Saturday, October 13, 2007

London Calling

Ah, London. My favorite big city. I can’t believe I just said ‘big city’ like that. The term ‘big city’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. OK, it’s my favorite huge metropolis. Or at least my favorite national capitol.

And how many other nations’ capitols have I been to? A few, actually. Washington DC, of course (pretty sad if I didn’t have that one). Let’s see now. In no particular order, I’ve been to Ottowa, Sofia, Amsterdam, Vaduz, Dublin, Edinburgh, Vienna, and (I think) Bonn. Can anybody name all of those countries? No more trivia quiz stuff, so just answer in the comments field.

Anyway, London. We hadn’t really planned on going. We’d been discussing a domestic vacation trip this summer. Then, one day, MG said “Hey, I wonder if we could get to London so you could see the Tour?”

She does love me.

After a little research, we decided that it wouldn’t be a bad idea, so the plan took shape quickly after that. We left on the 4th of July so we could take full advantage of holidays to minimize vacation days taken. Of course, leaving on the 4th means getting there on the 5th, but at least it’s early when you get there (all jet lagged and everything).

The Tour events really started on Friday evening with the team presentations in Trafalgar Square. I honestly am not sure that I’ve ever seen that many people all packed into one space that wasn’t a major stadium. The crowd was huge. HUGE!!! After the team presentation I saw Didi Senft (AKA "the Devil") walking along the east edge of St. James park near the team compound. I wanted to get a photo of him dressed up in full regalia, but he was trying to get away from the following crowds and I guess didn't want to stop long enough to pose for a shot. I tried to get a shot anyway as he moved along, and he did at least smile in my direction, but the light was failing and it turned out badly blurred. When I turned around to go I almost fell over one of the Astana riders. He was trying for a photo of Didi also and had walked up behind me without me hearing him. At least he would have a few more chances for a photo over the next few weeks.

The crowds were huge the next day as well for the Prologue TimeTrial, though it was spread out over the whole of the course, which stared near Trafalgar, came past Buckingham Palace, through Hyde Park, back past Buckingham, and finished up headed back over toward Trafalgar again. I was lucky that our hotel was right on the route near the exit from Hyde Park, so I just walked out after a late breakfast, staked out as decent a spot as I could for photos, and just hung out as the crowds started packing in. The nice thing about a Time Trial is that you get to see every rider go by at around one minute intervals. On the other hand, with 198 riders it takes three hours and 18 minutes for all of them to pass by. MG made my day by bringing me back some food at one point (and then went and got some for several of my new comrades packed in around me).

The other side of the coin from a Time Trial is a regular road stage where, especially at the beginning, the peloton is all together and has come and gone so fast you barely have time to register it all. That’s why I like mountain stages, which tend to break the peloton into smaller groups, but England didn’t have any mountain stages. I still had a great time.

OK, that was Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We were there from Thursday until we left Wednesday morning. So what else did we do? Oh, rest assured that MG got her due by having that time all planned out. We saw two plays (Avenue Q and Wicked), went to a few museums, ate a lot of incredibly good food, did a good bit of shopping, and walked through a good bit of London’s park system acreage. So yeah, we both got to have a really good time.

But I got to see the TOUR!!! WOO HOO!!!!

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