July 31, 2012

Postcards From London - 7-30-12

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Over the next several days, GoIslanders.com will bring you "Postcards from London," as assistant soccer coach Lauren "Money" Molinaro blogs about her trip to the XXX Olympiad. Here is her third entry, discussing the events of July 30. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Day three in London, and I wake up early without an alarm! Hooray! I celebrate, I'm finally on London time, and I kicked my jetlag. Ok, to be fair, a friend called and woke me up, but the point is, it's 8:15 a.m. and I'm ready to face the day! I'm ecstatic for three reasons. One, my newly made English friend, Rachel, is going to meet me for the volleyball game later. Two, I finally have a working European cell phone. And three, I'm awake before noon!

The run I go on turns out to be incredible. When I first arrived Saturday, I learned of a tunnel under the River Thames near Gabe's apartment. I figure I'll try to find that tunnel, so I explore and sure enough, it exists. I follow a path down a narrow, winding stairwell, cruise along the underwater tunnel, and head back up another narrow, winding stairwell. Needless to say, up was not quite as easy as down. In any event, the path plops me out on the other side of the Thames on a really neat, paved trail separating gorgeous three-story apartments and the water. Many of the apartments are creatively designed and have balconies, and as I run along I can just imagine relaxing up there enjoying the view with some good company.

As if the trail, the view and the architecture weren't enough, there is a small beach where a few residents are enjoying their Monday morning. I stop briefly to play with a Rhodesian Ridgeback. She is six months old and adorable, and she leaves me with a miniature scratch on my lip. My first souvenir!

Upon my return, I realize I got so caught up in the sights of my run, that I'm now late. Shocking, I know, to those of you that know me, but I am supposed to meet Nata, Gaven, and Rachel at the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park in an hour. This is hardly enough time to shower, eat and travel the distance, so I begin to rush.

Thankfully, Rachel is English and has a cell phone, so we can communicate. She greets me outside of the Green Park Tube and we head for Hyde Park. The park is really neat, very green and full of people. I find myself getting lost again in the scenery. Aside from a plethora of flowers and the serene water, there is a dirt path surrounding most parts of the park where various work horses train. I don't see any horses today, but evidence suggests that they were recently there (if you know what I mean).

Forty-five minutes later, we approach the Fountain. We're an hour late and manage to find Nata and Gaven right away. This must be the karma I was talking about day one. I introduce Rachel to Izzy as we frolic by the water and take pictures. Then we grab a bite to eat by the water. You think we'd also grab a front row seat to the triathlon exchange point, but due to the group of rather plump pigeons attacking cocktail glasses and leftover pizza, we opt to sit inside. Lunch is incredible.

A few hugs later and some good wishes, we say goodbye to our friends, and Rachel and I head to Earl's Court for some volleyball. We are very excited! In fact, we are so full of adrenaline, and probably calories from lunch, that we decide to walk instead of hopping the Tube. This is a hilarious decision because we drastically underestimate the time it will take. As we travel through neat areas such as Kensington, however, I find myself not really caring about the time or the distance. Mini Coopers line the streets in front of the very tall, intricately designed, newer housing buildings and museums. I'm still having trouble with the whole "Look Left/Look Right" thing, but I'm getting better, and an hour later we arrive.

Earl's Court is a really cool venue, and the Dominican Republic vs. Russia game proves to be pretty good. Russia wins in four sets, and then the American and Brazilian teams t ake the court. Brazilian flags hang all over the stadium and the woman in front of me proudly wears yellow and green. There are many American fans, but Brazil clearly dominates the crowd. The game is tremendous. Both teams are comprised of incredible athletes. I am amazed at how high some of the players on both teams can jump. I am also amazed at the size of their arms. If I tried for a whole year, I don't think I could get my arms as strong as Foluke Akinradewo. There are a few tremendous rallies, and cheers ring out all around me. The United States end up winning in four sets as well, but it was a really incredible sporting event.

Rachel, Izzy and I head out of the door along with hundreds of other sports fans and squish into the Tube. We are literally packed like sardines, but everyone is on such a high that no one seems to mind. Rachel and I part ways, and I head to Waterloo to sight see. The view crossing the Waterloo Bridge is incredible. I can see the London Eye and Big Ben across the water.

I grab some dinner in South Bank, and meet Gabe at the South Africa house. Here, there are music performances and art displays, as well as various people just hanging out promoting the country. I meet Gabe's sister, Mariana, who has an all access pass to the Olympic Games. She is headed to see Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor at 11 p.m., and I don't think I've been more jealous in my life. Beach Volleyball is one of my favorite sports. I guess I can hold out until Wednesday when I see it live.

The night ends with me sitting around the table at Iguanas with a group of Gabe's friends. As I glance around I see a few Brazilians, some Brits, a German, a Welsh girl, and me, an American, all sitting at one table, talking about the Games, laughing, sharing stories, asking questions, and overall just enjoying a good time. The Olympic Games have brought us all together. And as I'm sitting there, I smile thinking, "This is what life is all about."

From London 2012-

It's $$

GO ISLANDERS!