Thursday, 30 September 2010
And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Okay, so first off - ANNOUNCEMENT - After tonight, there will be no blog until Monday evening. Why, you ask? Because Team Taylor is headin' off the the land of Hamlett, Carlsberg, and all the whale you can eat- COPENHAGEN, BABY!!!!! And before ANYONE starts in on me (especially the Big Cat) - it is Friday evening to Sunday, meaning that it is NOT a vacation (just a getaway :-)). It's a girls weekend because I'm sharing a room with Muffin Puffin, Sam Stone (that's right - the female Jason Bourne - I hope she doesn't kill us in our sleep), and Yazz. Honestly, if I survive this Estrogenfest, I will be a lucky boy...but then again, if I survived 6 of 'em in the Lakes District, it can't be that tough, right (insert smug female chuckle here)?
The Land's End Challenge continued behind schedule today (I think it's officially in yellow status), as Taylor logged only a 5K on the treadmill. That being said, I did it in 24 FLAT, BABY!!!! The next goal is to break the 24 barrier, and so 23:45 is the next goal in my sights. The foot is still feeling great (knock on wood), and my legs are definitely getting some acceleration back in them. I am hoping for a return to half marathons in 2011!!!
Work was good - UNCONDITIONAL GO FOR THE MEASURE TOLLGATE, BABY!!!! Who's down with AOC? Yeah, YOU KNOW ME!!!!! If you don't work for the Bank -sorry - that was just one of those things I had to throw out there for the likes of Shogun, Hitman, Big Cat, Des-X, and OSC. Livin' the dream...
Perfect Pumpkin is grinding out laps as I type this, and I'm about to make myself some dinner and pack. It will be an AFD tonight, which is good because STOP #1 on Saturday is the Carlsberg Brewery (quite possibly the best lager in the world...)! We can't WAIT!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat Monday - GREAT WEEKEND TO ALL! Fizzy - get to feeling better. :-)
Sam and Jenny
And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. First off – HAPPY BIRTHDAY KJ!!!!!!!!!! I hope that it’s a BLAST. We’ll see you in about 12 weeks time, at which point we’ll celebrate properly.
So today was another great day. Sammy woke up exhausted, and so the “Land’s End Challenge” was NOT my finest effort. In fact, I only logged 17 KM (30 min on the bike), so I’m well off last week’s pace. I am going to try and brick tomorrow, but I just had to take it easy today. However, my “light workout” didn’t stop me from CRUSHING A BIRLEY BREAKFAST SANDWICH in the morning with a Pret coffee (try as it may, it’s still not Starbucks).
The highlight of the evening was a trek into Covent Garden. JT and I met at the Salisbury for a pint (I am on a MAJOR Heine kick right now – I think it’s a subliminal jealously for Des-X, Rooster, and Padre, 3 of my fellow donkeys who are about to go on a rainbow tour of the continent for work) before making the 3 minute walk (in the rain – YEP – WINTER’S HERE!!!) to the planned dinner spot for the evening. Jamie’s Italian. There we met our man J-Wade, who was SOAKED TO THE BONE (nothing like dousing a new suit in 14,000 gallons of water).
Jamie’s had a wait, so we popped next door for…wait for it…wait for it – CANTINA LAREDO MEXICANA, BABY!!!!!!!! OH YEAH!!!!!!! This place was THE JAM, and best of all – IT WAS HALF PRICE MARGARITA NIGHT!!!!! Rebecca (his gal) joined us a bit late, at which point we commenced with DECIMATING buckets of chips, gallons of queso dip, jugs of fresh guac, and all the warm salsa you could get your hands on. Mom – I’ll go ahead and say it again so that it can further haunt your dreams: It was all SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies!!!!). Seriously – my carne asada covered in bacon wrapped shrimp was pretty much life changing.
It was GREAT to catch up with them, and we hung out until about 11:30, at which point we went our separate ways. That was where the mini-trauma of the night occurred, as, after a year of DUTIFUL, UNWAVERING commitment to my safety, security, and dryness, Sammy’s $5 Target umbrella CRASHED. Granted, it still “kind of” opens, but it’s better days have passed, and I fear it may never again set foot on American soil. Oh well, to quote/paraphrase the Gladiator’s of old: “Hail, Umbrella! You, who are about to die, are saluted.”
Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. First off - HAPPY BIRTHDAY, T-BONE!!!! That's right, folks - everyone's favorite half-kiwi hits the big 3-2 today. T-bone - here's to celebrating it next year with the Cowtown HALF marathon (no way I'm doin' the full, dude - I'm too old for that).
