A Once In A Lifetime Trip: London 2012
Dale, a HomeAway staffer, takes an unforgettable journey to London for the 2012 Olympics
On July 6th 2005 the IOC announced London would be the host city for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. Even better news for me was that the Olympic Park would be built 30 minutes from where I grew up in Billericay, Essex. London 2012 was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event and my family and I were going to go come what may.
We applied for tickets and got lucky with our application. We attended Boxing, Fencing, Football, Athletics and Taekwando. We saw Usain Bolt run in the men’s 200 meters, Oscar Pistorius qualify in the same event and Gold Medal matches in Fencing and Football.
We watched the superb TV live coverage by the BBC and joined the whole of Great Britain in cheering on our own athletes, and those from around that world that came to our country to compete. The noise levels in the stadium would drown out that of a Boeing 777 as we saw amazing feats from Mo Farah, Sir Chris Hoy, Jessica Ennis, Usain Bolt, our Rowers, Gymnasts and Cyclists to name but a few. Suffice to say, the Olympic games were incredible and we soaked up every second of it.
We started planning our trip a year in advance, and decided to tie in London 2012 with a trip around England and Wales. When we could we would stay in a vacation rental, and on the days we were only passing through a city en-route, in a hotel.
The first few days were spent in a lovely hotel in Essex, where we visited family. The only downside was that we could not invite the family up to see us, and with two children in tow that was not so convenient. We had rented a car to ensure we could get around, but we would have preferred to have the family stay with us.
From Essex we drove to Oxford for a night and had a great time wandering around the elegant University City that dates back hundreds of years, and which was a stronghold of the Kings Roundheads during the English Civil War in the late 1600s.
From Oxford we drove to Loughborough to visit the Peak District, which is a stunning part of England known as a hotbed of International rock climbing, and for its dramatic scenery. As my brother lives in that area, we met up and visited The Heights of Abraham, Bradgate Park and the home of the Churchill Family – Blenheim Palace. From the Peak District we drove the four hours to Wales and stayed a week at a fantastic cottage farmhouse near Snowdonia National Park.
Hiking around the hills and valleys of Snowdonia is truly wonderful and a must for anyone that enjoys being outdoors. It is truly Tolkien territory and our walks to the top of the local Quarry and through the nearby rain forest have given us a strong desire to go back again in the future.
From Wales we drove to the Historic Roman Town of Bath for a night, then drove back to Essex via a memorable trip to Ancient Stonehenge.
We had rented a vacation rental in Hockley, Essex that slept 9 people, had a heated outdoor swimming pool and hot tub and with plenty of room to invite our family to come stay with us the scene was set for a fun week. Hockley was to be our base for the London 2012 Olympics and from there we made the trip to the Olympic Stadium, the Excel Center and Wembley Stadium.
Throughout the week at our vacation rental in Hockley, my parents, nephews, cousins and old friends stayed with us on various nights and helped make that week so much fun. It was a joy to see our kids so comfortable with their English cousins, whom they had only met a few times when they were much younger.
When our week was over and we returned to Austin, we were all changed by our Olympic experience. It’s not often you have the Olympics virtually on your doorstep, and with our trip around England and our vacation rental in Essex, the trip was one that will be impossible to top. Two weeks later I was to venture back to England for the Paralympic games, which was a life changing experience in of itself.
London really did show the world how it should be done in 2012, and in the words of Sebastian Coe, the organiser of the games, “When it was our turn, London, we did it right."
*Banner Image from Smokeghost