Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Olympic Fever - London 2012

This weekend was the perfect balance between Olympic excitement and exploring London!

I hopped off the train at St. Pancras station and the first thing I saw was those five beautiful rings that hung in Vancouver only two years ago. It was all I could do not to grab the person next to me and say, “Can you believe where we are right now?!” That might have made other people uncomfortable, so instead I practical skipped through customs.

The next thing that hit me was that it was the first time in two months I was in an English speaking country! Getting around was going to be a cinch! No more using rusty high school Spanish or switching my thoughts into French before asking someone a question! It wasn’t until I went up to the currency exchange desk and said, “Pardon monsieur mais… I’m sorry, I’m in London aren’t I?” It was at that moment I realized how much I needed a weekend in my first language!

I spent that first afternoon walking along the river, window shopping and eventually finding myself standing in front of Big Ben and West Minster Abbey. After a quick coffee break and rest for my feet, I stepped back out into the crowded streets of London and stumbled across a massive swarm of people. I was swept along with them and ended up standing at the intersection when the flame passed by! Now, being vertically challenged made it hard to see exactly what was going on, but I was able to push my way near the front and see the parade that was passing and cheer along with all the other onlookers. After this amazing moment and welcome to London, I met my friend Iain who I was staying with in Covent Garden for some drinks on a roof top patio. What a civilized beginning to an amazing weekend.

The next day I was up early and met a fellow bike about guide from Paris, Mikayla, for a traditional English breakfast. She had also come to London for the weekend and we had decided to take a bike tour around London to see the city. Off we went to meet our group and had a blast seeing everything from the Tower of London to the oldest wig shop in the city. It was a blast, such a great way to see a city that big. We stopped mid way through the tour for the best muffins in London – which I will agree with - and to watch the street performers in Covent Garden before continuing on.

After the bike tour, Mikayla and I walked over to Borough Food Market and tried a cornish pasty before heading to an English pub five minutes from the opening ceremonies! The fighter jets that were in the opening ceremony actually flew over us! We stayed at the pub for the duration of the opening ceremonies cheering as everyone in the pub cheered for their home country.

Saturday was shopping day! I dragged Iain to the world famous Harrods store! We had English tea across the street and then wandered over to the Olympic store.

That afternoon, I met my friend Karl I hadn’t seen since first year in university! We caught up while walking through Hyde Park watching the roller bladders skate through the park and then caught some of the men’s cycling before making our way over to one of the big screens across from Tower Bridge to watch the volleyball. After cheering the Italian vs Dominican Republic game, I headed back to Iain’s to go to attend a fancy Olympic party.

My last day was Sunday and I spent the morning exploring Oxford street before stumbling into an English pub exhausted from walking. They were also broadcasting the Olympics. It was raining so we ordered some pints and some English specialties. My brother told me I couldn't go to London without trying bangers and mash, so I had that while watching the women's 140km cycling race. During the last 20km of the race Iain and I ran to across London in what can only be qualified as a rain storm toward Buckingham Palace to watch the end of the race. There were loud speakers all along the last kilometer of the race and thousands of people were lined up along the street. We pushed our way through and with the hoards of people cheered the athletes across the finish line. You should have heard the crowds erupt when team GB took the silver!

What an end to an amazing weekend. I wasn’t ready to leave London on Sunday but then I remembered I was returning to Paris… Oh ya, it’s not so bad after all ;). 

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