Sunday, 13 December 2009

A perfect day, some stinking bishop, and a full-on pub crawl through the Smoke...


And a good morning to you on a fabulous (and potentially sunny!) Sunday in the Mother Country. Today's blog is going to be a recap of (most likely) galcian proportions, as the Taylor-Tacy-Markham clan covered some GROUND yesterday. Also, thanks to brother Steve's INSANE knowledge of the full capabilities of the Canon Elph camera, this blog will also be the "Jenny Taylor Experimental Photography Exhibition," arriving soon at the Tait Modern (VA - come back over so we can get hammered and go laugh at it).

So we woke up at 10 AM and made it out the door by 11:30 (a 30 minute improvement to the previous Saturday). Step 1 was the ride over to Charing Cross, where we popped out at Trafalgar Square to a BEAUTIFUL day. Turning our backs on the national Christmas tree, we headed up Strand, making our way to Fleet Street.

The stroll down Fleet Street was great, as we hit all the usual spots, stopping to actually go in Twinings (it was open for a change). St. Bride's was closed, but the fam did manage to enter St. Paul's to look at the inside before darting back out (they want 11 POUNDS for entry now - ridiculous. Tabitha - I KNOW that doesn't please you - no paying to pray...).

After that we stepped over the wibbly wobbly walkway (aka the Millennium Bridge) and made our way toward Borough Market, stopping on the other side of the river to take this AMAZING PHOTO. Tell me this isn't a postcard...

After that, it was onto Borough Market, where the clan put up an IMPRESSIVE display of eating. The finest performance of the afternoon? KIM TACY. Not only did she roll through a chorizo sandwich, she also bought a block of parmesan cheese (aged two years - change you LIFE good) AND a falafel wrap. Throw in a few samples and strawberries, and you have an impressive display for a gal who weighs about 90 pounds. Full marks, KJ!

Also, the highlight for me was definitely trying "drunk cheese," which is a type of Italian cheese soaked in red wine for 18-20 months. This stuff was guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud...and you could really taste the wine in the cheese. Dare I say, it's almost like killing 2 birds with one stone (and a heck of a lot cheaper!).

We then began the final "must do" for the farewell Saturday in London - the time honored tradition of the pub crawl. Let me tell you - life does NOT get any better than this.

Stop 1 was the Market Porter, which proudly boasted 11 ales I had NEVER tried before. I went with Winter Solstice, while Rye Smile and Meantime Pale were the selections of others. On our way out, fortune struck and I crossed off another of my London "to-do's" (full credit to Steve on this one). I walk out the door and Steve says, "Dude - check out the pungent smell in this place." Granted, this is the part where any girl in her right mind says "Um, no." However, this is the time when every guy says, "Hell yeah! Sounds great!" And two minutes later, I am nose deep in olfactory overload. That's right - Steve found the aged cheese hall.

So this place has got cheese that looks STRAIGHT UP LIKE 100% MOLD. I mean, we are talking solid green on the inside (perhaps even with a heartbeat). And upon smelling all this limberger goodness, I knew there was one cheese I had to ask for - the Stinking Bishop.

So backstory on this - Stinking Bishop is apparently the smelliest cheese on earth. I had heard that you could only get it in certain stores and at certain times of the year, and I figured this was my one shot at a winner. Sure enough, when I asked, she proudly replied: "Oh, we've got two. Do you want the two year or the four year?" Thirty seconds later, I'm tasting the two year, which will definitely put hair on your chest. Thirty seconds after that, we're trying the four year, which was DELICIOUS. Sold and determined to buy, I walked outside to get money from Jenny.

It was only then, 4 minutes later when I found JT, that I noticed this terrible smell around me. In fact, it was as if I was standing in an open sewer. The girls noticed, and Steve and I stared at each other with a sinking feeling. That led to a sniffing of the finger we picked the cheese up with, and then a near moment of wretching. HOLY MOLY. That's when it started.

So this stuff isn't over when you eat it. It burrows into your skin like a chigger and stays there ALL night. We tried anti-bacterial gel. That transformed it from smelling like dead rhino to smelling like a dead rhino covered in formaldehyde. We then proceeded to wash our hands at the next FIVE PLACES we went to - no joy in removing it. In fact, our breath was so bad that, when Steve and I were walking on either side of Jenny and talking to each other, I thought she was going to pass out. I can't smell it now, but I think it's only because I've completely burned out my olfactory nerves.

From there, we made our way back across the bridge to one of the most famous pubs on Fleet Street - Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. I know I've mentioned this one before - it's the pub of Voltaire and Dickens, and a spot that Cromwell used to keep his horses. It was a blast, and I even rediscovered my love of Sam Smith's! I had an Oatmeal Porter with Kim, whilst the rest of the group rolled through some wheat beers and alpine lagers. Jenny also gave the oak aged Bitter a dance, and it proved quite tasty. Best of all, we drank down in the cellar (the bar just keeps going down and down - it might be the gateway to Dante's Inferno), which had a GREAT atmosphere.

After that, we rolled to the Coal Hole (you have to pay the toll troll to get to the coal hole - KJ - that was 100% for you. After all, it's always sunny in London as well), where all the cask ales were off. Since that did NOT make us happy, we continued to another Taylor staple - The Porterhouse.

The Porterhouse was PACKED, but somehow, thanks to the magic of Sara Markham, we found a table! We rolled through some Porterhouse Reds and Temple Brau ales before decided to get experimental. The result was that I found a beer that I fell in LOVE with in Chester but hadn't seen since then. Puma - this if for you, brother - I rocked the TUSKER last night! Incidentally, this beer was named for the elephant who stabbed the original brewery founder with a tusk, killing him. Charming story, eh? So entranced was I with the tale, that we thought it prudent to have a moment of silence for the fallen brewmaster (hence the resulting photo).

I realize that we were really into exerimental photos by this point in the evening, but you must also check out this GREAT shot of JT and Kim at the Porterhouse. Diggin' the "color accent blue" feature.

After that, it was off to another pub that turned out to be the new WINNER. Hitman, Ray Ray - this is the NEW Bear and Staff. In January, we are going to the Salisbury. Why, you ask? How about Timmy, Deuchar's, and Bombardier ALL ON DRAFT (those are 3 of my top five ales, incidentally, and I've NEVER seen them before in the same place). Needless to say we LOVED it. Feeling the need to press on, however, we rolled to the Bear and Staff for a pint of Party Popper, a holiday brew that was guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud.

We then made our way to the Trocadero in Piccadilly Circus, where we ate some of THE BEST Thai we've ever had. Steve and I both ripped through a green curry, but I confessed I had pad thai envy looking at Kim's dish. Consequently, knowing that Jenny takes a bit longer to finish her meals, Steve and I ordered a Pad Thai extra spicy to split. In a word - RELIGIOUS. Wow - they will serve that in Heaven.

At that point, stuffed to the brim and sufficiently satisfied that we'd covered some ground on the London Ale Trail, we rolled home, where we took this final photo of the evening. This is All Saints Church on Regent Street, and it's one of my absolute favorite buildings in the Smoke (taken in color accent - red, by the way).

Then it was home for a final bottle of wine before sacking out around 1:30 AM.

All in all, this was wire to wire one of THE BEST days I've EVER spent in London. Great times with GREAT people, laughing all day whilst eating delicious food and having WONDERFUL beer that you just won't find anywhere else.

I absolutely LOVE having visitors, as they give Jenny and I an excuse to try new things whilst at the same time seeing all the sights that made us fall in love with London in the first place and remind us why this is such an AMAZING city that is truly like no other on earth.

Sara, Steve, Kim - this was one of THE BEST weeks I've ever had here. Thank you SO MUCH for being such wonderful people. I am so blessed to be able to call you guys family, and I can't wait until we get into more trouble in some other random destination. Thanks so much for coming - it was a BLAST. Safe travels!

Also, it must be stated before we close - HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!!! I love you so much and can't wait to see you in less than 2 weeks!

Last thing - Dinger - the Dos Equis guy as your profile pic - AMAZING. I absolutely cackled when I saw it - well done.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow (actually later today if all goes well)!


Sam and Jenny

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