Friday, 31 July 2009
And a good evening to you from across the Pond. Today was another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Honestly, I love my job, and so I am shocked when I look up and it’s 6 PM.
And while today was great, it certainly did not start out that way.
It all began with the Machiato…so here’s the deal – I’ve given up coffee. It’s not because I’m a cheap b…well, okay, maybe it is. But I also realized that I was buying it in the states and only finishing about 1/3 of it. So now it’s my Friday treat.
Well today I went to get a coffee from the canteen, and I selected a Machiato. I say this fully expecting to get the “Starbucks Treatment.” What I got instead, however, was something slightly different.
Barista (using the term VERY loosely): “Do you want that in a big cup or a small?”
Uneducated Redneck: “I ordered a large.”
Barista: “Yes, but some prefer it in a small cup.”
Uneducated Redneck: “No, no – a large cup please.”
Uneducated Redneck inside Sam’s head: “Dude – something is wrong. This is NOT how it happens at starbucks. Abort NOW.”
Barista then pours a SHOT of espresso into a “large” cup, followed by…wait for it…wait for it…some foam. Not even the milk…just foam. Barista then hands it to uneducated redneck, a grim smile on her face. Uneducated redneck takes the cup politely, thinking about all the ways he wants to burn her house down.
Bottom line – DO NOT ORDER A MACHIATO IN THE UNITED KINGDOM. It’s like asking for a burger, only to be given some gristle. Yeah…I was NOT happy. Luckily, my beautiful muffin puffin bought me a latte and made up for it (which I promptly knocked over and spilled on my desk – details, details…).
After work, I had 2 pints of Peroni (which I’m now a big fan of) at the Slug and Lettuce (that’s right – the SLUG AND LETTUCE) before heading to Gourmet Burger Kitchen with the Tavares clan and sister Mirza.
Key side note here: I have a theory that you can put ANY two words together and have a pub name in England. Let’s try a few real examples:
1. The Cat and Canary
2. The Lamb and Flag
3. The Green Man and Frenchhorn
4. The Bear and Staff
5. The Waggon and Horses
6. The Goddess and Puma (soon to open, Cyrus David proprietor)
7. The Donkey and Doorknob (soon to be a world reknown brand, Sam Taylor, CEO)
After drinks, it was dinner at Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK). I’ve talked about this place before, however to night we tried the Blue Cheese Burger (medium rare). Yeah, it was pretty much OFF THE CHAIN. And, more importantly, we got to spend time with the Tavares clan.
For those that don’t know, Ray is my partner in crime at work, and he’s great. Also, his entire family is spectacular. See the photo – Justin is the wee one, and he’s a Frat House Tank in the making. Jackie and RJ are both Green Belts, which means they can both kill me with their thumb. And his lovely wife Lisa is great. All in all, this is a wonderful family.
Now we’re back at the house, and I’m about to tuck into Twilight. I’m sixty pages in, and despite some folks telling me I wouldn’t like it, I am pleasantly surprised so far.
Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print (kudos to Christine Weber for calling me out on this today on a call). Chat soon!
Sam and Jenny
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
And a good evening to you from across the Pond. What an AMAZING DAY! For starters, today was a great day at work. I went to Camberley (affectionately known as “London West”), where we discussed Absence and Sickness Processing for 9.5 hours. Yes, I realize that doesn’t exactly sound like it will stimulate brain cells, but I LOVED IT (and I even got a free Lavazza white coffee in the process). Seriously, I am now convinced that being an HR project manger is the job I was born to do - I LOVE IT!!!
Okay, so two big things last night that I didn’t get a chance to report:
1. Our laundry arrived! I am happy to report that all boxers with holes in them…well, still have holes in them. However, they are now clean, smell like daisies, and don’t have any new holes in them (which they undoubtably would have had should they have faced the wrath of the renegade bra wire).
2. Jenny and I activated our UK bank accounts. Okay, let me complain for a second here: If you don’t have an advanced degree in Mathematics, opening this account is near impossible. Key features of the UK Bank Account:
a. You need a pin to use it – no swiping – you have to key in this pin (which is computer generated, can’t be changed, and is NOT easy to remember) EVERY time you buy something or use the ATM.
b. You can’t just go to the bank and deposit money. No, no, you have to apply for a “paying in” book. Um, hello – Bank of America just let’s you throw your money at the ATM.
c. In addition to the Pin, you will always need your customer number. Please note that this is different from your:
i. Bank Account
ii. IBEN Number
iii. Sort Code
iv. SWIFT Code
d. The customer number cannot be changed either, and it is totally random (and TEN digits).
