Personal

Wednesday’s Words: So I went to the 2012 Olympics

It’s true. I won an all-expense paid trip for 2 to the 2012 Olympics. You know those Visa commercials where they say “just use your Visa card and you’re automatically entered to win”?

That.

By purchasing $2.57 in color copies at The UPS Store, I won a trip to London with spending money. (Yes, I did lots and lots and LOTS of research to make sure it wasn’t a scam. So word to the wise: if you get both a phone call AND a FedEx [ironic, much?] package, detailing practically everything about that singular important purchase, it’s possibly a legit contest!) My husband opted not to go, so I took my mother–who came this | | close to missing the flight from DC to Heathrow airport. lol.

When we landed, there was some sort of mix-up and the Visa people weren’t there to greet us. About twenty people were all milling around in a cluster, so I went over and randomly asked if they were winners also, and they were! Eventually we found the Visa reps and took a train from the airport to the bus, which carried us about a mile to the hotel. They had a separate entrance for those associated with Visa, and separate registration, apart from regular hotel guests. There was a special access only room for Visa winners, where we were given our gifts and itinerary. The hotel didn’t offer free wi-fi, but Visa gave you access via their computers. Snacks were also laid out for us for most of the day, each day.

And here comes my only complaint about the trip. We arrived at the hotel around 10am local time, which is 5am EST. Rooms weren’t going to be ready until 3pm local time. Basically, that meant I would be up for somewhere around 27 hours before being able to sleep. Finally around 12pm–eyes burning and barely coherent from lack of sleep–I begged them to expedite the process and we were able to actually get to the room, where we promptly crashed.

That first afternoon/evening, we did some walking near the hotel, just to get a feel for the local area, which was gorgeous. We got lost trying to locate a recommended pub and ended up in a (also recommended) quiet, quaint restaurant where I had authentic fish and chips. (Um, not a fan. They were kind of bland. Sorry.)

The trip included bus tour tickets for two days, which also included a river boat tour down the Thames. The first tour was spent just viewing the various tourist trips, without actually going into any of them. We did visit Covent Gardens (shopping), Trafalgar Square and a billion other things. We also did the boat tour that day. And must have walked 20 miles that day. (I’m not even remotely kidding. My poor feet… took them DAYS to recover.) We had the best Moroccan meal that evening, although it cost a crapload of money. (Thank goodness for the spending money they gave us!)

The second day we decided to do the bus tour again, since by now we were experts and knew how to navigate the system perfectly, right?! Wrong. Whenever we needed the red line, we took the yellow line. When we wanted the green line, we were on the blue line. It was a downright comedy of errors. The people of London were super, super nice. Although, they all looked at me like English must have been my third language. Always after I spoke I was promptly asked, “Are you on holiday?!” Yup. American accent with a Southern twang to it? I’m sure I was a novelty. lol. 

By the third day, we’re starting to feel a little rundown. We tried to finagle some tickets to the Opening Ceremonies from Visa, thinking they’d accidentally forgotten to give us some since some people had gotten tickets, but no luck. (Which worked in our favor, you’ll see.) We stayed closer to the hotel while Visa tried to sort out whether we were supposed to get tickets or not. In the end, we found out that some people got those tickets; some people didn’t. We didn’t. So why was that in our favor? First, the Olympic Stadium was 2 hours away from the hotel. People who were going to the OC had to leave the hotel by 2pm for the 9pm OC (eep!) and, we found out later, they didn’t end up getting back until 3am. Those of us who didn’t get tickets were treated to a very, very nice buffet meal in a big reception room, with open bar. They had a HUGE big screen tv where we got to watch the ceremonies. Once it was over, we merrily went back to our rooms for a full night’s sleep. lol. (I also found out from one couple that they were ten rows from the top of the stadium. Um…yeah. I think we were better off staying at the hotel.)

The last day of the trip, we watched the Changing of the Guard and saw the Olympic cyclists outside of Harrod’s, the 5-story department store where we’d just had afternoon tea. BTW, yeah, it was pretty easy to spot Olympians out and about in London. Some were jaw-dropping impressive; others were probably staff. lol. Although we were given tickets to Beach Volleyball that night (you didn’t know in advance what you were getting; you just took them and said thank you), my mom pointed out that Phelps and Lochte were swimming that evening at the same time as the volleyball tournament. I let her make the decision: go and see Beach Volleyball 2 hours away or stay in the hotel, order room service and watch male hunks Olympians swim. We stayed in.

All in all, the entire trip was simply fantastic. My only regret is that we didn’t sneak off to Paris like I found out later another couple had done. (How awesome would that have been?!) We came back bursting at the seams with tea and scones, feet tired and full of some great, great memories.

Thank you Visa and London.