When we were in the very first ‘idea stage’ of planning our overseas adventure (before we decided to get engaged, marry four months later and leave our jobs for a year) we had decided that we wanted to be in the UK in time for the London 2012 Olympics.
Well, we made it to the UK for a holiday with Helen and BJ, but at this time we were still stuck in Lyon enjoying foot surgery recovery and waiting for new passports and UK Working Visas. It was only after doctor’s bills and replacement passport expenses became a reality that we really regretted not getting travel insurance when we realised we should have got travel insurance in New York…
But I was not going to give up my dream of seeing Australia in an Olympic event, whatever the event was!
So, after many days of searching online, I was finally able to secure two tickets to the men’s Volleyball on day 4. It was hard enough trying to find available tickets, but it was even harder to find tickets that were within our budget. However, we were lucky enough to secure section B seats for 2 games on the same night: Australia Vs Great Britain and Brazil Vs Russia. Booking flights and accommodation was much easier and we decided that we would add a night in Paris to hand in our Passport applications.
So, at 7.30am on Tuesday 31st of July we arrived in London, less one crutch and a foot cast since our last visit, and very sleep deprived and exhausted from leaving home 3 hours earlier (blast those cheap flights!). Learning from previous delays through security and airports, this time we packed 2 small carry on backpacks and boarded the plane without any hassle.
When we eventually arrived in Earls Court in London we immediately noticed the incredible amount of people in florescent uniforms and the immaculately clean streets and buildings. London had really cleaned up for the games and I was very impressed. The volunteers at the venues, train stations and in the street were all extremely cheerful and helpful and it seemed to be running very smoothly.
We were lucky enough to secure some decent accommodation right in the heart of Earls Court, one street down from the tube station and around the corner from the Earls Court Exhibition Centre were the Volleyball would be played later that night.
We started our morning in London gorging on a full English breakfast at a local pub, something that we seem to miss out on in France, before popping to Oxford Street so Dan could visit Nike Town. He was very excited about the prospect of purchasing an Australian football jersey at the largest Nike store in the world. Sadly he could not find the jersey he was hunting for and we vacated the store empty handed. As it turns out, the Australian Olympic football team did not make it to the Olympics and the jersey does not exist. But there was an Olympic football Kiwi jersey.
After our failed Oxford Circus expedition we caught the tube to Holborn where we met up with our friend Helen’s brother, Tim, for a few beers at a pub down cobblestone, Italian-like Sicilian Avenue. Since Tim is somewhat of a craft beer enthusiast, I feel that we will be meeting up with him frequently when we return to London for some lessons on where to go and what local craft beers to drink.
We returned to Earls Court Exhibition Centre a few hours later to file through the airport-like security and find our awesome seats for the Volleyball games. We were hoarded to the front of the queue and processed quickly thanks to my one remaining crutch and hobble, one of the few positive things to come from breaking my foot (along with EasyJet speedy boarding and a prolonged restful holiday in France).
We were not the only Australians attending the men’s Volleyball match and it quickly became obvious that the Aussie supporters were going to try their best to shout as loud, if not louder, than the strong home crowd that easily double us in numbers. While we knew little about the game and its rules, we soon became converts, cheering loudly for the 22nd ranked Volleyroos as they formed a wall of steel at the net. The 212cm tall Thomas Edgar dominated the match scoring a match-high with his incredible serves and Captain Igor Yudin provided ample support with 10 points of his own. The Brits narrowed the gap slightly in the first set, and levelled the score in the second but were not able to flight through Australia’s impenetrable defence. You could almost feel sorry for the host nation as the Volleyroos scored an amazing 25-15, 25-18 and 25-20 victory… almost. 🙂
The defeated Brits slowly departed the stadium after the match, only to be replaced by the energetic and flamboyant Brazilian supporters that had arrived for the next match against Russia. The crowd’s enthusiasm was contagious, and soon we were flashing our green and gold tops in support for Brazil. The game was of much higher quality, was quite drawn out and somewhat more brutal than what we had witnessed in the first game. But it was exciting and loud. After such a long day we snuck out after Brazil won the first set and learned the next day that they defeated Russia 25-21, 25-23 and 25-21.
On Wednesday morning we abandoned our bag at our hotel and visited the quiet suburb of Shadwell, 3km east of Bank/Monument tube station (in the city) and only 1 stop away on the DLR. Here we met with Pauline and Raf, a Polish couple, and their two cats, Fluffy Cat and Fat Cat. They were lovely and friendly and showed us the room they have available to rent in their 2 bed apartment. We were immediately impressed with the lovely décor and simple layout so we have agreed to move in for three months from the 17th of August. We have even organised an Ikea trip with them to buy some new pillows and there was talk of going to an amusement park for Raf’s birthday in late August. I am glad that we are slowly adding to circle of friends in London that so far only includes a few existing Australian friends, relatives and a lovely Sri Lankan guy that we met out on a wild night in Lyon.
Who misses a flight?
After a lovely meet and greet with our new flatmates, we rushed back to Earls Court to collect our bag and catch our 11.25am EasyBus back to Gatwick airport for our 1.55pm flight to Lyon. After battling stairs, tubes and cobblestones for the last 24 hours, my foot and ankle had become so swollen and painful that I decided that I would meet Dan at the bus stop rather than slow him down. In an unfortunate series of events (including Dan stopping to enjoy a Gregg’s steak bake, which he promptly posted on Facebook) we missed our first bus to the airport and got caught in a lot of traffic when we were eventually on our way.
I hobbled through security and to the assistance desk just as EasyJet was making their last call for our flight. Unfortunately the lift we got on an Airport buggy was not quick enough and we missed boarding our flight by minutes!!
Stuck at gate 101 we sorted through our options and decided that a train direct from London to Paris was the quickest and most cost effective way to get where we needed to go. Thank goodness for mobile phones and the internet! What did travellers do without them?
Back across the Channel
Five hours later, we had crossed the English Channel into France and were settling into our hotel only 15 minutes’ walk from the Eiffel Tower.
The next morning we woke early to visit the Australian Embassy and process our passport applications. The process was very simple and the gentleman at the desk on level six was very understanding and helpful. We hope to have our new passports within the next two weeks, in time for our move to London. Dan visited the UK Embassy on a solo mission to discuss the replacement of our Working Visas and was promptly turned away. It looks like we will have to wait until we get to London to sort those ones out.
This time we made sure we had extra time to board our 8.50pm train and made it back home to Lyon after a hectic two and a half days running around London and Paris.
I am feeling a lot better now that we have a place to live and our passports are on their way. Now we just have to wait out the next 2 weeks, catching up on French TV Olympics and starting the job hunt. I think that we will be kept busy enough as Dan needs to put in a travel insurance claim for his dropped iPhone and I am now recovering from a measles-like illness/rash that has developed over the last few days of travelling.
After 3 months of travelling mishaps nothing surprises me now…
J & D
First Published on: Aug 9, 2012 @ 0:44 #12monthhoneymoon