{The Olympics} The Greatest Team Parade

I tagged along with the Brit again as he headed to London for work the week after the Paralympics finished. That Monday just so happened to be The Greatest Team Parade showcasing Team GB’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes. I was lucky enough to experience it with a good friend of mine who was a volunteer during the Olympics. I was the girl longing to steal my friend’s cute and cool purple Games Maker outfit while I was in my uniform of skinny jeans, a black blazer, and ballet flats. (Seriously, click the link and see how fun the purple/orange combo is!)

We staked out a spot right below Trafalgar Square that was just before the parade entered The Mall as it made its way to Buckingham Palace. We could not believe how many people were there and because we were running a little late we were about 20 people back from the parade route. It was still absolutely incredible though because everyone was so excited! Despite being a bit far back, we still were seeing these amazing athletes up close! These are some of the better photos from the tons I took that day.

Check out the people in the windows and climbing the monument!

After the parade completed, there were a few fly overs that got everyone emotional. First, it was the British Airways plane that brought the Olympic Flame from Athens to Cornwall for the start of the Torch Parade earlier this year. It had painted ‘Thank You’ on the under side of the plane, which definitely turned me weepy. Then, some RAF helicopters and aircraft followed, and the final part of the fly over was the Red Arrows that left a trail of red, white, and blue behind them.

My friend then had to head to work, so I wandered down to Green Park and watched the speeches on the big screen given by the Prime Minister David Cameron, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, and Princess Anne. It really was an amazing day, and I’m so glad I can look back and say that I was there with a million other people that day in London!

{The Olympics} Women’s Beach Volleyball Finals

In 2011, the lottery for Olympics tickets opened for UK citizens, so the Brit entered for three events:  the Opening Ceremonies, athletics (which included the 100m men’s final), and women’s beach volleyball. We were pretty lucky as he was one of the only people that we actually knew that got tickets through the lottery, and you already know what they were for because of the title of the post. Both of us were excited, especially me knowing there was a chance I could see Team USA in either the bronze or gold medal match!

The day arrived and the weather was absolutely beautiful in London. (The Brit asked me to stress how nice it was since I often talk about how rainy it has been this year…haha!) I had big plans to paint my nails red, white, and blue, but I forgot my nail polish at home, so that didn’t go so well. I wore a blue shirt and the Pennsylvania necklace that the Brit got me for Christmas, so I was country pride, but definitely nowhere near over-the-top and the nails would have been a nice touch; that’s how it goes sometimes!

To get into the venue at Horse Guards Parade, you had to go through airport-style security, which was so seamless and the volunteers directing us and the military completing the security checks were so friendly. The Brit made a comment that airports should take lessons from them…so true!

St James Park

Horse Guards Parade constructed from sand!

Once inside, there were loads of places to grab food and drink. And, when I say ‘drink’, I’m not just talking soda, juice, and water; we are talking beer, wine, and champagne! We started out with a couple beers, but when the Brit went back to the bar between the two matches, he came back with 4 glasses of pink champagne! Seeing him walk up the bleachers with those plastic cups of champagne had me in stitches! He still hasn’t told me how much that cost, and I think we’ll keep it that way!

There was a group of English people sat in the row in front of us who were waving US flags and continually yelled ‘yee-haw’ when something good happened. A bit random, definitely…but all in good fun! The atmosphere inside the stadium was brilliant as well. They would play music in between each point, got the wave going quite a few times, and had the crowd involved in various chants and slow to fast clap segments! And, with nearly everyone at least one drink in, it really was like a giant party!

The views from inside the venue were stunning! Check this photo out…

The first match was Brazil v. China for the bronze medal match. Brazil ended up with the win and the bronze medal. It was so exciting to watch and got me really pumped for the gold medal match between both teams from the US. Yes, we were that lucky that we got to see Team USA play Team USA!

I just thought this was a neat shot from when Brazil won the bronze medal.

During time outs and between matches, these people came out to rake the sand and the announcers would crack jokes about the ‘rakers’, who would rake to Benny Hill music. It was brilliant! Here is a photo of the volunteers who were deemed the rakers…

In addition to the rakers, there was some lively entertainment in the form of dancers who even had costume changes between sets. Below, you can see them in their red, white, and blue outfits that they wore throughout the gold medal match.

The start of the gold medal match!

It was fun to not have to pick sides, although the Brit will tell you I was cheering a bit louder for Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings. I attribute that to the fact that I knew this would be their last Olympics, so I wanted them to go out with a bang! We had a good laugh though when we realized all of the British people in attendance were cheering for the other team representing the USA of Jennifer Kessy and April Ross.

It was really an amazing match and both teams played very well, but Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor came out on top. (I don’t have any good photos of the three teams on the podium because we videoed that part, and after I watched it again, it is a very bouncy video and you hear my voice cracking as I scream my lungs out, so I think I’ll keep that on my laptop for now! :)) It really was an incredible experience, particularly getting to hear the Star-Spangled Banner and see the US flag flying high on the gold and silver medal flag poles!

{The Olympics} Women’s Marathon

My posts on the Olympics have been a long time coming, but I wanted to make sure I gave them the full attention they deserved. Here is the first of three….

I’ve mentioned before that this has been a summer to remember here in England, and the Olympics added so much to the memories. We watched both of the Opening Ceremonies from the comfort of our couch. And, both times, I was completely and utterly blown away by the magnificence of the performances. I found myself with tears in my eyes through many moments of it, especially when you see the smiles on the faces of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes. I found myself so moved by the dedication of the athletes as well as by the effort and dedication of the volunteers that went into making those ceremonies possible. I felt so proud to live in this country, that like any other country has it good and bad points, but for these Olympic and Paralympic Games, I saw the United Kingdom, and London especially, really show the world how amazing it is here.

