All the comforts of home

Sandra Harwitt

The Wimbledon flat where Sandra Harwitt is staying has all the comforts of home.

For the past 15 years, the tennis community converging on Wimbledon has discovered a new way to stay during the championship fortnight.

Instead of commuting through unbearable traffic from city hotels in London, Wimbledon residents started offering their properties for temporary rental. If you're not a tennis fan and live in the area, it's a great way to pay for your vacation and get out of town when Wimbledon becomes a tennis mob scene. None of these places comes cheap, as people have learned they can set high prices for the privilege of staying in their homes.

The ultimate goal is to find a place you like and rent it year after year. However, sometimes a favored place becomes unavailable and you have to move to new digs. I've been staying in Wimbledon accommodations since the mid-‘90s and I've now stayed in 11 different places.

It's fact-finding entertainment when you arrive at a new abode. What will you find? How modern are the conveniences? What are those weird quirks you won't find back at home?

This year, I'm sharing a lovely two-bedroom flat -- it's a building where I stayed in an apartment a few years back. But this one has two very key updates, luxuries in these parts, but standard fare in the grand old USA.

One biggie is a mixed tap in the bathroom sink. Seriously. This is not a given on this side of the pond. More often you'll find people have a hot water and cold water spigot in their bathrooms and only a mixed tap in the kitchen sink. I've been known to ask locals why. The response is usually unsatisfactory: "Why not?"

The second biggie is having a separate washer and dryer. More often than not they favor these all-in-one machines. First you wash, then you set it for drying. You end up with iwet clothes that basically get burnt dry. Your whites will look grayish when they come out, so be prepared.

Another arrival ritual is checking with everyone about where they're located. Off the High Street. Down the Grange. Along Wimbledon Hill. On Maryatt Road. Those are the most common directions offered.

Here's one secret: I'm located on a dead-end street and Venus and Serena Williams are occupying the penthouse flat in the building next door. I'll let you know if I have any sightings.