Horses, bets and wine. These are the three words that describe best my last weekend in London. It was time for the the Royal Ascot Horse Race, which this year celebrated its 300 years. Being the UK my soon-to-be new home country, there was no way I was going to miss this english social event.
There are three areas for racegoers – the Royal Enclosure, Grandstand and Silver Ring admissions.
The difference is simple: while the first two could be compared to first and business class on an international flight, with its welcome drink, comfortable seats and surprisingly good food; Silver Ring is the economy class of any airline, that is, the group of high school friends that travel over the weekend to Amsterdam to get stoned, the kid that doesn’t stop kicking the back of your seat and the fat snoring man who takes over part of your already very reduced space.
Obviously, this difference is also reflected on the price. While Grandstand admissions cost 62 pounds, we got our 10 Silver Ring tickets for 21.5 pounds each. The Silver Ring entrance is a significant walk away from the main entrance, which is fine as long as you feel comfortable in your shoes and british weather doesn’t turn against you. Although long, the path is easy to find – you only need to follow the crowd that carries their own bottles and sandwiches – yes, you’re allowed to bring a bottle of wine or 4 beer cans per person, as long as you pack some food, too!
Another big difference between the Grandstand and Silver Ring is the dress code – there is no dress code for Ascot’s economy class. The only no-go was bear chests, which clearly took away most of the fun. Despite the lack of a dress code, people did make an effort to dress up – high heels and short skirts were all over the wet grass, and many of the girls wore hats and fascinators.
The weather on saturday morning was terrible, I really considered simply slipping into my rain boots and leaving my fascinator for a different occasion, but then, isn’t the fun on going to Royal Ascot on dressing up and wearing a fancy hat? I’m glad we chose hat/fascinator and heels, after half an hour the rain stopped and it was a beautiful day.
Don’t we look almost british?
After a bottle of wine, we wanted to place a bet – but which horse? how do you bet anyways? I should have read more about betting than about the events’ hat parade. I bet 10 pounds on three horses – one based on the recommendation of the woman standing before us in the betting queue and two others based on their numbers (yeah, I know, that’s not very professional). I watched my three horses run and stay behind – in less than 20 minutes I had already lost my bet! Despite our failure to turn rich in one afternoon, we had a great time and enjoyed a very good position to watch the race.
When the last race finishes, the party is far from being over. Ascot has bars and terraces packed with young racegoers that refuse going home at 6pm. It’s a great chance to mingle with other classes!
Despite some casual rain drops and the wind eventually picking up my summer dress, I had an amazing time and want to repeat the experience again next year. Silver Ring admission is a fun experience if yo don’t mind standing with another 2,000 people on the grass and being further away from the finishing line. I might just try out the Grandstand next time – to be able to compare properly which ambience I prefer!