Leaving London

It is with a heavy heart that we left London. I found this blog as a draft I had saved and never written.

I don’t think I was capable at the time of writing the multitude of emotion that I was feeling. I was so sad to pack up what we could, sell the rest, and move back to the states after only 6 months. It was heart-wrenching. But we survived and are better for it.

Life lessons are difficult and transition is not easy. Just when you think life is going in one direction you are swirling in another direction. The key is to be flexible and thankful for what and who you do have. Being thankful and focusing on the positive will make the dark days brighter.

If you have the opportunity to do something different like move to London as we did, embrace it, love it and experience it to the fullest. I can still close my eyes and see, hear and smell the sights, sounds and smells of London. It was a unique experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I learned so much in a short time and I am better for it.

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Life After London

We have been reminiscing recently about our time in London last year and all the fun things we were able to do and see.  It hardly seems it has almost been a year since my husband’s employment ended abruptly and we had to find a new adventure. We have moved back to the states and have settled in our little lake community in Missouri. We have started some business ventures and are raising our silver labrador retrievers, Jake and Polly. Life is good and our new adventure is definitely challenging. Life is good and we are blessed. 

I look forward to opportunities to visit London and our friends there. Perhaps we will have the privilege to live there again some day. 


Transitions

Our lives are characterized by transition.  We transition through all the various stages of growth in our lives from baby to young adult.  We choose a career, whether to have family or be single, and we rarely stop to realize how quickly life is moving through all these transitions.  From birth to death we are transitioning.  I have recently become acutely aware of the transitions in my life.

My life has been transitions in rapid fire over the last couple years.  We had the transition from my husband’s job of 16 years to starting a business and brainstorming what to do next.  Then, the transition to living apart as a family for nearly a year as my husband took a new job in London and I stayed to be involved with our daughter’s senior year in High School and pack the house to sell for the move.  We were changing our focus to the adventure of our daughter’s graduation and move to University, as well as, all of us living in different countries.  My husband and I were relocating to London for one to five years and our daughter would start her first year of university in Paris.

These transitions can all be overwhelming on their own but in sequence they are massive life upheavals.  Now, we are at a new crossroads.  My husband has been let go from his position in London, we are embroiled in legal filings with attorneys in three countries and moving back to the US.  We are trying to sell the furniture we bought for our flat, cut our losses and figure out what comes next.

Life is an adventure, what you make of it is what determines character.  I have read many times that it is not what happens to you that makes you who you are, it is how you react to those outside forces that builds and shows your character.    I must say I have spent quite a bit of time recently reflecting on this premise and how I want to come out of all of this.  Personally, I just want it all over.  But what is over?  What is reality and normal?  It is different to everyone.

I recently found out that someone I know has been living another adventure, a much harder and life altering series of events than mine.  Her children have been ill and she nearly lost her baby.  Yet, she has just posted her story to the public and is not bitter or angry.  She understands that life is about love and forgiveness, she has learned and grown.  Her new normal is not everyone else’s normal but she accepts it as hers.  She has chosen to exude strength of character and fortitude.

It is not about the transitions, it is about people, and how they choose to scale the mountains and sled down the hills.

I will miss being nearby while my daughter experiences her first year of university.  I will miss London, the experiences I hoped to have here, and our flat that I made a home.  But I am excited for our future.  I believe there is a greater plan than I can see and I plan to seek it out and live it to the fullest with courage, fortitude, joy and love.


Getting to know London: The Seven Dials

The Seven Dials is one of those quaint old city spaces that is there, in the middle of a larger cultural area, and you don’t really realize what it is and how connected it is to everything until you walk.  I have said before, walking is the way to put the pieces of the puzzle together.  I remember the first time I walked from the area around Tottenham Court Underground Station and New Bond Street to Trafalgar Square and the National Portrait Gallery.  It was amazing to me how many things I encountered along the way and just how livable and walkable this city really is.

I have to add, before I really got to know London, I used to say that London is just too big and spread out.  I did not want to live here and I did not understand how anyone could prefer it to Paris.  Well, after about a year of getting to know this city on my frequent visits and living here a short time I do love London.  My heart will always be in France, Paris could easily be my home, but I have found London to be much better than I ever anticipated. I have found areas like the Seven Dials to wander around.