The Land's End Challenge ratcheted up further today, with Sammy logging 30 km on the bike. Tomorrow I'll do a brick (bike and run), or at least that's the plan. That being said, I will definitely need to get some sleep tonight to rest these legs.
On the literature front, Sammy crossed off Book 3 in the "The Wicked Years" by finishing "A Lion Among Men." This installment was better than "Son of a Witch," but it still wasn't anywhere close to "Wicked." Honestly, that first installment is still in the best 10 books I've ever read. Mitchiner - should you be reading this, I can give this one 2 thumbs up. This one possesses the same style as his other books - brilliantly written, deep character development, interesting connections, humbling commentary on human (or Animal) existence, and a deliciously rich plot. It was sooooo Maguire, in fact, that halfway before I was done with the book I had decided that he very well might be my favorite author (sorry Hemingway). Granted, no one can write video game style novels like Matthew Reilly (which is why he's still the most fun to read), but Maguire possesses an ability to present life in its truest, most exposed form, the result of which always has a chilling effect on me. Consequently, I have to say that, at present, he's the best in the business.
Other than that, not a whole lot to report. As I type this, Muffin Puffin is grinding out laps in the pool. As for me, it's time to jump into my dinner, which will DEFINITELY include some "chili heatwave" Doritos. And SPEAKING OF - The Hairless Wonder has just informed me that there's a new flavor of Doritos - CHEESEBURGER!!!! How can anyone say that is NOT the greatest thing EVER? HELLLLOOOOOOO HARRIS TEETER when I return - that's all I'm sayin'...
Lastly, in a nerdy bit of information - there is a new financial services product called Thomson Reuters Eikon. They've just released an ad campaign showing how their products can help pretty much everyone in the financial services industry, from portfolio managers to Fx traders to financial analysts. My favorite is Fx sales, because it was shot in Canary Wharf and shows MY EXACT WALK INTO WORK. I am a loser, I know - but it's still pretty cool. :-) Should you want to devote 30 seconds of your life to finding out how I get from the Tube to Starbucks (the office is just past that), go to Youtube and search on "Thomson Reuters Eikon Fx Sales."
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny
Monday, 27 September 2010
And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. The Land’s End Challenge ratcheted up another level today, with Sam logging 12.5 KM’s (7.8 miles) in 1:04:49. It was a great route, as it took me over both the Tower Bridge and London Bridge – what a view! Throw in an AFD for good measure, and you've got a picture of health on this fine Monday.
Okay, so tonight, I FINALLY get all caught up and back to even by presenting Budapest – the rest of the story…
Saturday: Wandering around with Anita…
So Team Taylor popped up quasi-early this day for one of the “must do’s” on our list – the Pest walking tour. These tours (Buda and Pest alternate days) are FREE with your travel card, and I am happy to confirm that they were GREAT – 2.5 hours of laughs, information, insight, and fresh air.
Prior to leaving the hotel, however, we stopped by the front desk to ask them for a recommendation for dinner. The conversation went something like this:
Sammy: “Excuse me. We want a really good, Hungarian meal tonight. Where would you recommend?”
New Dude at Counter (NDAC): “Ahhh, I don’t know. What kind of food do you want?”
Sammy: “Just hearty, traditional, Hungarian. Somewhere near here that’s not too expensive.”
NDAC: “Ahhh, I don’t know. There are lots of restaurants here.”
Sammy: “Yes – is there one you like?”
NDAC: “No.” (Full stop – he ACTUALLY SAID NO)
Sammy: “Any that the hotel recommends?”
Sammy: (DETERMINED TO GET HIM TO NAME A PLACE, EVEN IF IT’S McDONALD’S) “Can you think of a single place you’ve heard of that tourists have enjoyed eating here?”
NDAC: “I suggest you wander the big streets. There are lots of places there.”
Seriously? SERIOUSLY? VERY helpful…
We arrived the meeting point with about 20 minutes to spare, and so we visited our own personal Nirvana – COFFEE HEAVEN. There, amidst the sounds of baristas hard at work, I had a white chocolate and coconut mocha whilst JT had a Hazelnut chocolate mocha. Dare I say it – SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD. But honestly, I almost went into a sugar coma 20 minutes later.
Our guide Anita (who was a HOOT) met us outside the visitor center, and from there we had a GREAT tour, walking past important buildings, monuments, and parks all over the Pest side. Some of the highlights included the Opera House and Andrassy Avenue (the only avenue in Pest), where we learned of the many festivals taking place that weekend. It was funny – we walked past the street festival at ~10:40 and they were STILL SETTING UP. Let’s just say that folks don’t get in any big hurry in Hungary – the day starts when it starts – NOT BEFORE.
