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deladane

Detailed Photo Review of Paris and London Trip in June 2019

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12 hours ago, toseaornottosea said:

We have eaten in Milos in Athens, New York City and in Montreal and have never been disappointed.  

 

OMG! I had no idea that Milos has other locations!  I will have to look into eating there in other cities too!!

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12 hours ago, cairns local said:

Dana, you are doing a fantastic job of getting everyone's feet itchy.  Can I please ask you about your experience booking the sky garden free tickets?  On your recommendation, I am trying to book for the late afternoon on the day we fly in, but all days so far only show 15min intervals up to 2.45pm.  How did it work for you?  Thanks.

 

Thank you!  The timing for Sky Garden is a bit peculiar.  The times vary every day and I haven't noticed any consistency... some days they do seem to close early so maybe they have a private event that day?  Is your trip in the next 3 weeks?  If so, then I don't think they will release any more times besides what is available (and you should book your time slot ASAP before it sells out!).  Another option is to go in the evening... I think the bar opens bookings around 6pm.  That is still free and does not require you to purchase any drinks if you don't want to, but there is a dress code and possibly an age restriction (I'm not sure if you are bringing kids, but you should probably double check the age restrictions if you are).

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Sunday, June 30, 2019 ~ Changing of the Guards Walking Tour, MLB London Series Game, Sky Garden at night

 

One of the things we definitely wanted to see in London was the changing of the guards.  When I started to research the logistics, tons of websites and guide books recommended arriving at Buckingham Palace several hours in advance for the hopes at finding a good spot to stand, but you would only have a view of a small portion of the ceremony and it sounded exhausting and boring to stand around in one spot for all that time for very little reward.  I came across a tour through Fun London Tours where they guide you around London to be at the right spot at the right time to see the various parts of the changing of the guards ceremony.  Here is the tour description from their website:

 

“This is the London walking tour which will ensure you are in the best position possible to see the extraordinary Changing the Guard ceremony while avoiding the crowds at the gates of Buckingham Palace. Rather than standing still for hours, we see various stages of the ceremony, including the inspection, Old Guard, New Guard, Palaces, and even march alongside the Guards and Ceremonial Bands!

 

Our tour guides have the experience, knowledge and humour to make sure you leave with an enviable set of pictures, an insight into what is going on, an anecdote or two, and most importantly, a memory which will last forever.

 

We are endorsed by www.changing-guard.com and so have the backing of the most knowledgeable people out there.  Sadly, a great number of people go to see this world famous ceremony and leave disappointed. They stand at the gates of Buckingham Palace and wait uncomfortably for the action to happen, but are unaware that they have missed the majority of the pomp, ceremony, music and marching that takes place elsewhere. And that is why a Fun London Guide is invaluable in getting you around.

 

If you like a fast paced tour, with plenty of action, excitement and fun, come on this walk. In order to stay ahead of the crowds we do have to move quickly at times – at one point we will even be marching alongside the band! We will also encounter at least one flight of steps so unfortunately it is the only one of our tours which is not suitable for people with walking difficulties.

 

Please note we will not stand near the gates of Buckingham Palace on this tour. It is unfortunately impractical to take a group there and wait for two or more hours packed in like sardines in a can, but we can guarantee the tour will be a far more enjoyable and informative experience!”

 

As it worked out, we were planning to go to Buckingham Palace to watch the ceremony on Sunday (it was the only morning we had free after booking our other tours!), so that meant we could take this tour on the day that also included the Change of the Lifeguard ceremony.  The tour cost £20 per person, which was a little pricey considering we usually take free tours, but we decided it was worth it to avoid wasting our very limited time and to ensure we would actually see part of the ceremony. 

 

My original plan was that we would go out to lunch after the tour, then go to Westminster Abbey for the 3pm Evensong Service.  Much like St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey charges a hefty admission fee if you want to go inside and tour the church.  The one way around this is to attend a service, which is free and open to the public.  I liked the idea of going to the 3pm Evensong Service because the service is only about an hour long and features talented choirs singing the prayers.  It gets wonderful reviews on Trip Advisor and seemed like a unique way to see the inside of this iconic church. 

