mushroom hunting or whatever. My favorite memory of the French Open is not watching Serena Williams play the opening match but sitting at the top of a small and very crowded side court next to a bunch of Czech fans cheering for their own player but also making sure to turn around to the next court and cheer for a Hungarian player they liked who was playing a match that had very few spectators.

By taking lessons where we’ve traveled (rackets are part of our standard issue travel gear), Mr. Miscellany has not only gotten the opportunity to improve his tennis. He’s also had matches arranged with locals, which often leads to good tips on things to do, see, and eat.  And, he’s been able to play tennis with our daughter in interesting locales.  For example, they’ve played on the courts at the Luxembourg Gardens, and in Spain, they got to play on its famous red clay.

But, can we play tennis on our trip?

Getting the clay courts ready for play–Peguera Tennis Center, Mallorca

When possible, factoring tennis into our trips also plays into some unwritten rules we have about travel. If we’re going on a long trip, we each get to choose one thing we absolutely want to do, and we all do it together, and we also each get (age permitting) to do something on our own. (What else we do is up for grabs.) My husband and daughter attended more tennis that I did, but he also attended more tennis than our daughter. When Ruby and I were off doing things just the two of us would enjoy, he was back at Eastbourne or touring the Wimbledon Museum. When they went to watch the Wimbledon qualifiers, I spent that time at a museum they wouldn’t have enjoyed it. When you can arrange parts of your vacation doing some of your favorite things with your family, but also doing some of your favorite things alone, well, that’s a championship point for everybody.

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