Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Our trip to the London 2012 Olympics!!

Wow….we are back from a whirlwind trip to the London 2012 Olympic Games! As you may have seen in my last post, my husband and I won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Olympic Games from a sweepstakes that we were automatically entered in (by a $5 cup of coffee purchase!). Three weeks ago, we had no idea we’d be packing up to head across the pond. Now I’m back in the states after the trip of a lifetime!

We arrived in London Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. after a red-eye flight from D.C. The first thing that hit me….that fabulous 60 degree weather! When we left Dallas, it was 110 degrees, so it was quite a pleasant relief from the heat. Visa then shuttled us to the Hilton Metropole with the other dozen winners from the U.S. We met some great people from Arizona to Miami and shared our “can-you-believe-we-just-won-this!?” stories. 

We then checked into the Visa Hospitality Lounge, complete with daily gourmet breakfast, a wifi lounge and staff to make sight-seeing recommendations. We got our name badges, complete with pictures of our ear-to-ear grins, and checked into our room. Then came the swag and FINALLY finding out which events we would see! Beach volleyball, basketball and track & field it was! Woohoo!!! We spent the rest of the day exploring London—getting lost in beautiful Hyde Park, leaning over on Margaret Thatcher’s Rolls Royse to fix my shoe (oops!), and watching the games on massive screens in the park with the over-the-top excited Brits. 

LOVED all the bunting everywhere!

Now, I’m not a big fan of touristy activities, but in the limited time we had to see the city, the hop-on, hop-off double-decker open top bus was our best bet. I’m SO glad we took the time to do this—made the entire trip around London and made our own mini pub crawl and shopping trip! London was absolutely stunning—the intricate architecture, the interesting history, the epic people-watching and the energy of the host city were incredible. I saw people from all over the world and they were all so kind. And, I must admit, I’m kind of a wannabe European (I think they are the epitome of cool) so it was fun to hear all the accents and admire the trend-setting style. The girl’s taste in fashion was questionable, though. Apparently the “I just rolled out of bed and got dressed in the dark” look is in, as well as Blossom-esque early 90s garb…yikes! I’ve never seen so many black tights with jean shorts in my life! The guys looked sharp though and dress like my brother. He is ahead of the curve!

Some of our stops were Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, J.K. Rowling’s House in Hyde Park, Tower Bridge (with the Olympic Rings!), the London Eye and Piccadilly Circus. We had a few pints at the dark and moody Bag O’Nails pub, a tapas plate and Shiraz at Café Rouge, and a sinfully delicious cupcake at the adorable Primrose Bakery. From there, we stopped by London Live at Hyde Park to watch the games on giant screens and enjoy the sunset. We were still pinching ourselves!
Early Thursday morning, we headed to beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade. This was by far our favorite event! It looked like a beach had spring up in the middle of the historic royal grounds. The sun was shining and we even got a tan! In London! We saw The Netherlands vs. Latvia and No. 1 seeded Brazil vs. Italy in the men’s division, followed by Italy vs. Canada and Spain vs. Argentina in the women’s category. I don’t know how those girls do it—move that fast in that little outfit! Sheesh! The fans were AWESOME, too. We literally did the wave for an hour non-stop. The announcer was hilarious and had us all up dancing. Unfortunately, our seats for each event were next to the media and TV cameras, so our cameo appearance never happened.  It was still an incredible experience. 

No time to stop, we headed onward to Olympic Park several hours before our next event to see the state-of-the-art structures and beat the crowds. There, we ate Derek’s favorite meal of the whole trip—meat pie and mash. He’s still talking about it and wants me to make it for dinner this week!

The park was massive—vibrant hot pinks and purples were splashed all over the place, and photo ops were plentiful. We whipped out our American flag with pride! We then proceeded to take a much-needed comfort-food-induced nap on the grassy hills and were awoken by the loud roar of Great Britain fans cheering their cycling team to victory. Later that night, we caught the Great Britain vs. Spain basketball game followed by the USA vs. Nigeria game. After hearing the crazy excitement from the Brits, I was ready to get my U-S-A chant on. We met up with our fellow Visa prizewinners Justin and Nicole from Arizona and planned our patriotic revelry. The game began at 11 p.m. because it was being broadcast live in the U.S. and all of our friends back home were watching for us on TV. 

Much to our dismay, our four-man cheers were drowned out by Team Nigeria fans…really?! Just hatin’ on us because we made that game look like a walk in the park. We tried to get others to join us, to no avail.  I guess everyone was asleep, or lazy. We had a great time anyway, and witnessed Olympic history as the USA scored the most points ever in an Olympic basketball game. Boom!!! We stopped for a million photos in front of the illuminated Olympic Stadium and red crumpled up roller coaster looking statue (still not sure what that thing is!).  From there, we left with our new friends to navigate “The Tube” on the way home, cracking jokes and laughing til we cried. Justin and Nicole, you still owe us a beer! 

The next morning began with our first look inside the very impressive Olympic Stadium. It definitely gave Cowboys Stadium a run for its money! Inside was the Olympic torch, made up from torches from every participating nation. Very cool, but not as big as I thought it would be. There we watched the preliminary track and field events…no Usain Bolt this time! 

We left a bit early to meet up with one of my very best friends who flew in from Sweden to visit us! Talk about a small world! Zebine and I met in college and have remained great friends since. She is the ultimate jetsetter…moved to Sydney, Australia, where we visited her and Derek proposed, then back to her hometown in Sweden. She flew in for our wedding to be a bridesmaid and now made the trek again to hang out for the day…what a friend! We had some traditional fish and chips and watched some events at Hyde Park. We then explored the city, visited Piccadilly Circus and met a few gals from the Russian basketball team. They were discreetly shopping for souvenirs, but their seven-foot frame blew their cover. We headed to Tower Bridge and took tons of photos under the iconic rings.

Zeb headed back to the hotel to get ready for a night on the town while Derek and I stayed for a bellini at a hole in the wall bar. We then experienced the confusion of the “underground,” hopping a train for Edgwere (the city) instead of Edgware Road. Oops! Just a little two-hour mistake, but it was a nice view of the countryside.

After getting lost a few more times, we finally made it to Covent Garden to the rooftop bar at Punch and Judy. We reunited with another friend, Clarkey, who we met in Sydney and his girlfriend, Marcia, who both live outside of London. We laughed about our accents and told him about our “we don’t dial 911” policy in Texas! A trip to the ranch is definitely in store! The pub closed at midnight (lame!) so we headed to another and Derek learned the fine art of ordering a beer from a new friend. Haha. We got home at 3 a.m. after seeing the colorful people on the last train home…wow! Idiocracy is universal!

Exhausted, we rushed back to Heathrow, almost missing our flight, but not minding if we did. Our first time to Europe was unforgettable and we are now daydreaming about our next journey. Germany, Ireland, Czech Republic and Sweden are all on the list! Huge thanks to Visa for the amazing opportunity and our local coffee shop, Java Jacks, for that lucky cup of joe! Now looking forward to following the rest of the games. I love the feeling of unity across the nation and everyone coming together I’m feeling proud to be an American and was so fortunate to cheer on Team USA in person! 

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that all sounds amazing! Glad you had such a blast!