3. Oh, wait…not done – now you need your ACTIVATION CODE – it’s also 10 digits which you can’t change. If you are missing ANY of these 3 components, NO CASH FOR YOU.
4. And how do I get all these lovely numbers? Via 3 separate pieces of mail with some INSANE directions. Here’s how you read the code for your activation code:
a. Flip paper over.
b. Remove tab on back side of paper.
c. Gently scratch off silver cover.
d. Flip paper back over.
e. Close tab on back side.
f. Read code.
g. Destroy paper.
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
And a good evening to you on the other side of the Pond. Today started ROUGH. As I think I mentioned yesterday, I had a little ankle pain throughout the day. Today, getting to the tube was almost impossible. I honestly thought I was going to have to call in sick tomorrow due to immobility. That being said, as I type this, ankle elevated and iced, it has loosened up quite a bit today. I have faith that, eventually, I will be able to jog again. Until then, I should offer up the bet that my good buddy Tom "Dunlap" Price mentioned today:
Over/Under on the number of pounds Sammy IV gains during his time in the UK: I am placing the Over/Under at 7 pounds, and I welcome all comers. Tait - I bet dollars to pesos you've already made your mind up to take the over. Chuck, which one do you think Johnnie T would have taken?
Rice - if you are reading this, shoot me an email or call my BB and give me the news. I'm dying here.
Not a whole lot else to report this evening. Muffin Puffin is still at work (poor thing), due to an 8 PM meeting. However, I'm expecting her home any second, at which point I will be a good hubby and warm up some leftovers. :-)
As miniscule as it is, that's all the news that's fit to print. Time to get back to Matthew Reilly and "The Six Sacred Stones." Chat with you guys tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny
Monday, 27 July 2009
Sunday, 26 July 2009
And a good evening to you all from across the Pond. Today concluded another great weekend in the UK, as we crossed off another elusive destination – the beautiful…beaches? of Brighton.
Okay, so first off, Brighton is a cute little former fishing village on the South Coast of England. Now, however, it’s a resort town that sports Britain’s finest, most “award winning beach.”
Let’s just get the facts out right now – THERE IS NO BEACH. In fact, in place of those gorgeous white sands of Texas or beige sands of the Carolinas, YOU GET ROCKS. LOT’S OF ENORMOUS ROCKS THAT WANT TO RIP YOUR FEET APART AS YOU WALK TOWARD NEGATIVE SIX THOUSAND DEGREE WATER.
You wouldn’t have believed it – it was like Iceland all over again, except with a billion more people. The (rock) beaches were packed. The outdoor pubs were packed. And people were laid out everywhere enjoying the soft, cushy stones of Brighton (much like this).
However, all was not lost. For starters, vendors are selling fresh (and I mean just pulled from the water) seafood at rock bottom prices. I got a “pot” of mussels and another pot of cockles (had never tried – uber salty but better than mussels…I think), as well as 4 olives wrapped in anchovies (SO GOOD). We hit the pier (where Jenny and I played the pig racing game, which was akin to Air Hockey), as well as the Marina, and we even rode the world’s oldest electic railway (the Volks Electric Railway… yep, just about as exciting as it sounds).
The pier was really interesting – basically it was a big carnival. Some things I would call out:
1) They had a bull riding game with a HUGE American flag on the front. It was hilarious to watch the limeys try and go all Lane Frost – I watched one kid go FLYING.
2) The pier basically looked like the Tennessee Valley Fair, except the scrambler was called the spinner.
3) The more tatoos you have, the more you should wear tank tops out so everyone can admire your ink…especially if you HAVE A TATOOED MUSTACHE AND BEARD. Really, was that a good idea?
4) Instead of the “Guess your speed” game, they have “Premiership,” where you have to kick balls through different holes. I simply had to get a picture, as you will NOT see that at next year’s NC Fair in Raleigh.
We had a great lunch at Wetherspoon’s (where we had pints of Fortyniner – wicked good – and the Rev – Welsh ale), outside of which was a very popular game with the locals which I simply had to stand in front of.
After that, it was a pint of Doom Bar (tasty) at the Waggon and Horses (note the British spelling) before bouncing back to the train station and catching the bus from Victoria. And now, after some fish and chips, here we sit back at the flat whilst the rain comes down outside. Tomorrow’s back to the grind, but bring it on!
Also, it should be noted that I finished “The Reader” this morning – I was not impressed. However, I’ve since moved through ~150 pages of “Six Sacred Stones” by Matthew Reilly, and I’m much happier (Dean – this one cooks with gas).
