Sunday, 2 September 2012

A Great London Adventure!

I really love visiting London, it's just enthrals me! If I'm honest I don't think I could live there, it's mainly what you're used to and I'm a coastal kinda girl!
As I'm sure I have said before I am really enjoying the Olympic and Paralympic Games, I tried to get tickets when they were first released with no luck. I tried to get tickets once the Olympic Games were on, again, no luck! Whilst in Northampton I expressed to Mark a desire to visit Olympic Park (even outside would be good, just to soak up a little of the atmosphere!) and do one of the mascot trails that were running in London. (I won't link to the site as I think it will eventually be taken down but basically there are 6 different coloured routes dotted around London where you follow a trail map to find painted mascot figurines.) I'd said about us all going and we had a free weekend the first weekend in September. Mark really didn't want to but suggested Charlie and I could go! Well that was it, the idea had been planted in my head and Charlie was excited at the prospect of seeing Big Ben and I promised him a boat trip down the Thames to Tower Bridge. (He asked if they'd open the bridge whilst we were there, bless him!) Once we were home from our weekend away in Northampton I set to planning Charlie and my weekend in London! I tried all week too to see if I could just strike lucky with some tickets but alas, no! The events showed up but when I checked for availability there wasn't any. Never mind though, I planned enough for us to do!
Charlie was going to a party on Friday lunchtime which meant we had to set off later than I'd have liked but did mean at least that Charlie would have had a 'proper' meal! We caught the 14:38 train and arrived in London at 17:10! We headed straight over to Olympic Park, a friend on Facebook had told me about a viewing platform at John Lewis in the Westfield shopping centre, I'd also found out that there was also a Lego model of the Olympic stadium there too so that was our plan. We arrived and it was very busy but so well organised! A one way walking system into the Olympic area and one way out too! There was lots of 'ambassadors' giving information and jollying up the crowd! Some were wearing giant hands, high fiving people as they went past. Charlie really enjoyed doing this!! Already we were soaking up a great atmosphere and we hadn't reached the area yet! Once there we could see a ticket booth to our left, I was told maybe we could get a ticket there but it was only for collection of pre bought tickets. We were walking over to an information booth when we saw a lady suddenly start dancing about, she was singing 'I've got tickets! I've got tickets!' Obviously very excited! She'd just got tickets to the Athletics on Saturday morning, lucky her! I thought I might as well try too and got my phone out (I've only just got an internet contract on my phone so that was lucky!) Anyway, the reception was really bad, I guess the internet traffic was busy there! The lady at the booth very kindly offered us the use of the laptop inside and we both were trying, me on my phone and her on the laptop! She declared, 'oh, I think I've got you tickets!' I couldn't believe it, after all that trying previously, there, on the screen, was confirmation we were going to the Paralympic Athletics!!!! Talk about last minute! Of course, then we could join the queue for tickets at the booth after all! The funny thing was after all the excitement it suddenly dawned on me that we had things planned for the Saturday, lots of things but hey, we'd got tickets!! Nothing was going to beat that!
We made our way over to John Lewis, I thought we might as well do what I'd planned on the Friday evening anyway! We found the Lego model of the Olympic stadium pretty quickly and spent a little while looking at it. The detail was amazing, Charlie pointed out the torch bearer to me! We then went to the viewing platform which was really good, a brilliant panoramic view from the swimming arena to the Olympic stadium including the Orbit! Beyond the Olympic stadium you could see some of London's icons in the distance. Olympic Park is huge, far bigger than I'd expected and as it turned out only about a 1/4 of it was visible from the platform (the velodrome was around the corner and way up from where we could see!) Still I liked the view we got, I took several photos from the same spot and stitched them together at home. It came out Ok I suppose, it's just a shame the sky changes colour but you get the idea!!

I'd thought we'd try and attempt the pink mascot trail in the evening if I thought Charlie was up to it, he seemed OK so we went back to the underground whilst it was still light, when we arrived at Covent Garden (the start of the pink trail) it had gone dark, it was only around 8:00pm! We started the trail, I wanted to try and go as quickly as we could so we weren't out too late. Charlie enjoyed finding the mascots and the trail kept his interest really well! There were 3 we couldn't get as they were inside locked gardens but we got some (not very good) photos. We eventually got to near Trafalgar Square and Charlie had had enough by then so we abandoned the trail, I think there was only 3 to 4 we missed. I wanted to go to Trafalgar Square to see the Olympic countdown clock, it is now a regular clock (it was 21:08!!) There was a great atmosphere at the square too as there is a giant screen set up with all the live action, we watched for a few minutes before retiring to our hotel. I tucked Charlie into bed and decided to have a look where we'd be sitting in the stadium. I hadn't really thought about it until then but there was 3 pricing tiers with the tickets. The lady had automatically gone with the highest price tickets (£30 for me and £5 for Charlie.) I was absolutely delighted to find we were sitting in the lower tier, just 24 rows from all the action!!
I can't say I slept very well (remind me next time to book a twin room!) but I was up bright and early. I let Charlie sleep whilst I got myself washed, dressed and ready. I then woke him and got him ready before we ate breakfast in the room, we'd bought it from a Tesco express the night before! Our hotel was across the road from a tube station (Lambeth North) so we excitedly set off! I knew we had to change onto the red line to Stratford and it was there that we met a really lovely couple. He was a rail enthusiast and they were head to St.Pancreas to catch the Javelin train. We'd seen the signs for it the night before but our underground tickets didn't allow travel onto it but today we had Olympic travel tickets so could! The Javelin was quoted as being only a 6 minute trip to Stratford. When we arrived at St.Pancreas there was a VERY BIG queue for it!! We did wait and it was worth it for the ride experience but truthfully Charlie and I would have been better just sticking to our plans but hey ho, it didn't matter. We had a lovely chat with them and Neville delighted in telling Charlie all about trains, Charlie absorbed it all like a sponge! Of course as we weren't expecting to get tickets we hadn't brought anything but they very kindly gave us some flags to wave inside the stadium! We arrived at Olympic Park just after out allotted time of 10:00am, we went through security, bought a programme and were in our seats for 20 past!

