Travel Treasures: London 2012 – Part 1

by Tom Reed
Reed's Read Complete Index
Story filed June 18, 2012

This is a great year to visit London. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, in early June, celebrates Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne. Those festivities were barely over before the city began focusing on the 2012 Olympics July 27 through August 12. There are many other things happening this year as well, including the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. But the Olympics is the event that will draw the attention of the world and bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city.

Between now and then, you will likely be overloaded with information about the games, and the athletes who will be participating. It is not my objective to preview the Olympics; others can do that far better. But as a recent visitor to the historic and fascinating city, I can provide some insights for people going there for the first time. In this installment of Reed’s Read, I’ll tell you what to expect if you’re going to London before the start of the games, and how to get around in the city. In future segments, I’ll describe some of the things to see and do while you’re there.

I arrived in London with my wife a couple of days after the Jubilee festivities, while the city was still dismantling the bleachers and other facilities set up for the big weekend. One of our priorities was to see where the games would be played. Olympic Park is in Stratford, about seven miles northeast of the central city, although some of the games will take place at other venues. One guidebook advised that visitors can see the site by taking the Underground (what Americans call a subway) to Stratford, then transferring to a light rail line to Pudding Mill Lane, where there’s a “viewing tube” for the construction site. We tried it, but found it was closed. So we returned to Stratford, walked over a bridge to a Westfield shopping mall (yes, the same Westfield that operates malls in the Cleveland area). The John Lewis department store has an Olympic souvenir shop on the top floor, with a viewing area overlooking the site. That’s probably as close as you’re going to get to the park, although it wouldn’t hurt to check to see if the aforementioned viewing tube is open again.

Olympic Park

Aquatics Center & Orbit Tower

From the department store you can see the 80,000 seat Olympic Stadium, the stylish Aquatics Center, and other structures under construction. You can also see the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower, a strange looking 377-foot high structure that resembles a pretzel made of steel. At the time of my visit, it wasn’t open to the public. When it does open, it should provide a breathtaking view of the entire park.

Wherever you’re going in London, the Underground (also referred to as the Tube, but never the subway) is a fast and efficient way to get there. Maps are easy to interpret. Digital displays and recorded announcements in the cars keep you constantly apprised of what train you’re on, and what is the next stop. Schedules are frequent, and you seldom have to wait more than five minutes for your train.

For more information about getting around in London, check out the Transport for London website

You can keep up to date on the Olympics at

Next: What to see and do in London

Reed's Read: Complete Index

RETURN TO Cleveland, The New American City

Copyright 2012 Tom Reed