That’s all the news that’s fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny
Saturday, 25 July 2009
Friday, 24 July 2009
For starters, let's just observe the sky. On one end, there's me, with the winds of the Apocalypse (and a rainbow) behind me (to the left).
Then there's Jenny, with the sun so bright I can't even get a photo (and keep in mind it's POURING ON US the entire time).
Then there's the stray taxi that feels the need to hug the curb (which happens to be where all the water collects, just in case there's a fire...like, say...there was in 1666). The result (beware all visitors) is this:
The silver lining, however, was in the walk home, and it made every soaking wet step worth it. Check the name of this pub:
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. It's probably worth noting that we're having the absolute time of our lives, and we can't believe that two weeks have already passed. Chat soon!
Thursday, 23 July 2009
And a good evening to you across the Pond as we chase the upcoming weekend. Tons to report today - it's been busy!
1. Good news - we are getting reimbursed for our shredded clothes. I must give the Brits a lot of credit here - customer service to date has been impeccable.
2. So as I mentioned, our air crate arrived yesterday. After dinner tonight (Muffin Puffin is currently whipping up some green thai curry!), we are going to get into these boxes and find out "what lies beneath." Honestly, it's going to be like Christmas morning in this place.
3. I say that to get to tonight's photo - as you know, we are low on hangars. Rather than do more ironing and have MORE clothes strewn about, I put on the only ironed shirt and pants I had. The result is that I spent the day in what you see below, prompting Jenny to ask "exactly how long have you been working for UPS?" FUNNY GIRL!!!!!
4. I just received a piece of mail addressed to: "Samuel Taylor, Esquire." That's right, fools - show me the proper respect!
5. Today was day 2 in the gym and day 1 back into cardio. WOW, how the mighty have fallen. Today Sam and the spare tire around his waist pitted themselves against the dreaded Versa Climber - one of those scaling cardio machines I've always wanted to try. I selected the lowest object (the Washington Monument, which is, by the way, 555 feet tall), thinking I would whip through this little task. The first 2 minutes were brilliant, a beacon of athleticism. The last 3 (that's right, I lasted only FIVE MINUTES) were something like what I envision a punishment from Dante's inferno to be. All in all, I only got 60% of the way up the Washington Monument. I know, dad...CANDY MALDANADO.
6. AC - finished the Dante Club - agree with you, okay not great. Next up, I'm moving to try this Twilight series I keep hearing so much about. Jenny has told me I will hate it, but hey - that's why the London Underground exists - to shuffle you to work while you plow through recycled paper.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat with you cats tomorrow. Fingers crossed that none of our stuff was broken!
Sam and Jenny
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
And a good evening to you all. Some classic encounters between my beautiful bride and British appliances to report:
1. Currently, Jenny has enlisted the help of the front desk to turn on the oven. She and I have pushed every single button in every conceivable fashion in every conceivable order, and it's still as cold as the morgue. This does not bode well for the the goat's cheese and spinach pizza we had planned for dinner.
2. So Jenny washed our first load of clothes yesterday. If you aren't familiar, it's an "all-in-one" washer-dryer unit that normally requires you to still hang and lay out ALL of your clothes for a day to get them dry. Case in point - look at the current state of our dining room table:
We are old hat at this, but it is compounded by #3 and #4.
3. In our haste, we forgot to pack one minor thing - CLOTHES HANGARS. While this might seem like a tiny hurdle back in the colonies, it is a nightmare for us "Europeans." Why, you ask? Because we can't find a single store that sells them! I'm about ready to break into the cloak room at a nice restaurant and make off like Jesse James.
4. So, it should be noted that, once a drying cycle is finished, these washers sound as though there is a SPACE SHUTTLE LAUNCHING IN YOUR KITCHEN. This time, however, there was an added twist - the speed and the jagged edges of the tumbler served to shred FOUR SHIRTS AND A PAIR OF SOCKS! (Uncle Benny - they diced my Balaga's you got me - the horror, the horror!). Tomorrow I will be chatting with the management company about why, exactly, our Washer/dryer is something out of the Amityville Horror and what they are going to do to compensate us for the losses of JT's cute little tops (all from Marshall's in this go-around).
And now, some more good news:
1. Our air shipment arrives tomorrow! We will finally have the rest of our clothes, or picture frames, books, etc. to make this place look at a bit less IKEA.
2. Tomorrow begins the return to greatness. Tait, I am definitely NOT as spry as you've ever seen me, and I am hitting the gym tomorrow like a banshee.
