Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monday Funday in London with Jill

Firstly, I apologize for being so spotty (hmmm) with my posts. Luke and I don't have interwebs in our new flat yet (we get it Thursday, which just so happens to be the day we go back to the states for two weeks, go figure!). Although I love taking a walk to Starbucks, the webs there only seems to allow me to do so much internetting. 
Secondly, like I just said, I will be gone for the next two weeks. I will try to post, but I don't plan to bring my computer and I am not a fan of this blogger app as it doesn't allow me to put pictures between words. I will try though!

Actual date of this event: 22 April

The Monday after the London Marathon was supposed to be relaxing, and it was, to an extent. We actually did way more walking than planned, but London is massive so it practically impossible to walk less than 5 miles in a day. Jill’s flight didn’t leave until that evening, so she and I had until about 4:30 to do what we wanted. We decided the night before that we would take it easy in the morning, then go eat Chipotle in Wimbledon for lunch, and then head to the city to do some sight-seeing. Thanks, Nary, for giving us the free food coupons at Chipotle!

Jill and I hopped on the District tube line which would get us near Hyde Park. Hyde Park is a really nice park, and it is a must do if you plan to see Buckingham Palace or London in general. There is a very large pond (The Serpentine) right in the middle, and you can rent a paddle boat. It’s just a really nice area!

We strolled through the park, and then made our way to Buckingham Palace. Jill ran by the palace at the end of her 26.2 miles, but she didn’t even notice it. To be honest, it is not all that spectacular. But it was still pretty neat to see the balcony and the round-about, all of which I remember from the Royal Wedding just a few years ago.

There are a few other parks around Buckingham Palace, and we chose to walk through St. James’s which would lead us to the BIG attraction: Parliament Square. I was standing right Parliament Square the day before, but I was so focused on the marathon that I did not even notice all of the famous sights around me. I am so glad Jill and I got to enjoy it during a more calm moment. And the area really did not seem all that busy to me. It was Monday after all.

We have Westminster Abbey which is a very beautiful church… from the outside. It was 18GBP to go inside, so naturally we passed on that!

We did go into St. Margaret’s Church which is right next to Westminster Abbey. It is an Anglican church and had some very interesting stained glass. It was more like abstract art rather than the usual religious pictures you normally see. The church was free to go inside, so we jumped on that!

Next, we saw Big Ben and The Palace of Westminster. This whole building is just a beauty. It is right on the River Thames, so you can see the front side of it and the back side… actually you can see all sides of it. I would love to take a riverboat tour someday. If you’re my next visitor, there is a good chance that will be on the agenda! I have heard it’s great!

Across the river is the London Eye. We originally planned to do the London Eye on Sunday after the race, but found out that it is 20GBP for one person, and if you want the fast track, it is 30GBP which doesn’t even seem to be much faster. Maybe one day I will buckle up and hand over both of my arms for the London Eye and Westminster Abbey.
Jill and I decided to head a couple miles east, so we got on the District/Circle line to Tower Hill. This was the stop that Luke, Kristin and I got off on when we began watching the marathon. It looked completely different without the crowds of people. First, Jill and I walked to the Tower Bridge. It is 8GBP to climb up the tower and get some views, but stairs were not the best idea at that time, so we passed. Next time though!

Lastly, we needed a drink, we wanted some views, and we wanted to chill out for a bit before Jill had to leave to go back home. We went to Sushi Samba at the Heron Tower, which is where Luke and I went during our first weekend in London. Spectacular views again! We each got a delicious, but expensive, drink to quench our thirst.
It was then time to say “see you later” as I refuse to ever say good-bye to Jill! And I am oh so super thrilled because last week, she booked flights for her and Ryan to come to London at the end of May! Yippee!!! Can’t wait to see you soon Jill, but until then, we can emoji J

Big Ben is officially called the Elizabeth Tower, renamed after the Diamond Jubilee. It holds the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Spectating the London Marathon

Actual date of this event: 21 April

On Sunday morning, Jill woke up bright and early leaving around 7am to go to Greenwich where she would begin her 26.2 mile run (click here to read about her experience as a marathon runner). Meanwhile, Luke, Kristin and I kept sleeping. Around 10:30am, the three lazy ones - actually Kristin isn’t lazy because she ran in the Paris marathon two weeks before and has a stress fracture, so it’s just Luke and me who are the lazy ones, anyway… - we left for the city to go find Jill along the route. Let me tell y’all, spectating is A LOT of work!

We knew Jill’s timing and we were also checking online to see her updates. A chip attached to her shoe updated her location and time every 5km. We had the marathon route map which gave us those 5 km marks, so it was fairly easy to know her approximate location. Okay, I am making this seem way easier than it was.

When we arrived in the city, it was absolutely beautiful outside! Amazingly beautiful with not a single cloud in the sky! Let me clarify though, beautiful for a spectator. For the runners, it was way too hot! We headed straight for the Tower Bridge which was close to the halfway mark – 13.1 miles. It was our first time being around the crowds and along the route, so we had not become pros at this spectating thing. We wanted to go further down the route, maybe a quarter of a mile, so we could have better views, but we needed to go around a building to do so. By the time we figured out Jill’s timing, we realized that we would miss her if we did that, so we went back to where we just were. As we were walking up, I saw her but there was no way I could yell her name or take any pics. Darn! We missed her by like a minute! Ugh! Off she went! And now we needed to figure out where to go next.
We jumped on tube and headed to Westferry Station. When we got there, we were in between two parts of the route. If we had figured it out sooner, we could have seen Jill on one side around 15.5 miles, but since we didn’t, we were going to have to wait another 50 minutes or so before we saw her again at 20.5 miles. While trying to post up along the route, I got a phone call from Jill. Girl, why you callin’ me? Focus! Focus!!! Oh. She is dying of heat and wants us to take her backpack. I told her where we were, and she said she would look for us. Meanwhile, Luke is like, “I have to pee. I have to find a place to pee. Debbie, don’t leave here. I’m going to find a place to pee.” My focus is Jill, not Luke’s bladder. I was not okay with letting her go another 5 miles with the backpack, so I left the group to go find her.
Here I was running through the crowds, sweating, and man that was painful! Just kidding, just kidding!!! Anyway, I was looking at my phone and looking at the route map trying to figure out where to go. The area where I was had some waterways that made it difficult to get to any area of the route. I had to go over and under the route a few times because I kept getting stuck on one side of the route. Finally, I found a spot at mile 18.5 and was just praying that Jill hadn’t passed yet. The crowds were 2-3 people deep all along the route, so I had to inch my way toward the front… but I was still in the second row. For future spectating knowledge: It is really difficult trying to find a runner on the course. If you look away for even a second, you will miss them. I had a few people texting me while I was trying to find her, and I felt bad that I was ignoring them, but I was so worried I would miss her going by. Eventually, as I stood on my tip toes, I saw her face around a giant man’s head, who was holding those clapper things you see at basketball games behind the free throw line. I started yelling her name as loud as possible repeatedly, “Jill! Jill! Jill! Jill!” I think everyone around me thought I was a maniac. Truthfully, I was because my goal was to relieve my friend of her backpack! Jill handed me her backpack, and off she went!!! And off I went back to mile 20.5 where small-bladder-man and Kristin were waiting.
When I got back, I was worried I took too long, and she had passed already. Luckily, she hadn’t, so we all waited for her to come. Shortly after, we saw her coming and started cheering her on! We saw her beautiful smile and hopefully we motivated her for a few more miles. So off she went! Which means, we quickly needed to hop on the tube and go toward the finish line.
After a bit of confusion with the tube routes and the loads of people, we made our way to Westminster Station at 25.5 miles. We elbowed our way through the crowds as if no one else was in a hurry. Poor Kristin and her stress fracture. That leg will never be the same after following Luke and me all day. When we came back above ground, we saw runners right in front of us. The three of us are all like “Yeah! Front row seats!!!” Then we figured out that it was trap. Seriously, we got trapped in this area which was the spectators crossing point. Route marshals moved the crowd into the area, and then moved the runners to one side of the area so the crowd could cross the road. We totally got suckered into that!
After we were ushered out of our perfect front row seats, we had to stand 3 deep to look for Jill. I was so focused on finding her that I did not even notice that Westminster Abbey was to the right of me, and Big Ben was right in front of me. Like I said, if you look away for one second, you will miss them! Turns out that I still missed Jill pass by. Kristin saw her and got a few pics and cheered her on. So off she went! And then we needed to make our way to the “meet and greet” area where she would be waiting for us after she finished. We got ushered into another spectators crossing point where we had front row seats again for a few minutes. While in there, we saw a few runners that looked in total pain… cramps, limping, one guy fell and other runners picked him up to carry him to the finish. Seriously, these folks are an inspiration! We also had a helicopter hovering over us in the sky as a precaution after the Boston marathon.
The last mile circled around St. James’ Park and also crossed by Buckingham Palace. According to Jill, she didn’t even notice any of these famous sights while running because she just wanted to finish. Too bad they didn’t start the race by the famous sights so they could enjoy the scenery more. We easily found Jill with a big smile on her face and a shiny medal around her neck! Wooohooooo, Goooooo Jill!!!
For the afternoon, we took it as easy as possible. Unfortunately, we had to go down some stairs to get to the tube, and we had to do some walking to go anywhere. Jill (and Kristin) was not a fan of this, but she also didn’t want to sit or else she would tighten up. She was such a trooper for the rest of the afternoon! Every runner she saw, she made sure to tell them congratulations… she was always the first to do so, but she still did it for everyone! We had some tapas for an afternoon snack and got some gelato before saying our goodbyes to Kristin, who was heading back to Aberdeen, and then we went back to Wimbledon. Jill enjoyed a bath, we watched Friends, and ate a quick dinner from home. 
So proud of Jill – she did awesome!

Jill passed 1,135 runners in the last 7km. Of the 34,188 runners than finished, 36% were women and 64% were men.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wimbledon Common

Actual date of this event: 14 April

It was a spectacular day in London! I mean so beautiful that I wanted to put on shorts and sandals. But I didn't because I have learned my lesson when it comes to wearing too little clothing. Anyway, Luke and I decided to make use of the sunshine and take a walk through Wimbledon Common.

The common is a very large park/forest area located right around the corner from Wimbledon Village. It is about a 0.6 mile walk from our flat. Unfortunately, the common is located on a hill, so to get there you must go up the hill. It is no problem when you are walking, but trying to jog to the common is nearly impossible. There are only a few streets that are possible jogging routes, all others force you to walk. No joke, it's happened to me three times already.

The common has walking, jogging, cycling, and horseback riding trails. Some of the paths are kept up with gravel, some have been created over time, and some are extremely muddy. It also has several ponds, creeks, and streams, a golf course and a windmill museum. I am sure there are other things we have not discovered yet as well.

Luke and I of course went off trail during our walk which put us in some very muddy spots. We also found ourselves lost at times because the common is 1,100acres (according to Wikipedia). I have yet to see trail markers to help guide you through the forest, and while in the forest, I noticed that I lacked reception. Super! We even stumbled upon a fort made from tree branches. Luke stuck his pretend flag in it and deemed it his now. Meanwhile, I felt like I was in the Hunger Games most of the time as I ended up with dozens of scratches on my legs from my rolled up jeans. We ended up clocking 6 miles during our journey.

It was a very windy day, but the one million trees (again, according to Wikipedia) helped keep Luke's hair tame. We saw lots of other folks & families doing the same as us: enjoying the sun! Funny though, in the wide open spots, we saw no one flying a kite! It's England y'all! Lets go fly a kite!!!! Anyway, we enjoyed our sun so much that Luke and I both went home and decided to go jogging in the common - separately, of course, because Luke "doesn't like to jog with other people". I hope this sunshine keeps up! My white legs needs some color as they are blinding everyone around me!

The common has 19 employees and an annual budget of £1mill.


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