A once a year festival.
I cannot believe that in all the time I have been on VT and the numerous tips I have written about my adopted home of London that this is the first sports tip I have written. Don't get me wrong, I love sport, it is just that at my age, with my back, lifestyle and a complete lack of training over the last 20 or so years, active participation is not really an option any more.
there is, however, an annual event in which everyone can (and usually does) participate and that is the London Marathon. It is one of the older annual Marathons in the world and annually attracts tens of thousands of participants along with a huge television coverage. I am putting this up rather as a spectator event than one of participation as those who wish to take part will undoubtedly be fully aware of how to go about it.
The London Marathon really is quite something as are all the many similar events around the world. Certainly it atteacts the cream of the world's long-distnace athletes and wheelchair athletes who regularly set magnificent times but it is not really about that. It is about the thousands of people who run or propel themselves in chairs around the 26.2 miles for charity. Literally tens of millions of pounds have been raised over the years for various good causes. Since I came to London over 25 years ago, I have always lived within walking distance of the route and I am coonstantly amazed at the sight of people hobbling round at a walking pace perhaps eight hours after they started, determined to finish.
You may well have seen the images on TV, so you will know what I am talking about. If you happen to be in town on the relevant Sunday, it is well worth going for a look. Let's be honest, you have 26 miles of course to choose from. I took rather a lot of images so I have created a travelogue as well to showcase some more.
In 2013 the London Marathon took place in the shadow of the appalling terrorist incident at the Boston Marathon the week before. there is always a large police presence as it is a major event but I got the feeling it had been beefed up a bit this year as one of the images shows. There were cops everywhere.
Many places along the route will organise special parties and many pubs open early, organise barbecuse, put on music, special food etc. It really is a huge city wide party and the best thing is that it need not cost you a penny!
See you there next year if I am in town!
Equipment: Runners will know what they need. Spectators merely need street clothes and a camera. Don't forget a waterproof jacket, this is the UK in April after all!Related to:
- Budget Travel
Walking and Cycling on the Regent's canal
London's Regent's Canal runs from the Limehouse Basin to Paddington Basin. Once the city's major transportation artery, it fell into disuse like so many of the UK's inland waterways.
Nowadays it is now possible to cycle and walk along sections of of the canal towpaths (for cycling, a permit must be obtained first from most post offices. The permits are free of charge and cyclists must have them on display whilst cycling along the canal.) They are also downloadable from the Waterscape website (Britains official waterways guide).
Lots of really helpful info about cycling on the canal towpaths can be found on the Wesminster Cyclists website.
There seems to be some conflicting advice regarding cycling permits between the Westminster website and the Waterscape website who say that a permit is not required for cycling in London. Check first!
Free guided walks can be taken from the London Canal Museum - full details are given on the London Canal Museum website:
Equipment: A bike and (possibly!) a permitRelated to:
- Hiking and Walking
Birdwatching at Isabella Plantation
If you are a keen birdwatcher then this is the place for you!
When we go to the plantation we take our English bird book and our binoculars (and camera of course!)
On Sunday past we saw the most interesting bird, which doesn’t appear in our bird book. Not only was it quite beautiful, but the scene that took place before our eyes was quite extraordinary!
The bird looks a bit like a cockatiel (sp?). It is lime green and bright yellow in colour, with a pastel orange short and rounded beak, and a long thin yellow green tail.
There were 5 of these birds, twittering away in some very tall trees. Our binoculars were trained on them for some time.
Then suddenly, they went crazy! An inquisitive squirrel had dared to venture close to them and they were scaring him off! They were flying at him, screeching and splaying their feathers and wings. The poor little squirrel got the fright of his life and dashed away as fast as he could.. but this had to be done carefully as the branches that high up are thin, and few and far between!
He did get away and all returned to calm again, but it was so amazing to watch this act of nature taking place. We can only assume the birds had young close by or are extremely territorial, to account for the behaviour.
And the irritating thing was this bird does not appear in our (supposed to be!) thorough English bird book! Grrr…
Equipment: Binoculars and a 'thorough' bird book!Related to:
- National/State Park
When it comes to sports, there's so many in London that it's almost impossible to keep up with them all! I'll try and give a few.
