tom911 goes to the 2012 Olympic Games

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by tom911, Jul 23, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    I'm in the American Airlines Admiral's Club at SFO, getting ready to head out to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Traveling with me are 11-time Olympic swimming medalist Natalie Coughlin's parents, sister and husband. We've all been very fortunate, with a combination of miles and upgrades, to fly to London Heathrow in business or first class.
    After arriving at Heathrow at 1130 Tuesday, we'll work our way to Kings Cross station in London and head right up to Edinburgh, Scotland, for 3 nights. The train trip is 4.5 hours long but a lot better than a bus which would be 8 hours (did that once before and swore I would never do it again). We have 4 day rail passes and intend to get our money's worth out of them. It will be a return trip to Scotland for me, but for everyone else in the traveling party it will be their first visit.
    Back down to London day of opening ceremonies.
    Natalie is only scheduled to swim one event this Olympics, and it will be the morning prelims of the 100 freestyle relay on Saturday. It's important that the U.S. make it into the top 8 teams so they can move on to finals that night (no semi-finals in this event). Those that swim in prelims do get a medal with relay events, so Natalie could bring home #12 here which would tie her with Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson for the most medals ever won by a U.S. female Olympian.

    Some recent media coverage:

    Today Show with Natalie at Cal:
    http://todayinlondonblog.today.msnb...ie-coughlin-im-older-and-much-much-wiser?lite

    Bleacher Report: Olympic Swimming 2012: 10 Things You Need to Know about Natalie Coughlin (click on the slideshow):
    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/...hings-you-need-to-know-about-natalie-coughlin

    ESPN Sports Center commercial:


    For those that have not been to a summer Olympics before, I do have my photos on line still:

    2004 Olympics Games Athens
    http://tom911.smugmug.com/2004-Olympic-Games-Athens

    [​IMG]

    2008 Olympic Games Beijing
    http://tom911.smugmug.com/2008-Olympic-Games-Beijing

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. uggboy
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    uggboy Gold Member

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    Thanks tom911 for sharing your upcoming experiences on MP! Safe travels!:)
     
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  3. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    Departure time of our first flight moved up 10 mins to beat Air Force One ATC restrictions.
     
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  4. mommypoints

    mommypoints Gold Member

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    Safe travels! I am just a few days behind you and can't wait. Looking forward to hearing your experiences!
     
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  5. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    Snack on the 1045 SFO-ORD (cheese enchilada, other option was salad with BBQ chicken):
    [​IMG]

    Currently in the Flagship Lounge snacking on bacon wrapped scallops and pizza rolls.
     
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  6. sellthesedownfalls

    sellthesedownfalls Silver Member

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    I'm so excited to follow along! :)
     
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  7. LXJenkins
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    LXJenkins Silver Member

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    Looking forward to following along. What other events are you planning on attending?
     
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  8. spesalvi

    spesalvi Gold Member

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    wow thanks for sharing your tr with us, looking forward to hearing more, have fun and safe travels!
     
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  9. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    Just departed Kings Cross at 1330 en route to Edinburgh. Get 15 mins free wifi on board.
     
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  10. Bay Pisco Shark
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    Bay Pisco Shark Gold Member

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    Safe travels. Have a great trip.
     
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  11. perryplatypus

    perryplatypus Gold Member

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    Safe Travels tom911. Watch your wallet! According to last night news the pick pocket gangs are out in full force and have become even more cleaver in stealing. If someone offers to wipe off bird droppings of you tell them no and that you like the smell :D
     
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  12. MarkUK
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    MarkUK Milepoint Guide

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    Welcome to the UK - if you have questions please let me know
     
  13. Randy Petersen
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    Randy Petersen Founder

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    Thanks Tom, looking forward to your swimmingly great reports.
     
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  14. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    Just two days of swimming right now (first and last day). Tickets are just way too expensive to do more than that.
     
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  15. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    Hello this Wednesday morning from Edinburgh, Scotland. Bright sun outside, as well as loud tram construction noise (think that woke me up this morning at 0830- no need for an alarm clock). I'm meeting the Coughlins in a few minutes for the trek up to Edinburgh Castle. We're at separate hotels near the Edinburgh Playhouse, not far from Edinburgh Waverly train station.

    MONDAY

    Made our way to SFO via BART for our 1045 Chicago flight. This was a snack flight with offerings of a cheese enchilada, one of my favorite AA meals, or a salad with BBQ chicken strips. No wi-fi on this 737-800. I had the Samsung tablet along and watched some video on it.

    On arrival in Chicago we made our way to the Flagship Lounge (first class international lounge) to wait for our 2145 departure to London. We had about 4 hours there, a consequence of some of us traveling on award tickets and working with flights that had availability. Plenty there to snack on though the bacon-wrapped scallops were my favorite. I only had a Sam Adams ad a Diet Coke though there was a full bar available.

