Top Ten Reasons Why We Aren’t Going To The Olympics

Citizens can compete as athletes for the Unite...

We like to watch the Olympics.  When my sister and I were kids, we used to pretend to be Mary Lou Retton.  She (my sister, not Mary Lou) asked me if we were going to the Olympics and was surprised when I told her we weren’t.  Here’s why:

1. Crowds.  I hate them.  I can’t see anything.  Being short, my face is usually in someone’s armpit.  If someone is going to be trampled, it will probably be me.  The more personal space I have, the better.  Plus, London is such a great city that I want to experience it.  I don’t want to spend it waiting in line.

Olympic Games Message

Olympic Games Message (Photo credit: chooyutshing)

2. The marketing.  Brands pay tens of millions of dollars to be associated with the Olympics and use its values to burnish their own.  While not a reason to avoid the games, it isn’t exactly a selling point for me.  I guess I can’t blame them though.  Ask Greece if they would have liked to have had more corporate money?

3. I’m turned off by news stories about the greed that surrounds it.  For example, landlords are evicting tenants in east London from their homes in trying to cash in on the Olympics.

4. HDTV.

5. The prices.  London isn’t cheap.  When they jack up their prices higher than Swiss prices…

Cropped transparent version of Image:Olympic f...

Cropped transparent version of Image:Olympic flag.svg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6. Tickets aren’t easy to get, especially for some of the sports that I’d really want to see.  Heck, you have to buy a ticket just to visit the Olympic Park.  We didn’t apply in the initial balloting process so we would have to get lucky to get some at the general sale.  If we had to resort to other means to get tickets, I would probably gasp at the prices.  Just yesterday, Volodymyr Gerashchenko, the general secretary of the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee, resigned after being filmed offering tickets for sale.  It’s a crime to sell Olympic tickets on the black market.

7. He works… a lot.  He probably couldn’t take the time off.

8. There are so many other wonderful places to visit.  It’s not as though we won’t have anything else cool to do.

9. The London games and their “legacy” has been so hyped that it seems impossible to live up to it.

Marion Jones - September 30th, 2000 at the 200...

10. Doping.  My disappointment was enormous after I learned of Marion Jones‘ steroid use.  I don’t know how the games can stay one step ahead.  Wondering whether the person who is killing it and ends up on the medal stand will later test positive takes some of the excitement out of it.

We’ll be heading back to London…after the Olympics.  We love the city and there’s still tons more to see and do.

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How To You And Your Mate Can Suss Out A Good London Pub

This was touristy, but fun and full of charm

Every country has pubs, cafes, bars or restaurants.  English pubs have become part of international culture and a tourist attraction in their own right.  At their best, they are a sort of communal home away from home.

We’d been dreaming about settling into a cute place on a rainy day for a pint with fish and chips.   Some of London’s pubs look as though Disney had dressed up bad sports bars to look typically English.  Here are some of the issues:

  • Mediocre mass market beer – Why was there such a lack of variety in a country that produces so many wonderful beers?  Why put Heineken on tap?   We even saw Kronnenberg 1664 on tap!  I was even disappointed with some of his cask ales.
  • The wine is rubbish – Although to be fair, I didn’t actually taste any.  They looked so bad that I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
  • Video poker machines – They kill the ambiance.  I get that this might make the owner money, but people should not be bored enough to need them for entertainment.
  • Poor service – I always ask for advice to try to taste something new and yummy.  If I am going to have one, I want it to be something I can’t have at home and very good.  Therefore, I consider knowing what you have to offer a basic part of the job.  Often, they couldn’t give advice and didn’t seem to want to engage in conversation of any sort.  Oh yeah, and a counter was sticky.  Yuck.  I think that definitely counts as bad service (and it’s very unappetizing).
How can you tell the good ones from the bad or soulless ones?  I put on my thinking cap and here’s what I came up with:
  • If they try to make it look too historic with a giant sign out front detailing it’s history, be suspicious.
  • If there is video poker, or any other highly visible electronic game, run.
  • Ditto if no one smile at or greets you.
  • If you do not hear British accents anywhere inside, exit immediately.  You would be surprised at how many contained not a single Brit (including the staff).

Even if it was a tad bit cheesy, as a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I loved the Sherlock Holmes Pub with a “recreation” of his rooms.  There were tons of veterans there having a drink after Armistice Day festivities.

We Minded The Gap And The Rest Of How We Got Around London

The fastest way to get from Heathrow* into the city is by train (15 minutes to Paddington Station).

Of course, we then took the Underground (London’s name for its subway system) to the hotel.  Unfortunately, I got a bit lost and had to hop into a one of these to actually find the hotel.

Had to take a picture of this taxi because it had one of the guys from Top Gear on it.

London’s Underground is famous and a bit of a tourist attraction in its own right.  London limits where cars can go, so it is also the fastest way to get around the city.

This is the gap.  We minded it.

Mind The Gap

One evening, we took a boat ride down the Thames.  It was a great way to see the city and on the London Transport Boat, which was surprisingly cheap.

Just about the only public transport we missed riding was one of these red double-decker busses.

*I like Swiss Airlines (especially when it is cheaper than EasyJet) because they always give you free chocolate.