When it comes to football (soccer), London has several major clubs that have devoted followings. The most famous of which is London Arsenal, a professional team that was founded by Royal Ordinance workers in the 19th century (hence the name "Arsenal" and their nickname, "the Gunners"). Arsenal is one of Britain's best teams, and regularly compete with Manchester United as the UK's most successful and popular football clubs.
Also up there is Chelsea FC, another widely popular and extremely successful team that hails from London.
Other football clubs include Crystal Palace, West Ham, Queens Park, Tottenham, Fulham, Leyton Orient, and Enfield, a non professional league team. Sound confusing? Here's a list of the websites...
Perhaps sportswise, London is most famous for the Wimbledown Championships, the world's most famous tennis competition. Played at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (even though a Brit hasn't won Wimbledon in decades) in late June/early July, the world's best tennis players come here to do battle.
Check out all the websites for prices and times.
West Ham United
West Ham are the big side in East London. All their other Premiership rivals are based in North/West London. West Ham play out of Upton Park. As Liverpool's fans are famous for singing "You'll never walk alone" during matches, West Ham's supporters are famous for their team's anthem, "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles"
Yes, I mean birds as in those winged creatures people watch with binoculars. There is just nowhere else to put it here on VT. One of the best places for birdwatching in London is along the Thames, upstream between Mortlake and Hampton Court where the river is full of little leafy islands sheltering loads of herons and other birds. At Mortlake there is also a wetlands area full of other species. To be ctd.Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
This theme park is 45 min away from central london by the train. i think it's the closest to london, quite big and needs one full good day to finish all the rides. the rides guide divide them into three main categories 'extremely dangerous', 'adrenalin booster' and 'baby rides'. and when you survive one of the extremes, treat yourself with one of the medals 'I SURVIVED THE RUSH':D that's the cool part, my friend and i have tried.
some rides have Fast Track service to have a quick access to the ride, but with different tickets from the general-admission ticket, if you like.
Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut are the main fast food restaurants.
i enjoyed the water slides the most, my favourite ever.
be aware that rides take up to 1 hour and half of queuing, which is really rediculous but invetible!
enjoy your day.
Equipment: just bring yourself
a jacket in winter and shorts in summerRelated to:
- Family Travel
my friends usually arrange for this trip once or twice a year. since i arrived in london, i missed it once because i didn't know them, the second time because i left london!
anyhow, it's really fun cool game. it's like playing a war between two teams. each team consists of 16 players, total 32. you'll be playing in an open playground where you are supposed to shoot the other team's members, technically with colours;^)
you can book the whole area and pay in advance, or play with strangers...fun though
Equipment: you'll be provided with gas guns, water guns, and balls. Number of equippment provided depends on group or individual booking and preferences. price ranges from £24-£55 per person.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Adventure Travel
Wednesday no good? Try the Friday Night Skate
The Friday Night Skate is another free skating event held in central London. The skate has two sections: Blue (intermediates) and Black (advanced). You have to be able to effectively stop, turn and skate at a medium pace to do the BLUE route. You also have to be able to skate fast and have good stamina to do the BLACK route. The two-stage route is designed to accommodate both the regulars and the first timers.
It's not a lesson - you do need to be able to stop and turn confidently on your skates, or you won't be permitted to come. Plenty of detail on the website: check it out.
Equipment: Skates, for starters. Full pads are highly recommended, as are helmets. Some people won't be wearing any safety gear. These are the ones who were born wearing skates, and are willing to take the risks. Please protect yourself when you skate - even the masters end up in hospital occasionally.
It's also suggested that you bring £20 cash (for the taxi) and some footwear (pocketable slippers are fine) in case you can't complete the skate, and liquids to avoid dehydration.
(Do you like this tip? Please rate it, thanks!)Related to:
- Adventure Travel
- Budget Travel
London triathlon continued
We arrive at Heathrow, our bags checked through to Budapest, the bicycle checked to London where we are going to store it. We go to the luggage area and wait and wait and wait, no bicycle (good thing we had a long layover!!!). The girl next to us is also waiting for a bicycle, none for her either. We talk to customer service, they say no problem, we'll hold it here until you return and as a bonus, you won't pay anything for it! Sounds great, right? Well, maybe on paper but we get back to London on Friday, the DAY BEFORE the triathlon and go to pick up the bike and where do you think it is? You guessed it, BUDAPEST!!!!! No problem, they say, we'll get it on the next flight, it'll be here by 9 pm and you can come pick it up. 2 hours and L12 in tube fares and we get to struggle with the box on the Tube? "Uh uh, we don't think so", we say, you're delivering it to our hotel!
Around 11 pm, the front desk clerk calls us and says "we have a delivery for you and we'd normally deliver it to your room, but we don't want to sign for it before you see it". The "world traveller" arrives after going through who knows what, the box with it's gashes and puncture wounds, the bicycle hemorraghing parts. I would have been crying if I hadn't been laughing so hard, my husband sets out to put Humpty Dumpty back together again and has enough spare parts and duct tape to get everything but the aerobars back on (the triathlon folks replaced the screws for a L5 fee). But the fun hasn't ended yet.....
The London triathlon saga actually starts in August 2004, a full year before the juicy part of this story, when my husband and I were in London for my birthday and we're walking over near Embankment, the road is blocked off and there are bicyclists riding along the Thames, not exactly whizzing by, I'd say chugging would be a bit more accurate, some looking like a visit to the hospital might be imminent. I look over at my husband and see the little wheels turning in his head as he says "Even I could beat those guys!" Now when I see those little wheels turning, I usually get a bit scared but instead a light bulb goes on over my head and I think "hmm, maybe I can get back to London next year with little effort..."
And, indeed, this is what happens! I book our trip to London with a stopover in Budapest first, David figures out how to get his bicycle and gear over to London and this is where the fun part of the story starts.....
London triathlon, at least they give you a medal!
David sets off in the morning to go over to the ExCel Centre, you can't take the bike on the Dockland rails, so we agree that I'll come over later and I go off to do some sightseeing. OK, maybe I dallied a little bit but the hubby said "well, I'll be in the old fat men group and they always go last". I thought I had plenty of time but I had no idea how big this place is nor how many participants and I'm racing all over the place trying to find someone to tell me just precisely when the "old fat men group" was starting. I finally found a board with the starting numbers and to my horror I realize that he's already started! So I hurry over to the swim area but it's impossible to spot one person in a sea of 10,000 wetsuits so I think "well, maybe it's better to go get photos when he's on the bike". But I don't see him there either!
So now I'm panicking, we've come all the way to London for this triathlon that he's been talking about for a year, he's plunked down the exorbitant entry fee, bought a wetsuit, had it altered, endured the bicycle fiasco and I've failed to get photos! Oh crap, I briefly think about dropping my camera in the Thames but then come to my senses when I realize you can see the bikers and runners from the same place and camp out to see what I could do to redeem myself. I FINALLY see David on the run (it's hard to miss someone doing the grandpa shuffle), in fact I see him at least six times! Yea, photos at last!
A few more reasons why David will never do this triathlon again (as if the above wasn't enough):
they didn't have any water for the participant before the race, "sorry sir, those bottles of water are for after the race". Huh?
By far the most expensive triathlon he's ever done, no tshirt? Yes, they had them, for another L20 and they made sure you bought one by printing your name on it :-(
He said the sprint distance was the worst course he's ever done. Anywhere. Period.
But at least they gave you a medal and there was free beer (in thimble sized paper cups) :-)
There are other ways of discharging yourself
Looking up into the dark cloudy rainy London skies, hoping to catch a glimmer of sunshine, I spotted an abseiler coming down the side of Guys Hospital (34 storeys tall!!).
Surely the hospital food wasn't that bad?? :)
Equipment: Ropes I guess....and comfy shoes??
Get Your Skates On!
Nothing like a warm sunny Spring day to bring out the in-line skaters into London's parks. ALL ages indulge in this activity and some get quite carried away with it when they are plugged into their Ipods or Mp3 players and it can be quite entertaining to watch them as they turn and twirl, lost in their own world of music and movement.
Equipment: Bring your own skates and knee and elbow pads (I saw one blokey with a really horrible gashed leg!)
There's actually quite a lot of sports you can do, provided you have enough ppls/know the area.
Tennis courts are wide available for a modest fee.
Sports like badminton, basketball, football, etc... are also available, but check with the center ahead of time before going.
Also bowling can be quite fun, just make sure you go early during a weekday. Some places have early bird specials that allows you bowl all you want for one-off price.
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