 

That was our game plan until our full-day walking tour on Friday when DH learned about the MLB London Series baseball game.  He is a huge Yankees fan and he really wanted to go to one of the two games and see them play in London.  The first game was last night when we already had tickets for Les Mis, so he knew that if he was going to the game, it would have to be on Sunday.  I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of going to a baseball game instead of Westminster Abbey because we do see most of the Yankees games when they play the Giants or A’s in California, but we won’t have another opportunity to go inside Westminster Abbey.  After a lot of back and forth, DH decided to look online and if he could find tickets, we would go to the baseball game.  On Saturday night after we left Les Mis, DH went on the England Stub Hub site and he found 2 tickets for Sunday game!  So it was official, we were going to the Yankees vs. Red Sox game in London.  It’s a good thing we both had extra Yankess tshirts packed for the New York leg of our trip so we’d have something to wear to the game! Haha

 

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We woke up bright and early on Sunday morning, had our usual breakfast downstairs at the hotel, then took the Tube to the Piccadilly Circus station.  When we exited the station, we saw a sight rarely seen by tourists… a completely deserted Piccadilly Circus!  It was 8:30am on a Sunday and there were only a handful of people walking around, most of whom turned out to be other people on our tour!

 

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We were a little early so we sat on the steps of the fountain until 9am when a group of tour guides arrived.  Until then, we had noticed more and more people milling around the sidewalks, but we didn’t know if these people were all on our tour or if they just happened to be exploring Piccadilly Circus.  When the guides arrived, nearly 100 people all gathered together to check in for the tour!  Holy moly!  I thought we were only supposed to have a maximum of 25 people on the tour with us?!  It turned out that there were 4 guides and we would all be split up into smaller groups for the tour.  We were all going to be seeing the same things and we’d all be at the same places at the same time, but there would only be about 25 people listening to what each guide said.  That wasn’t exactly what I expected, so I was a bit skeptical at this point.  The lead guide called out each party individually and assigned them to one of the 4 guides.  We stood there waiting to hear our name, as we were watching the guides start introducing themselves to the people joining their group.  Finally, the lead guide called our name LAST out of all the people there!  My guess is she must have called us out in the reverse order of when we registered for the tour or something like that.  We were assigned to be with the guide named Jess, so we walked over to his group and kind of felt like we were intruding at that point because it had been about 15 minutes total since the first person’s name was called. 

 

One by one, each group left Piccadilly Circus to start the tour until we were the only group left.  Jess led us down Regent Street, and as soon as we passed Milo’s, I knew exactly where we were.  Sure enough, Jess stopped us near the Duke of York statue to tell us the same story and sing us the same song that we heard on our tour on Friday.  I guess that song is very popular with the tour guides in London because they don’t seem to mind a bit of humiliation as they sing it to us! 

 

As we walked across The Mall, we noticed it was closed to vehicular traffic.  Jess said they do that on certain Sundays so people can walk and ride their bikes.

 

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We continued walking towards the Horse Guards Parade for the first ceremony of the tour.

 

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You can see several groups of people around the ropes up ahead.  That was the other tour groups in our larger group since we were the last to arrive. 

 

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Jess brought us over to an open section of the ropes and we lined up to wait for the horses to arrive.

 

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A few minutes later, we saw the horses marching down the same path we had just walked, then they entered the middle of the ropes.  Jess explained that these were the new guards reporting for duty.

 

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The horses marched around the perimeter and then lined up on the right side of the space.

 

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And then they waited… and waited… and waited some more!

 

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The old guards who had been on duty were supposed to come over this way, but for some reason, they were delayed.  Jess said this was EXTREMELY rare and he has never seen this happen before!  At some point, one of the guards went through the archway to see what was causing the hold up.

 

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Finally, about 10 minutes late, the old guards marched out on their horses.

 

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They lined up on the left side of the space, facing towards the new guards.

 

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Once they were all lined up, Jess said we needed to move along to our next stop.  He said the guards would stay in this position and not move for about 20 minutes, so it’s not like we would be missing out on much by leaving early haha

 

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Jess led us through a short cut through St. James’s Park.  Even though we had walked through this park already on our tour on Friday, we still appreciated seeing it again because the flowers looked lovely!