3. After 5 weeks, I can finally see the veins on my foot again (meaning it's not swollen like a sea elephant)! While I still feel it if I try to stride, there's at least some progress being made.
4. In case we didn't tell folks, we booked our first trip! We're heading to Munich, Zurich, and Lucerne in August and September - we are SO EXCITED!!!
5. We've found another good pub - the George. Also ~5 min from the flat, it proudly boasts Abbot Ale (particularly good and caramel this evening) and Green King IPA, two solid UK cask ales (also served "cellar temp").
UPDATE: We have uncovered the secret of the oven. We will actually be fed tonight. All quite exciting.
Okay, that's the news that's fit to print. Welcome back to the Lower 48, Tacy Family! Glad you guys saw McKinley and had a blast!
Sam and Jenny
Monday, 20 July 2009
And a good evening to you across the Pond. I type this after a fantastic bowl of Scottish mushroom and creps (not sure what that is...) soup, packaged in a bag and courtesy of Sainsbury's local, the grocery store on our block. Okay, good news first - we have found a local watering hole! On our block is a cute little place with outdoor tables and leather couches called the Masons Arms. Best of all - I am happy to report that they serve Deuchar's IPA, the best Scottish (and for the moment dare I say British!) ale to be found. It's a cask ale, which means it's hand pulled from the cellar. So yes, it's served more or less room temperature. But given the goose bumps on JT's arms as we drank, I don't think that's a bad thing. :-)
Sunday, 19 July 2009
And another great day in London is in the books. This weekend has been so wonderful, and it's really done a lot to energize mine and Jenny's time here. There is just so much to see and do (in London, in the UK, and on the continent), and while we know we won't get to it all, we are conscious that we have to hit a new spot every single weekend (at least!) to ensure we make the most of our time here. The good news is that I'm much more relaxed about the budget now - at the end of the day, this experience is worth more than any IRA contribution, and we intend to live it up!
Today started at 8:10 am (I know, CP, pick yourself up off the floor), when my muffin puffin whipped up a fantastic egg-cheese-pepper dish with some coffee (in other words, Rice - she's comin' after your casserole next). After that, we hopped over to Waterloo East and took the 10:57 AM train to Hampton Court. There, we visited a destination that has eluded us since 2006 - Hampton Court Palace.
This palace, one of the favored homes of Henry VIII, was truly amazing. JT and I spent 5 hours in there, exploring the various parts of the castle. This year is the 500th anniversary of Henry's Coronation, and they have got the place looking tip-top to mark the occasion.
First and foremost, as an honored guest, you need to dress the part:
Jenny and I donned these uber-stylish robes, walking around the whole time as though we were part of the next Harry Potter film. Actually, they did come in handy, as the English summer handed us a blustery 60 degree day today...
Also, when dining with the king, it is important that he present all of his finest pewter for distinguished guests from the hills of Appalachia.
As you can see in the photo below - the tyrannical Henry spared no expense in welcoming us from the New World:
The tour was brilliant, taking you through 500 years of history, some Tudor, some Baroque, still others Georgian. And then there were the brilliant gardens and the maze, which I will confess was less than I expected. That being said, the gardens (and the beautiful trumpeter swans in both the canal and the long water) were awesome. All in all, we spent 5 hours here, and I will recommend this trip (13 miles and 30 minutes from London) to anyone, as it's a wonderful walk through history.
Tomorrow is back to work, but no worries here. I think we're going to try some of the local watering holes in the neighborhood. In fact, since we're so energized about trying new things, I think the new goal is to hit a new pub every night on the way home. I mean, at least one of them has to have Timothy Taylor, right?
The missus is currently slaving away in the kitchen, and we are about to tuck into some pasta. Another great day in the books - who knows what next weekend will bring! Chat soon!
Love, Sam and Jenny
Saturday, 18 July 2009
Friday, 17 July 2009
And a good evening to you all from what was a rainy day in "the Smoke." Today was a good day - Square Pie for lunch (basically a steak and cheese pot pie, 2 scoops of mashed potatoes with gravy, and mushy peas...also covered in gravy), followed by a run to Waitrose (a local grocery store chain), and then dinner with the Tavares clan over in their flat in the wharf.
Lord G (a buddy of ours named Mark) also came by, and it was a blast. Their flat is amazing - floor to ceiling windows overlooking the River, Tower Bridge, Eye, the Gerkin, and the Olympic Stadium. We tried Innis & Gunn Blonde (a beer brewed in leftover cask ales from Jack Daniels barrells)...it was basically like drinking whiskey, but without the potency. Give me Gentleman Jack any day.
