Epic Trip Diary: 25 July – 27 July

Life bucket list item: See the Olympics live.

Check!

From July 25 to August 16 I embarked on a fantastic trip across “the pond” to – among other things – see the Olympics.  You know those crazy Red Sox fans you hear about?  Now you’ve got a bit of a ballpark on how Alissa feels about the Olympics.

When I mentioned to people that I was going to London to see the Olympics whether it was to colleagues or the bank teller, jaws dropped.  Seems that there are many, many people who want to have seeing the Olympics on their life bucket lists.  Friends, family, and coworkers said, “I want to hear all about it when you get back!  And take pictures!”

But now how to share everything?  How do you summarize a three week trip with over 2500 pictures?

Wednesday, 25 July – flying from Denver to Iceland 

Checking in for my 17:00 flight, I automatically reached for my driver’s license.  The clerk corrected me and asked for my passport.  It was a reminder that from this point on I was no longer a driver of Colorado but a citizen of the United States.

Thursday, 26 July – landing in Iceland, flying to London 

My flight was landing in Reykjavik at 6:00.  I didn’t think about it until I was on the plane, but flying so far north during the summer meant that the sun wasn’t really going to set.  I dozed on the plane, but being on the right side it always remained light outside.

Airplane food for Iceland Air is pretty good.  You still have to pay for it, but the fruit salad I got was the nicest fruit salad I’d ever had.

As the plane descended, I thought, “Where’s the town?”  From looking at Google maps, Reykjavik airport was supposed to be pretty much right in the middle of the town, which would make it easy for me to get out and explore during my nine-hour layover.  Turns out they built a new airport for Reykjavik – Keflavik – about 25 miles outside town ala DIA.  Posters up in the airport said that it had been voted nicest airport in Europe by some magazine, but I do have to say they were sorely lacking in the seating department.  Hint, Keflavik: don’t have two 757s set to board at the same time at gates right next to each other!

Talked with a flight attendant who said I could buy a bus ticket into Reykjavik for what I think was about $40 round trip.

The ride was like visiting the moon.  No trees anywhere.  Flat.  Black soil that looked like the whole island had been paved with several feet of asphalt that was now aging and cracking.  But the road are all exceptionally well-maintained.  Either they just did a massive re-paving job or winters near the coast aren’t that bad.

Walked around the town for about six hours, and I feel like I saw most of what was to be seen – though the mountains in the distance told me there were many more activities available if I just had access to a vehicle.  The architecture is all white, grey, red, yellow, and blue.  No brown anywhere.  It’s kind of odd.

They have a massive church in the middle of the town with a 5,275-pipe organ.  There was a concert at noon for ~$15.  I sat outside a side door with my ear against the wall instead.

Descending into London at 20:00 the sun was shining and it wasn’t raining!  Given the London weather stereotype, I took a picture out the plane window just in case it was the last time I saw the sun for a while.  (It wasn’t.  I only had about three days of rain during the entire trip.)

On the walkway off the plane I heard the first British accents and I started to get excited.  Signage everywhere welcomed people for the Olympics, and I started humming John Williams’ Olympic theme to myself.

Passport check and customs were a breeze.  No lines.  Just walk right up to one of the counters for a stamp.  Clearly Heathrow was prepared for Olympic crowds.  Came out of customs to the public area and right into a huge crowd of people behind cameras.  Obviously media wanting to take pictures of arriving athletes.  It was a bit startling.

Aimee was right there to meet me, and it was so good to see her!  And, bless her, she brought me a bottle of water and a sandwich – which I inhaled since the didn’t feed us on the second flight.  Her apartment was small and near enough to the airport and tube line that you heard those noises much of the night.  I didn’t mind; reminded me of the singing and shouting college students I get going by my place back home.

Friday, 27 July – exploring London with Aimee 

On the BBC morning news they mentioned that the Olympic torch was going to be on a boat going down the Thames toward the opening ceremonies, passing by Chiswick Bridge at 10:00 – which wasn’t too far from Aimee’s.  So we walked there and sat for a while waiting for it.  It started raining just as the boat came by (and only rained for five minutes) but I was too excited to care.

We walked back to the tube and took it into town.  Walked past Buckingham Palace and it happened to be when the changing of the guard was occurring.  We didn’t stay to see it, just pushed our way through the crowds, heading across Green Park to Aimee’s office.  At Aimee’s office we used her work computer to arrange travel to our Olympic events.  Aimee also convinced me to add an overnight trip to Bath to my itinerary.

After a lunch in Mayfair (which is, in Aimee’s words, “a fancy-pants place”) we stopped at the post office to buy some stamps for mailing postcards.  Walked to Trafalgar Square, which was buzzing with Olympic volunteers – so easy to find in their pink and purple shirts.

We decided to go the Imperial War Museum, which involved navigating a tube stop that was clearly a more dodgy area.  At the free museum we saw tanks, planes, guns, spy gizmos, and the holocaust section, and took home some souvenirs from the gift shop.

After a full day, Aimee said it was my job to get us home on the tube!  I got turned around for about 15 seconds, but did manage to get us on a train going in the right direction.  Then we overheard when the doors opened at one of the stops that the train going all the way to where we needed to go wasn’t running because of a person on the tracks.  I was lifted from my navigation responsibility as we got off at the closest stop (still some distance away).  We grabbed some groceries from Waitrose and then waited a long time for a bus. Though bright red, it wasn’t a double-decker.

We made it back just in time to toss food on plates and flip on the opening ceremonies for the Olympics.  During the parade as we watched one country come in wearing native dress, Aimee said, “I wish each country would wear clothing native to their homeland.”

I said, “What would the United States wear?”

“Oh, Ralph Lauren, probably.”

All tourists are required to take a phone booth photo, right?

Enigma!

Which way to the gun show?

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