 

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So glad you got to see a show in London!  I am learning so much through this blog/review.  A Changing of the Guard tour - I was so excited until I saw the 100 people show up.  Whew.  I guess 25 per group isn't so bad.  Eagerly waiting to see if this was the worth the cost.  

 

Our group of 5 seems to always get called last on tours.  Don't ask me why.  Our last name starts with F.  It is so strange, and yes, sometimes the guides have already started their spiel and everyone looks at you like why are you late.  I know the feeling.

 

So happy to be here and following along!

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We will be in Paris mid October for 5 days and London next June (length not determined yet) so I am copying and pasting !!!

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Thanks for the response about the Sky Garden.  I agree you should be doing a travel show or book.  You have a freaky knack of answering questions before they are even asked. Hehe.:classic_biggrin:

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The Greek restaurant sounds great. It's a block from where I used to work on Pall Mall. I don't remember what was in the location back then. I usually took the Tube to Piccadilly Circus and walked the last couple of blocks. My favorite Greek restaurant back then is closed now. It was called Jimmy's. 

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21 hours ago, Walt fan said:

So glad you got to see a show in London!  I am learning so much through this blog/review.  A Changing of the Guard tour - I was so excited until I saw the 100 people show up.  Whew.  I guess 25 per group isn't so bad.  Eagerly waiting to see if this was the worth the cost.  

 

Our group of 5 seems to always get called last on tours.  Don't ask me why.  Our last name starts with F.  It is so strange, and yes, sometimes the guides have already started their spiel and everyone looks at you like why are you late.  I know the feeling.

 

So happy to be here and following along!

 

More about the changing of the guards tour coming soon!  Thanks for reading along (and for commenting to let me know you're still hanging in here with me!!!)

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15 hours ago, deec said:

We will be in Paris mid October for 5 days and London next June (length not determined yet) so I am copying and pasting !!!

 

Oh wow, you get to visit the cities in two separate trips!  How fun!  Let me know if you have any questions 🙂

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15 hours ago, cairns local said:

Thanks for the response about the Sky Garden.  I agree you should be doing a travel show or book.  You have a freaky knack of answering questions before they are even asked. Hehe.:classic_biggrin:

 

haha thanks!  Maybe I'm part psychic? 😉  Or maybe it's just that I give you every detail of my thought process and all of us planners on here have similar thoughts?? hehe

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12 hours ago, geoherb said:

The Greek restaurant sounds great. It's a block from where I used to work on Pall Mall. I don't remember what was in the location back then. I usually took the Tube to Piccadilly Circus and walked the last couple of blocks. My favorite Greek restaurant back then is closed now. It was called Jimmy's. 

 

I love Greek food because it's light and usually not spicy, so anytime I see a good Greek restaurant in a convenient location, I'll be happy!  Milos exceeded my expectations.  Now that I learned they have other locations besides just in London, I Googled it and it looks like they have a location in Las Vegas!  We'll be there in a few months with my in-laws and think they would enjoy it too so maybe we'll check it out.

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Once we reached The Mall, Jess told us to line up along the sidewalk near Marlborough Road.  He took this time to explain a bit more of the history behind these ceremonies, and then, since the guards seemed to be running behind, he took some more time to explain how the royal family gets their names.  These little tidbits of information were so interesting to learn about because it isn’t something I had thought about before.  There was much debate over whether Prince Charles will take over as King when his mother either passes away or retires from her responsibilities as Queen.  If he does become King, Jess said he can choose his regnal name from any of his names: Charles, Philip, Arthur, or George.  Another possibility is that they will skip over Prince Charles and name Prince William as the next king, but Jess suspected that was unlikely to happen and that Prince William would have to wait a bit longer before taking the throne.  I just found all of this stuff fascinating, and it was a good way to kill some time before these guys arrived…

 

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These were the old guards that we just saw finish their shift back at the Horse Guards Parade, and they were bringing the horses back to the barracks.

 

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About 5 minutes later, we heard the band marching towards The Mall from St. James’s Palace.  I was so excited to finally see those famous black fuzzy bearskin hats in person!