Also, we saw some great fireworks from out of the windows (they live on floor 28!). Very cool.
So a week has already passed, and we have loved every second of it. The commute has turned out really to be no commute at all, I had the sushi I'd been craving, I had Indian, I got to see some good friends, the foot is feeling better, I finally have i-Tunes on a computer of my own, Jenny has 2-3 potential job offers, I met my new team and confirmed they are rock stars, the flat is better than I expected, we're got a driver willing to go to the horse races whenever, we are first in line for free season tickets to West Ham (Go Hammers!), and we found a cheap gym. Who could ask for anything more? The only concern is that we've only got 49 weeks of immortality left, and this is a fairy tale at the moment.
Tomorrow is food shopping, ironing, breakfast, some sleep, theater (hopefully Waiting for Godot), and dinner somewhere (prob indian). Sunday might be Hampstead court (TBD based on weather).
That's all the news that's fit to print for now. Chat soon!
Sam and Jenny
P.S. Dad - if you're reading this, call or email me to tell me how Pattie and company ended up in the State tourney.
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
1. Headphones in for the morning walk (10 min)
2. 19 min on the train (read a book)
3. walk to office (5 min) - get the game face on :-)
Tonight was a meal at GBK (that's gourmet burger kitchen), which was so guuuuuud. JT went with the Pesterella (had pesto and mozzarella cheese - AND it was med rare!), and I pounded through the Avocado & Bacon burger (with streaky bacon, of course).
The foot is feeling better, which is a good thing. Also, we've found 3 pubs within 2 blocks of the flat, one that's carrying Deuchar's! Good stuff.
Tomorrow will be drinks at the Prospect of Whitby and then dinner at La Figa - good stuff, and THE BEST ravioli I've ever had. The weekend is HP6 and a show (TBD, but we're thinking Waiting for Godot with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan).
Not much else to report - I'm feeling more than a little chubby, so I'm definitely ready to run!
Also, we should have a bank account on Thursday!
Okay, signing off for now. Chat soon!
Sunday, 12 July 2009
What a day! After 13 hours of sleep last night (MUCH NEEDED), we woke up to a beautiful day. Last night was great - we hung with the Tavares Clan in Piccadilly before rolling over to China Town for dinner at Feng Shuen (I'm sure that's misspelled). My boss would have been severely disappointed that I didn't get the duck (or a Tsing Tao), but I had some great crispy squid. Also, I tried a Butcombe bitter, which I highly recommend.
Today we discovered that we're only 6 minutes from the high street and 9 from Baker St (yes, the Sherlock Holmes Baker St). We're going to use that as our Tube stop tomorrow - it's closer AND we've got a better shot at getting a seat. We wandered for an hour or so through Regent Park (this place is amazing! Absolutely beautiful Rose Garden - GREAT little boating river - perfect for running) before wandering through Camden market, where some gal with a whip was lifting coke cans with every crack (yeah, it's really hard to explain - but I took a great polariod).
Jenny bought a cute little dress (she's so European :-)), which she'll soon be wearing with stocking and boots (with the fuuuuuuuuur). Then we hit a GREAT Indian joint called Bombay Spice before rolling back home (where I'm currently blogging). In sporting news, Pattie Ruth Taylor lifted Morristown women's softball over her opponents 9-3 in the first round of the state softball tournament - go get 'em Tiger.
Tomorrow's back to work - I'm still not really convinced this is real...
Saturday, 11 July 2009
I have absolutely no idea how this is going to work (this is my first ever blog), so bear with me as we work the kinks out.
Key bits for the day:
1. Landed early (meaning 6:45 AM local time). We slept NOT A BIT on the plane, but I'll venture due to the excitement. Also, I will happily recommend "Duplicity" - very fun, well written flick.
2. The drive from Gatwick to London is like taking the Trans-Siberian. If we hadn't had EIGHT suitcases, I would have just jumped the Express. However, we did ride in style in a sweet beamer!
3. Had a GREAT English breakfast on the high street by out flat - this place is amazing! SO HAPPY we picked it.
4. Concern of the day is the foot - after 3 good hours of walking, it suddenly gave out. I've iced for the day, but it is a bit frustrating to not be able to walk in a European city(especially one this size). Oh well, that's why they invented Ibuprofin.
5. My perfect pumpkin is currently PASSED OUT. Too cute...
Samwise (aka "Assignee 47")