This gem that I speak of, The Seven Dials, is actually the center of the wheel with spokes pointing out in different directions.  I associate it with Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Charring Cross Road and High Holborn.  Going through the Seven Dials I recently realized how quickly one can go from Drury Lane or High Holborn to China Town or Leicester Square. You can easily go to Shaftesbury and the Theater District. Depending on the route you take from the center of the wheel, you are able to reach the differing areas very easily.

Within the Seven Dials there are a myriad of restaurants and shops.  A couple of favorites are Belgo and the Hawksmoor. There is also an excellent fish n chips restaurant, the Rock N Sole Plaice. This is my husband’s favorite fish n chips.

Belgo is a fun Belgian Restaurant and unique dining experience.  It is located at 50 Earlham St., there are two other locations in Bromley and Clapham around London, but I believe this is the main location.  The wait staff dress in monk attire and the restaurant is underground.  You either take the stairs or ride the freight elevator down into the restaurant.  It is not elegant, but very cozy with great atmosphere.  The main fare is mussels (moules) served many ways.  We love these, and I have tried four of the preparations.  I savored each one and always take them with the fries and either a Belgian house beer or a glass of rosé.  They also have superb roast chicken with the choice of several types of seasoning.  I have been with friends who have had a myriad of other dishes and there were no complaints.  The other quaint option at Belgo is the sampling of schnaps.  They have options from one to thirty-two.  We have actually seen tables order the thirty-two board of shots.  We have investigated the four shot variety and found the choices quite enjoyable.  I intend to try more when I return.  Price point for this restaurant is low to medium for London.  I would recommend the lunch set menu or the Beat the Clock dinner special.  But even at menu price it is a value all around for food and atmosphere.

The Hawksmoor is hands down THE Steak place in London.  It is located at 11 Langley Street.  There are locations at Guildhall and Spitalfields around London, but this is central.  They have hand cut beef and it is sumptuous.  My husband went on a quest for a good steak in London and after many failed attempts, do not go to the Angus Steakhouses unless you order the ribs, he found wonderful cuts of beef at the Hawksmoor.  It too is underground.  It is an elegant and cozy atmosphere with dark wood and low lighting.  But it is not pretentious or over the top.  It also has a fantastic bar.  You can sit in the bar and have dinner if you do not want to sit in the dining room.  This is a restaurant that one needs a reservation, so book as soon as you know you want to go.  They fill up fast and do not be surprised when they tell you that you have a time limit on your table.  We ran out of time one night and were shuffled, very graciously, to the bar.  They have an excellent wine and drink list.  They also have some seafood options as well.  The appetizers and side dishes are sharable and I recommend sharing so you don’t fill up on those, try spinach and chips, they are both good options.  I have heard the desserts are amazing, but have not had room at the end of a meal to partake in dessert, only coffee.    This restaurant is not inexpensive, so understand this is a $$$ experience, but an incredibly satisfying experience.  I have never walked out hungry or had a bad meal.  It is a pleasant and a worthy people watching experience as well.

Rock n Sole is the fish n chips restaurant of choice for my husband.  It is located on the corner of Endell Street and Shorts Gardens.  You need to ask for cod and always have the chips.  I like the mushy peas but my husband is not a fan.  You can sit outside under umbrellas to get the full people watching experience, or you can take away.  We have taken away many times and I cannot recall right now if I have actually taken the time to sit and eat there.  It is always busy and there are no reservations, so just get in the queue and prepare to order.

If you need a treat while in the area there is a Scoop ice cream shop on Shorts Gardens between Neal and Endell streets. There is often a line out the door and you will need to queue, but it is really good ice cream.  There are other scoop locations around London.  I know there is one near South Kensington Tube Station.  But that area is a whole other post.  Love it too!

The most wonderful treat is to step into the Neil’s Yard Dairy Store and smell the fresh cheese.  It is located on Shorts Gardens between Neil St. and the center of the Seven Dials round.  You can taste the cheeses before you buy.  It is an excellent place to pick up some cheese and bread for a snack, picnic, or to take home.  Another location, and my favorite, is at the Borough Market.  This location is accessible to so many people and is a brilliant location as well.

The shops are not all necessarily unique to Seven Dials but they have many trendy shops to move through, they have Miss Sixty, Sephora, Nike, Urban Outfitters, Aldo and some small boutique shops as well.  It is truly a booming area and unique in its own way.

