This will be a long one. I originally didn’t want it to be, but then again, I thought I’d have more time to post.
I have had barely enough time to sit down over the past few days, and when I do sit down, it is accompanied by a loud popping sound from my entire body as it tries to figure out just what the hell all that walking/climbing stairs/walking was about, followed by a “Ohhhh, God,” issued from a collective mouth made up of my best friend, my boyfriend, and myself, as we collapse after a long day of movement. Suffice to say, my time at a computer is limited. So here’s what you need to know right now.
We flew into London last Friday and arrived at our apartments close to midnight, after getting truckled to a pub near our residence and chowing down on sandwiches while watching the game. The bar, the Fitzrovia Belle, had some of the best tomato chutney I have ever eaten, particularly at 10PM after a 4AM wakeup call, 6 hour flight, and hour-long trek from Heathrow Airport. We then collapsed into bed. Saturday was full of walking around and exploring things that my brother and his girlfriend had never been to (Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly, the West End, Downing Street, the ridiculously awesome Lloyd’s of London building that looks like it landed on this planet from something out of Doctor Who…we walked around a lot) and reuniting with my mom at the Team USA hotel, followed by a meetup at our official “Husky Hangout”, a pub near the apartment. It was there that I tried my first Rekorderlig. There is a cider native to Europe called Rekorderlig, and it comes in Strawberry Lime. It is delicious. And dangerous. And delicious.
I always need to be careful to recognize just how incredibly wonderful my opportunities have been. Sure, travel is very stressful. There’s always going to be things to contend with, personalities that clash, incidents that happen. The key is picking your battles and deciding how you will react. At the end of of the day, I’m with the people I love in my favorite city on the planet, and in a few weeks I’m going to be wishing I was here when I’m attempting to foist a love of academic writing on 18 year olds.
We also got to watch Jessica Ennis win the women’s heptathlon. For those of you who aren’t familiar with “Jess” as she is known here, she is an absolutely beautiful and talented heptathlete and is my new favorite of these games (with Alison Schmitt and Missy Franklin close seconds). She is also the British Michael Phelps. Her picture is everywhere here. When she won the heptathlon (by a wide, wide margin), the reaction of the crowd in her home country was absolutely mesmerising. I’m getting chills just thinking about it. Plus, it gave me perverse pleasure to watch her sculpted frame rip through the events of her discipline while drinking alcohol and eating. It’s the little things.
On Sunday I went for a long run just to explore the neighborhood and to take advantage of summer air that didn’t feel like a moist strangle-grip on my throat, then took some time to rest and read in the apartment. Jetlag is a bitch, people. The first time I woke up at 6:30, which is when I would normally wake up in CT, was this morning. My boyfriend and I then took the afternoon to walk around the neighborhood, buy things for the apartment, and just walk around. I’ve been to London before, and it’s beautiful, but because of that earlier trip I didn’t feel the need to go explore everything in sight. My cousins got the day to explore and my best friend has family who lives in Europe, so they were all out doing their own thing. It was great, because usually on team trips we’re herded everywhere and anywhere with the team and now allowed to create our own schedules. We then watched the game at a bar because USA didn’t have tickets for us for that game. Irony, eh?
Following the win, my parade of cousins and I schlepped to another restaurant to eat and watch the 100 meter sprint. And when I say ‘watch the 100 meter sprint’ I really mean ‘watch Usain Bolt’. The entire place fell silent as we waited to see if Usain Bolt lived up the overwhelming hype. Then we walked back to the apartment through the gay district of London. Loud, proud, and awesome.
Monday my best friend, boyfriend, and I got up at the disgusting hour of 4:30AM to catch a flight to Dublin. It was an exhausting day but incredibly worth it. We walked nearly the entire city, taking time to stop at the Long Room at Trinity College (OMG) and The Book of Kells, the Molly Malone statue with her tremendous iron cleavage, Temple Bar for their shoppes where I bought The Night Circus (woah. what a good book) and ended our day at The Guinness Storehouse. Note: I did not say Brewery. This was more like a museum-style tribute to the makers and drinkers of Guinness. I don’t really like Guinness, but I gave it a shot considering we were in Dublin, at the fount of the stuff’s creation. It was definitely a different-tasting brew than the one we get in the States. Fresher, maybe, is the word for it. I was in bed by 7:30PM that night and slept till 7:30AM, officially knocking out my jetlag.
We flew home and got our stuff together for the quarterfinal game in Olympic Park, and walked to Oxford Circus to catch the tube. Everything was going well.
I had foolishly overstuffed my small purse with things from Dublin and the trip, and had left a wide zipper hanging open, allowing my phone to peep out. I felt a hand tug the back of my purse and lift it up. I immediately pulled it across my body and looked behind me to no one. Whoever had filched me had simply vanished into thin air. I knew before I even put my hand into my purse that my phone was gone.
I had just bought my iPhone a week ago as an early birthday present from my Mom. It didn’t have a lot of stuff on it, only pictures from the trip and random text messages I had saved from various people. But I am kind of famous in my family for being dumb with my belongings, or at least not being super careful. So you can imagine my reaction to this situation. The feeling of overwhelming violation, stupidity for leaving my purse open in a town notorious for pickpockets, and a general sense of exhaustion and failure all overwhelmed me at the same time. We managed to get the phone frozen at the Apple store, but I won’t be getting a new phone until we get back to the states. Aside from having to make sure everybody knows where I am and staying close to friends/family and not being able to wander off on my own as much, things seem to be okay. And it is just a phone after all. My wallet was securely snapped into the bottom of my purse, and my ID and passport were safe. That was the big thing.
We made it to the game in time for the 4th quarter, and made the long, long, long trek home. We had been told by the people at Olympic Park that the trains coming out of West Ham would make for a shorter journey. They did not tell us the trip to the West Ham station would take 25 minutes of walking, after we had spent the previous day walking all over Dublin. I’m shocked my feet are still attached to my body.
We spent Wednesday decompressing after the long two days of travel, making sure my sister and brother-in-law had flown in safely that night and getting them settled in their apartment, and getting dolled up and heading to a get-together thrown by our UConn liasons. It was was there that I got to see most of the team and say hello. During the introduction of the UConn grads on Dad’s team (all 6 of them!), I was looking down at my camera, fiddling with the dials. Mom poked me in the ribs and motioned me to look up at the stage. “Diana is looking at you!” she whispered. I looked up at saw D pointing at me with a “THERE you are!” grin on her face, and I gave her a wink and a thumbs-up. She leapt off the stage after initial introductions and made a beeline over to me for a hug.
I’ve known Diana Taurasi since I was 14 years old, and that kind of generosity and cheerful, welcoming spirit is something she’s had ever since then. If anything, it’s increased. It is very easy to be in her presence. I also got to finally say hello to Sue, and give her a hug after the enormously tragic loss of Dennis Burden, her stepfather. I knew Dennis as long as I’ve known Sue, and it was a huge shock to learn of his passing last month. So giving Sue a hug was high up on my agenda.
After the meetup we all went out for a far-too-fancy-for-my-liking dinner at an Italian restaurant. So fancy they don’t allow shorts. My brother in law had to go back to my parents’ hotel and find a pair of my Dad’s pants to change into. The food was covered in butter. Me likey.
I need to stop this right now, as I am currently gearing up for a field trip to Liverpool and a tour of Anfield Stadium. But part two is coming! Including our first full game since arriving in London, the semifinal game vs. Australia at the O2 Arena. Oh, forgive me…the North Greenwich Arena.
PS. As a ‘thank-you for being on this trip’ present, I went to Sainsbury’s last night and purchased 50 Shades of Grey for my best friend. She then proceeded to read selections out loud to us in a vaguely British, outrageously over the top accent while we ate sushi. My abs actually hurt this morning from laughing so hard, both at the content and her delivery.
PPS. Our neighborhood, Bloomsbury, is picture perfect. Well, there was that one guy we saw on the way to the grocery store last night leaning up against a tree, and I wasn’t sure if he was relieving himself or ‘relieving himself’, but that’s just been a blip on the radar.