This trip represented the first time we stayed in the Docklands, but we happened to be walking around Canary Wharf on match day last May, and that has led me to an important conclusion: A Premier League football team stays in a hotel on Canary Wharf every weekend.
I have only two data points, but they are solid.
In May, the team we ran into was Aston Villa. This time, staying in our very hotel, the Marriott West India Quay, was Sunderland. When we returned from the Princess Friday night, the elevator door at the Marriott opened, and there stood someone my husband was sure was Steven Pienaar. We asked the hotel staff in the morning and they confirmed that Sunderland were staying in the hotel before their match with West Ham.
Maybe, more specifically, teams facing relegation stay in Canary Wharf every weekend.
When we can back from breakfast at the Le Pain Quotidien, my new favorite chain for breakfast because they have yummy scones with God’s personal gift to the me, clotted cream, quite a few of the Sunderland players–including Jermaine Defoe and Jack Rodwell– were gathered in the lobby to meet for a team walk around the Docklands. As we walked over to the elevator to ride to Floor 1 where our room was, there was Steven Pienaar again. He rode up with us in the elevator.
Clearly stalking us, he was.
I took this bad photo of the players and trainers in the lobby on the fly, because I was trying not to be obvious but I wanted to prove I saw them. Therefore, I had my phone in my hand on camera mode as I was riding the elevator. I did not take Steven Pienaar’s photo even though it would have been easy to create an extreme closeup, and this is why: Steven Pienaar is not my guy and Sunderland are not my team. *
When the door of the elevator opened, there were two more Sunderland players waiting to go to the lobby. I took no photos of them, either.
In fairness, they also did not take any photos of me.
My husband and I had started the morning with an early alarm to get over to the historic Billingsgate fish market. We very nearly went to the market at 4 a.m. since we both woke up in the middle of the night. But we did manage to get back to sleep and then got to the market before it closed at 9:30 a.m. By the time we got there, the fishmongers were pretty much wrapping things up. They were cleaning and hosing and packing up boxes. Unsurpringly, the market smelled like fish. Extreme fish. There were a few guys still selling and we waded though puddles and crates to have a look.
We left and walked out into a cold Fall morning to have a look at the street art around the neighborhood and to find breakfast.
After we had breakfast and encountered the Sunderland players, we decided to head over to Kew Gardens. I had always wanted to go, but it seemed we couldn’t justify the time it would take to get there, given our short visits. It’s quite far away from any hotel we’ve stayed in, and especially far from the Docklands. But like an itch that you need to scratch so you can finally put it behind you, we concluded we would do it before the Middlesbrough match.
We were rewarded because the sun came out while we were on the Tube, producing an absolutely glorious day. And the Tube ride turned out to be much faster than we expected. We were joined on our ride by a bee who was buzzing around the plates in the train ceiling that looked much like a honeycomb.
Kew Gardens happens to be in a lovely neighborhood with pretty buildings, shops, restaurants. Seeing a sign for Weak Bridge we took a small detour to watch a train pull beneath us and into the station and then doubled back to the gardens, past beautiful Georgians and many a Mercedes and Audi and Rangerover along the street.
We had only an hour and a half to visit the Gardens, so we had to prioritize based on feedback from the very helpful staff. They said that we really should head to the Palm house, the beehive, and the treetop walkway.
We went to the Palm house first, a giant structure that holds a variety of exotic plants. Palms, coffee plants, rubber trees, too many species to remember. It was beautiful. And warm. A little too warm.
We stepped out into the cool sunshine and walked over to the beehive. I didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t this.
The beehive is art, science, music. It is a structure made of aluminum that allows you to experience being inside a beehive. It actually houses a number of true beehives in metal boxes attached to the hive, the inhabitants of which produce vibrations that are projected and reflected by LED lights. The entire structure produces a humming noise from the bee vibrations in the hives. You can stand under the structure and listen, and you can walk into the structure above. The buzzing of bees is naturally in the key of C, so we learned, and the humming from the bees in the Beehive is augmented by notes played by strings and piano. It’s beautiful, spiritual, peaceful.
The treetop walkway was a bit of a letdown after the beehive. We’ve been on one in Vancouver over the summer that was spectacular, high among the very high trees. The trees at Kew Garden have a ways to go.
We enjoyed the gardens very much, walking in the sun with Londoners out to enjoy a beautiful day in a beautiful space, seeing a variety of trees and flowers, the leaves changing colors.
But it was time to join up with our own bee colleagues at our beehive, the Emirates. We got on the train headed through Gunnersbury, and I took a picture of the sign.
How could we Gunners be denied on such a fine day?
* I wrote this post on the plane on my way home last weekend, but hadn’t had a chance to post it yet. Today (10/29/2016) Arsenal played Sunderland at Sunderland, and Steven Pienaar committed a bad foul on Francis Coquelin. My husband said in disgust, “I should have double-legged him in the elevator.”