With Team GB winning so many gold medals the locals have really got behind their team. It is odd that we only like to follow something that is already winning. With the jumping now in full swing the crowds at the equestrian venue are also enthusiastically supporting their countries. Unfortunately due to the restriction of tickets there are not the normal large numbers of Australians but the ones that are heir are doing their best. This morning I captured some of the better supporter outfits.
Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category
Posted in England, Equestrian London olympics, London, London olympics, Olympic Equestrian, Olympic Games, Travel, Uncategorized, tagged London Olympic Equestrian, Olympic Games. London Olympics on August 6, 2012 | 1 Comment »
Posted in Equestrian London olympics, London, London olympics, Olympic Equestrian, Olympic Games, Travel, Uncategorized, tagged London, London Olympic, London Olympic Equestrian on August 5, 2012 | 1 Comment »
We have reached the half way point of the Olympic equestrian events. The weather, except for the odd downpour has been really good. The transport system seems to be coping really well, but this week it is straining with the inclusion of the athletics at the main stadium. We have also heard reports the pick pockets are producing a gold medal performance on the trains. Unlike some other large cities you feel very safe around London.
We are getting into a system now of getting up, catching the bus, having coffee at the adopted Australian café and then starting the day at the Equestrian venue. Various countries seem to have taken over certain pubs and cafes. The Australian team have taken up residence in a nice pub just a short walk from the athlete and media entrance. Across the road from the pub is an excellent café that specialises in sausages but also coffee. Every morning we are sure to find some Australians having coffee or a sausage bap, the house speciality. They do not do scones.
Supermarket shopping here is dominated by two huge chain stores, Tescos and Sainburys. They have large shops plus mini stores everywhere. Like in Australia there is a push to keep the village atmosphere and we have discovered a really nice group of produce shops near the venue and there seem to be good markets all about the place. If you want, it is easy to eat take away but with a little
more effort you can find really good produce.
The rules restricting the use of Olympic branding have been eased a little. You can now sell cakes with the Olympic rings on them and vendors are allowed to sell hot chips. For the first week they could only sell fish and chips as Games sponsor McDonalds do not sell fish and chips. The press were warned last night that it is breach of our accreditation to use and image or reference to the Games on social media. I have no idea how they are controlling this and people from the grand stands are loading photos via their phone.
The competition so far has been excellent but the show jumping was dramatic yesterday, with the first round of the individual. Today we start the team competition, so we are now about to head off for our morning coffee at catch up on any of the gossip in the café.
Yesterday we had the day off from competition so we headed into London for the day. London has a wonderful transport system when it is all working. Despite horror stories about the transport system not coping during the Games, so far it is perfect. The Lord Mayor has a recorded message on the trains and buses warning people to try and not to travel on public transport during the Games. Londoners have responded so well those businesses are going broke, as the city seems deserted. The warning messages were stopped today.
Our first stop was Harrods a wonderful upmarket department store was started in 1824. The old building has been renovated in a great way, so modern technology works perfectly in an old setting. We headed up to the pet section where you could by a Chihuahua pup for 2200 ponds or a Rag Doll kitten for 1000 pounds. Once you have your dog then you can bring it back to Harrods to have it groomed. There is also a saddlery section where you can order a custom made saddle.
After Harrods we visited Fortnum and Masons a wonderful store first opened in 1707 and founded as a grocery store. These magnificent old department stores are like works of art with amazing displays.
After lunch we started to walk a number of the famous London streets that appear on the Monopoly board like, Bond St, The Strand, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. To finish our walking tour of London we had drinks with a friend on The Strand. London is so deserted it is amazing, the papers are full of stories about business including hotels and taxis that have takings down by 60% on last summer.
Today we had the first day of dressage. The weather so far has been fairly good and today started sunny. Then, from down on the arena edge we could hear the crowd laughing and moving about in their seats, but we could not see what was happening. The heavens then opened, and everything was soaked, the rain only lasted about 10 minutes, then the sun came out before another soaking. Followed by sun shine for the rest of the day.
Attending an Olympic Games for the two weeks is like visiting another planet, Olympic Land. You find it hard to keep track of what day it is or that anything else is going on in the World other than sport. There is no mention of Julia Gillard, the price of the Australian dollar, not even who has won the football. You just know what time you have to be at the venue on whatever day of the Games. It is easy to keep track of how many medals each country has won, you come home from the event and watch other sports on the TV then you go to bed and it all starts again the next day; it is nice in one way and bizarre in another.
