We returned from our fabulous trip to London last week and I’m still on cloud 9 from the entire experience! Neither Wes nor I have ever been to London, so what a time to take our first trip there, right? It was not nearly as crazily crowded as I’d feared, but then again a local said that they’d all been encouraged to work from home and take vacations to allow for Olympic traffic.
We left on August 3rd from Atlanta at 4AM (yay for Delta delays! Not. At least we got to enjoy a nap at the Minute Suites in Concourse B) and arrived in London at about 5 PM local time. I was a little worried about what our hotel, the St. Giles, would be like since I only booked it in April and it was one of the last rooms available in central London, but it was really quite nice!
After arriving we met with our Yahoo liaison, Lluis, who we’ve only communicated with through email. Lluis is a very nice young man who was a pleasure to speak with in person, and we are so grateful for all the trouble he has gone through to book these trips every year… thank you, Lluis! We were given our Olympic event passes and some great advice on getting around town and eating out, so after meeting with him we struck out to find dinner.
View from our hotel room- the Tower of London!
The hotel is conveniently located near Covent Garden, which has hundreds of restaurants to choose from so we took a chance on a French place. I was definitely under-dressed in my maternity shorts, shirt, and flip flops, but we were too hungry to care and they must have taken pity on us and let us in. We were put in a room by ourselves to eat, but we kind of liked it… we even had a blinged-out dinosaur skull to keep us company! I’m a terrible tourist and cannot, for the life of me, find the name of that restaurant but it was really good. If anyone knows which one I’m talking about (there can’t be too many gold dinosaur skulls around London, right?) please email me so I can give them credit!
The next day, Sunday, we slept in and then made our way to Buckingham Palace for a tour and to see the changing of the guard. While waiting for the changing of the guard outside the palace gates, we met some USA Olympic swimmers, one of which was Claire Donahue who won gold on relay medley team! They were all very nice and even posed for a picture with me. We toured Buckingham Palace but of course there’s NO photography allowed, because, you know, it’d reallllllllllly hurt their ticket sales *eye roll*. The palace was breathtakingly gorgeous and we even saw the special Diamond Jubilee collection. Holy carats, Batman!
Also, I got a behind-the-scenes tour of Buckingham Palace because baby girl was kicking my bladder and I definitely cannot hold it for three hours these days. The palace bathroom was very nice and, lo and behold, the only other commoner I saw there was another pregnant lady who had a nifty pin on her shirt that said “Baby on Board!” I acquired that pin by the end of the day, trust.
After that, we took the tube (underground train system) to Covent Garden and enjoyed window shopping before having a quick snack at The White Lion. Their sampler platter was delicious, and we would have loved to try their main courses but the service was so slow that we had to leave. An hour for an appetizer is a bit much. Later that night we ate a small Italian place that was also very good, but of course I can’t tell you the name of it. Sorry!
You can view all of the pictures from our first couple of days in London here.
Now, I know there’s something wrong with me, but there was a part of the trip that I was even more excited about than going to the Olympics: The Harry Potter Experience. We didn’t quite give ourselves enough time to get to Leavesdon, but several train stations and one crying episode later, we made it to the Warner Brothers Studio 30 minutes after our scheduled time. The guy at the ticket office had a nice laugh at me when I rushed up and asked if we were too late to be let in for our tour, because even though the website says to arrive 30 minutes BEFORE your scheduled time, they DO let you in later. It’s really not a big deal- my pregnancy hormones just thought it would be the end of the world if I didn’t make the tour *dramatic exhale*. So, we entered with big smiles on our faces and stood in line for an hour for the tour!
Now, we are not big “tour” people, but what they’ve put together here is truly amazing. Everything at the HPE is authentic from the costumes to the sets and even props like Ron’s Chudley Cannon posters next to the bed. I seriously died and went to heaven for about 3 hours and I took more photos here than I did anywhere else in London because I never want to forget what a truly magical place it was! We tried butterbeer and stood in Dumbledore’s office *dies*.
Diagon Alley- SPECTACULAR!
To see all the photos from the HPE, click here.
