In London for the Olympics!

Trip Start Jun 25, 2012
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Trip End Aug 25, 2012


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Where I stayed
Antonio's Airbnb flat

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Monday 30 July

The alarm went at 6 and we dragged the kids out of bed and got dressed. Bogi had very kindly offered to drive us to the airport which was typical of their generosity and so after a sad farewell to Linda (or superwoman as we have dubbed her) we piled in the car and headed off for the half hour drive to the airport. It was sad to say farewell to Bogi and we do hope that they will come and visit us next year. We have assured them that we will organize a 'busy itinerary' to match theirs!
 
The plane flight was squashy but comfortable, as to be expected on a discount jet service and we arrived about 1 pm at Gatwick. We then got through immigration, bought some food for lunch and caught a taxi to our apartment in Shoreditch. Gatwick only has one taxi company which charges like a wounded bull, so Michael called another one to pick us up downstairs from Departures which only cost us 85 as opposed to 125! Antonio, the guy who owns our apartment, greeted us at the door and took us up to his fabulous, roomy apartment on the third floor. With 2 double beds set up in the huge main living area for the kids, a separate bedroom for us, a nice bathroom with good shower, highly functional kitchen, and most importantly good TV and Wifi, everyone was happy! Antonio had gone above and beyond by filling the fridge with essentials and even buying some Oyster Cards, each charged with 10, for us to use for transport. He is a musician in a band and when he mentioned that he has been recently playing in gigs with Ed Sheeran, who sings one of the kids’ favourite songs ‘A Team’ they were really impressed. He even gave them some memorabilia from one of their tours!

After picking Antonio’s brains about transport options and good places to eat etc, he scooted off, we got ourselves sorted and hooked up to the internet, and then at 5.45 Joan, Beresford, and their granddaughter Amy turned up. They had all our Olympic tickets as Joan had very kindly queued up to collect them on our behalf and then they had gone to the Handball yesterday while we were still in Iceland, which they said was fabulous! I was so pleased they got a chance to go, as they had missed out on getting any tickets, like most people in England. We wandered down the nearby Canal towpath to a nice spot with lots of restaurants which Antonio had recommended, and then had a lovely meal at a Turkish place, which Beresford insisted on paying for. Six year old Amy took a bit of a shine to Tom and they had running races on the way home, Amy running incredibly quickly and giving Tom quite a challenge – a future Olympian there maybe?
 
We said our fond farewells to Joan, Beresford and Amy, relieved to find no clamp or ticket on their illegally parked car, and then headed upstairs to make our poster for the next morning’s handball where Iceland would be playing. Then it was off to bed, conscious that we had another early start in the morning.

Tuesday 31 July

It was our first day of the Olympics and so we got up early and organized ourselves before hopping on the bus directly across the road which took us to Dalston Kingsland Station where we caught the Overground train to Stratford. They had excellent systems for managing the crowds and we were in through security in no time. It was a bit damp but that didn’t dint our excitement at being there.
  

It was a 20 minute walk to the Handball which was being held at the Copper Box but we made it in plenty of time. The atmosphere was great and it was great to watch Iceland comfortably beat Tunisia in the first game. Our friends in Iceland would have been very happy. Their goalie is incredible and Tunisia found it really hard to get past him. The following game between Hungary and Korea was much closer and really neck and neck, with Hungary, supported by a huuuge crowd barracking loudly, just beating them. We barracked for Korea to even things up a bit!
 
After the handball, Tom & Mike had tickets to the Women’s 10 Metre Synchronised Diving, so Rachel and I left them to it and headed back to the apartment. To get to the train station though, you have to go via the Westfield shopping mall, so we distracted ourselves a bit there while I bought a light rain jacket, top and umbrella. Getting off the train we wandered across to an open air food market and bought a few things for the apartment and then caught the bus home.
  
I looked up on Google Maps the most efficient way of getting into town which recommended the 243 Bus to Holborn which is next to Covent Garden, so we wandered out to the bus stop straight outside our door and headed hopped on one within a minute. Rachel was desperate to visit the famous ballet stores and had a blissful time trying on leotards, first at Bloch where we bought two, remarkably cheaply in comparision to Adelaide, and then walked on to Capezio, where she bought a new ballet bag and another leotard and ballet skirt.
 