Their is such a build up to an Olympics and so much pressure put on athletes to perform to their best. However, with equestrian sports the horse has no idea that he is going to the Olympics, all he knows is he has been taken to new place and there are lots of noisy people. If he has a sore foot he is not going to cover it up and keep going because it is the Olympic Games. So as we have seen the week proceeding the start of the Games, a slight injury to the horse can result in a lifetime dream turning into a nightmare in a few hours.
No one was under more pressure at these Olympic Games than Zara Phillips. This morning Britain had the chance of a team Olympic Gold medal plus individual medals. The home crowd had nearly filled the 20,000 capacity stadium and LCOG filling some of the empty seats with members of the army and navy. Today the Olympic Family seats were also occupied by the Royal Family. Watching the paparazzi at work was terrible, they never left these poor people alone without a camera facing them for a second. There were a group of photographers with their back to the competition arena facing Kate, William and Harry the whole time they were in the stands. There were members of the public yelling at the photographers to sit down and the photographers yelling at the spectators to sit down, that had stood up so they could see. This young group of Royals seem delightful and looked to be enjoying their time watching their cousin compete but it is amazing they are not all driven crazy.
Unfortunately for Team GB, the Germans were outstanding and held onto their Gold medal. Zara did make a mistake in the first show jumping round but came back out in the second round to post a clear. In the Olympic 3DE the IOC decided after the Barcelona Olympics that an athlete could not win a two medals for the one effort ie for the team and individual. In Sydney their was a separate competition for the individual medals, but in Hong Kong and here the top twenty five riders after the team event come back for another show jumping round to decide the individual medals. This is really tough on these combinations, and once again the Germans were outstanding taking two of the medals.
Tomorrow is a rest day when all the the cross country is removed and the majority of the park given back to the general public. We are heading off for a tour of London.
Posted in England, Equestrian London olympics, London olympics, Olympic Equestrian, Olympic Games, Travel, Uncategorized, tagged London 2012, London Olympics, Olympic Equestrian, Olympic Games on July 28, 2012 | 1 Comment »
Yesterday we left Wales and drove the four hours back to Lewisham in London, our home for the next two weeks. The first hour or so of our drive was beautiful with the roads lined with small green fields beautifully tendered. Then we got onto the freeway heading to London via Oxford, famous for the University. On a quick visit including lunch, Oxford looks old but has a young, vibrant feel. London is an enormous city and luckily we had Andrea the GPS to guide us in, as the last 20kms took over an hour but we did keep moving slowly and we were delivered to the door.
On our visit to London last week I thought London may just be too big to host a good Games, but today the feel had changed. Many of the business have closed for holidays, the locals have rented their houses and moved out and allowed the tens of thousands of enthusiastic visitors to move in. An army of friendly volunteers similar to the Sydney Games seem to be everywhere offering help. Things do go wrong, but when you see how enormous the whole operation is, it is easy to understand how this happens. Last week we had to pick up our media accreditation and in the media guide it says the photographer vests will be at the venues. However, when we arrived at Greenwich Park today to photograph the Trop Up for the eventers, they said the photographer vests were at the Main Press Centre and if you did not have one you could not photograph. So far our experience here is that the people running things are knowledgable and if a rule just does not work they are willing to make things happen. So they bent the rules and allowed everyone who did not have a vest to shoot the Trot Up or Jog, as it is know as it is known in many places.
After taking some photos I had to head to the Main Press Center at the Olympic Park. This involved catching at Light Rail to Stanford, about a
20 minute ride, where the enormous Westfield shopping complex has been built to service everyone going to the main Olympic venues and then the people who will move permanently into the Olympic Village. This vast shopping complex was just buzzing with people today. From Stanford station I had to catch another train to Stanford International just one stop, but this is where all the athletes enter the system, one of the main stops for the general public going to events and where the press catch shuttle buses to the venues and Main Press Centre. Once on the bus you are taken on a ride around the venues picking people up, the whole complex is so vast but looks really good. The Olympic Village which is a number of new apartment towers is all decorated with team flags and looks colorful and an exciting place to be.
Getting to an Olympic Games is always expensive and hard work. Some people say they are not interested in them and it is a waste of money. But it is not until you get there and feel the ‘Olympic Spirit’ that you understand it. The event is just so big and there are so many people, from so many places, all in one place, it is just an amazing atmosphere. When you walk into the Main Press Centre, you know there are a lot of people who must be interested in the Games. It is a high tech Village with floors and floors of working press from around the World. The big company’s like the BBC have their own huge temporary buildings. After picking up the press kit and photographers vest I headed back to Greenwich.
