Cheers and good day to you. The past two days in London have left me with some of the most memorable moments of this entire trip.
On Wednesday, my 22nd birthday, I spent the day hanging out with Andrew Mishler, Mat Mikesell and Misha Kerkhoff. After a relaxing afternoon at our London flat, I took advantage of what this beautiful city has to offer.
I went to a fantastic authentic Italian restaurant called City Pride, just a few blocks away from our flat, for dinner with Misha and a few professors. Boy oh boy was it tasty. It was a nice little place with both inside and outside seating and multiple televisions to watch the Olympic Games. The men’s 200m individual medley relay semifinal was on and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Ryan Lochte edge out Michael Phelps in front of a number of locals who repeatedly said, “And there’s winner for the Americans.” I couldn’t help but smile and laugh after I heard that.
For dinner, I decided to go with the most authentic Italian dish, pizza. Wow, was it amazing. It was a delightful mixture of cheese, mushrooms and freshly sliced ham made right in front of me. It literally melted in my mouth. I also got my taste buds on some of the homemade garlic bread. Once again, I wasn’t disappointed. Another tasty dish.
After dinner, I took a tube down to the London Eye with a smaller group of my colleagues and one of my professors. It was the longest tube ride I’ve taken while in London, but it beats a 45-minute walk. I’ll take it.
Once I was in the heart of London, I saw an array of magnificent sites. It was dark and the entire skyline was lit up. The London Eye was decorated in red, blue and white lights while many of the surrounding buildings were lit up as well. We stopped at the Westminster Parliament building to catch the most spectacular light show I’ve ever seen. The show featured all of Great Britain’s former and current Olympians in their most competitive and exciting moments. At the end of the last show, a picture of Phelps ignited across the entire building, making for an astonishing conclusion.
Following the light show, we biked all the way through Central London back to our flat. It was the most dazzling bike ride I’ve ever been a part of. I was able to slowly cruise by all of the lit up buildings and monuments while trying to remember that I needed to be on the left side of the road, as the folks in Great Britain and all other European countries drive on the left side, not the right. It was truly a remarkable conclusion to what turned out to be one fabulous birthday.
On to Olympic Park…
On Thursday, Mat, Andrew, Misha and I took a tube to Olympic Park and the Media Press Centre. After a short tube ride, we arrived at our destination, where we picked up our credentials.
With security as tight as it is, we had to wait for an escort to bring us into the Media Press Centre, which took much longer than any of us imagined. After being told to wait, we were informed that our escort went to another destination to pick us up. So, we took another tube to Hackneywick, where Andrew and I waited outside for our escort while Mat and Misha went to get an interview with an athlete. Nearly 30 minutes passed, and still no sign of our escort. Andrew and I went up to the front gate and were told to go to a nearby tent, which happened to be where all of the escorts go for pick up. We found out that Mat and Misha were already taken to the Media Press Centre. So again, we had to wait…and wait…and wait…until finally, our escort arrived and we were on our way. After a bit of walking, we were in the same building as some of the most acclaimed newspaper and magazine outlets in the world, including SportsIllustrated, The New York Times and USA Today. It was quite the experience.
I had a chance to chat with and meet a pair of columnists, including Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star and Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports. I was extremely humbled and honored.
We even got to sit in on a news conference containing the Canadian track and field team. A lot of the news conference was spoken in French, but I didn’t care. I was sitting in on an Olympic news conference. Heck, they could’ve been talking in Chinese and I still wouldn’t have cared.
Following the news conference, Andrew, Mat and I took a stroll through Olympic Park, surveying the multitude of shops and restaurants. We went into the Nike store and I saw this really cool Team USA basketball zip-up hoodie. I had to buy it. It was expensive, 75 pounds. Then again, when you’re in London, everything is expensive. One U.S. dollar equals 1.56 pounds. Wait, what? Yup. Very expensive.
Biking through the city of London and spending an entire day at Olympic Park was truly an amazing experience. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of my trip.
Thanks for reading,