London Calling...Hello Olympics

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Feb 20, 2014

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Olympics, Palaces, History

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

We checked out of our Salisbury hotel and spent some time at the Cathedral. This houses 1 of only 4 remaining copies of the Magna Carta, the first format of a Bill of Rights issued by King John in 1225. Our hotel was actually built initially as a residence for the workers who constructed the cathedral in the 1200's. From Salisbury, we drove to Windsor to tour the Castle. I had toured the Castle in 2009, but now the Round Tower is open for visitors and so I was keen to explore that while Mum explored the Castle kitchen! Plus this is the burial place of Henry 8th and I do have a fascination for this King. Lots to see and the State Apartments are incredible. After collecting a parking fine off the windscreen, it was time to drive to Heathrow, drop off the hire car and then train + taxi to our hotel in time to watch the Olympics Opening Ceremony. This was the only time I was stressed/worried about timing and travel. So many delays could’ve been encountered and I was worried that London would be manic busy. But the journey to our hotel could not have gone easier – minimal traffic and the airport was not chaotic to drop the vehicle. Arrived with enough time to check out the pub next door, get some take-aways from the deli 2 doors down and settle in to watch the ceremony in our surprisingly spacious and better than expected hotel room. The only difficulty was carting our luggage up 4 flights of stairs because the hotel had no elevator. Lucky I’ve been workin out haha.

Our hotel was walking distance to the Thames and Tower Bridge. So we wandered up there on our first full day and across to St Paul’s Cathedral whilst taking an external look at the Tower of London on the way. We then headed across town on the tube to pick up our Olympic tickets. This was nearby Lords Cricket Ground and Mum was keen to see this. Fortunately for me, it was closed to host the Archery. However, after getting a bit lost we were able to see the external sections of the grandstands and a glimpse of the turf. It took over an hour to queue and finally get our tickets.

Day 2 was a quiet start at Starbucks across the road (free wifi! – by now Allyson was addicted) and then off to Harrods and the Victoria and Albert Museum. In the journey to Knightsbridge, I managed to lose Mum. Yep, the train was leaving the tube platform and I ran to it, jumped on, the doors close, I turn around, and there she is...on the other side of the closed doors...looking distressed...the train pulls away. Drama and phone calls later (no bloody reception on the subway unlike in Paris), we regrouped close to our destination! Phew. After the museum and a bit of shopping, we walked along the edge of Hyde Park to Kensington Palace, which was the hospitality venue for the Olympics ticket package that I had ordered. Fantastic (!) free food and a great setting. Mum toured the palace, while I consumed a few free scotch’s in the marquee while watching some games action. The London weather today lived up to its reputation – sunny, then pouring rain, then warm, then cold. The Beach Volleyball event at Horse Guards Parade was scheduled for 8pm and we made our way there early enough to allow time for the airport style security. Great to see an Olympic event, especially one so entertaining and crowd engaging as this one. Festival atmosphere and our seats were very close to the action. No Aussie team playing, but great just to be there. Call me naive, but I was surprised that they had alcohol at the event...I just never thought they did that at the Olympics.

Day 3 was our 2pm Basketball event at the Olympic Park. But before that we wanted to squeeze in something. So I visited the Churchill War Rooms and Mum toured Westminster Abbey. I’ve seen the Abbey before, but had always wanted to see the war rooms where Churchill led Britain’s WW2 effort. Interesting and largely retained as how it was in 1945. The Olympic Park was a bit mundane for me. I was expecting more carnival/festival vibe, but it just seemed a bunch of people all heading somewhere. Very spread out and took us 25 mins from one end to walk to the Basketball venue. We passed the stadium (built very cheaply and obviously temporary) and I was disappointed that the Olympic flame is not visible – u can only see it from within the stadium. The basketball started with Aust v France. Although we lost, great game with a score equalling 3-pointer by Oz within the final second – one of those moments that makes u leap from your seat. Forced time-on, but we lost. Then Russia v Brazil. After our Olympics experience, we trained back into the main part of London and walked the Monopoly Board – Bond St and Park Lane in Mayfair, to Oxford Circus, double-decker red bus to Piccadilly Circus and finishing for a delicious steak in Leicester Square. London has been nowhere near as busy as I expected. Sure, the Olympic venues are jam packed, but the tourist attractions are quieter than my previous trip and even the newspapers and guides are saying it is quieter than a normal summer – the locals have left town and the tourists have all been scared off, good for us!

Our final full day in London was a pre-booked visit to the Royal Mews where the horse-drawn carriages are all located and maintained. We then tried to push our way to the front of the Buckingham Palace gates for the 1130 Changing of the Guard. Ridiculous crowds here and we didn’t see a great deal of the action apart from when the guards were leaving through the gates and parading back to wherever they came from. At 1245 we had a pre-booked tour of the Buckingham Palace State Apartments. Best maintained Palace of the trip and rightfully so given its status. No photos allowed inside, but also included a diamond exhibition showcasing some of the royal jewellery collection – after the 5th tiara I found myself a bit sick from the amount of wealth centralised in this one place. We spent the rest of this final afternoon taking in a few extra sights – Trafalgar Square, the outside of St James’ Palace, Pall Mall and a couple of random pubs along the way.

Our flights out of London were not until 230pm, so we had a leisurely morning packing our bags and strategising about how much carry on we could actually carry on. In the end, I needn’t have stressed so much as my suitcase was 21.8kg – that’s 1.2kg I could’ve crammed into it instead of wearing two jackets and stuffing my backpack with souvenirs! Oh well, at least this time I only had a 6 hr flight back to Accra instead of the usual 24 hr mission! Plus a free upgrade to "economy plus" which was actually quite spacious and comfy.

We awkwardly parted ways on the Heathrow Express train - Mum got off at Terminal 3 and me at Terminal 5. On our train trips to Heathrow we reflected on what an amazing trip this has been. Hard to believe we crammed in so much and saw such diversity from Istanbul and now all the way to the 30th Olympiad in London. When I was in London in 2009, I wrote in my blog that I would like to return to this great city in 2012 for the Olympics. Some say things like this in passing, not me. I mean it. If I want something, I commit my all to make it happen and this break/trip has really been a vision come true. I had always wanted to take my Mum on a holiday such as this too, and to bring it all together and conclude it with the Olympics is a life memory for the both of us that few other memories can eclipse.

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Annette on

Oh wow... what a great, entertaining blog and such wonderful photos. Glad you and Allyson had such an awesome trip. xx

travellingross on

Thanks Annette, glad you liked reading and following along. I appreciate it. xx

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