All Aboard - Taking a Train to Bath

After a long day at the Olympics and very tired feet, I was looking forward to the long (and quiet) train ride to Bath.  Before getting on the train, I spotted a deliciously unhealthy American favorite... Krispy Kreme!
 Unfortunately, the taste did not satisfy my craving.  There was no 'HOT' sign and no fresh doughnuts waiting to be glazed.  Just who-knows-how-many-days-old, stale doughnuts.  Whomp whomp. :(

To add to my disappointment of the morning, I found out that we were sitting at a table in the train with two other people.  There goes my nice relaxing and quiet train ride.  Usually, I am not so pessimistic about talking to locals while traveling, but I was tired and just wanted to rest.
After boarding and making small talk with our train neighbors, I forgot all about my bad mood and began to get a little disappointed that our conversation with new friends would end so soon.  The people who sat with us were so pleasant and full of pride for their country.  They were a father and adult son who had traveled from their home near Bath to attend the Olympics.

We discussed how great each of our experiences were at the Olympics and how the people of England had really embraced the Olympic spirit.  Everyone was just so darn nice and helpful!  Along the way, both gentleman kindly pointed out historic landmarks and told stories of their own history to us clueless tourists.

When they found out that John was a scientist, the son pointed out that his dad was in the science museum in London for engineering.  So, I guess we kind of met someone famous.  :)  I loved meeting our new friends and was pleasantly surprised that the long train ride sitting with two strangers was, well, so pleasant!

So, the lesson of the day:  Talk to people!  You never know who you'll meet or how interesting the conversation can turn out.

London Olympics, Part 2

After the first half of our day at the Olympic Park, I was ready to go home (well, our England home anyway) and take a nap.  There was only one small problem... we had yet to see the event that we had come here to see.  Maybe if it were something that I knew anything about I would be more excited, but it wasn't.  It was Handball.  You've heard of handball, right?  No?  Maybe it's because the US doesn't even have a handball team.  Nevertheless, we stayed until our nighttime event and I even got a short nap in on the softest grass I have ever felt.  Seriously, I must have asked John like 12 times to find out what type of grass it was so we could plant it at our next house.
John tried so hard to get tickets to the previous game, Norway v. Korea, but there were just too many Norway fans there who wanted tickets and not enough fans of Spain and Montenegro (the game we attended).  The game actually ended up being a lot of fun and quite entertaining.  To anyone unfamiliar with handball, the best way I can describe the game is a mix between Basketball and Soccer.  It's quite physical too.  One player got nailed in the face with the ball at one point and got right back up to play again.  Just FYI, the ball is thrown like you would throw a softball / baseball into the net, so it's pretty darn fast.
Since there weren't a lot of Montenegro or Spain fans in the arena, everyone kind of cheered for both teams.  The atmosphere inside was fantastic.  Just a bunch of people excited to be at the Olympic games and thrilled to cheer on great athletes. :)  By the way, the ladies of Montenegro won this game.
If there was one disappointment or critique that I would have of the Olympic games and the Olympic Park, it would have to be the absence of the Olympic Flame.  The flame was kept inside the Olympic Stadium (above) and you could not enter to see the flame unless you had a ticket to an event held inside the stadium.  :(  Why the chose not to display the Olympic Flame for all to see is beyond me.
Fortunately, I did get a tiny glimpse of the flame from outside the stadium.  Can you see it?  They moved it out from the center of the stadium for events and you could see the tiniest glimmer of a flame as night fell.
In my opinion, this is where the flame should have been displayed.  This building was interesting and artistic (named The Orbit), but it was simply artwork at the Olympic Park.  You could pay for a ticket to walk up to the top of the Orbit and see a great view from the top, but you could also see a great view from the top of the Coca Cola Beatbox for free.  So, why not put the Olympic Flame on top of this great piece of art?

After a great day (and a tired pregnant lady), we made quite a hike back to a different train station to get out of the Olympic Park.  It actually wasn't that bad.  Nobody complained, nobody pushed / shoved, and the crowd was constantly moving.  It was a long way to the train station, but Olympic Park volunteers eased the pain of more walking (after a day of walking around the park) by making jokes and attempting to cheer up the crowd over megaphones.  In fact, all of the volunteers were pretty hilarious and very friendly.  I just kept thinking about how different it would have been had this happened in the US.  Londoners were grateful and proud to have the Olympics in their country and show the world what they had to offer.  I can already hear Americans complaining about the hassle of holding an event this large that would interrupt their daily routines had this been held in an American city.  Maybe not though... I would love to be surprised by the attitudes of Americans (especially in front of the world community).  I definitely have a higher opinion of Londoners and the city as a whole after this great experience!

London Olympics, Part 1

The day started with a little brunch with a good friend by one of the many canals that run through London... sounds pleasant, right?  Well, not for me.  This little one in my belly was not a fan of traveling or eating.  I was starving, but became extremely nauseous each time the food arrived in front of me.  And the hot / crowded train rides to the Olympic Park did not help matters.  But we got there and the long walk and long security lines that we were prepared for before entering the park, were pleasantly nonexistent.  Really, I can not say enough positive things about the short lines and fantastic people that worked to put the London Olympic Park together!
Our event wasn't until the evening, so we took time to relax in the cool weather and take in the awesomeness of the Olympic Park.  Really, it was beautiful!
Tons of greenery made you feel like you were out for a stroll in Hyde Park...
...and not in the middle of an enormous crowd of people.  It did not feel this crowded at all.  I was so surprised by the endless sea of people each time I glanced up.  It really just felt like maybe a busy shopping trip at the mall.  And can you believe that there were no lines at the bathroom?!  Whoever planned this setup did a spectacular job!

The buildings were gorgeous too and most of the structures were made to be easily taken apart after the Olympics and ParaOlympics.  I love the fact that they thought of this beforehand and London wouldn't be left with huge empty sports buildings or have to teardown and trash all of the buildings.
By far, my favorite building was the Coca Cola sponsored project created by and run by local artists.  It was also the longest we had to wait in any line (about 25 minutes), but we were entertained the entire time by the previously mentioned local artists.
The Coca Cola 'Beatbox' was a very neat creation.  Those different panels that created the walls were actually sound pillows that you could touch to create music.  The overall 'song' was out together by taking different sounds that you hear in events at the Olympics (like a tennis ball hitting a racquet for one of the sounds).
The downside of traveling with just 2 people is that you get a lot of pictures like this.  One person has to hold the camera, right?  So I was very pleased when we finally got to the top of the building...
Coca Cola was nice enough to let everyone who entered the FREE 'Beatbox' to get a FREE picture with the Olympic torch (they were charging $$ to take a picture with one in other parks of the park).  It didn't end there either.  After a little performance by a few of the talented artists inside the building, you walked away with a FREE commemorative Coca Cola!  Did I mention I love Coca Cola!!
I could have been satisfied with just walking around the park and enjoying my free Diet Coke, but we still had a game to watch.  More on that next time...