Eurotrip Part 15: Strawberries & cream or fish & chips

I suppose I procrastinated on this next post because it meant I was leaving Sweden and flying back to London for the last time, knowing that my next flight will be the flight home.

Of course there would be clear skies and sun on my final Stockholm morning.

I take the Arlanda Express, from Stockholm Central to Arlanda Airport, instead of the free public transport afforded by the card.  It’s a lot more expensive (around US$40, same as a taxi), but it is faster (20 minutes direct vs an hour for train and transfer to bus) and more comfortable, in a clean, climate controlled car at a smooth 200kph.  The faster transport means I can spend more time in the city before leaving.  Side bonus: I buy my ticket from an extremely attractive brunette Swedish girl who has an almost New York-y accent to her English.  You might never suspect she was Swedish (I could tell, of course).

I love a big destination board; Stockholm-Arlanda is accommodating to airport sleepers.

In London, again, for the third and final time this trip, I arrive at my third, but not final London hotel this trip – the newly completed Novotel London Blackfriars (new as in opened in October 2012).  This sleek and modern-looking hotel features free wi-fi (a near deal-breaker to me), an underground pool with an aquarium projected onto the wall, an electronically frosted shower wall, and a lobby with a Microsoft Surface table, computers, and an Xbox 360 all for guest use.  The last time I went to Las Vegas, I stayed at the recently opened Aria Resort & Casino, part of the reason I chose these hotels is that they haven’t had years of use from millions of strangers sleeping in your bed (barely 3 months old for both meant the number of guests in my room probably numbered under 100).

How can you resist wanting to swim here?

It’s on the same block as Southwark Tube station and around the corner from The Cut, a long street full of food options.  It’s also literally next door to an Ibis Hotel, also opened at the same time, if you want to spend a little less.  I wonder if these were meant to open before the Olympics and missed it by only a few months.

The next day, I make my way to Wimbledon station, which is in the middle of downtown Wimbledon, but a fair 1.25-mile walk from the lawn tennis complex.  I start walking so I don’t miss my tour start time, since I am unfamiliar with the bus routes and schedule.  So obviously, dozens of buses pass me by, but I don’t know which ones will get me where I want to go, since I only decided to do this the night before, having set up an online reservation from my phone, just in case.

Approaching the All England Club; one of the gold painted Royal Mail postboxes

The snow and rain add atmosphere to the small group tour, it’s the large, flaky kind of snow, but it’s not that cold, at least for me.  However, the overcast sky does present photographic challenges.

We pass some of the many smaller grass courts used during The Championships, and you can see that there isn’t much room for spectators, unlike Court No. 1.

Do you remember the longest tennis match ever played?  It was held on one of the minor courts, specifically Court No. 18, and even though interest in the match grew as it moved into a second day, it could not be moved to a larger court, with more spectator space.  I can’t imagine how many people and camera crews wanted to be there on day three, but space just would not allow it.  I made a mutated panorama to kind of show how much space there was in the stands and barely any sidelines (maybe they used the rooftops?).

Centre Court is where they play the high-profile matches, from the star players to the championship matches (sometimes).

There is also a Tennis Museum and library (admission included with walking tour) that features trophies, photos, articles on history of the sport, the Open Era, and Olympics, and various artifacts and inventions that changed/helped the game (from lawnmowers to technological advances in clothing and balls and racquets).

I had a nice panini at the cafe, but was severely disappointed there was no strawberries and cream on offer.  Are strawberries out of season?  Do they only serve them during the tournament to preserve their “specialness“?  It’s not an overly complicated recipe, and presumably, you have tourists and visitors year-round, so why not?  It would have made my day.

After the tour, I had a decision to make.  Instead of walking back to Wimbledon (a lot of it uphill), I could wait for a bus, as there are many shops and a mall in town, or I could simply go straight to the rail station and return to central London.  I could head the other direction (bus or walk) towards Southfields station, which I am told is closer.

I found this to be true, at 0.8 miles, about 1/3 closer than Wimbledon station, and on the main road, so very simple.  Along the way, I restock snacks and drinks at a Sainsbury Local and use the last of my cash on dinner at The Original Fish & Chip Company.  It came paper wrapped and in an awesome plastic bag, but I opted for take-away and elected to wait until I got back to the hotel to eat.  This became one of those accidental things that leads to a great discovery, as the 45-minute trip back on the tube gave the food time to marinate/soak in the salt, vinegar, and lemon juices, and turned this into the greatest fish & chips I have ever had.

How awesome is this bag?

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