Oddly, I found myself much more connected to the British athletes than the US athletes because I knew the stories of the Team GB athletes. Do not misunderstand me and think I did not cheer my heart out for Team USA because did I ever cheer for my home country! (You should hear my embarrassing yelling on some of the videos we took at the events and the Brit and I had a nice little country rivalry going.) But, because I am in England obviously much more attention was placed on the Team GB athletes, which led to my becoming more emotional than usual as I had two countries to support.

We were so filled with Olympic spirit and wanted to enjoy as much of the Games as we could, so since we were already going to be in London for a few days, we chose to go a bit earlier and catch the women’s marathon. The weather was rainy, but the the vibe was incredible so the rain didn’t seem to phase anyone in the crowd. We set up camp on the Embankment with a view of Big Ben and the London Eye. Our spot also offered us the opportunity to see the runners five times throughout the race, which was pretty amazing.

 

We stood right behind a Hungarian family who had this catchy chant they would shout in Hungarian when their runners went by. I would scream my lungs out for Team USA (even calling Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan by their first names, which led to me being asked if I actually knew them…haha!). And then, the Brit and I would cheer loudly for Team GB. You couldn’t help but yell and clap for the woman who was the last runner. She might have gotten louder cheers than the leaders, and it was so incredible to be part of this group of people from around the world who just wanted to see others succeed. When the runners went by the final time, it started to rain harder so we ducked into Walkabout to dry off, have a drink, and watch the end of the race on the big screen.

It started to brighten up, so we headed toward Covent Garden to meet up with our friend in a pub to watch Andy Murray play Roger Federer. Oh my goodness, what an amazing afternoon because I think every one of us in that pub was imagining being at Wimbledon as we all just screamed and cheered Andy to victory with “Come on, Andy” and “Let’s go, son” filling the air! When that match ended, we of course stayed to watch him play in the doubles final with Laura Robson, so one beer turned to I-don’t-know-how-many beers and we ended up seeing it through to watch Usain Bolt win the 100 meters final. It was a long day, but seriously awesome to be part of the spirit in London!

If you got caught up in the spirit like I did, what was your favorite part of the Olympic and Paralympic Games?

Nearly a month.

It’s been nearly a month since my last blog post. I’m not okay with this. At all.

Especially, because since then, I’ve celebrated my birthday at least three times, turned in my dissertation, attended the weddings of two lovely couples (one of which was the Brit’s sister and I felt so honored to be one of only two people to have seen her dress prior to the day and to be her official dress lacer-upper), celebrated the end of the Olympics and Paralympics by watching the parade of athletes with one of my good friends while stood amongst the crowds in London, and a host of other things.

To say the least, it has been a whirlwind of events and emotions. And, I’ve wanted to write another blog post since September 3rd when I submitted my dissertation, but I’ve been overwhelmed. Where do I start?! I have so much to say. So much running through my head. And, not just about everything I’ve been experiencing, but about what I’ve been feeling and observing.

Because, along with all of what I listed above, I also celebrated one year since moving to England. That just seems crazy to me. One year. It went so fast.

So, why today? Why start writing again today? Well, no reason really other than I didn’t want to wait another day. My new goal is to post once a day for the next month. I realize this could require some pre-planning on my part as we have a getaway planned for the last weekend in September, but I know I can do this and I really want to do this, which is the most important part.

I’m excited to get back to writing the blog and sharing more about life here. I hope to re-cap some of the fun we’ve already had and the fun we plan to have in the next few months (hello, two trips to the Caribbean and our wedding!!!). So, to my loyal readers out there (I know there aren’t many of you, but I do appreciate each of you that does read — thank you!)…I AM BACK!

P.S. And, to the Brit, your sweet text last week about missing my blog posts really lit a fire under my bum, too. So, thank you for always encouraging me and getting me back to where you know I like to be. xx

P.P.S. The Holiday is on ITV2 right now, which is one of my all-time favorite American girl meets British guy movies, so if you haven’t seen it, then I recommend it as a great rom-com with some super cute old man thrown in for good measure. Have you seen it? Did you like it?

The Great British Summer

What an incredible year to be living in England — the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, England making it to the quarterfinals in the European Cup, Andy Murray in the finals of Wimbledon (oh yes, I was sitting on the couch in tears with the rest of the crowd at Centre Court when he spoke after the match), and…the OLYMPICS!!

According to the BBC website, we are now 14 days from the Opening Ceremonies for London 2012 and the build up here in England has been fun to see. Two Sundays ago, the torch passed through our town. (I know I often refer to ‘our village’, which is where our house is, but the village is just outside of a larger town.)

Also, the day I spent in London over the Brit’s birthday was the same day that the massive Olympic rings were lowered on Tower Bridge. Apparently, I missed seeing the actual lowering of them (and a potential sighting of London mayor, Boris Johnson) by about 15 minutes! However, I was able to grab some photos of them with my phone.

And finally, our Olympic tickets arrived! The Brit was lucky enough to nab tickets to the gold and bronze medal matches for the women’s beach volleyball! I am keeping my fingers crossed for an appearance by the US team in one of those matches! (I have been telling the Brit I’ll be painting my face red, white, and blue if it happens – haha!)

Now, if we could only get the weather to recognize that we are actually in summer….