London – Day 1 – The Capital City
The Trip to London
We weren’t having a ‘proper’ family holiday this year as we couldn’t afford it following our holiday of a lifetime to New Zealand last year.
Instead we were once again combining our holiday with me competing in the ITU Age-Group World Triathlon Championships which were in London this year. It wasn’t even going to be a full week holiday as Anna had to take the time off work and Morgan had to take a few days off school so we were travelling to London on the Wednesday and returning on the Monday.
I started the day on Wednesday with an early morning run in the pitch dark. I knew it wouldn’t be light out there at 6am, but wasn’t ready for it to be quite that dark. I couldn’t see a thing which kept my speed down -probably a good thing just two days before a World Championship race. I did manage a couple of 2 minute efforts once I was in Borth and could see where I was going thanks to the street-lamps.
We then loaded up the car with my bike and our bags, made the short drive into Borth Railway Station and boarded the 7:43am train to Birmingham New Street. Travelling by train was definitely the way to go. Anna managed to find return tickets for the 3 of us that came to a total of around £60. Much cheaper than the petrol it would have cost to get to London and back, and it turned out to be an easy, stress free way to travel as well. We were able to read, listen to podcasts, play on our electronic devices and snooze all the way there. We had to change trains at Birmingham New Street for a train to London Euston, and this one had very few stops so was even easier, quicker and more comfortable than the train from Borth. Taking my bike in its box was easy too.
Once in London we had decided against battling with the Tube as we thought that getting, Morgan, our bags and my bike across London may prove difficult so instead we jumped into a black cab which took us straight to the door of our hotel – The Premier Inn in Earl’s Court. Being a Premier Inn it was just as expected, clean, quiet and comfortable with all that we need from a hotel. The room had a nice big double bed, a large single bed for Morgan, a TV, bath, shower and plenty of electrical sockets. There was a kettle with complimentary teas and coffees and plenty of nice big fluffy towels. Best of all, it wasn’t too expensive, and was certainly a lot cheaper (as in at least a quarter of the price) of the Team Hotel which was just around the corner.
Getting our Bearings
Once we were settled in we headed off towards Hyde Park and the race venue in order to find a wristband for the evening Opening Ceremony and to get our bearings. Hyde Park was about a 20 minute walk, along Cromwell Road, past the Natural History Museum and then up Exhibition Road between the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum.
We then crossed the bike and run course where people were riding around the course. We had been told that it wouldn’t be possible to ride the course prior to the race, but clearly it was so I wanted to ride it as well.
It was then a 10 minute walk across the bridge over the Serpentine where the pontoon and buoys were out ready for the race and on through Hyde Park to the main event venue where there were tents and marquees galore for all sort of things such as registration, race briefings, team tents, official tents and of course a large expo area. The grandstand was all set up and ready to go overlooking the serpentine and the ITU blue carpets were out. We grabbed a few freebies from the expo and had a look around.
My official registration time wasn’t until Thursday morning, but the registration tents were quiet, there were no queues and plenty of volunteers there ready to register athletes so they were more than happy to let me register early. This was brilliant as it meant one less job for tomorrow and I now had my wristband for the Opening Ceremony.
Dinner with Vouchers
We then headed back to the hotel from Hyde Park Corner teaching Morgan how to read and use the Tube Map as we went. After dropping off our stuff at the hotel I built my bike and then we made our way towards Trafalgar Square.
This had been renamed ‘Triathlon Square’ for the weekend and was the venue of the opening ceremony. We needed dinner first though and being London there were of course plenty of options. There was Garfunkel’s on one corner, Prezzo on another and plenty of others too. Having not really been to a city for years I didn’t even realise that these were chains of restaurants and assumed they were independents. We chose Garfunkel’s as the prices seemed reasonable. Once inside I realised it was a chain so checked for Vouchers on the VoucherCloud app on my iPhone.
I’ve tried using this app before but as we are never anywhere with much in the way of shops or restaurants have never been able to find any vouchers for anything. Now that we were in the capital though there were plenty of choices, including a free starter or dessert with any main meal in Garfunkel’s. Clearly we were going to have to have a dessert as well as a main course!
The food was good and the kids menu for Morgan was perfect. He had pizza and vowed to have pizza every day that he was in London!
Once we had eaten, we headed across the road to Trafalgar Square for the Opening Ceremony. It was now raining quite heavily and we were allowed into the square without having to present a wristband so I was able to stay with Anna and Morgan. There wasn’t a huge amount going on. There were lots of athletes milling about, loud music and a DJ on the stage, the fountains were lit up and there were big screens everywhere, one even had a Welsh Triathlon sign on it for a while.
We bumped into Alison and had a chat with her and basically waited around for the parade of nations and opening ceremony. As far as we could tell though there wasn’t actually going to be a parade of nations, more a parade of flag-bearers. Some guy went around interviewing various athletes from different nations for a while and started the proceedings, then there was a Beatles Tribute band on the stage. By now though we were pretty wet and pretty tired so didn’t hang around much longer and instead jumped on the tube and headed back to the hotel after a long day.
Tomorrow was going to be a busy one so we were soon in bed and off to sleep.