And a GREAT evening to you from across the Pond. Today…well, WOW – it was AMAZING. Okay, for starters, I had ten WONDERFUL hours of sleep, popping up around 9:10 for a shower. After that, it was off to Waterloo Station, where we met the gang and I had a GREAT Costa Vanilla Latte (the St. Peter drink? Yeah, that’s two days in a row…).
We caught the 11:20 train (Liz – no worries on the wardrobe malfunction – you looked HOT) out to Esher, arriving around noon for drinks and lunch at Chez Branca. Talk about a Malibu flat in the midst of England! This place was AWESOME, and the spread/drinks were even better! I made the girls Bloody Mary’s (and no, GC – it wasn’t quite like the Meineke Car Care Bowl), while I tried my first ever Pimm’s (50 proof) and Lemonade.
Okay, I’ve heard about this stuff for ages, but I’d never actually tried it. DUDE – talk about the party that rocks the piñata – SO GOOD (peppy cheekies). The girls had some as well, but they were pretty big on the Bloody Mary's (including the horseradish sauce - Cat - you would have been so proud).
We hung out at Casa de Branca for about 2 hours, where I had two sandwiches that could have fed the Indian National Railway for a week and even tried a new beer: Circle Master. This beer, ladies and gentleman, is important, as it’s the last of the Wychewood Brewery beers on my list. That’s right – I have now completed the Quadrivium (Hobgoblin, Fiddler’s Elbow, Scarecrow, Circle Master)!
Also, the Branca clan is fantastic – Liz (Mike’s wife, who is the dude we work with) was great, and the kids were wonderful. Also, Buddy (the family Golden Retriever) had just arrived a week before, and he was SO CUTE. All in all, this is a good gang. I mean, check them out! And I can say with 100% certainty that Andrew (Mike's son) could take ANY of my boys in Grand Theft Auto. Warf - if he were playing "Driver - you are the Wheelman," I guarantee you he could find a way to "get the President out of there." That's all I'm sayin'...
After that, it was off to the track (after Liz re-applied make-up, of course), where we had an absolute BLAST. We drank champagne, beer, and Pimm’s & Lemonade, enjoyed the sunshine, and successfully used every voucher and free/value bet offered to us. Talk about a blast!
How did I do, you ask? Well, I managed to walk away down only 11 quid (18 USD) through 7 races, including 2 victories (Go Shakespearian and Blue Jack!) and several other places. Key points from the races:
1. In England, you can do a “swinger bet,” where you pick any 2 horses that have to finish in the top 3. Dad – this has your name written ALL OVER IT.
2. They don’t have a Superfecta in the UK.
3. You don’t bet “across the board” in the UK. Instead, you bet “each way,” meaning you’re betting the horse to win or to “place.” However, “placing” is different in each race depending on a) the number of horses running and b) whether or not a handicap is in effect.
4. They DO NOT sell Mint Julips in the UK.
5. Women DO NOT wear redonkulous hats in the UK.
6. There is no "one place to bet" in the UK. You've got the Track bookies, the national chains (OTB's), and all the little "wildcat" gambling houses (dudes down by the track who'll just take bets - note that they tend to give you slightly better odds).
7. ALL races in the UK are on grass.
8. They divide races between furlongs around a track (like we have) and flat out sprints in a straight line (Usain Bolt style). I much prefer (and fare better in) the races around the track.
9. My wife is absolutely SNORING LIKE A BANSHEE RIGHT NOW ON THE COUCH BESIDE ME.
And in case anyone’s scoring, JT finished down 30 pounds. No worries, pumpkin – I love you and you were the hottest girl there!
After the races, we caught the train to Victoria Station, where we walked to an old haunt – The Bag O’ Nails. Once there, I had a Becks Vier and Stella. Best of all, Megs showed up (the bar was RIGHT ACROSS from her hotel – LITERALLY). She had a pint with us before we all sauntered to a truly old haunt – the Buckingham Balti House. I had a Vindaloo and a Balti Very Hot, both of which I shared with Mark Johnson (who, for the record, a) is an Eagle Scout, b) plays the Trumpet, c) sang at the 1980 Olympics, and d) is a really cool guy).
I must confess that we did con Megs into trying the Vindaloo, after which point she shot me 187 birds and said that she was never speaking to me again. Irene – 131 days! But we’re having a good ride until then!!!
We’re now back at the flat, where JT and I are going to sleep until about 5 PM tomorrow, as I am EXHAUSTED. It was a GREAT day at Sandown Park, and I am SO GLAD that we hit the races. That being said, I simply CANNOT WAIT to hit the hay.
Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Megs – safe travels tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny