London 2011 – Tour time

First day 1.5

So my story should start with a calm walk around the Tower of London. After a good ice cream, I was on the tube heading to Westminster where I got to walk along the River Thames and see the London Eye. I then strolled around Westminster, including Westminster Abbey – the church where royals have been married or buried. After that I popped into the Red Lion pub where I had a good BLT with proper English bacon.

I then returned to the Tower of London where I got to hang out with John, Chief Yeoman Warder of the Tower of London. Did you know the Tower of London is 18 acres and more than 20 towers? The Crown Jewels are also kept in the Tower. I was then able to enjoy some sensational and risky ice creams at The Icecreamist. You could get flavors from lemon grass and chili pepper to caramel vanilla bean. You will have to venture there to find out which ice is on fire, literally. I then joined Henry Cejudo for some curry at the St Katherine Dock next to the tower bridge.

This morning I went to Cambridge. On the way up we drove by the Olympic Park where i got my first glimpse of the Velodrome. Absolutely amazing. The whole complex is still getting the final touches applied. Once in Cambridge my first stop was The Eagle pub where pilots burnt their names into the ceiling and where DNA was chatted about for the first time over a lunch. I then went to admire the crazy scary enormous clock Stephen Hawking had displayed on a corner street at Corpus Christi College, the grass hopper is truly frightening.

I then went on to hear how the past has an impact on today. I saw the place where George Washington`s great uncle is buried. There, I was in a little church seeing where the stars and stripes for our flag and the eagle became a cornerstone of American culture. I was then able to walk about a typical Cambridge College and see King’s College Chapel.

After a bite of lunch at Ta Bouche, I went punting. No, I did not kick a football, but instead I floated the River Cam. My guide Joe gave me the backside view of several colleges. He also let me steer, or punt, the boat down the river. Once back on land, I went on a bike tour along the River Cam. Did you know there are 80 miles of bike lanes in Cambridge? I got to ride a bit and enjoy more breathtaking views.

I then made the short journey to the Cambridge American Cemetery. I learned about Lt. Col. Hitchcock, Medal of Honor recipient Vance, and Flight Nurse Price as well as various service members who either went missing or gave their life during the world wars. After lowering the flag at the cemetery, I went back to the eagle to round out the trip out and enjoy a good plate of fish and chips in The Eagle pub. And, not only did I eat in The Eagle, but I sat at the very table where James Watson and Francis Crick announced they had “discovered the secret of life” – DNA.

Day 2

An early start for an exciting day! Today I started by going to the Olympic Park and to the Velodrome. I must say that I was most excited for this. It is not every day that an individual gets to go and just sit on the wood of a brand new velodrome, especially one that will be hosting the big event held only once every four years. Driving through the village or Olympic Park was fun. To see all of the venues, finished or under construction, was awesome to see knowing that the next time I will be there it will be a full functioning city within a city. The velodrome itself is amazing. The curved suspended roof, 360 degree seating, new pine, and natural lighting is just breath taking. I was able to just sit where I would be starting my races. Just sit and take it all in. I could hear the crowd, see my coach screaming in the corner, and feel the bike beneath me. It was kind of eerie in a sense but very exciting at the same time.

After departing from the velodrome I was off to Parliament. At Westminster Hall I met up with Alister Burt, Minister of North America. Minister Burt is a very enthusiastic gentleman who was kind enough to give us a mini guide to normally off limit areas around the Hall of Lords, where the real government works. The rooms are really amazing places. It was amazing the detail of all the wall and features. The whole place burned to the ground and was reconstructed with immaculate detail and care. The Westminster Hall did not burn down and has the history all the way back to Kings being sentenced to death.

After Parliament I had lunch at the Red Lion across the street from my next destination, 10 Downing Street. I would go out on a limb and assume that most American’s don’t know what 10 Downing Street means. Well it is the equivalent to our White House. No 10, as the locals call it, is where the Prime Minister lives. It is also where he meets and greets foreign dignitaries and where he runs the government. To gain access to No 10 you get to knock the knocker and gentleman will let you through the door, well that is after all of the security that you have to get through to get into the area. Though I didn’t meet the Prime Minister I was told that he was literally feet away in his office working. I thought that was pretty cool.

After No 10 I was whisked off to a social gathering at Deputy Chief of Mission Barbara Stephenson’s residence. Minister Stephenson was a wonderful hostess and I had a grand time getting to know her and her husband. I look forward to hopefully to meeting with them again I while I am back in London next year.

Day 3

My final day of touring around the UK took Nastia Liukin and myself traveling the country side. We left early to drive the 2.5 hours to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birth place of William Shakespeare. We were able to get a tour of his home and learn a little bit about what his family did for a living. After seeing his home we made the short journey to the Royal Shakespeare Company where there are daily Shakespeare performances held. Our tour guide was Steve Toussaint who plays a role in Macbeth. He was a great tour guide taking us back stage, through a warm up session with other actors, to the wig room and the wardrobe department. I had a good time for sure. After leaving the stage we were off to Broadway.

The origin of Broadway, NY is from Broadway in the Cotswolds, very gorgeous area to visit. Our tour guide for this region was Jeremy, who is one of 12 artist choose for the 2012 Olympic Games. He grew up there, so he was a perfect guide for trekking back behind the main street in to the more picturesque fields that surround the village. After a pet of the pony Chips we were off to his studio where he showed us a few piece of his work. Amazing!! He surprised Nastia with a painting that he had done years ago of her from a photo taken at a competition. He was also generous enough to create small painting of Nastia and myself to take home. Truly a nice guy. After Broadway we were off to the kitchen.

Rob Rees is also amazing. He is a culinary genius, well a thousand times better a cook then I am. He walked Nastia and I through a great desert, Mix Summer Berries, Meringues, and Tarragon Custard. I am not a good chef compared to Rob though I am looking forward to showing off to my friends the next time I get a chance in the kitchen.  Rob was also all about using local product of the Cotswold. He had everything from Plum Butter to Muddie Wellies Beer.  A great way to end the trip and head back to the States to start another chapter of this year multi city road trip.

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