You may have randomly seen a photo of my moon face in front of a tram in Nottingham last week and wondered what on earth I was up to (or, more likely, you scrolled on by – I don’t blame), but either way I thought I would tell you what I got up to.
I was invited up to Nottingham by Experience Nottinghamshire who were partnering with the Lawn Tennis Association and Aegon, the sponsors of the Aegon Open tennis tournament, taking place at the Nottingham Tennis Centre. Dexter and I went to Nottingham for the first time earlier this year and loved it so I jumped at the chance of going back, especially as I got to spend the day with my lovely We Blog Travel colleague, Jen.
Apart from the horrifically early start to the day, the journey up to Nottingham ran smoothly – apart from the bit where I underestimated how long it would take me to find the right platform and so I ended up a really attractive sweaty mess on the train. But apart from that, I made good time, and met up with everyone mid-morning. I even got to pop my tram cherry! (There’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d be writing today.)
We were VIP guests of the LTA and Aegon, and we were treated so incredibly well by everybody all day. The food was outstanding, top restaurant quality, and I may have partaken in an occasional G&T throughout the day. But, even better than a free bar, was unlimited Haagen Dazs ice cream – very hard to resist when you’re following Slimming World!
Well, what can I say about the tennis? Not much unfortunately, as rain stopped play all day! It was a real shame but the rain was pretty torrential and each time we were told an expected time for play to start, it got pushed back and it just didn’t happen in the end. But the company, food and drink were great, so it wasn’t exactly a hardship!
I was staying overnight in the St James Hotel, which is a 5-10 minute walk from the centre of town. Hmmm … what to say about this hotel? I’m going to be polite and just say it’s a tale of two halves. The refurbished downstairs is a little glitzy, but well decorated, and breakfast was pretty good – apart from the fact there were only watery scrambled eggs on offer. Upstairs however, was a different story and unfortunately, for the first time, I had to ask to be moved three times. The major problem is that there is no air conditioning in any of the rooms and you have to make do with a portable fan. Maybe I’ve been spoilt with other hotels I’ve stayed in, but to me, air con is a necessity. The bedrooms have been decorated, but I found it more motel than boutique hotel. Parts of each room and the corridors were shabby, but they were at least fairly clean. I was put opposite student digs in one room, and in another you would have to find a chair to stand on to be able to close the window – and when you can’t, you’re then subjected to late night party goers and the NCP car park. I found the staff unengaged and when the receptionist was doing her best to help me, her colleague stood next to me, leaning against reception, staring at me.
Unfortunately, there were just too many issues with the hotel for me to make me want to stay there again. So I’ll just chalk it up to experience and move on.
Dinner was at the Crafty Crow, a real ale pub that does also offers local gins and home-cooked food. It’s big and spacious, with wooden floors throughout and very welcoming bar staff. I would say though that it felt more like a blokes’ pub than the type of bar Jen and I would normally go to, but the burger and sweet potato fries we had for dinner were absolutely delicious. The highlight was the Sir Robin of Locksley gin – a wonderfully unique, almost grassy flavour and it was very moorish! There was a slight incident with the three paralytic men who chose to come and sit on the table next to us but we sent them away with a flea in their ear and hopefully with the impression that it’s not a wise idea to approach women unsolicited!
After that, we decided that perhaps we should head into town to find somewhere a little quieter.
Of course, the rain was now torrential. I was wearing sandals, had no jacket or umbrella, and so the two of us, very wet by now, headed across town to the Nottingham Playhouse where we spent the rest of the evening. The music was great, and we felt much more comfortable there.
After breakfast on Saturday morning, I met Jen in town and we had coffee and cake in John Lewis – a very relaxed affair but after I happened to look at my train ticket and realise that my train was going to leave in 20 minutes, and we were nowhere near the station. Jen kindly took me back to the train station a la Lewis Hamilton! Unfortunately, I missed my train with one minute to spare, but the ticket man took pity on me and didn’t charge me the £60 it would have cost to get me home!
I love impromptu trips away like this. Not everything always runs smoothly but it’s how you deal with the situation that counts, and even though I was served a couple of curveballs (#TennisPun), I actually had a really lovely time in Nottingham. It made me realise that it’s the company that is the important thing, not the air-conditioning or drunk chancers.
A big thanks to Experience Nottingham, the LTA and Aegon for inviting me. I will definitely be back later on this year.