During the London Olympics, several countries had set up their own Olympic Houses. These consisted mainly of people from that country congregating to party and cheer on their national teams, but were open to the public as well. One of my favorites that I attended was the Holland Heineken House.
The Holland Heineken House was set up in Alexandra Palace in North London. It was a fairly strenuous hike up the hill from the Wood Green tube station. We later learned there was a free shuttle running to and from the event, but at least we saw some nice views overlooking the city on the way up.
Once inside, it was a sea of orange, the Dutch national color. I almost felt the need to buy a full-on orange suit while I was there! Everyone was wearing orange blazers, jerseys, shirts, and suits. I’ve never seen anything like it.
There also happened to be a big field hockey match going on while I was there.
What better way to watch the Games than from inside a giant Heineken can?
Upon leaving, I turned to see Alexandra Palace all lit up in none other than…ORANGE!
Prior to entering the ticket lottery for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, I had no idea that badminton was an Olympic sport. Of course it wasn’t my first choice of events to see, but out of the 10 events I submitted for, it was 1 of the 2 that I got.
Surprisingly, badminton was quite intriguing to watch, although quite different than the badminton my old roommate and I used to play in our backyard. At the beginning of each event, the announcers do a brief rundown of the main rules so that anyone unfamiliar with the sport won’t be entirely lost the whole time. My understanding prior to attending was that you simply aim to hit the birdy back over the net. However, it turns out there is quite a bit more to it than that. I won’t go into it here, but if you’re curious you can check out this link to learn more about it.
Throughout the session there were always 3 matches going on simultaneously, so you were never at a loss for something to watch. Both singles and doubles were represented. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there for the controversial session where neither team wanted to advance to play China as that would have been entertaining to watch.
Guess who? Here I am sporting my Team USA gear that I paid a ridiculous amount of money to get shipped prior to leaving for the trip.
While in London for the Olympics, I had the opportunity to go on a Danish Bacon Cruise hosted by Visit Denmark and Danish Crown. Yes, you read that right: A DANISH BACON CRUISE! Since I have a hard time turning down free drinks and food (especially bacon), I decided I had to go!
Celebrating 125 years of bacon and other meat production, the Danish Crown folks sailed all the way from Denmark to London on the beautiful old Danish schooner Maja.
During our afternoon sail down the Thames River, a team of chefs treated us to a traditional Danish bacon dish called ‘stegt flæsk med persillesovs’ (try and pronounce that!) as well as a special beer brewed just for the Olympic festivities. The bacon was thick-cut, crispy and served with a cream sauce and parsley.
To top it all off, there was a giant pig on-board!
All of the staff on the boat were wearing “MEAT EATER” shirts, showing off their pride in the food they love so much. In traditional style, the bacon comes in huge slabs, as seen below.
After getting acquainted with the ship and our first round of bacon, we were off for a nice sail down the river. The Olympic Rings lift up whenever the bridge is opened for ships to pass through. It was pretty amazing to see them while passing beneath the bridge.
In a city where rain is a pretty common theme, it can sometimes be difficult to find things to do other than sitting at your hostel or hotel. Something I found quite interesting was walking around Harrods, an upscale department store in the Kensington area of London. Aside from the Egyptian-themed designs, Harrod’s also has an amazing food and wine section. Specifically, be sure to explore the chocolate, confectionary, and sweets area. The decadent display of chocolates, truffles, macaroons, and other delicacies will leave your mouth watering and your wallet a bit lighter. Here are some ideas to help you prepare for sugar overload!
Some of my favorites: the macaroons.
A whole lot of Macaroons
Doing the truffle shuffle!
A wall of chocolates!
Don’t forget the fudge!
Who doesn’t love great fudge?!?
The most beautiful candies in all the land
Some very patriotic chocolates
After all of my hard work photographing these decadent desserts, and because it would almost be a crime to leave here empty-handed, I sampled a few of the macaroons. The ones I tried were salted caramel, coconut & passion fruit, and chocolate. All 3 were incredible! Unfortunately, they got a bit crushed in my bag before I was able to take photos of them, but they were amazing nonetheless.
So if you are looking for something to entertain yourself with on a rainy day in London, make sure to check out the chocolate, confectionary, and sweets area at Harrods. You won’t regret it!
By the time you’re reading this, I should be about halfway across the Atlantic Ocean on my way to London for the 2012 Olympic Games. Throughout my time there, I’ll be writing as regularly as I can to keep you posted, but I’ll also be out a lot, so they may be shorter update posts.
Today, I thought I’d give some tips on preparing to go to a big event like the Olympics in one of the greatest cities in the world. London is one my favorite places I’ve been to and I can’t wait to be back!
1) First, and most importantly, book everything well ahead of time. This includes accommodation, event tickets, etc. For reference, I booked my hostel about a year and a half ago and it was already 80% full. I put in for the ticket lottery almost a year ago. Do your homework to find out when things will be available. You’ll also save a significant amount of money by booking early.
2) Good luck getting tickets for the Opening Ceremony. This is pretty much an impossible feat unless you are willing to pay a fortune. I put into the lottery for these, had my British friends put in for them, and still didn’t get them.
3) Even if you can’t get tickets for any of the events, it will be a giant party. Out of the 10 events I put in for tickets for I only received 2: fencing and badminton. Not exactly the highlights of the Games, but it should be fun nonetheless. The streets will be packed and Trafalgar Square is where I plan on hanging out a lot. I was in London during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and they had several giant screens around the square showing all the different events taking place.
4) Be flexible about your departure and arrival dates. I could probably write a whole post just about this, but most travel sites let you search a few days before and after your selected date to find the cheapest flights. I watch flights like a hawk, and I saved $250 by waiting until about 2 weeks prior to when I was leaving to book. It doesn’t always work out like that, but just keep an eye on flights for a while before you make your reservation.
5) Buy Your Country Gear. When trying to buy Team USA gear, start looking around more than a week ahead of when you leave. Otherwise you end up buying online and paying a ridiculous amount to have it expedited before you take off. It’s not fun to pay $26 to have a couple of shirts shipped. Apparently most stores don’t carry Team USA gear just before the Olympics are about to start. Imagine that.
6) Pack light. This goes for all travels, but especially for big events. It is going to be jam-packed everywhere and the less luggage that you’re carrying through the crowds, the better off you’re going to be. I’m down to a 50-liter backpack and I’m so much happier carrying it around than I was with my old 78-liter pack.