By this time Michael and Tom had finished with the diving, so they caught the new bullet train called the Javelin which goes from the Olympic station at Stratford to St Pancras in only 7 minutes and then connected with an underground to meet us. We met Mike and Tom outside Opera House, wandered down to the Lyceum Theatre where we collected our tickets to ‘The Lion King’ and then had nice meal at pub next to theatre.  
 Tom was a bit exhausted but woke up enough to watch the performance which was absolutely brilliant! It was an extraordinary and cleverly used set with amazing puppets, masks and costumes. We all loved it and came out on quite a high, singing the songs. Luckily the bus stopped just outside the theatre so we hopped on the 243 and within half an hour were happily back home, ready for sleep!

Wednesday 1 August

We had to get up early to get to Wembley Arena where the Badminton was being played. Once again Google Maps showed the most efficient way – the same bus as yesterday and then the Overground but in the opposite direction, and then the Jubilee line on the Tube to Wembley. It was quite a long walk then to the Arena which did my dodgy hip no good whatsoever, but at least we’re getting lots of exercise!
 
We saw some very exciting games including the current number 1 male and top doubles pair play, as well as the former world champion woman who played for France, but couldn’t manage to beat her opponent. China won every game they played, but it was to a very high standard and none were repeating the appalling behavior of trying to lose matches which happened yesterday and led to 8 players ultimately being disqualified.
 
After the games we caught the Jubilee line all the way back to the stadium. By this stage the labral tear in my hip was really giving me grief with all the walking, so I stayed put with Tom while Mike and Rachel queued up to get lunch for us. Then Mike & Tom went off to watch the Hockey and meet up with Joan and Beresford who were using the other two tickets. Meanwhile Rachel and I queued up to go into the Olympic Superstore which was full of Team GB merchandise and not much else. We did manage to buy two Aussie flags for 10 quid each which we wrapped around ourselves and then wandered off to the diving.
 
Rachel and I had tickets to the men’s 3m springboard synchronized diving and were a bit worried that it might be no good as Mike and Tom had been a bit disappointed with the lack of atmosphere when they saw the women’s synchronized 10 metre yesterday. Our seats were a long way away from the diving end, but in fact were fine, especially as the big screen allowed us to see the replay.  It is an amazing stadium – absolutely huge and packed to the rafters. As it turned out it was a great competition – the Chinese pair were incredible, but so were the other divers. We sat next to the aunt and uncle of one of the Canadian divers so barracked loudly for them, but no one had a chance against China!
 
After the diving which only lasted 45 minutes, we waited around until the Hockey finished. The bar area was ridiculously busy but in the end we got an end of a table and shared a chicken masala while waiting for the others to turn up. Eventually Joan, Beresford, Michael & Tom turned up, raving about the exciting hockey match they had just witnessed. We had a drink and then wandered into Westfield to have a quick dinner with them at the World Food Court before we all went our separate ways home. At Westfield they had TV screens everywhere so we watched the Australian swimmer get pipped at post once more before we left – it’s been a very silvery kind of Olympics for Australia!
  
 
Thursday 2 August

We woke up  and put on our face paint and got our flags ready for seeing Aussie men play China in the Basketball. My hip was still really hurting so we caught a ride on one of the mobility vehicles which could luckily squeeze us all on. It turned out the other passengers were the parents of one of the Aussie Basketball team, Baynes! They were very excited and had a blow up kangaroo with them, so we chanted Aussie, Aussie, Aussie loudly all the way to the arena.
 
By the time we finally got there it was the last minute of the France - Lithuania match which looked like it had been very exciting. The crowd really got into the spirit of cheering on their home teams. There was a big Aussie crowd, but also lots of supporters for China. It was a very exciting game and what was really great was that the Australians won – it was nice to finally beat China!
 
We walked back towards the train station, thinking about having lunch in Westfield but nothing appealed. Instead we got back to Kingsland Rd and caught the bus but went a few stops beyond our place to a really yummy Italian restaurant. There we shared 3 stunning pizzas and then headed home for a rest and to watch the Olympics on TV.
 
At about 6 pm we headed out on our trusty 243 bus to Covent Garden and walked to the Cambridge Theatre where ‘Matilda’ was showing. This was an absolutely brilliant production! Tim Minchin’s lyrics and music were at their best, matched by a fabulous cast and amazing child actors. The guy who played Miss Trunchball was seriously scary and hilarious, the Wormwood parents were brilliantly funny, and Matilda was fabulous. Finally the set was incredible and very well used. Altogether, another great night at the theatre! We walked back to the bus stop, waited for ages for the bus – two came in a row so we got on the second one and that way got a seat - and then headed off to bed.
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