Thursday, July 26, 2012

Field Trip . . . Torch Relay

Day 19 - The morning was spent in last minute preparations for the arrival of Kat, Vic, and Katie, aka The Girls.  Megan picked up our tickets at Cosports, grocery store, etc.  At about 2pm,  we took the students to see the Torch Relay. 

Fun Fact - Did you know that the The Torch Relay was not part of the Ancient Games, however was added by Hitler at the 1938 Olympics in Berlin as a propaganda tool?  Since then it has morphed into an opportunity to to spread the Olympic Spirit throughout the host country.  We saw a Para Olympian run the Torch through Ealing, England, about a 30 minute tube ride from our residence halls. 

Fun Fact - Did you know that only someone of Greek decent can carry the Torch out of Athens?

As with a lot of Olympic events, there is a bit of hurry up and wait.  We arrived early, and scoped out our place along the route.  We waited, and waited, and waited.  A bit of a scheduling snaffo caused the Torch to arrive about an hour after when it was posted to arrive online.  (We queued based on the time posted online .)  The students, however, were troopers.  I, personally, was really glad to be able to witness first hand the running of the Olympic Torch.

Fun Fact - Did you know that the Olympic Flame was extinguised here in London?

No Worries, Mates- there are three flames sent from Greece; so the light of the Olympic Spirit never goes out.

After the Relay, off to find dinner.  About 12 of us found a little restaurant and chatted away the evening.  I will have to reiterate, the students in our class are AMAZING.  They are smart, funny, outgoing, and truly a pleasure to be around. 

The Girls missed their connecting flight due to weather in the States, so although they were due to arrive on the evening of the 24th, they did not arrive until the Morning of the 25th. 

Stay tuned dear readers all is not lost.  The day of the girls arrival, turned out to again be one of the highlights of this trip.  (And not just because they are here now:)) 

Cheers from the UK

Quiet before the Storm . . .

Day 18- A Monday, which means early class for me.  I have to admit, that I have LOVED this experience, both as a Professor and as a Traveler.  But I will admit, it is a little weird to transition between the two roles.  So class this morning was as hard for me as it was for the students.

Today, we wrapped up my sections (History of the Games, Exercise Physiology, Biomechanics, Gender and Minority Issues, and Drug Doping-  and as you remember Megan did a fabulous class on the Technology of the Games.)  From this point forward, students will be delivery presentations on the sport of their choice (a large portion of their grade).  The first presentation today was on Diving and the student did an AMAZING job.  The bar is definitely set high. 

The afternoon was spent in preparation mode.  Picking up tickets, and preparing for our small people to arrive (Kate, Kat and Vic arrive on the 24th for their Olympic Experience).

Then  . . .
24th - The Torch Relay
25th - the FIRST official Olympic Event - Women's Football (Great Britain vs New Zealand).  Thanks to the tenacity and resourcefulness of Megan we are able to take the entire class.
26th - Harry Potter Movie Experience
27th - Opening Ceremony
28th - Touring Parliament

and on with our tickets to Gymnastics, Tennis, Diving, Basketball (just Megan), and Beach Volleyball.  In the mean time we will show the girls London- London Zoo, the Palaces etc, enjoy our time in this great city, and I will still be teaching:).

I promise to keep posting, but until the next time.

Mind the Gap

A Weekend in Paris

Day 15 - 17-  Since we were here- we decided to take the train to Paris-to see the sights.  The primary goal, however, was to watch the end of the Tour de France.

Friday - we were out early on the 7:30am train.  For all of you that have done it, traveling by train in Europe is an amazingly, easy, pleasant experience.  We arrived in Paris and proceeded to walk in the direction of our Hotel.  The thought was to walk a while, then grab the METRO.  Well. . . 3 hours, and 11 kilometers (over 6 miles) later, we had traversed the city, seen a lot of the sights in passing and were within blocks of our hotel.  Needless to say, we checked in, showered, and did what all good tourist do . . . . headed out for lunch:)  After an amazing lunch, (I much prefer the food in Paris to the food in London) we wondered to see the Eiffel Tower.  There we caught the end of a clycle for charity race.  What fun to sit under the Tower and watch the world go by.  At this point, yes, both of us were exhausted after a day of Cricket followed by a day of Travel, and went to take a nap.  The nap lasted well into the evening.  When we awoke, we watched the sun set peacefully on the Eiffel Tower, out our Hotel Window.