 

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Now is when the fun part started… Earlier, Jess had warned us that right after we see the band turn onto The Mall, he would say “Go!”.  That was our cue to follow him on the sidewalk, marching in step with the marching band towards Buckingham Palace.  He had warned us that we would need to move quickly to keep up with the band, and he was not kidding!  I was shocked at how fast that band marched while playing their tunes.  It was somewhat crowded, with lots of people lined up along the sidewalk to watch the band, and even more people briskly marching up the sidewalk to keep up with the band.  Remember those 100 people on our tour?  We they were all right there with us on the sidewalk, plus several other tour companies too, so it was impossible to take a decent photo.  I held my camera up above the crowd, aimed in the general direction of the band, and clicked away.  This was the best I could get…

 

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Notice all the other people doing exactly what I was doing?

 

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It was mayhem!  And while all that was happening, we still had to keep track of Jess so we wouldn’t miss out on the rest of our tour!  We were practically running to keep up with him, but we could at least slow down a bit when he turned off into St. James’s Park again.

 

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Our next stop was over on Birdcage Walk where we would see another band march out in front of the new guards for Buckingham Palace.  There were already a few people lined up along the fences here so we had to squeeze in to get a good view.

 

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Here they come!

 

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Their marching is lined up perfectly!

 

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After that brief break, it was time to chase Jess again as we moved over towards Buckingham Palace. 

 

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Holy moly!  Look at the hundreds of people packed in and lining the sidewalks!  They must have been standing there for hours and only now just got to see the guards arrive, meanwhile we had been up close with several sets of guards and bands for the last 2 hours.  I’d say we definitely had a better morning than these people did!  We could see the band and the guards marching towards the Palace, but Jess said it was far too crowded for our group to go in that direction.  Instead, we turned right near the gardens around the traffic circle.

 

Once we found a spot along the path in the garden, we could not see the guards anymore, but we did have a beautiful view of Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Memorial in the gardens.

 

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We both thought this tour was worth every penny (…or should I say every pence!).  As we were promised by the tour description, Jess put us in the right spot at the right time to see several components to the changing of the guards ceremony, and we avoided the large crowds of people as much as possible.  When the tour ended, Jess said we could stick around and try to get a view of the changing of the guards in the courtyard in front of Buckingham Palace, but we decided not to tackle that chaos and that we had seen enough during the tour.

 

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We had a little bit of time before our lunch reservations, so we walked back through St. James’s Park.  I just couldn’t get enough of these colorful flowers!

 

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I noticed these silver plaques in the sidewalk so I Googled it.  These are placed along a 14-mile path connecting London’s iconic locations between Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London.  The path was created to celebrate the Queen’s 25th anniversary in 1977.

 

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We walked over to Westminster Abbey to take a photo.  We did pass by here quickly during our tour on Friday, but we were across the street then and couldn’t get close so today we were able to spend a little more time examining the architecture and taking better photos.  We wouldn’t get to go inside so a quick view from the outside would have to suffice!

 

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A few weeks before our trip, I made a reservation for lunch at the Sanctuary House.  The restaurant gets great reviews online, and was located near Westminster Abbey so we could go to the Evensong Service after lunch.  Of course, we now knew that we would not be attending that service, but we decided to keep our lunch reservations.  They offer a special Sunday Roast menu, in addition to their usual menu with lots of traditional British specialties. 

 

I loved the look of the exterior of the building.

 

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We arrived at 12pm for our reservation and the restaurant was nearly empty.  The hostess took us over to a table for 4 next to the window in a quiet section towards the back of the restaurant.  We looked over the menu and considered getting the Sunday roasts but decided against it because we were not hungry enough for all of that food this early in the day.  Instead, we ordered the tasting board, which included 3 mini pies paired with 3 ales, and we ordered one extra steak pie so we could each have 2 pies. 

 

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We planned to share the ales with DH drinking most of it, and I ordered a cider for myself.  The waiter offered to bring out the drinks first so we could get started on that, and he would bring out the pies when they were ready.  Sounds good to us!

 

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A little while later, the waiter brought this to the table.  We looked at him a bit confused because surely he knew he had already brought out our ales.  He said he got mixed up but not to worry about it, so now we had more than enough to drink with our Sunday lunch!

 

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All 3 of the mini pies were delicious, with a good ratio of filling to crust.  I also liked how they marked the top with a flower, a cow, and something else (I can’t remember what it was and it’s not clear in the photo) so we could identify the fillings.

 

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The service was very good and we enjoyed our fancy lunch here, but we agreed that we would have liked it better for dinner when we had a bigger appetite.  We finished our meal by 12:45pm and decided to make our way towards the baseball game even though it was still very early.  It was going to take about an hour to get there, and the game didn’t start until 3pm, but we could spend some time walking around the stadium before the game started. 

 

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We asked one of the agents working in the Underground station how to get to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.  It turned out to be extremely easy!  We needed to take the Jubilee line to the Stratford Station, and the fare was included in the travel cards loaded on our Oyster Cards because it was within Zone 1 and 2.  I had assumed we’d need to pay extra for our ride out to the stadium so that was a nice surprise.  Once we got on the train, there were tons of other people wearing Yankees and Red Sox shirts so we knew we were in the right place, and we all followed each other when we arrived at the Stratford Station to get to the stadium. 

 

It was about a 10 minute walk from the station to the stadium, but it was obvious where to go because we could see the stadium out in the distance.  We arrived at 2pm so it was after the initial rush to enter and there was no wait to go through security.  There are no regulation baseball stadiums in London, so this game was being played at a soccer stadium built for the 2012 Olympics.

 

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DH was super excited to be here as it is the first time an MLB series has been played in Europe!  For anyone interested in going, they are repeating the series in 2020 with the Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals.  We actually have good friends out here in the Bay Area who are big Cubs fans and are seriously considering flying out for that game next summer!

 

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We entered the stadium and walked around checking out the vendors.  We had seen people wearing really cool shirts in London this morning that they bought at yesterday’s game, so DH wanted to buy one.  We found the official booth selling MLB London Series merchandise, but DH didn’t like any of those shirts.  We later found out that the shirts we saw in London were purchased from private vendors outside of the stadium, although we never saw those vendors when we entered or exited the stadium. 

 

When we got to our seats, they were starting some of the pre-game festivities out on the field.

 

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They brought out giant flags to sing both the USA and the Great Britain national anthems.

 

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Since the game was held at a soccer stadium, the field dimensions were very short compared to the standard MLB stadiums that these players are used to playing in.  Last night’s game turned into a homerun derby because the final score was 17 to 13 (Yankees won).  As you can imagine, that lead to an extremely long game.  The game lasted 4 hours and 42 minutes, making it only 3 minutes shorter than the longest 9-inning game in MLB History (in 2006, coincidentally also between the Yankees and Red Sox!).  Today’s game was a similar story, with a final score of 12 to 8 (Yankees won again), but luckily it only lasted for 4 hours and 24 minutes!  That was still a very long game, and we ended up leaving after the 7th inning so we’d have time for the rest of our plans for the day.  In the end, I’m glad we went to the game as it was a fun experience, even if it meant missing out on more quality time in Central London.

 

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Posted (edited)
59 minutes ago, deladane said:

this game was being played at a soccer stadium built for the 2012 Olympics

 

It might just be the way you phrased this, but it’s not quite right. Although it is now primarily used as the home stadium of soccer club West Ham United, this was THE Olympic Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies were held, along with the athletics (track and field) programme. It has been substantially altered since then, of course. The Olympic soccer competitions were held at various stadiums around the country, with finals at the iconic Wembley Stadium. 

 

The ‘Anniversary Games’, a two-day top class athletics meet is still held here every year, so the stadium reconfigures to include a track. 

 

 

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Edited by Cotswold Eagle

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9 hours ago, Cotswold Eagle said:

 

It might just be the way you phrased this, but it’s not quite right. Although it is now primarily used as the home stadium of soccer club West Ham United, this was THE Olympic Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies were held, along with the athletics (track and field) programme. It has been substantially altered since then, of course. The Olympic soccer competitions were held at various stadiums around the country, with finals at the iconic Wembley Stadium. 

 

The ‘Anniversary Games’, a two-day top class athletics meet is still held here every year, so the stadium reconfigures to include a track. 

 

 

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haha yes, that is what I meant to say... perhaps I should have used better punctuation or wording or something? Thanks for sharing that photo!  Our seats were above the track- we could tell the seats we were in were temporary for when they changed the shape of the stadium to accommodate baseball.

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