And a good morning to you from across the Pond on a FABULOUS Sunday in the Mother Country. Yesterday was, like most Saturdays, EXTRA AWESOME. When we last left you, the Taylors marched down to Great Portland Street, where we made Jenny a hair appointment with her stylist and then rolled over to get some cash from the Barclay's machine. Yes, the Taylors are withdrawing cash from the US accounts (no transaction fee with Barclay's!) vs. using the NatWest account because, well...we got a little trigger happy early booking some of our upcoming vacations (insert Kevin Woest shaking his head and saying "You are the MASTER...but still a socialist" here) and have now got to ensure we've got enough cash to cover our gym memberships at the end of the month before our next paycheck. Details...
So the first spot on the trip was the Pontefract Castle, where we'd planned to have a few nibbles and watch Wales vs. Italy. However, the plan was forced to change once we arrived to find the telly turned off and the staff CLUELESS as to how to operate the TV or the remotes. It was comedy hour for about 10 minutes, and then the guy (who'd managed to at least turn it on...to reveal horse races in Ireland) gave up, saying he just couldn't figure out how to change the channel.
All was NOT lost, however, as we rolled to the next pub (literally round the corner), the Lamb and Flag, and were greeted with the stares of lots of dudes looking above our heads as we walked in. That could only mean one thing - GAME TIME, BABY! It was a CRACKING Welsh performance, filled with great tries(Shane Williams is the MAN) and lots of grown men trying to kill each other, and caught all of it with a nice, cozy table, drinking Staropramen and nibbling on wedges loaded with cheese and ham (SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD).
We left the Flag about 4:15, walking down Oxford Street. Now on the way to Pontefract, we'd stopped in the John Lewis foodhalls (SO GOOD - we WILL be buying cheese from these cats in the not too distant future), and I'd made the comment "This must be the Harrod's for us 'North' Londoners." She told me, "No, that would be Selfridge's." As we had nothing to do and time to kill before the next match, and asked if we could swing in and check that place (pronounced "Suffridges" in Queen's English) out.
Okay, so first off - this place is OUT OF CONTROL. Every square inch of the place is PACKED with purses, make-up, shoes, and designer clothing from companies that I've normally not even HEARD of. Crazier still, this is NOT a department store, as there is usually just one of EVERYTHING on the rack (so you don't buy the same thing as someone else - HEAVEN FORBID). I was most shocked about 2 things:
1. The fact that people actually SHOP here vs. go in and LAUGH AT PEOPLE. I mean, seriously, check out this GAY ASS PINK KNIGHT hawking purses. Really? REALLY? And in case you are scoring at home, those purses were about 800 GBP EACH.
2. THE PRICES. HOLY MOLY. Dad, do you remember in 2007 when Pattie picked up a pair of jeans and you said, "Those jeans are 225 dollars?" To which I replied, "Nope - those are 225 POUNDS ($450 USD at the time). Well, I've since seen one better. In this place they had a pair of "True Religion" jeans (KJ - this place would have been your mecca) for 310 GBP!!! That is just under $500 USD. We also saw a top in D & G that looks IDENTICAL to one Jenny bought at Limited for $18. The top at this place, however, was 385 GBP. Yep, that's around $700 USD FOR A THIN SWEATER. We even saw a hoodie for 200 quid that had the sleeves and the pouch cut, meaning YOU COULDN'T USE THE DAMN THING TO KEEP WARM OR HOLD STUFF. I mean, come on, right? I know I'm a cheap bastard, but EVERYONE's gotta have SOME limit...
Slightly shocked and bewildered, we wandered back out into daylight, passing by Old Bridge Street (home of the Sportsman Casino). Now if you'll remember, a blog a month or so ago was dedicated to my 13 year old UNC fleece that Benny bought me my freshman year at Carolina. I left the fleece (by accident) of course there back in February during our stint at the craps table, and when I'd called back, they'd told me they didn't have it in the lost and found. But since we were here and had time...I decided to take one last shot.
I walked in and asked the guy if he could check the Lost and Found one more time for my "jumper," giving him all the details (dark blue, light blue writing that says North Carolina Tar Heels - he looked at me funny at that point and repeated "Tar heels?" I just nodded, broken zipper, hole in 2 places on the pouch, etc.). I was just about to despair when he said again: "Tarheels." Then a smile broke across his face and he flipped around the one, the only...THE CAROLINA FLEECE!!!!! OH YEAH, BABY! MY WARDROBE IS COMPLETE AGAIN!!!!
Happy as a clam and wondering how I could write the Queen and ask to make this day "National Fleece Day" in England, JT and I walked through Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park (silent on Saturdays) en route to Knightsbridge. Along the way we were treated to quite the show of clouds and colors, including some great views of all the scraggly trees that will (hopefully) soon be in bloom. Also, we saw the "Animals in War" memorial, which I don't think we'd ever seen before. And, well, since they were honoring my favorite animal in a bronze cast, I simply had to have a photo. I'm going to name this photo "Sam and Matt in the park - Matt finally doing a job..."
We wandered around for a bit before finding the "Tea Clipper" pub, where we found a table, a Sagres (Ray - this guy didn't know how to pronounce it either) on draft, and a telly showing the Ireland vs. Scotland game. So we sat there for about 45 minutes (watching Ireland lose a heart-breaker), during which time Sean and Shannon (that would be Hitman and Mrs. Hitman) rolled in and chugged one before rolling to our dinner spot for the evening: Frankie's. Two words for you about dinner: LIFE CHANGING.
Okay, so as I've said before, getting red meat the way you want it in this country is pretty much impossible. The only other quality burger you can get is at the Dollar Bar in Exmouth Market (where we had Thanksgiving dinner last year with J Wade and some other Expats). Frankie's, however, RESTORES YOUR FAITH COMPLETELY IN BRITISH BEEF PREPARATION. I asked for medium rare, and I was given a (half pound!) burger solid red inside. Add on a SLAB of blue cheese and some bacon, and you've got a GUUUUUUUUUD meal. But honestly, when you've also got the ROCKIN' disco balls you see in this place, you feel like you're in a scene from Pulp Fiction. Hitman and I thought about entering the "World Famous Jack Rabbit Slim's Dance Contest," but in the end we just opted for the photo. Well, actually, we opted for a couple of photos on the way out, as the young lady walking down the stairs in this photo made me wonder just exactly what type of place Hitman had brought us to. Luckily she was the only "Eyes Wide Shut" moment we had. :-)
After dinner, with 3 hours of babysitter time left, we rolled to a pub called "The Bunch of Grapes," where I tried a new ale - Royal London. It was GUUUUUUUUUUUUUD. There we just hung out for the evening, which was GREAT and full of laughs. All in all, it was a PERFECT Saturday.
And to make it EXTRA awesome, we came home, cracked open a block of stilton cheese, and left nothing but a vapor trail. I realize that all these "cheese slicing" moments after 6 pints with a big knife after midnight will probably eventually result in an "accident" at some point, but MAN has it been a good ride so far.
It's now 11:20, and we are getting ready to go and hang with the Carter Clan. We've got a full day of hanging out with peeps today, but I won't reveal the next episode - stay tuned!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat later today!
Sam and Jenny