That evening, we went to have dinner near the Tower Bridge so we could see the Olympic Rings lit up, and let me tell you- it was a surreal moment to stand on London Bridge and see the rings we’d only seen on TV! We also walked around the Tower of London but it was already closed for the day and we were hungry so it was a brief tour, but I really regret that we didn’t have time to go in at some point during the trip.
Taken from London Bridge looking toward the Tower Bridge
Tuesday morning we were at Olympic Park at 9AM with only about 10,000 other people. By the time we left, three hours later, the crowd had swelled to at least 100,000. Kid you not, and pregnant lady had to pee!
The Olympic park is huge and has a theme park feel/layout to it, and the Olympic Stadium is the first thing you see and it makes your heart swell with excitement, kind of like when you walk into Magic Kingdom and see the castle! Our event wasn’t in the stadium, so they wouldn’t let us in, but we could easily hear the roar of the crowd within as we passed by to the Copper Box, where our handball game was.
Now, we didn’t know a thing about Handball but it was the only event we could get tickets for that would put us inside Olympic Park to get the whole experience of the games, but really enjoyed the sport! We saw the women’s quarterfinals that put Brazil against Norway. We rooted for Brazil since we’ve been there and loved it, and that seemed like a good enough reason to us. Brazil kicked booty and we had a great time!
Wes in front of Olympic Stadium at Olympic Park
While walking through the park we saw some Team GB athletes being interviewed:
Brazil vs Norway Handball game on August 7, 2012
Brasil had some very entertaining fans!
After the game we walked around Olympic park to peek at the venues such as the aquatics center where Michael Phelps made history and the great white basketball arena. We also souvenir shopped at the London Megastore there which was huge- think Super Walmart in size- and people had to be let in in waves so the store didn’t get too crowded. The store was still incredibly crowded but we were able to get some really neat things including a onesie set for our baby girl. They were sold out of newborn sizes so she won’t get to wear them for a year, but by golly she got something from the Olympics!
Our next event was at Wembley Stadium, about 20 miles outside of London, for the Mexico vs Japan quaterfinals soccer (football) game. We were particularly excited about this game because we are huge soccer fans and Wembley Stadium is like the Rose Bowl of soccer over there. It’s a magnificent arena!
It was a sold out crowd of 88,000 people, so getting in took an hour or so but the atmosphere inside was electric! We sat next to a British guy who was very friendly and quite surprised that we were rooting for Mexico when we they give us “so much trouble”. I told him that, yes, we do have issues but they’re still our neighbors and quite frankly I’ll take a good taco over sushi any day.
The game was very exciting and Mexico triumphed 3-1 over Japan. I gotta give it to the fans in the crowd- they kept the Wave going in two directions even AFTER they collided. Now that’s an experienced crowd! We left a little early so I could avoid the crowd, which was definitely a smart move on our part because we were able to get back to our hotel in about an hour.
On our way back to the hotel via the tube we stopped at King’s Cross station so I could get a picture of Platform 9 3/4, so here’s a picture of that for my fellow HP nerds!
We left for Atlanta the next day a little after noon and I wish we could say we had a smooth flight back, but in fact we experienced the worst turbulence ever! We were about an hour from Atlanta and we’d had turbulence almost the entire way, but at that point the plane dropped in midair so much that people hit the ceiling and hit the floor. Luckily, I was sitting with my seat belt fastened in between one of my many bathroom breaks but I did feel my whole body go toward the ceiling. One of the flight attendants was injured and I hate to think what could have happened if I’d been up at that point. Two of the flight attendants working that flight were on our flight back to Dallas and so I was able to ask them what they thought of that incident and they both agreed it was the worst turbulence they’d ever experienced, too.
So, PSA: Wear your seat belt when you’re seated!!
We really enjoyed our trip to London, and I can’t wait to go back! The people are friendly (the days I wore my USA shirt random people would shout “USA!” and give the thumbs up with a huge smile), it’s easy to get around, and it’s a beautiful city to just walk around and enjoy the sights.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions about our trip feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
To view all our photos from the Olympics, click here.