At breakfast in the hotel on Sunday morning, I met a Twins fan and got to talk a little baseball before getting in Olympic mode for the day. We had scouted out a prime spot along the course of the men's marathon and headed straight there once we had our morning's fill of beans and toast.

The course was a circuit that the racers ran three times and we found a spot in the shade on a two-way strip by which the competitors would pass six times during the marathon. We ended up situated next to a family from New Jersey on our right with whom we could root for the American runners but we stayed much longer than planned thanks to a quick friendship we struck up with the Western family from Essex. 

Father Guy and I found a lot of similarities with our mutual at-home dad/weekend warrior lives while mom Hayley, daughters Amelia (14), and Verity (10) along with son George (13) shared treats, stories and impressions of one another's countries that made the experience truly memorable. (Hit us up at, Westerns. We'd love to see you guys again someday!)

Our view of the race, the support vehicles, the media and the fans representing so many different countries gave us a great - and free! - Olympic experience.

We were able to follow the drama on Guy's phone and we were well aware of the battle for first throughout the race. Here's a shot of Ugandan winner Stephen Kiprotich as he passed by us for the last time with just two miles to go.

After the marathon we made our way back to Chinatown for a dim sum lunch that topped any I've enjoyed in the U.S. The kids are all now BBQ-pork-bun fans for life. Unfortunately, Betsy needed to return to Brussels for work on Monday so we dropped her off at the train station after watching a bit of the USA men's gold medal victory over Spain back at the hotel.

After our farewells, the kids and I headed for The Globe to take in a performance of Henry V. The venue is the only thatched-roof structure in all of London; the lone exception to a law enacted after the fire that gutted the city in 1666. Today's Globe is an accurate recreation of the theatre as historians believe it looked in Shakespeare's time and is just a couple of blocks away from the site of the original Elizabethan playhouse.

The venue was amazing and what we saw of the production was superb. We paid only 5 per ticket to be groundlings which gave us a uniquely historical experience but we were required to remain standing throughout the show for safety.

Since visibility and comprehension were both on the low side for Xander, Vaughn and Quinn, I relented and we departed midway through Act II. Sorry, no photos are allowed during the production so I can't show examples of the outstanding period costumes, props and instruments but at least we were allowed plenty of pre-show photography.

On the way back towards the hotel to grab a quick dinner before settling in for the evening to enjoy the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, we passed this giant human body statue on the ever-changing exhibition space in front of the Tate Modern Art Gallery. No privates to be seen, but he is showing plenty of skin...and more. Kids love guts.


We reached London on Friday evening after our first high-speed train ride. We crossed from Calais, France to Great Britain via the Chunnel and the most exciting thing I can say about that is that it was dark. 

The "jolly good" greeting we got as we made our way through immigration told us immediately that we were in a much friendlier atmosphere than the one we left behind. The hosts were enthusiastically "brilliant" in every sense of the word throughout our entire visit to London. 

By the time we completed our first successful navigation of The Underground and struggled our way through a few bouncing-ball-GPS false starts with suitcases and backpacks in tow to finally arrive at our hotel, it was too late to hit a pub. However, we did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night and the front desk was well equipped.

The next morning, we hit the first of our four hotel breakfasts and found out why beans and toast - with a dash of Worschetershire sauce - are a staple of the English diet. It's yummy and they definitely give you a burst of energy (and a multitude of smaller bursts throughout the late morning and early afternoon). 

We set out for a stroll west along the south bank of the Thames on the Queen's Walk with an eye toward getting on the London Eye, the European landmark that Quinn was most excited to visit as we planned our trip months ago. 

On the way to the Eye we were pleased to find that London was pulling its international weight when it came to statuesque statuary.

The giant (and thankfully enclosed) Ferris wheel also didn't disappoint, offering a spectacular view of the city and giving us a birds-eye view of many of the landmarks on our must-see list.

We walked by Westminster Abbey and the Bell Tower (look, kids, Big Ben!) but we opted to keep moving as the lines were pretty long and we wanted to head toward the Olympic-sounding cheers we could hear emanating from Hyde Park. One of the many eager, smiling and helpful volunteers directed us toward the fountain at Buckingham Palace where were were able to experience the thrill of our first live, in-person Olympic event…the men's 50 K race walking event. Man it was some intense walking.

We watched for about five minutes before hoofing it - faster, I think, than a few of the athletes we had just witnessed thanks to some full bladders - to a Westminster Arms, a classic English pub where we shared fish and chips and a steak and ale pie along with a couple of pints for the adults.

We went Underground with growing confidence to ride the rails to Potters Fields in the shadow of the Tower Bridge where a large screen was set up for Olympic viewing.

After enjoying ice cream and some Olympic coverage with a great view of the Tower of London across the Thames, we wanted an ever better look so we made our way across the bridge on foot.

We got great exterior views of the castle walls including a glimpse at the remnants of an 11th century gate before making our way around to today's outer gate called the Middle Tower, the looming presence of which was once made all the more intimidating by the sound of lions from the royal menagerie growling from the interior. 

But more on the Tower later. After a break at the hotel we went to Piccadilly Circus, the Times Square of London, where we emerged from the Underground just as the starter's pistol fired to begin the women's 4x400 relay. Team USA's gold-medal performance was our first chance to whip out our Stars and Stripes and whoop it up with some of our fellow countrymen.

We then enjoyed a deliciously spicy Indian meal before turning a corner and finding ourselves in the middle of Chinatown. We explored the streets for awhile and forced our kids to communicate with some shop owners for our pleasure before heading toward Trafalgar Square where we came upon the drunken revelry of the fans of Team Mexico celebrating their gold-medal soccer victory over Brazil. We had one final cool sight on the way home for the evening as we strolled past a swank balcony party being held at the Russian team's headquarters.

Traveling like this in such close quarters can either make a family stronger or make each member want to sit in a dark closet by him- or herself.  It seems to be having a pretty good effect on the kids. Either that or they're banding together in unity to withstand the constant sightseeing onslaught.

If you need me, check the closet.