There has been a huge amount of local protesting about using London’s oldest park for the Equestrian events and a vast amount of money has been spent trying not to do any damage to the grasslands, lawns and trees. It all seemed a bit silly on paper. On returning to the media entry to the park today, there was one lone protester trying to put her case why the horses should not be in the park. She had some valid points, as the park is so beautiful, has such a long history and 1000′s of people normally use it every day. However, it has lent itself to the most amazing venue to stage an Equestrian event.
Lets hope that the event just adds to the wonderful history of the Park and the City of London and gives the 100 of thousand’s of people attending the Equestrian events an understanding why the park is so special.
For more photos from the first Day of Equestrian events head to www.horsedeals.com.au
For everyone who is following our quest to find the best scone in Ireland and Great Britain, you will be disappointed to know research has come to a grinding halt. So far all we can find are Welsh Cakes, a cross between a scone and a pancake, and to this point our testing has proved disappointing. However, with the weather heating up we have discovered Welsh ice cream. The Welsh dairy industry is in financial difficulties due to the ridiculously low prices the farmers are paid for their milk, so many of the farmers are moving to specialist dairy products like cheese and ice cream. At the show there are a huge number of little home made ice cream stands and we can report that the product is excellent, especially rhubarb sorbet.
It is a big farming community around the Builth showgrounds and many speak Welsh. We have been told that 600,000 of the 4 million people in Wales speak Welsh as there first language, and all children are taught it at school. Everyone also speaks English, but it often takes a few words with a heavy Welsh accent to get on the same wave length. So when today one of the older bowler hat clad ring stewards came and told me I had to wear a tie before coming back into the ring, I had to have him repeat it a couple of times before I knew what he was talking about. It seemed to be a new Royal Welsh show rule as of lunch time today that any photographer in the main ring must wear a tie! there is no other dress code, so shorts, tee shirt, and tie is fine.
The Royal Welsh Show is all about the Welsh Cobs. The Welsh Mountains are popular, the B’s are beautiful but many of the locals think they are boring, but everyone loves the Cobs. Today there was a record crowd of 69,500 by 3pm and the majority wanted to see the Feature showing of the Cob Stallions. The stallions over seven years old, have the whole arena, the horses marshall and then explode into the ring with the crowd going mad. No need for a leather bound ball to excite the crowd here, single horse power, splendid in its beauty does fine. A large number of oddly dressed photographers and camera crews are in the center of the arena , many now with mandatory ties, capture the action with the the spectacle also live on Welsh TV. Last night we were also able to see the pig judging live on TV. After the older stallion class is completed, the Cob Championships start, with the crowd picking their favorites and cheering louder when that horse is running out for the judge. After the Cobs have finished being judged the crowd starts to disperse out of the ground stands and off the arena viewing hill.
Tomorrow we leave rural Britain and head into London to start our coverage of the Olympics.
After an excellent breakfast at the River Cafe we headed off early for the Royal Welsh Show about 25 minutes away. We had been warned that this trip may take an hour with the show traffic but we had a good run. The main car parks are situated a short bus ride away from the grounds but with press passes we drove straight in and parked on the steep hill. Only a week ago heavy rain threatened the show but today was hot at 30 degrees and humid. We heard one lady described the weather as wicked. However, they have not heard of slip slop and slap over here and we saw so many people with really bad sun burn.
The Royal Welsh show is enormous, with a record Tuesday crowd today of 65,000 by 3pm. There are no rides or show bags but 1000 trade stands, 3249 horses, 725 cows and 3257 sheep representing 46 breeds, all in four days. The Welsh Ponies are just wonderful and there are 100″s of them, 557 A’s, 267 B’s, 323 C’s and a remarkable 482 D’s. The public just love the ponies and rather than the grand stand emptying when the horses come on it is the opposite here. Today three rings of Welsh ponies occupied the main arena until 1.30 pm and there were horse events in the outside horse ring all day. It is very difficult to capture all the horses with so much going on but between the slide show and the photos on the Horse Deals Gallery we hope you get the idea.
Hickstead is a wonderful show for Australians to attend, as it has it all; the top hacks and show jumpers, plus an exciting atmosphere along with endless shopping. Our stay for Hickstead was enhanced by our excellent Sussex Prairie B and B just 5 minutes from the showgrounds and one of our best dinners so far at The Ginger Fox.
The weather seems to have finally changed for the better with yesterday and today
just perfect. The Hickstead show committee nearly cancelled the show on Tuesday, then after a huge team effort they had an outstanding final and main day yesterday with a huge crowd.