    Tom in AA 777 first class

    [​IMG]

    Headed to our flight right outside the front door at 9. Meal selections in first class were Shitake Crusted Beef Fillet, Salmon and Halibut Bundle, or Baked Goat Cheese. I had the beef which was very tasty, accompanied by wilted spinach, balsamic grilled tomatoes and whipped potatoes (choice of salad or vegetables). This came with Chicken Consomme, marinated cheese antipasto and smoked salmon and herb marinated shrimp appetizer. My wine choice was Casa Silva Sauvignon Gris from Chile.

    Shitake Crusted Beef Fillet

    [​IMG]

    On-demand movie system was having issues. The movies I wanted to watch were not available, so just watched an hours worth of TV instead (episode of Blue Bloods). Was sound asleep on my flat bed seat after dinner.

    Flight time was just over 7 hours. About 2 hours before landing up for breakfast.

    TUESDAY

    Zipped through Fast Track passport control at London Heathrow and made our way over to the Heathrow Express train and activated our 4 day railpasses. We are traveling as a group so these are discounted to $175 each and are cheaper than buying individual $249 passes. It gives us the flexibility to take any train. I was worried if we bought prepaid tickets, and missed a booked train, that discounted individual tickets could not be used on other trains, so this was the best way to go. After boarding the train, 15 minutes to London Paddington Station.

    At Paddington, four of our party bought Oyster cards (you save about half for journeys compared to cash prices on the Tube), and we made out way on the Circle Line over to Kings Cross. First available service was the 1330 service to Newcastle, so we boarded that, searched around for seats all about the car we were on, and were on our way. There was a 1400 service to Edinburgh, but the station agent I talked with suggested checking the Newcastle train out first as they were very full due to school holidays. Was worried we'd be standing all the way to Edinburgh.

    Our train had about a 20 min delay as it headed north due to signal issues, so by the time we had got off at Newcastle the 1400 Edinburgh train was just 5 minutes behind us. Just enough time to walk a ramp over the tracks to our new platform and see the train approaching. Very little luggage space on this train so time stood in the connecting corridor between cars with bags for the remaining 90 mins up to Edinburgh. We arrived at 1830.

    About a 15 min walk to our hotels, and we were back out at 1945 for dinner We ended up at Bella Italia off Rose Street for pasta, and were back at our hotels just before 10.

    My room:

    [​IMG]

    New photos start here: http://tom911.smugmug.com/2012Olymp...ondon/24178493_hx9TGn#!i=1986473672&k=XtV7BMr
     
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  16. uggboy
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    uggboy Gold Member

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    Thanks for sharing, look forward for much more!:) Like your photos too, the hotel looks fantastic!
    PS..Indigo Edinburgh?
     
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  17. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    Good guess!
    Just left Edinburgh Castle. Lunch stop at Deacon Brodie's Pub which has free wifi with a code sent to your mobile.
    Gorgeous weather outside.
     
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  18. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    Just back at my hotel and Sky News aired the one minute long Omega "Start Me Up" commercial that Natalie Coughlin appears in. First time I've seen it on television anywhere. It starts off with her goggles and then a head shot, and then has a couple shots of her approaching or in the pool. Rolling Stones fans can feel free to sing along!
    Link:
     
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  19. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    Day 2 in Edinburgh

    WEDNESDAY

    Out the door at 10 for the walk up to Princes Street and across North Bridge, next to the Balmoral Hotel, to take us over to the Royal Mile, home to both Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Along the way we stopped in and toured the National Portrait Gallery near our hotels (photos not allowed inside). Next stop the Vodaphone and T-Mobile shops where two members of our party picked up sim cards for their phones (on my list—didn't have my phone or unlock code along).

    Finally made it over to the Royal Mile and hiked uphill to Edinburgh Castle. The parking lot in front of the castle was full of grandstands for the upcoming Military Tattoo, an annual August event here, so no city view from the parking lot. Spent about 20 minutes in the ticket line and about 2 hours touring the castle and its grounds, including two museums, the Scottish National War Memorial, and the regimental dog cemetery.

    Walking into the castle through the Military Tattoo grandstands

    [​IMG]

    city view towards Princes Street from the castle
    [​IMG]

    Mons Meg siege gun

    [​IMG]

    Down the hill for lunch at Deacon Brodie's Tavern. We sat upstairs. They were out of shepherds pie (with lamb) so had to settle for beef short rib pie at 11 pounds ($17) with mashed potatoes and carrots. Very good. Others at our table has a Thai dish, fish sandwich, and chicken and mushroom pie, and everything look delicious.

    [​IMG]


    Headed down the hill passing shops selling woolen goods and whiskey, and our final destination was the Palace of Holyroodhouse. No time for a tour today (I have done that before), so just a quick look from behind the gates. The Scottish Parliament is right across the street. Back to our hotels after this via a shortcut through the Waverly train station.

    At 7pm we met Jenny from Edinburgh, a frequent flyer here that I go back with probably about 10 years now, for drinks at the The Cafe Royal on West Register Street, off the main road enough that tourists would not accidentally stumble into it, and full of locals. Caught up on what's happening around Edinburgh and why the tram lines are continually under construction. Always great to talk with someone with local knowledge and recommendations on what to see and do. Very nice visit.