Our view was incredible and the stadium was impressive! Charlie has a thing about the flood lights at stadiums and was mightily impressed, LOL! We had a terrific view for the start of the 200m events and we got to see quite a few starts, from the blind category with guides to the amputees etc. We were very honoured to see Richard Whitehead win his Paralympic gold in world record breaking time!! Even more honourable we also got to see his medal ceremony too. I felt so patriotic as we sang our National Anthem whilst the Union Jack was raised. I cannot express my emotion at that moment. Charlie waved his flag madly the whole time! We also got to see a few 100m events, discuss, long jump and club throwing, our Team GB girl, Gemma Prescott won Bronze in that event whilst we were there. Our Paralympic experience was just amazing, I'm sure neither of us will ever forget it.
We came away from the stadium and ventured through Olympic Park taking in the many sights along the way! (and there was many!) We at some lunch and then walked to about halfway across the park, we were at Park Live, a park area with a huge lake in the middle. In the middle of the lake was a double sided huge screen covering all the events live. It was the same stream that was playing to Trafalgar Square too. We could see the velodrome in the distance from there. As we were walking away from the park area an 'ambassodor' high fived Charlie and asked if we were enjoying our Paralympic day! I said we were. he asked what we'd seen etc and I just commented that we were going to go to the velodrome but there was no way I could walk all the way there (and I couldn't have expected Charlie too neither as we still had a few plans for London later on!) No sooner had I said we couldn't go, he'd organised us a lift on one of the golf buggies that were driving around!! Charlie merrily waved to people as we drove past, LOL! It took us all the way there, I was delighted!! I took photos of the velodrome and then we walked up a small hill at the other side of Park live to the Paralympic symbol for a photograph. The driver of the golf buggy had said that when we were ready to go back we could get on another buggy back to the main gate!! Absolutely amazing! Now we'd walked the first half originally so it was quite a ride all the way back!! On the way back we saw the boat used during the Queen's pageant celebrating her Diamond Jubilee! An unexpected treat! We were nicely rested by the time we'd got back and made our way on the underground back into London. We ducked up at Green Park station just to photograph this chap! He is 'Queen's Guard Wenlock.' I was hoping to see him last night but it was just getting too late, never mind, we saw him now! He was on the purple trail!

We arrived at Westminster station to be greeted by none other than Big Ben!!!  Wow! We crossed Westminster bridge (taking Charlie's photo with Big Ben along the way) and got out the trail map for the red route!

I was confident we'd manage this route, it was around 3:00pm and our train wasn't until 6:30pm. We found the first one and we were off! This was actually quite an easy route and once we'd got away from the busy area around the London Eye it went quite quickly. My camera was on its last battery strength but I knew I had my phone camera and iPad camera as back up! It was pleasant walking along the embankment and there were a few people also doing the trail! Charlie found it all very exciting and I let him spot the next one! Once we'd crossed Lambeth Bridge Charlie was starting to say he was tired (I understood how he felt, LOL!) We could see Big Ben and I told him that when we got back there we'd be going on the boat ride! That renewed his enthusiasm and we were off again! There was only 4 to see on the other side and then we walked down by the Houses of Parliament. The police kept Charlie's interest! We crossed over again and made our way down to the boats. I saw a poster that said the trip was 30 minutes, that would be just right, it was nearing 4:45pm. We went down to the jetty and after a few minutes boarded our boat. What the poster didn't state was that there was another pickup and the 30 minutes didn't start until after that! I will admit that at this point I had a little panic we wouldn't make our train! I was actually googling train times and texting Mark whilst at this second pick up, just in case! The boat trip was very nice, I was a little relieved when I saw Tower Bridge! Tower bridge was sporting a very nice symbol of the Paralympic games where the Olympic rings had been previously. We had a very good view from the water. We got off the boat at 5:45pm, just 3/4 of an hour before our train. I really wanted to photograph the bridge from the side and see the 'Beefeater Mandeville' mascot from the blue trail. I just thought we'd go for it and spent a couple of minutes doing so. Charlie and I had our photo taken with the bridge too and it was exactly at that point,on the very last photo we were going to take, that my camera battery passed out!! Well, that was it our London adventure was complete and our next mission was to catch our train!! Tower Hill station is, of course, at the top of the hill! (We saw another mascot on the way and very quickly snapped it with the phone camera!)  We arrived at the station with just 35 minutes until our train, I asked the man there if there was any chance of us making our train. He advised we get on the yellow line to Euston Square and run to Euston station. I spent the whole time on the underground train looking at my watch with Charlie sitting next to me assuring me it didn't matter if we missed the train, we could always get the next one, bless him. I've never run like we did when we got off the train in my life!! Well perhaps that's a small white lie but it's a very long time since I have run like that! We arrived at the station with about 6 minutes to spare! I looked on the board and, of course, our train was leaving from Platform 1, the furthest away!! We ran a little more and literally made that train by the skin of our teeth!! As we boarded it set off! We found our reserved seats and had a very uneventful journey home whilst talking about our trip! Mark and Courtney met us off the train in Lancaster. It was so lovely to see them♥

1 comment:

  1. wow what a fab fun packed weekend you both had, memories to treasure for many years to come. I love London, but to sight see only.