It is a wonderful place to people watch because of the location and the connections to various areas.  There are business people, tourists, and a good mix of young and old people. I really love to sit in the open window at the Starbucks at the corner of Shorts Gardens and Neal St. and watch life go by.  It is a bit like looking into a movie.  You see all the action unfolding and you are set apart as the viewer.  At this Starbucks I have encountered backpackers, business people, students, and others just passing through.  I have taken up a stool there in several seasons.  It has been a refuge from the cold in winter, a respite from the rain and wind in spring, and a cover from the summer sun.  This Starbucks more than any other has shaped an experience in this city because of its location.  A close second would be the Starbucks in Webster Groves, MO.  That too is another blog in and of itself.  If you ever find yourself in St. Louis, please visit Webster Groves.

Historically, Seven Dials was established in the 1690’s by Thomas Neale.  It was designed to be able to fit as many houses as possible in the area.  His aspiration  was to build an upscale area in Covent Garden near the Piazza area, but it became quite the opposite.  Slums took over and it was a less than desirable area for quite some time.  It has seen a colorful array of inhabitants, many immigrants, and establishments, many gin shops and pubs.  Dickens wrote of the Seven Dials and the quarreling drunks in the streets.   The same Sundial monument of today in the center of the round was commissioned and constructed in the early 1690’s.  Over time in the 19th and 20th centuries the area has changed and more businesses have moved into the area.  It has become a cultural hub.  Two notable plaques can be found in the area around the dials.  One is the place where Brian Epstein had his recording studio, the other was the home and Animation Studio of Monty Python.  This area is a historical gem and well worth a visit.


Mai Food -Earl’s Court

One of the best and most amusing meals I have had recently was at a small, hole in the wall type establishment, or so it seemed, named Mai Food.  When we went for dinner with our friend last week, we decided to try a local Japanese Restaurant that she loves.  It was closed the last time we tried to eat there, so we decided to give it a try again.

We walked down Kenway Road past the Prince of Teck, the Asian grocer and the cleaners I use.  We walked in the tiny restaurant and Jen smiled at the owner and asked for a table for dinner.  They sized us up and offered a full table by the wall, there were only 4 tables for 4 and bar seating for about 8.  This place is tiny, but the smell was heavenly.

We perused the extensive menu for quite some time before finally deciding on several rolls to share and an entrée for each of us.  We had Spicy Tuna Rolls, Spicy Salmon Rolls, and Tempura Prawn Roll to start.  They were freshly made, sumptuous little bombs.  The spicy rolls were varied, the Salmon Rolls were medium spicy and the Tuna Rolls were very spicy, both chili and wasabi spicy.  The seaweed and rice were fresh and we enjoyed it so much we ordered another Spicy Tuna Roll.

Our entrées were three completely different choices.  My husband had Udon with Prawns and vegetables, our friend took the Pork Belly with Rice and Salad, and I chose the Grilled Salmon with Rice and Salad.  We all thoroughly enjoyed the meal.

During dinner, our friend shared with us that this restaurant may look tiny and like a hole in the wall, but it is catering many important events and to prestigious patrons over London.  She said they cater to Parliament, the Embassies, and all sorts of social soirees.  Just looking at the place I could not fathom that they could cook for such events.  Perhaps they have another kitchen somewhere or prepare some things ahead.  I am unsure how they accomplish that but it helped to understand the flow of clientele trying to enter, as well as the funny, quirky female owner.

The unconventional thing about this lady was how she turned so many customers away.  People would walk in and ask for a table or to sit at the bar and she would point to “reserved” signs and say, “sorry full”.  That would not be odd if she were in fact waiting for a large party to arrive, but we were there quite a while and what actually occurred was a screening process for the limited seating. If someone looked Asian or if she knew them, they were allowed in and she moved a “reserved” sign from the seats, but if not, they were turned away.  The restaurant was not full and she was not concerned.  Most places welcome guests, but this owner was able to be choosy.  It was peculiar to me, but seemed natural for her.

As we left, I asked for a card for the restaurant as I usually do if I enjoy a meal and I was told there are no cards.  I left knowing quite certainly that without our friend, I will not be allowed in there again.  I chuckled about the unorthodox behavior but was already planning how I would explain to the woman, I have already been here and enjoyed the food so much, she must let me come in.  We will see if it works.  I am definitely going to try.  It was a super meal and a memorable experience.


Saturday with Friends

The company of good friends is welcome in a storm and that is how our Saturday unfolded. We had a bit of a rough week, so when Saturday rolled around I was cheerful but apprehensive about taking our friends from Missouri around London. I was worried we would not be good company, but was resolved to have a great day, and that is exactly the day we had.

The weather was mild and sunny as we met our friends at the tube station. We took them to see our flat first. Then we decided to go to the Borough Market, as it is not something they would most likely seek out on their own, and one of our favorite Saturday pastimes.

The tube was full of Olympic traffic and we had about 10 stops on the district line to Monument, then a less hectic transfer to London Bridge on the Northern line. We noticed as we went from the District line to the Northern line we actually changed stations to Bank. That was my first fascinating find of the day.

We arrived at the market and it was even busier than usual.  We walked through the first stalls and our friends took photos as we talked about the market and the different stalls. We went through the vegetable stands brimming with every kind of mushroom, potato, tomato and fruit you could want. There are at least four types of eggs to buy. I discover something new every time I am there, and am wondering if I missed it last visit or if it is new. Either way, I thoroughly enjoy the experience. I believe our friends enjoyed it as well. We decided, as we tasted cheeses at Neil’s Yard Dairy, to get some cheese, bread, wine and other food from the stalls and have a picnic. A picnic in London is a first for us that I was contented to finally take the time to fulfill.

We tasted and chose our cheeses, then found a fresh, crispy baguette. We went back to our favorite french wine stall and bought the most light, refreshing sparkling white. They were showcasing it with tastings and we all agreed it was a great summer treat, dry and just enough bubble but not overly fizzy. We actually ended up going back mid picnic for another bottle. For the final accompaniments we all chose something personal. I had a savory duck sandwich from the French stall. My husband and our friends each had a different type of curry paella.

We found a spot on the grass in the church yard and enjoyed the sunshine and conversation.  The cheeses were amazing, as usual.  The bread was fresh and crusty.  My duck sandwich was delectable, although since it was very fresh, I did find one small piece of bone, so be careful if you try that. The paella was tasty.  I tasted the green curry and it was very agreeable even though I am not a big curry fan.

After lunch we started back toward the underground/tube station and talked about the history of London Bridge. Instead of taking the tube I suggested we walk a bit so they could see London Bridge and Tower Bridge on the river walk along the Thames.

It was a welcome walk after our lunch, and we saw the Thames at high tide for the first time. We went past the park where there were big screens set up for people to sit out and watch the Olympics by the Thames. There were many people but really not much more of a crowd than I would expect for a summer weekend in London.

We were so very fortunate to get some unique experiences with Tower Bridge. We took photos of the bridge with the Olympic rings down.  We then watched as they lifted the rings to prepare to open the draw bridge.  As we walked across the bridge, it started to rain but that did not deter us from taking photos of the rings up and the draw bridge opening.  We were able to take photos of the yacht as it passed through the bridge as well.  All these not only new experiences for our guests, but unusual experiences for us as well.

After we walked from Tower Bridge to the Tower Hill Underground Station we said our good byes and parted ways with our friends.  They had to get back to the hotel for a busy evening and we were going the opposite direction.  It was a memorable afternoon.

Tower Bridge

With Olympic Rings

Tower Bridge
with Olympic Rings pulled up

Olympic Rings up
from below


Olympic Volleyball

Let me start by saying that I have never really been a huge sports person, and other than PE class I have not really played volleyball.  I do like certain sports, some on TV and some in person.  Most of them are fast-moving and with loud crowds like hockey.

Last night I decided that volleyball is a very underrated sport.  It moves fast, it has relatively small teams so you see and are able to key in on the players as they move through the rotation.  It is pretty straight forward as far as rules and scoring.  It is a team sport where the individuals truly must talk to and rely on the other players in order to get the ball back over the net without hurting each other.

I was excited to go to the Olympics but a bit apprehensive that we had chosen volleyball just because it was the venue near the flat.  As we walked to the Earl’s Court Convention Center with the masses I was very happy.  There was a large queue of people but the organizers and the military moved everyone through seamlessly.  They kept us moving and instructed us what we needed to do to be prepared to go through security before we arrived at the point of inspection.  All the security and personnel were very courteous and no one was rude.  I think the TSA could take a lesson.

We walked from our flat and were in the venue in less than 30 minutes.  I was impressed.  Once in the venue we looked around and found the shop of course.  We had to buy a few things as souvenirs since this IS a once in a lifetime kind of thing.  Then we found snacks, there are no nachos, hot dogs, and Nathan’s Philly Cheese Steak booths here.  Instead, it is sausages, pasties, sandwiches or Quiche.  I found the choices very interesting to say the least.  But when in Rome…as the saying goes…so Rob had a Cumberland sausage with sautéed onions and a coke, I had a water, and later a Pasty and Powerade.  (pronounced like past+long e).  It was all not too bad but I did miss my stadium nachos and beer.  They had beer, but only Heineken, so not really what we were looking for.

Our seats were in the lower bowl and had a good view.  I was impressed for online tickets that close to the event.  We were surrounded by fans from many countries, but you could definitely tell who were the Americans and Chinese fans.  First of all, many fans brought flags and I had not thought far enough in advance to buy a flag, but second, they were all very spirited.  It was easy to get into the cheering and chanting, USA!  When the girls took the court the excitement was even bigger.

As the game progressed I remembered the calls and scoring.  The commentator was good and the fans were definitely having a great time.  The time flew by because there was never a dull moment.  The teams were equally matched and both had played two Olympic games and were undefeated.  The US women won the first set, then the second by a bit wider margin.  We entered the third set with hope of a Team USA sweep of the game.  It went back and forth and at one point the US had a seven point lead, but the Chinese women closed the gap and kept the pressure on.  The score kept going and we had quite a few serves at Match Point.  Finally the Team USA women pulled it out and with a swift spike over the net they earned their victory.  A 3-0 Set victory!

What a rush they must have had.  They had just beaten the biggest Olympic rivals and defeated the other undefeated team.  It was incredible to be there, and our Olympic bucket list is fulfilled.

I came away with a new appreciation for volleyball and Olympic athletes who are not professional sports stars.  These women are sports stars, but we do not watch volleyball on Monday night prime time, or even Saturday or Sunday sports for that matter.  These women are conditioned and work well as a team.  I think many pro sports teams could take a lesson from the teamwork and camaraderie of this sport.

Above all, it was a great night out with my husband, my best friend.  One more adventure to add to the list of memories.


London Fog

I was recently asked by a friend in the states if there really is a “London Fog”.  I thought about it and reflected on the times I have visited London in the past and this time I have been living here, and honestly I cannot recall one time seeing the low-lying fog that I believe one would associate with the adage “London Fog”.  I am sure it probably occurs or occurred, but I have not been witness to it.

I would almost say I had but it was really a haze of smoke from fireworks last Spring at a festival here that culminated in fireworks over the Thames.  That, of course, does not count.

I have done a little research about this mystery of fog and found several references to types of “London fogs”.  The first is the historical reference of actual fog, which was referred to as “pea soup fog” also known as black fog and killer fog. This can be yellow, greenish or black. It is a phenomenon is large cities in the 18th and 19th centuries when a black haze covered large cities because of the smoke from all the chimneys producing sulfur dioxide creating a smog that was literally suffocating, especially to those with lung ailments and the elderly. The worst of this culminated in the Great Smog of 1952 which prompted the Clean Air Act. The heavy smog from chimneys mixed with the fog over the Thames and created a horrible smog ending in thousands of deaths. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pea_soup_fog) (*see end note)

I for one am glad that the phenomenon is not still active today.  I am certain in a metropolis the size of London there is smog, but the Clean Air initiatives have helped.  I still have asthma and allergy issues some days when out walking, but not all the time.

Other interesting mentions of the term “London Fog” are notably the brand “London Fog” that was started by a UK immigrant in 1922, the drinks called London fog, one gin and Pernod, and the other a tea drink, and the night club named “London Fog”, it was a 1960’s night club on the Sunset Strip. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_fog)(http://economics-times.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/london-fog-history.html)

I hope that answers all our questions as to the legitimacy and history of the “London Fog” and its many implications.

 

*side note-I in no way endorse the information on Wikipedia as the complete truth and realize it is public information that can be altered.  It pains me to use it as a source, but I did many searches for this topic to try to use sources from noted research or scholarly writings, I was not very successful. So, since this is a personal publication intended for friends and family but open to the public, I acquiesced.  If anyone has more scholarly journals they can send me for reference of facts, I am always open to these updates.