    Walked around Princes Street and the adjoining gardens, and then up to The Dome restaurant for a quick look at the exquisite interior. Back to our hotels.

    The Dome

    [​IMG]


    Right around 10pm we popped into the cinema complex with pubs and restaurants across from the Coughlins hotel for a burger, fries and beer special for 5 pounds ($7.50). Very convenient for a late night meal. As we had lunch late we didn't have much of an appetite at the earlier pub stop.

    New photos start here: http://tom911.smugmug.com/2012Olymp...ondon/24178493_hx9TGn#!i=1987429777&k=27kv4JT
     
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  20. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    About 9 hours away from the train trip to London. Still working on today's report and won't be able to get it completed until tomorrow. We went over to Glasgow for the afternoon. Hoping to have a much faster upload speed in London as being capped at 256K does not help when you have 100 photos to upload. I just gave up tonight after an hour.

    Check out the U.S. swimmers "Call Me Maybe" video that just came on line:
     
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  21. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    My 0830 Edinburgh-London Kings Cross train just pulled into Darlington. Running 30 Mins late due to an issue with a train ahead. Currently due into London at 1313 if that holds.
     
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  22. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    Arrived in London! Opening Cememonies a few hours from now

    THURSDAY

    Late start today as Megan and Ethan (Natalie's sister and husband) were video conferencing with her at the Olympic Village and catching up. Made it over to Edinburgh Waverly train station for the 1045 service to Glasgow Queen Street, and after 52 minutes to travel time we were walking over to George Square.

    George Square had some Olympic exhibits that I got photos of, including the Olympic Rings. Right next to George Square is the City Chambers which has ornate stairways and walls. We're only allowed entrance to the ground floor there, but the photos will give you a pretty good idea of the details that make the interior of this building stand out.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Walked around a street market nearby with both food and bakery items (I bought a danish as I had missed breakfast), then through the shopping area on Argyle Street before a turn up Buchanan Street which has more upscale shopping. Got a photo at one of Natalie's sponsors, Omega, of a watch display adjoining a small starting block for the pool. No miniature Natalie on it, though. While in this area we had an ambulance and fire engine pass us, en route to emergency calls, and took photos of those.

    [​IMG]

    Once we got to the top of Buchanan Street there were some bagpipe players. Took a photo and left a tip. Just past them turned left by the concert hall and down Sauciehall Street, where there is more shopping, and eventually a couple blocks of restaurants and a kilt maker. Continued into a residential area, turned into Kelvingrove Park, and arrived at our destination of Kelvingrove Museum.

    [​IMG]

    There was filming of a TV program underway for BBC called Flog It (looks a lot like Antiques Roadshow) with a crowd of people waiting to have items looked at. Just before we arrived there was an organ recital underway just above the crowd. Took a number of photos inside, but perhaps the highlight was a controversial piece by Salvador Dali Christ of St. John of the Cross.

    Here's one of the pieces where the artist recalls his mother's reaction when he broke some of her china:

    [​IMG]

    Look for the floating heads in the gallery itself.

    Lunch stop at Wetherspoons Pub on Sauciehall Street (I had beef madras curry) and then back to the train station where we caught the 1630 train back to Edinburgh. Arrived back in Edinburgh to light rain. Had a light dinner near our hotel at another Wetherspoons (mac and cheese for me) and back to hotel after. Plan to get the 0830 train in the morning to London and have seat reservations in place.

    FRIDAY

    Caught the 0830 train to London Kings Cross. The normal 4.5 hour trip took 5.5 hours because of a train delay in front of us. Tube to the Coughlins hotel near the London Eye and we arrived in the lobby at 1445. I headed over to my hotel in the financial district to find, to my delight, that the internet is fast and not capped, so got the Glasgow photos right up.

    Tonight we're meeting at 7 and heading over to a hospitality event in the City. We'll watch opening ceremonies from there. They don't start here until 2100 (odd time to start, isn't it?).

    Glasgow photos start here:
    http://tom911.smugmug.com/2012Olympi...4711&k=7MGQJPZ
     
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  23. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    Some of you must have watched the US Swim Team "Call Me Maybe" video. Natalie Coughlin is listed in the credits for airplane choreography (you'll see her dancing down the aisle in a yellow shirt...recall she was on Dancing with the Stars). Over 300,000 hits since yesterday when it had just 300.
     
  24. sellthesedownfalls

    sellthesedownfalls Silver Member

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    Hahah, I love how Brendan Hansen looks totally confused. Also Missy Franklin has a great hair-flip. That was fun!

    Weird that the Opening Ceremonies are so late, and that explains why so many swimmers are skipping it! (Events tomorrow)

    Those floating heads are creepy and cool.
     
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  25. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    Natalie didn't do the opening ceremonies in either Athens or Beijing, either. Just too long to be on her feet. Heading out now.
     
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