You’re welcome

 

We Lost Our Heads At The Tower Of London

The Tower of London is an impressive set of buildings with a storied history.

They also have a lot of interesting stuff in there like the crown jewels (including the world’s two largest diamonds).  Here are some of the more things we found interesting…

Kings and queens put their names on everything…including drainpipes.
A catapult.  Cool.
They have a changing of the guard, in other words you can watch the shift change.

They have ravens because of a “legend” that the tower will stand as long as they are there.  Ironically, the legend appeared when the tourists did.

We were surprised that we got to see spots (plural as there was more than one) where kings were murdered.

 

We laughed because Henry VIII’s armor got progressively larger over the years.  The first set was made for a fit man.  The second set was clearly larger.  The next set was Shreck-sized.  He, um, made other parts of the armor larger too.  I know, it’s more than a little disturbing.
Deeply disturbing, no question about it

Some of the armor was tiny.  This one was made for a three-year old.   They must have been more coordinated than I was at three.

He found the loo.

Bedazzled guns.  The sign says it was ordered from a jeweler and never picked up.  The jeweler turned it in.

There was also a gold plated revolver that was used in an infamous murder and a gold plated sub machine gun.  Was the orderer killed?  Incarcerated?  Deported?

There was a dragon made from weapons.  Check out the claws… they are made from old guns with wooden handles.

In the gift shop, they had a mug that when filled with hot liquid, Henry VIII’s wives disappeared.  Creative.

This marks the spot where Henry VIII’s wives were executed (Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey).

I got into trouble with the beefeaters.
Name someone else who else has a Yeoman Gaoler these days?

I’m still not sure why this hand is in the wall.  Please send me a note if you do.

 

London’s Museums

We left London a whole lot smarter (don’t get me wrong, we are still as dumb as two boxes of rocks).  We went to a few great museums: the British Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the Tower of London and the National Gallery.  The Rosetta Stone (below) is one the British Museum’s most famous objects.  It has same inscription written in three different scripts (Greek, hieroglyphs and demotic Egyptian) and allowed modern scholars to begin to decipher hieroglyphs for the first time.

From the statue of Ramses II to the egyptian mummies to statues from Easter Island and more. The British Museum was awesome.  If you rule 1/4 of the world’s population and have the money and the means to bring back treasures, you can amass an amazing collection.

 

 

King’s Library
Winged Lions (with human heads) from Assyria
This used to hang in the Parthenon.
The Elgin Marbles were amazing, his favorite part.
No wonder Greece wants them back.

The Imperial War Museum is in Bedlam.  Yep, that’s right Bedlam, the mental hospital that was so chaotic that it’s name became synonymous with it.  It was a fantastic museum.  They have tons of old bombs, tanks, vans, planes, etc., but there are also great exhibits.  Some of the highlights include: British spying in the 20th century, WWI (including a simulated trench warfare experience) and WWII (with a disorienting air raid experience).

The most astounding part of the museum was the Holocaust exhibit, the most complete in Europe.  They have an immense amount of materials and it is well presented.  Part of the way through, we found ourselves becoming a bit numb.  The content was so disturbing that it was the only way we could continue to the end without falling apart.  I cannot recommend seeing this highly enough.

The National Gallery (one of the world’s best art museums) has an unprecedented and immensely popular exhibit on Leonardo Da Vinci.  It just opened and they have already sold out of tickets online.  To see it, I waited in the cold rain for an hour and a half!  It was well worth it.  Da Vinci painted less than 20 paintings over the course of his life and they never had so many together.  Ironically, a lot of the drawings belonged to her majesty the queen!

We were exited for the opportunity to move here, in part, because we knew that we would learn and grow.  This weekend, it started to dawn on us just how much learning is so much more accessible.  We resolved to try to take full advantage.

Movies Filmed In London

Avi:                     Eighty-six carats.
Rosebud:           Where?
Avi:                     London.

Rosebud:           London?
Avi:                     London.
Avi’s Colleague: London?
Avi:                     Yes, London.  You know: fish, chips, cup ‘o tea, bad food, worse
                           weather, Mary ____ Poppins… LONDON. (from Snatch)
Willis Group Building Trinity Square was in Laura Croft: Tomb Raider. It was the mansion of villainous Manfred Powell.
Westminster Bridge was eerily deserted in 28 Days Later.
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Whitehall from Trafalgar to Parliament appeared in V for Vendetta.
The stunning Millennium Bridge has been featured in tons of movies including: Harry Potter And The Half Blood PriceBridget Jones Diary, and Love Actually.
Tower Bridge is easily recognizable in:  Sweeney Todd,  Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and from about ten million other things.
The London Eye was seen in Run Fatboy RunWimbledonFantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Love Actually.
The Silver Surfer rides the London Eye
30 St. Mary Axe (dubbed The Gherkin for its resemblance to a pickle) was in Match Point and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
The Admiralty Arch (situated close to Trafalgar Square) was the heavily guarded checkpoint passed by Clive Owen in Children Of Men.
You saw Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square in Love Actually.
Of course, the Tower of London was featured in The Tudors.
The Royal Court’s of Justice were in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
Usually, I like to watch movies set in the destination before a trip.  Given that our tech system is not fully functional, we didn’t do that this time.  Before we go back to London, we will definitely rewatch some of the above films.