Wenlock about London

For those of you who do not know, Wenlock is the official mascot of the 2012 Olympic Games.  His friend, Mandeville, is the mascot for the 2012 Para-olympic Games that follow the Olympics here in London.  They depict drops of Steel from the Bolton Steel Co.  If you watched the Opening Ceremonies, it is a bit clearer how they fit into the scheme of things.  The name Wenlock came from the town Much Wenlock which held prior Olympic Games and Mandeville, came from the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Birkhamshire which organized the Stoke Mandeville Olympic Games. (History courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wenlock_and_Mandeville) So there you go…

I think they are quite hideous and I was not going to do this, but I love silly, fun things and I want to have some fun with this goofy character around London.

I decided to do a special thing for some of the vertically challenged people in my life, ie. children.  I am taking the Olympic mascot, Wenlock, around London.  He will visit major and minor sites and I will highlight other Wenlock sightings as we go.

Today was the first day of Wenlock about London.  Wenlock is going with me wherever I go to see London and take in the sights.  Today we walked around Earl’s Court area and took a couple of photos of Wenlock enjoying the Olympic crowds.

As I was setting Wenlock up for his first pose I drew a group of American onlookers who were more than happy to help me pose this silly plush toy.  They shared their story of taking Puss in Boots all over Italy with them last summer.  They were a welcome intrusion into our photo shoot.  They were having fun and did not mind stopping to help a stranger.  I got the photo and they went on their way.

Wenlock and I then went to the rear entrance of Earl’s Court Underground Station and he stood on a traffic signal for crossing the street while I took some photos with the Earl’s Court venue in the background.

Wenlock  is such a great sport about this and he does not even mind riding in my purse.

Tomorrow we are going back out about London for more adventures and photos.  Then, I am starting my Wenlock about London Blog.


Olympic Fever

All of London is riding the Olympic wave.  Whether you are a complaining Londoner or one who as acquiesced and decided to embrace the chaos, you are still living with road closures, tube station changes and waves of tourists.

I really had no idea what the Olympic weeks would hold for us. In the taxi on the way from Paddington to the flat the driver was beside himself with the diversion of traffic and how hard it is on the taxis and how horrible the planning was for all this.  Most Londoners I speak with agree that the Olympics are so spread out that it is burdening the entire city instead of one area.  The Olympic park and village are in one area but the Olympic houses for each country are all across London and so are the venues.

We have Volleyball near us at Earl’s Court Convention Center.  As we walked on Saturday and surveyed the crowds and the venue, we were pleasantly surprised at the number of Olympic hosts and helpers all around the area.  It seems well-organized and well planned.  For instance, the Earl’s Court Underground station has been made one way in and one way out to enable a smooth stream of people.  The area around the venue is clearly marked with signs which way to proceed.  The Convention Center is also one way in and one way out.  We must walk all the way around to the back entrance to enter but when the fans exit they go seamlessly across the street, there are even crossing guards to help, and into the Underground station to leave.

The streets around Earl’s Court Convention Center venue have been sign posted with Taxi areas, private hire car areas, a shuttle for those needing assistance and everywhere you look there are people to help in Purple and pink vests.

Also on Saturday we enjoyed watching the Men’s Cycling Race from Fulham Road.  We were just out walking and came to an area blocked off with Olympic banners and asked what was coming through.  We were told cycling and that the men should be through in about 40 minutes, so we decided to take a place along the route to cheer them on.

The crowd was excited and you could feel the anticipation as we heard the helicopter overhead or the forward vehicles came through.  We had what seemed hundreds of police drive through on motorcycles and in cars.  There were dignitaries whizzed through, guests, and media and after what seemed an eternity but was really about 45 minutes, the camera car came through with the lead cyclists not far behind.  It was exhilarating.  People were cheering and yelling for their favorites, the crowd was electric.  It was a great feeling to be there.  The realization hit me then that we were at the Olympics.  A normal Saturday walk buying some vegis and talking turned into an experience we will always remember.

So I have to say, personally, the Olympics may be turning the city of London upside down and creating chaos on some levels, but it is creating memories and allowing people who may not have had the ability to go to ticketed venues a taste of the Olympic fever and the festivities.

I will follow-up after we go see the USA v China Volleyball match on Wednesday.  After Saturday, I am looking forward to it.