Athlete: Andrew Zwierzynski, Team President, Grand Valley Rowing club
Year & Major: Senior, Accounting
Hometown: New Carlisle, IN
High School: New Prairie High
If I could Tell my teammates one thing, it would be: Enjoy your time with the team.
This morning I was eating breakfast when I was pleasantly surprised by Peter coming in with Coach B, Sal, and Patrick. We discussed leaving for London. Then, I introduced them to a few of the members of our host family, Sarah, Hannah, and Chloe. Sarah is our sweet house mom who always has breakfast for us no matter what time we get up. Hannah is one of her daughters; she rows for Henley, and her boat just won at the Reading Town Regatta and at the Women’s Henley Regatta. Finally, Chloe is their cocker spaniel. She never barks and always wants to be petted.
After departing from the house and riding the train to London, we split up into groups. Chad and I decided that we wanted to do some of the same things and started off into the subway system. Our first stop was to check out Madam Tussand’s, a wax museum. However when we got their the place was packed, and we decided we didn’t want to wait. We then ran into a couple of girls from Michigan State and talked to them for a bit before getting back onto the subway for the London Dungeon. We both decided that we were going to check out the dungeon no matter what; it was the one thing we wanted to see all day. We waited in line for about an hour and got in to the haunted house amusement ride. We both really enjoyed having our scares and laughing at each other.
We then walked across the street and saw Parliment. It is so much bigger than in pictures, and every little piece of brick work has so much detail. It is a very impressive building. From there we walked to Buckingham Palace. It is also very impressive, with a lot of architectural detail and security. We decided after that to call it a day and to take the train back to Henley to relax.
Athlete: Spencer West, Stroke Seat, Men’s Varsity 8+
Year & Major: Sophomore, Allied Health Science
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
High School: Home School
If I could Tell my teammates one thing, it would be: Make every day an improvement.
Today, given the day off from practice to have time for sightseeing, everybody took full advantage of the morning off by sleeping in for a lazy Sunday morning. After finally rousing and eating breakfast, a few of us prepared to leave for the train station for a day in London while others chose to relax at the house for a day of rest. Our group of thirteen boarded the 10 o’clock train to Twyford, off to London for a day of fun. One transfer and an hour and a half later, we arrived at the London Pattington train station where we split into smaller groups for the day. Costas, Justin, Austin, Jordan, and I, with plans already in mind, followed signs for the northbound Bakerloo Line which we would take to the underground stop at Maida Vale. Our first objective of the touring day was to take a picture resembling that of the Beatles’ famous album, Abbey Road. So we walked the short walk to just in front of the Abbey Road studios, where we saw several groups of people attempting to do exactly the same thing. With Justin imitating the barefoot Paul McCartney, we walked across the crosswalk much to the enjoyment of all the other pedestrians standing at the intersection.
Satisfied with our reproduction, we then took off towards the famous Baker St., where the Sherlock Holmes museum was located. On the way we enjoyed looking at incredibly old churches, homes, and stores in the area. Much to our dismay, we were greeted at the museum by an extremely long line of ticket-holding tourists waiting for their turn to enter the museum. After spending some time looking around at various souvenirs and miscellaneous keepsakes, we decided that we did not want to spend a large chunk of time standing in line, we decided to move along to our next destination. To get to the next site, we knew it would be best to take the underground railway. So once again we hopped on the Bakerloo Line at Baker St., this time heading southbound. At the Charing Cross stop, we split up with Justin and Costas off to the National Gallery with plans to meet back up later in Trafalgar Square. After they got off, Austin, Jordan, and I continued one more stop and transferred to the District Line which we took to Westminster, so Jordan could experience everything that she didn’t have the chance to see during the first trip in London.
We came out of the underground and immediately saw Big Ben, which we took pictures of and continued onward towards the Houses of Parliament. After admiring all sides of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, we crossed the street to get a closer view of Westminster Abbey. Dismayed that the abbey was closed for sightseeing due to Sunday services, we continued onward in showing Jordan everything in London that she missed the first time around. We were surprised to see a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square, which was given to the British as a gift in the early 1900s. Next, we took pictures at a classic picturesque red phone booth with Big Ben in the background. From there the three of us continued through St. James Park, past the pelicans and gardens, all the way the Queen Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace. After watching the guards and admiring the sculptures, we walked down the road known as “The Strand,” away from Buckingham Palace and towards the Admiralty Arch. We arrived in Trafalgar Square surprised by numerous tents and fences surrounding iconic fountains and lion sculptures that we took pictures with just a couple days previously. It appeared to be that the commotion was all in preparation for an event in celebration of Canada Day. Since we couldn’t meet up with Justin and Costas by the lions, we decided to make our way to the entrance to the National Gallery. Before meeting with them at the entrance, Jordan and I purchased delicious ice cream and sorbet from a small stand just around the corner.
After the five of us reunited at the entrance and descended the steps down to Trafalgar Square, we were approached by a man from Ghana who made bracelets for each of us while engaging us in a most interesting conversation. At this point I realized that sometime after getting off at Westminster my train ticket had slipped out of my pocket one of the time I had grabbed my wallet. After checking near the ice cream stand and determining it would be a lost cause to look much further, I knew I would have to buy a new ticket. Before getting back on the Underground once again, the five of us stopped at Pret to purchase sandwiches and beverages to hold us over until our next meal. We then took the Bakerloo Line from Charing Cross to Waterloo, travelling under the river and exiting very near the London Eye from which we walked to the eastern end of the Westminster Bridge. With a gorgeous vantage point, we were able to see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from across the Thames. We followed a pedestrian path along the river known as “The South Bend.” This route took us under the London Eye and past several entertaining street performers en route to the Tower Bridge. On our way we also passed a skate park, a garden, Millennium Bridge, and Shakespeare’s Globe; Justin, Costas, Austin, and I even purchased bird whistles much to our enjoyment of annoying everyone around us.
Finally, we arrived at London Bridge, which we began to walk across to get a fantastic vantage point to take pictures of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. By now it was getting pretty late on in the day so with one last thing on our to do list, we hopped on the Underground at Monument, headed northbound for King’s Cross. Once at King’s Cross, we followed the signs towards the trains and platforms 9 and 10. Near the platforms, we found what we were looking for, a line of people waiting in line to take a picture with half of a luggage cart protruding from a brick wall under a sign reading, “Platform 9 3/4.” We then began to make our way back to the Paddington Station, taking the Victoria Line and the Bakerloo Line to get there. Arriving at Paddington with plenty of time to spare, we went into a shop within the train station to purchase a few snacks before boarding the 7:15 train to Twyford. After switching trains at Twyford we finally arrived back in Henley-on-Thames around 9 o’clock rather hungry. To satisfy our cravings, the five of us went straight to Catherine Wheel to grab dinner before returning to the house. After a satisfying meal and desert, we went back to the house ready to rest our legs and relax.
Twice in the past week we’ve gone to London and both times I left feeling that it was a very successful trip. Acknowledging how impossible it would be to see everything in London worth seeing in just two days, I left London today knowing that I’ve experienced a large chunk of London with some great people. Both times were able to navigate the bustling city smoothly and successfully, planning out our stops and doing everything set on our agenda. But with touring days now over, the time to focus on racing is here. With the first round of racing now just a couple days away, anxiety and anticipation are really beginning to set in. After coming off an encouragingly strong row yesterday and a much needed day of rest today, we go into these last two days of practicing with a high level of focus, knowing that this next week will take everything we’ve got.