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Old Jul 23, 12, 10:56 am   #1
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tom911 goes to the 2012 Olympic Games

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.msnbc...uch-wiser?lite

Bleacher Report: Olympic Swimming 2012: 10 Things You Need to Know about Natalie Coughlin (click on the slideshow):
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1...talie-coughlin

ESPN Sports Center commercial:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOGHHvgMNVQ

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



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

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Old Jul 23, 12, 11:23 am   #2
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Departure time of our first flight moved ahead 10 mins to beat Air Force One ATC restrictions.
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Old Jul 23, 12, 5:48 pm   #3
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Snack on the 1045 SFO-ORD (cheese enchilada, other option was salad with BBQ chicken):



Currently in the Flagship Lounge enjoying bacon wrapped scallops and pizza rolls along with a Sam Adams.
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Old Jul 24, 12, 6:45 am   #4
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Red face

Just left Kings Cross at 1330 en route to Edinburgh. Get 15 mins free wifi on the train.
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Old Jul 24, 12, 8:10 pm   #5
 
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Looking forward to more. Good luck to Natalie!
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Old Jul 25, 12, 2:52 am   #6
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flight to LHR, arrival in Edinburgh

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



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:



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:



New photos start here:
http://tom911.smugmug.com/2012Olympi...3672&k=XtV7BMr
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Last edited by tom911; Jul 25, 12 at 11:15 am. Reason: inserted photos
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Old Jul 25, 12, 11:06 am   #7
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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!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSRXCVfJAOE
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Old Jul 25, 12, 5:44 pm   #8
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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



city view towards Princes Street from the castle


Mons Meg siege gun



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.




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 Jenbel from Edinburgh, an FTer 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




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/2012Olympi...9777&k=27kv4JT
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Last edited by tom911; Jul 25, 12 at 6:17 pm.
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Old Jul 25, 12, 7:29 pm   #9
 
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Looking to following the Olympics through your trip report!
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Old Jul 25, 12, 7:41 pm   #10
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Wow! What a fabulous TR!! Keep'em it coming!! We need you more!!
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Old Jul 25, 12, 8:18 pm   #11
 
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Tom, great report so far. I saw Natalie being interviewd on the Today show this morning and thought of you. Keep up the awesome reports.
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Old Jul 26, 12, 2:10 am   #12
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Originally Posted by HawaiiTrvlr View Post
Tom, great report so far. I saw Natalie being interviewd on the Today show this morning and thought of you. Keep up the awesome reports.
I set my DVR for that while we're gone, so hopefully it picks it up. Figured she would turn up sometime with them as they had her on during Beijing, too. We're about 24 hours away from the train trip down to London.
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Old Jul 26, 12, 3:59 pm   #13
 
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Hi tom911,
great report so far!
And what a nice preview - i am flying to London on Monday and have tickets for the aquatics center on monday evening. So i am really looking forward to your report from the olympics!
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Old Jul 26, 12, 4:06 pm   #14
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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:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPIA7mpm1wU
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Old Jul 26, 12, 4:19 pm   #15
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Hi Tom,

I so greatly look forward to your Olympiad reports, and this one is off to a great start.

I always love seeing your photos- you have a good eye for capturing what is really interesting to those of us who are along on the trip with you in a vicarious fashion.

GO NATALIE!
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