Saturday - we set out early.  The goal was to beat the long queue's at the Louvre, and we were successful.  After an amazing french breakfast, we set off to pay homage to the Mona Lisa.  We both especially enjoyed the Napoleon Apartments at the Louvre.  It is interesting to see how the French and English differed in their living quarters, especially compared to the Biltmore in the US (a house of the ruling elite and well to do).

Next on our tour, was Notre Dame.  The queue was horrible.  (For those who know Megan, know she does not queue well.)  So, we sat and took pictures of the beautiful church, and absorbed the Paris sunshine.  Next off to Sacre-Coeur, now any of you who have been to Paris, know that it sits on a hill.  So off the Metro, up the hill and c'est fini for our travelers.  We took pictures and went off to find lunch.  (It is now mid afternoon.)  Lunch turn into an early dinner and off to bed:).  Another great day in Paris. 

Sunday- the purpose of this Paris weekend was to see the Tour.  A late breakfast, then off to scope out the route.  We decided that since we were here, we wanted to see as much as possible, so we found a spot on one of the turns, right before the Champs-Elysee.   (For those unaware, they do 8 Laps in the city center or the last sprint).  After waiting for 3.5 hours, we saw them.  I was not aware that  an entire Carnival, proceeds the riders.  What a fun experience (pictures are posted).  Then off to the train station for our return trip.

A great weekend.  


(Now for those of you reading this, you might think this is a brief post compared to my others.  You are correct.  I very much enjoyed our weekend, and I am really impressed with the cyclists on the Tour.   The sportsmanship showed by Wiggens and Team Sky was humbling.  But overall, I found Paris much less pleasant than London.  The easiest equation I have is:  Paris is to New York, as London is to Washington, DC.  All are fabulous cities, but DC and London are easy to navigate, their public transport is clean and odor free, and the volume of people feels different.  In New York, and Paris, I find myself more anxious/nervous,  with almost none of that while I am in DC and London.  It may be familiarity; this is my second trip to Paris, and my 7th time in London.  I don't think it is language- I speak New Yorker:) and on our second lunch I spoke solely in French and questioned our waiter about the best spots to see the Tour.  The cities just feel different.  For all my friends that LOVE Paris, all I can say it is that, thankfully, opposites attract:))

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Field Trip . . . . A Day at the Cricket Pitch

Day 14 - I know that I keep saying this was the best day, and that the most recent thing we saw was the most amazing.  But today will definitely be one of the highlights of this trip.  Today our class learned to play Cricket.

Before I go any further, I want to say thank you to  Peter Wellings of Coaching Cricket Excellence, without him and his staff, this day would not have been possible.  Peter and his team took 22 American with a little more than a cursory understanding of the game and molded them into a group of Cricket Enthusiasts.  Peter's skill development techniques, knowledge of the sport, passion for the game, and warm and witty personality made this a wonderful day.

We left by coach at 8am this morning to make the trip to Surry.  Yes, our students were none to happy with the early departure but the coach ride was uneventful.  (Don't despair- the response at the end was "I thought 8am was way too early, but it was worth it.")  We met Peter's team and were off. 

We started with some simple drills and warm ups, followed by throwing drills.  (In Cricket you throw underhanded, a little weird at first.)  Next we moved to catching drills.  Now for many reading, "ok for US students (baseball/softball) how hard can catching be, right?"  Well, a ball in Cricket is 5 times harder than a baseball, and you catch it BARE handed.  (We used tennis balls, thankfully.)  Peter took a tennis ball and WHACKED it stories in the air, we scrambled to get under it and catch it.  A couple of times, it bounced off one player and was caught by another.  All of which is fair in Cricket.

With catching drills it was off to the races with our intra-team competition.  (The oldest rivalry in cricket is England vs. Australia, so we divided into those two teams.  Winners get bragging rights.  At this point I have to comment that although there was plenty of trash talking and competition, the amount of sportsmanship our students showed was PHENOMENAL.)    After catching, it was  batting.  Individuals with a baseball/softball/golf background were not always at an advantage.  This is where Peter's mastery at skill progression really shined.  After batting, lunch, then on to Bowling.  (No we didn't hit a Bowling alley, it is the equivalent of pitching in baseball/softball.)  Basically, Bowling is a stiff arm, over hand throw.  Easy to do standing, not so easy with the wind- up.  Eventually, most of us were successful.

The highlight of the day, however, was the game.  A proper test match lasts 5 days and at the end, if there is no winner, it is a draw.  (No sudden death overtime in Cricket.)  We played two Overs (innings) and had an amazing time.  Australia won!  but a good time was had by all.  If you want to see pics, like the CCSA London 2012:  Olympics Class on Facebook.

Over half the students slept on the way home.  Some students are even threatening to start a rec league at their school and have an inter-collegiate competition.  What an amazing day!!!!  We feel truly blessed to have such a great group of students!!!.

(The adults on the trip (Megan and I) participated in everything, and in spite of our ages kept up nicely with the bunnies on this trip.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bath, England . . . .An Amazing Day

Day 12 - We were off, so off we went.  Since we had no responsiblities on Campus, we decided to use our National Rail Pass (BritRail) and visit the city of Bath.  Bath is the home of the only natural hot spring in the United Kingdom and was a key market and spiritual city during the time England was part of the Roman Empire.  We took the 1.5 hour train from Paddington Station, first thing in the morning to make the most of our time.   My inner child squealed with delight to be at Paddington Station.  I did keep a keen eye open for the Famous Bear from Darkest Peru, but no sightings.  The BritRail is a very efficent and easy way to travel and we emencly enjoyed the trip.  Megan read book 2 in the Fifty Shades Series, and I planned our weekend trip to Paris and dove into my book on Victoria and Albert (see last post).

Upon arrival, we were greeted with a quaint town that, still today, is a major market place (read Abercrombie to North Face with traditional British facades), and off we went to find the Roman Bath Museum.  If you ever get the chance to visit, I highly recommend.  The museum offers free audio tours on the rich history of the area.  I am fascinated by how the Romans combined thier mythologies/dieteis with local ones to ease the blend of cultures (or ensure Roman domination, depending on your perspective).  If you were a subject of the Roman Empire, you might have traveled to Bath to the sacred springs of Sulis Minerva.  (Sulis being the British Goddess/Minerva the Roman- Megan posted her picture earlier today).  Your goal in such a pilgrimage would have been to absorbe the healing properties of the natural hot springs.  As always I was amazied had how the Roman civilization used engineering to build such incredible buildings.  Something unbeknownst to me was the role that bathing had played throughout the Roman culture, nor was I aware how far the Roman Bath Houses streatched across the Empire.  Did you know that the Roman baths were the inspiration for the Turkish baths that exist today?  Having spent an afternoon in a Turkish Bath in 1997, I found this a wonderful world connection.  After about two hours of museum touring, we decided that the Motto -"When in Rome, do as the Romans" was just the ticket. 

So we spent the rest of the afternoon soaking in the heated pools of the Thermae Spa in Bath.  We floated in a roof top pool over looking the fabulous British countryside with the sun shining over head.  Yes - you read correctly, it was sunny almost all of the day yesterday!!!!!.  In the early afternoon, we took an amazing Spa lunch and then cleared our pores in the aromatherapy steam rooms.  What an amazing and rejuvenating day.  I have to hand it to the Romans, they did know how to relax.  As much as I have loved ALL our travels, this day will definitely rank up there with one of the best!!!!.  Our return train to London was equally pleasant and after a light dinner of French Onion Soup, off to bed.  Another great day in London.

Day 13 - I would love to quip about the wonders of today, but this is a work trip:).  Today, I spent the morning updating lecture notes and this afternoon lecturing.  I believe the students are learning a lot, and they seem to be having a good time on this adventure.  Tonight, another meal in our room- you can only eat fried fish so many times before . . .  Followed by our new favorite addiction, the BBC's Sherlock Holmes.  Why such a quite evening at home for our travelers you might ask, well tomorrow we learn to play Cricket. 


One word . . . Eeyeore

I would hate to shock you with new news, but yes, it is still raining in London.  It is cold and raining

Day 10 - Kensington Palace and the V&A- What a fabulous day to be in London!  We went to Kensington Palace.  (For all you Royal Watchers, yes the home of Diana, and Wiliam and Kathrine, but also the rich history of the British Monarchy.)  Megan bought me the tour book and I fell in love with the Monarchy- who knew.  I am especially enthralled by the reign of Victoria and Albert.  I sat in her apartment, and read the story of their relationship.  I am about to download a book about them We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals by Gill.  After a fabulous lunch at a cute pub, off to the V&A (the Victoria and Albert Museaum) to see an exibit on theatre production.  We stopped off in one section of the museum dedicated to British Bling, for Megan.  Then on to crepes at a local shop.  A perfectly sunny day in London, exploring and having a woderful time.

Day 11 -Special thanks to Megan.  She gave a wonderful lecture on the technology behind the Olympics.  Did you know that some of the Olympic Technology staff will sleep on sight to prevent transport issues and allow 24/7 technology support.  She did a great job, and had the kids laughing, and getting into pretty intense debates on the use of the Speedo LZR suit.  The students had very insightful things to say. 

Tommorrow off to explore Bath, and to spend some time in a hot spring.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I get by with a little help from my friends . . . . Thanks Cory!!!!

I have promised myself that I would get this out today.  It has been harder than I thought to post regularly.  Not because of technology issues, but because we have WALKED everywhere.  I like to think of myself as being in decent shape, however, when we return each night I am dead dog tired and quickly proceed to sleep like a log.   So, here is the update on our adventure 
so far . . . . . .

Day 6 - First off I have to say thank you to Cory Bemis (Marshall) a fellow Cornellian and friend.  Cory is currently living in London and came to speak to my class.  Her topic:  the Sport of Cycling (Cory has raced at the amateur level in both the US and the UK).  Having an athlete of her caliber speak was amazing.  I have an MS in Exercise Science and 15 years of experience, but I am not an athlete.  I don't enjoy pushing my body to its physical limits, and I don't enjoy training for the long hours.  (At one point Cory trained about 20 hours a week, on top of working and kids- another reason I hate to hear someone say they don't have time to exercise.)  The students LOVED it.  She shared an amazing amount of information with them over an hour, and definitely broadened their perspectives.  Thanks Cory for a great class!!!!!

Day 7 - No responsibilities for us today - our first day alone in London.  We saw the Tower of London and Notting Hill.  In our years together, this was our first Historic Tourist Venue.  The results were a success, however, there were some hitches in our giddy-up.

At the Tower of London you can get a Yeomen guided tours - for you and 75 of your closest friends- no thank you.  Instead, we bought a book for a self guided tour.  Now remember, my undergraduate degree is in Russian History, so I love to read about historic sites, so my plan was to take the guide book and follow it step by step, reading everything as we go.  Megan, however, had one mission- The Crown Jewels.  She did not want to pass go, and did not want to collect $200.  She wanted to  beeline for the Jewels.  I guess she needed a little Bling.  So the compromise- we saw the Jewels first, then I was able to wonder and read to my hearts content.  The Jewels themselves are beautiful, but for me the interesting piece was that they are a living part of British History.  The Jewels are still in use by the Monarch, and some (Mace and Crown) are used for the opening of Parliament each year.  The rest of the Tower is equally amazing, I especially enjoyed the history of the beheadings and prisoners.  I know that we all think we have issues with our families, but in early London, if you were frustrated with a sibling/spouse off with a head or a convenient disappearance solved the problem.  Hmmm, how we have evolved:). 

After a day of touring, a quick stop by Notting Hill for some window shopping and a quick glass of wine before home.

Later, we enjoyed a wonderful evening hanging out in the kitchen with our new friends from University of Tennessee in Chattanooga who are taking an Art class while they are here.  Yes, just like in College:).

Day 8 -  I am on call today- what that means is that I have the CCSA cell phone and if there is a problem with any of our students, the call comes to me.  Ek gads, who thinks I am that responsible:)  So I am using my time to take care of little things, like updating my blog, and academic responsibilities back home.  I taught a quick yoga class, then off to lunch at Camden Market - AMAZING ethnic food, from little street vendors.  We are definitely going to have to go back up there to eat again.  The evening's adventures included Laundry and the Divinci Code.  (I forgot to mention we say the Temple Church yesterday as well.)  Yes, just like in College- laundry on a Friday Night:)  As a side note, happy to report no issues with any students on my watch- YEAH!!!!

Day 9-  Ok, all week I have been Polly Positive-"Embrace your inner Brit" has been the mantra.  (It has rained all week.) Today the temperature dropped.   We set out to see Wimbledon and the Olympic Venue - prior to our tickets- to get a lay of the land.  It is a great area of London, very suburban, very quaint.  At Wimbledon Park, we saw a junior sailing group.  They were sailing Laser Pico's (a smaller version of the Laser I sailed on in my youth, but bigger than a Sunfish.)  We caught the end of their class, when they were all jumping off the pier into the water- yes it was only 60 degrees F yesterday- and yes this was the high point for me.   After a quick lunch, we came back and crashed - movies, naps etc.  Cold and rainy was too much for our fearless travelers- both of whom started to feel under the weather both literally and figuratively.  Last night, we cocooned ourselves against the rain and stayed in. 

Today - bright and sunny and off the see Kensington Palace.