LONDON - I am writing from the flat in London!
Even though I have been preparing for this trip for a long time, I don't think it really hit me that I was actually going until I was sitting in the Detroit airport. I looked up from my magazine and was shocked to see my aunt Janet walking toward me. I didn't expect to see her until we were in Britain. She was flying from Pittsburgh and connecting through Detroit on a different flight, but the airline ended up canceling her original flight and combining it with ours. We weren't the only Olympic family members on the plane. Some of Ryan Lochte's family was on our flight as well! There was definitely an atmosphere of excitement in the airport.
I heard rumors that immigration and customs at Heathrow would take up to four hours because of the Olympic crowds, but we breezed through in no time at all. London has done a great job in preparing to host the Games, and I am extremely impressed with the hospitality of the people here. As soon as my family got off the plane, we were approached by volunteers in colorful pink and purple "London 2012" uniforms. These volunteers are all over the city and have already helped us with maps, directions, and suggestions for places to visit.
After we picked up the keys to our flat and dropped off our suitcases, we ate at an English pub. I was a big fan of the shepherd's pie. We walked around and soaked in some of the London sights, including Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, and a street show at Covent Garden. On the grass in front of Westminster Abbey, there is a really cool wooden sculpture of the flags of all of the countries competing in the Olympics.
On our way home, we got soaked in some of the famed rain that makes up so much of London's weather! I almost feel like it was a rite of passage. Luckily, the shower didn't last very long and we were able to make it back to the flat just in time to watch the Opening Ceremony on television.
The Opening Ceremony has always been one of my favorite parts of the Summer Olympics. It is so special to see people from so many countries coming together in the spirit of inclusiveness and human dignity. I especially love watching the parade of athletes. They are all so excited to be representing their countries. The London Opening Ceremony has been one of my favorites, especially because I am so proud of my sister.
Allison's first event is tomorrow, and I am very excited to watch her swim. I'm glad that today has been a long and fun-filled day, because otherwise I don't know how I would ever be able to sleep tonight. Thankfully, I am very tired, so I'm going to go rest up for what is sure to be an unforgettable week!
-- Kirsten Schmitt
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