This morning we started the day with a walk around the amazing Prairie Garden,
the colour and the number of plants is on a grand scale. Each year in February the garden is burnt to the ground, mulched and then in Spring all comes to life again. We are getting quite organised in our packing and unpacking and this morning we hit the road heading for Wales and the Royal Welsh Show. We have found that Andrea the GPS is very good at finding places and if we choose any option other than the “quickest”, she seems to enjoy taking us literally on a joy ride. So this morning we just programmed Andrea to take us to Wales via the freeway. However, the first part of the trip towards London was more like a slow way rather than a freeway, so we were pleased when we turned off and headed west.
Our first stop was at one of the huge M and S / Costa service stops. McDonalds does not dominate the freeways here; at these big service stops Marks and Spence have these really good little food supermarkets with lots of healthy ready to eat meals and snacks. Costas are the big coffee chain here and we have worked out an expresso with warm milk gives you a reasonable coffee. Along with M and S, and Costas, there are also poker machines, a news agency, Burger King and a number of smaller food outlets plus a petrol station and often a Travelodge. Tea is the real British hot drink and getting a good cup of tea is fairly easy but the coffee culture is just starting to take off, led mainly by Australian baristas and cafe owners in London.
Once off the freeway and heading to Wales the country side is delightful, especially on a sunny day with rolling farmed fields surrounded by trimmed hedges, that are well used by local hunt clubs.
Our destination today was the River Café Bed and Breakfast in Hay-on-Wye, just inside the Welsh boarder, about 25 minutes from the
showground. Hay-on-Wye is a very old town dating back to about 1070 and is home to over thirty bookshops, many selling specialist and second-hand books. Our B and B is situated right on the river and has a great Café below so we are well fixed for breakfast and dinner. We sat out side to eat our Cornish Crab pappardelle, on a faultless summer evening with no bugs and an idyllic view.
For many years we have heard about the Royal Welsh show and we are really looking forward to the show tomorrow. The town is really busy with the show just up the road and the sun out.
After an excellent breakfast at the Sussex Prairies B and B we headed up the road and in just five minutes we were at the Hickstead Showgrounds. With our press passes we were directed to the Press Car park just behind the main area. This famous show has a wonderful atmosphere, it is huge with over 200 trade stands and about 60,000 spectators attending over the six days. With the sun finally out, we spent the full day at the show and there will be all the photos on the Horse Deals website.
Last night we visited the Marfleet Family at Ashford in Kent. Many people may remember Amanda and Kate and their team of show horses. A few years ago they moved back to England, and have a wonderful property that we will feature in an up coming Horse Deals Signature Property. This morning we headed to our wonderful B and B, Morlands Farm just a few minutes from the Hickstead Showgrounds. One the way we visited the Sissinghurst Castle and wondered through the really beautiful gardens. If you are planning a trip to the UK it is really worth becoming a member of the National Trust. While at the gardens we
purchases lunch from the stall holders of the fortnightly farmers market.
On arriving at the B and B we turned down an offer of tea and a home made scones, as we were heading for London to pick up the keys for our Olympic house and our Olympic Press accreditation. We drove to Gatwick airport and caught the express train to Victoria Station. We then saw the large signs to Olympic Park. On the way we were handed a map that told us alternative ways to travel, other than trains during the Olympics; there were also constant announcements warning people of congestion during the Games. We took the 30 minute trip to West Ham station which was marked Olympic Park. However, the walk way is not yet open. We had to then return to the underground and caught a train one stop to Stanford. There were then reasonably good signs to the accreditation centre.
To go to the main press centre we had to catch a shuttle bus, so we decided to move onto the house. To go to Greenwich, the home of the Equestrian Events you need to catch the light rail which is an after thought to the main rain system. After a short ride on one light rail train we had to change to another to go to Greenwich and Lewisham, where our house is situated. At some of the Light Rail stations the train is longer than the platforms so people have to move to the middle of the train to get off. Once we finely got to Lewisham, we caught one of the delightful London cabs to the house. After paying a huge amount of money to rent the house, it was a great relief to find it an excellent home for the Games.
Then it was time to complete the return trip to Hickstead. We caught a double decker bus to the Lewisham station and then the light rail to Canary Wharf station to change trains for Victoria station. We did not realise the Canary Wharf light rail and the Cancary Wharf underground stations were not in the same building. By this time we were wishing we had taken up that offer of tea and scones. After eventually getting to Victoria Station we caught the train back to Gatwick then home . It had been a big day and we are just not used to dealing with so many people and so many trains. The signage and the maps at this stage are not great for the Olympic Equestrian events, as Greenwich is missing from the map they were handing out at the station. If you are planning to go to the Games, you need to do lots of planning of your route and allow plenty of time, they say to add about 1 hour to your normal journey. One good thing about our trip to London was that there was only one heavy shower of rain and all the railway staff were really friendly and helpful.