When life gives you lemons make a gin and tonic (on the wall of G & Tea Bar, Marriott West India Quay, London, England), or better yet, pack your bags and go to a tennis tournament!
Whenever I’ve been out with injury or had surgery, I have tried to plan it around watching Grand Slam tournaments on television, such as the Australia Open and the US Open, guaranteed two weeks of exciting professional tennis. Recently, my husband had surgery with a six week recovery time. When we first found out about the surgery, I suggested that we plan a weekend getaway to London, England, to watch the ATP World Finals at the O2 Arena. This was how we made our London weekend happen.
After flying the Thursday evening, red eye, United Airlines flight from Newark to London Heathrow Airport, we arrived at London Heathrow Airport at around 9:30 am Friday. We chose to stay near the tennis venue, the Canary Wharf area. During the morning rush hour, it is over an hour ride from London Heathrow Airport to the Canary Wharf area. We ordered an Uber ride. At London Heathrow Airport, the Uber pick up was at the short term parking, pick up area. We stayed at the Marriott West India Quay, right on Canary Wharf. We checked in with our mobile app the day before, and our room was ready when we arrived! With our Marriott gold status, our room was upgraded to a nice view of the water and we were provided access to the Executive Lounge, which offered beverages and food presentations throughout the day. This was great option for enjoying something light, with a great view of the wharf, on our way out to out for the evening.
On our first evening, we explored the Canary Wharf area and dined at a restaurant called The Pagination. This restaurant had indoor and outdoor seating, with close proximity to canary wharf. If you chose to sit outdoors, each table had blankets and hot water bottles, to keep you warm. Indoors, there were quaint tables and seating areas with plenty of pillows and throws. We ordered a glass of sparkling wine and ordered a cheeseburger, on a gluten free roll, with a side of Cajun spiced french fries. This restaurant was super inviting, and a great place to meet for drinks, after work, after shopping, or on your way to the O2 arena.
We had a few transportation choices to the venue, Uber, taxi, the tube (subway), or ferry. We chose to take an Uber since a train or ferry ticket for two was the same price as taking an Uber. We were told that the tube was just one stop away from where we were staying. Our Uber driver dropped us off outside the O2 arena near the many restaurants, bars, movie theatres, and shops. The O2 arena was a great venue for the tennis tournament. As we walked around the arena, we noticed that the Intercontinental hotel was adjacent to the O2 arena. This hotel offered direct access to the arena from their hotel guests. This would be a great hotel to stay at if you didn’t want to worry about transportation to the venue. The location of the entrance from the hotel to the venue is by the “H” gate. The main gate to the arena is “B.” The pounding music and light show in the arena, during the introduction of the players was exciting. We sat courtside, for our matches, but it didn’t look like there was a bad seat in the house. The upper seating area was completely packed, as the crowd took in the fantastic tennis matches.
Each night at the ATP year end finals, your admissions ticket included one doubles match and one singles match. The doubles match (Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares vs. Lucasz Kubot /Marcelo Melo) was played with no-ad scoring with a third set tie break. No ad scoring was used to speed up the game. So if the score reaches 40 all (deuce), then the receiving team selected which player will receive the serve. The singles matches were played with best of three sets (tie break sets). When the tournament began, we thought we would be watching Nadal and or Federer playing matches. In the end, Nadal had to withdraw from the tournament, due to injury, and Federer lost in the semi-finals. During the last round, we witnessed Grigor Dimitrov play so well against Pablo Carreño Busta (who was the alternate for injured Raphael Nadal), that he seemed unstoppable. On our last evening, we watched the semi-final match, as American, Jack Sock, almost took down the very hot player, Grigor Dimitrov. Although we were in the minority, we rooted loudly for Jack Sock. After the match, Jack Sock gained two more admirers of his game. He came very close to earning a spot in the finals. The semi-final, doubles teams were equally amazing, Peers and Kontinen overcame crowd favorite, Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, as they created points and carved winners throughout the thrilling semi-final match at the O2 arena. (Tennis tip, serve and volley to the opposite side, with partner switching sides. Also, return and switch sides, both ending up at the service line. We are going to implement that move into our doubles game). We returned to the hotel from the O2 arena without difficulty. We did not want to wait for an Uber or taxi ride, so we had a choice, the tube or the ferry. We spoke to one of the security guards to ask his opinion. He said, it is less of a walk to take the ferry, and then it is only three or four stops. The tube is one stop away, but it is a longer walk to the tube. We walked over to the ferry and got into the que. It didn’t take long. The Thames River ferry had comfortable seats, and it was a smooth ride. We got off at the Canary Row stop…and then it was just a few minutes’ walk to our hotel. We enjoyed a gin and tonic at the G and Tea restaurant and bar, before our next adventure.
Although traveling to London to watch the tennis tournament was the main goal; discovering new places to visit in England was also part of our agenda. We put together a day trip on our second day, for our by renting a car at the London City Airport, a few minutes away from Canary Wharf. We caught an Uber ride from our hotel to the City airport Avis Rental Car. Our rental was upgraded to a Citreon which had an automatic transmission. This eased our challenge of driving on the right side of the road. The car also included passenger leg rest (like a first class Airline seat!), which made for a comfy ride for me during our three stop trip. (Tip: Spend the extra money for an automatic because shifting on the left could be challenging. In our case, we booked a manual but got upgraded. You could certainly ask when picking up your car how much an upgrade to automatic would cost! Also, do not forget your passport, you will need it; rookie mistake by my husband who magically had a picture of his passport which included the proper number)
Our first stop was The White Cliffs of Dover. The massive white cliffs, overlooked the English Channel, toward France. Not only could we see France from the cliff; but, my cell phone announced welcome to France. There were active ferries and shipping below the cliffs. The romantic, peaceful hike up and over the cliffs was breathtaking. You could easily spend a long morning or day hiking and exploring the area. One of our Uber drivers later told us that would often take his family to France during the warmer months on the ferry out of Dover.
We then quickly drove through Canterbury, England. Canterbury was best known for the Canterbury Cathedral, and the Canterbury Tales. (bringing me back to high school literature class memories) The town had many cobble street areas which were great for exploring, dining and bringing to life a little bit of classic literature. We didn’t plan enough time for a proper walk through this area, the drive showed us that we will be back and will make time to spend in such a quaint area.
Lastly, we stopped at Leeds Castle, the loveliest castle in the world, in Kent, England. This castle was set back about a mile from the road, on the English countryside property. After your purchase tickets – adults price was 25 pounds each (your ticket was an annual pass of unlimited visits within that year), you could either take a Segway tour to the castle, walk to the castle, or ride on the castle train. On the way there, we chose to walk to the castle. We hiked through beautiful rolling hills with ponds as we approached the castle, which was surrounded by moat, followed by a lush golf course, with golfers in the mist. It was awesome to see such a castle, which parts were built in the 1200s and 1800s. This castle reminded me of what it must have been like at Downton Abbey. When we walked through the castle, you could see that some of the areas were updated; however, the grandness and structure of the castle were well maintained through the years. (Tip: You can book a room for overnight visits and golf at Leed’s castle.)
Our gin and tonic turned out great. Although we weren’t able to play tennis on this trip, we created a weekend opportunity to see great professional tennis, the ATP World Finals, as well as to see some of the beautiful areas of England. Taking time out was a good opportunity to see and experience things we wouldn’t normally do. That is what we accomplished during our tennis trip to London, England.
The Camera roll: