London is a global city. A simple stroll on the street will overhear conversations in various languages. Locals have a great sense of humour, often making light of the busy public transport or some other quirk in their country. Like many big cities, accommodation is expensive, especially in the lead up to the Olympics. I make several inquiries on Craiglist before finding a house-owner that seems genuine - renting a private room for 150 pounds per week close to transport and shops. A pretty good deal for this city.
London has many things to see and do. For this article, I will only cover my highlights. Starting with the British Museum, this is my favourite attraction in London. Possibly, my favourite museum in the world. Its collection of Middle Eastern artefacts is extraordinary. Best of all, admission is free.
For longer trips outside of London (or any trip in the UK), it is cheaper to book online in advance, rather than over-the-counter on the day.
My favourite day trip is Salisbury – for its beautiful Cathedral, the town itself, and of course, Stonehenge. Salisbury is a charming town serviced by train about 90 minutes from London. Within town, there are frequent buses to Stonehenge.
First, I walk to the Cathedral. Constructed mostly in the 13th Century, Salisbury Cathedral is not only spectacular but serene. I linger for awhile; attending a short service; joining a tour midway; and seeing the Magna Carta. By the time I leave, it has been two hours.
After filling my appetite, I head towards the legendary monument that is Stonehenge.
Prior to coming here, I hear mixed reviews of Stonehenge. For me, it is worth the time and admission price. There is something magical about this place. And the music from the audio guide serves to enhance it.
For those who prefer not to pay, they can view from outside the fence.
As a testament to the rich history of this country, there are attractions galore. Often, they become dilemmas. For example:
Salisbury or Bath? I see both, prefer Salisbury.
Oxford or Cambridge? I see Oxford only.
Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace? I see Windsor only.
Towards the end of July, the 2012 Summer Olympics begin. I turn up at several venues looking for tickets but without success. Scalpers have been removed. Box offices are for ticket-holders that pre-purchase online.
Olympic Park has the biggest crowds. Those without tickets - like me - can walk along its perimeter, see the athletes’ village from afar, or shop at the brand new shopping centre.
With no other option, I follow what others did; purchase a ticket online using the address and phone number of the place I am staying. A ticket for the Women’s 63kg Weightlifting Finals on my last full day in London!
The emcee does a fantastic job to work up the audience. When the Canadian athlete is about to lift for silver and applause is lacking, the emcee responds, 'Do we want her to win silver or what?' That gets the audience going. In the end, Kazakhstan wins gold, sets an Olympic record. Silver goes to Russia. Bronze to Canada.
Special mention goes to the volunteers. They are helpful, friendly and fun. A wonderful way to end my summer in London.