Anita dropped us at the Pest Food Hall, where Team Taylor tackled these AMAZING strudels. I went for the dill cheese curd, whilst Puffin killed an apple strudel. And since that just wasn’t enough, we then went to a GREAT little café for lunch, where we gorged on goulash, sausage, and all the dumplings and cheese you can handle.
It was then across the Libertine Bridge and into Buda, where we made the 20 minute hike (STRAIGHT UP, for the record) to the Citadel. This spot, the location for 1 of only 2 Soviet memorials still in Budapest, is the highest point in the area and yields AMAZING views of both sides of the city (as well as the Danube and Margaret Island in the middle. We spent quite a bit of time up here, sitting on the benches and enjoying the sunshine. I mean, come on – look at that view!!!!
We then walked down (which was like coming off K2 – YIKES) to street level, where we had nice views of Buda Palace (now an art museum) and the Buda side, as well as gorgeous views across the water to Parliament (from this angle, it looked SO MUCH like Britain’s Parliament). We chose that as our crossing spot, and consequently we crossed off another to-do of the city’s Top 10 – walking across the Chain Bridge. It’s a very cool walk that affords pedestrians GREAT views of the Castle district (on the Buda side), including glimpses of St. Mattias Church, resplendent with all of its Hungarian tiles on the roof, Buda Palace, and Fisherman’s Bastion.
Upon crossing the river, we wandered down by Parliament, stopping at the memorial to the 20,000 Jews who were shot and dumped in the Danube during World War II. The site is marked by 62 pairs of shoes, and it’s a very haunting piece of work.
After that, we wandered first through a arts and crafts street festival (which was less than stellar, but there was a guy WEARING OUT a guitar – Dave Matthews/Tim Reynolds style (Ditty – that was for you). We left there pretty quick, wandering over to Andrassy Avenue and into the second festival. Before tackling the festival, however, we ducked into this CUTE little side street, where we chilled at Café Pausa for the last Hungarian beer on the list – Saproni. And whilst it was okay, it was a DEFINITE confirmation that, while Hungarians can cook food with the best of them, their booze has a LOOOOOONG way to go…
The second festival, we later found out, celebrated the opening of the Opera season. This shindig was definitely cooler (I mean, not Bulls Gap Street Dance, cool, but honestly, what is? Miller – speaking of, you should see the Tazewell Street Dance – now THAT is life changing).
We saw some RANDOM stuff along this wander, including:
1. A dude sitting in a bathtub and petting women’s heads at they bent down to take photos
The highlight of that festival was this set of 6 UBER bon bon’s that JT found. Seriously – each on of these took 14 months of our life, and they were each about the size of a walnut. Inside they were filled with fruit, peanut butter, Nutella, chocolate, and all kinds of rich goodness that should be illegal except in Heaven – WOW. I could eat another 45 of them right now. We actually ate 2 that night, saving the next 4 for brekkie on Sunday (who needs Wheaties? This is how we roooooooll…).
We had to walk about 56 miles for dinner that night, but we ended up with another GREAT meal. Again, whilst the wine was less than stellar (we tried red this time), the entrees were JUST DELISH. We then rolled home, where we passed out after another PERFECT DAY.
Sunday: The Beauty of Buda - courtesy of Anita (yes, the same one)...
We popped up the same time as Saturday, finished packing, and then left our luggage with the hotel (different dude than the cat who a) didn’t order my taxi or b) couldn’t think of a SINGLE restaurant in Budapest worth eating at). We then caught the #16 bus to the Buda side and hopped off at the Castle District. There we popped in for a coffee at Café Miro, where we paid about 39,000 bucks for a coffee the size of my thumb nail. Oh well, it happens…
Anita was once again our guide, and she was GREAT. We saw the Castle District (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and the weather was good again (a few slight showers, but that ended quick). Granted, a lot of what we saw we’d walked through on Saturday. However, it was GREAT to get a little exercise, get some of the history, and see it all again.
It was actually an interesting day, as it was the ONE DAY all year that government buildings were open to the public. That meant that the President’s House, the National Archives, lots of galleries, you name it – all were FREE! Granted, we didn’t get a chance to take advantage of it (we had to catch a flight), but it was still cool to see.
After the tour (we actually ducked out early – we’re starting to make a habit of that – I BLAME YOU, ARMENA!!!), we rolled back to the Pest side, where we did a little shopping before hopping a taxi back to the airport. After that, it was an easy ride to the airport, where we caught our flight (more or less) on time and got back at a reasonable hour (for a change).
So that’s it – you now know Budapest. As I said before, you really need 4 days to do this city justice, and you could absolutely spend 5 if you wanted to do a day trip. I can confirm that Team Taylor will DEFINITELY go back, and more to the point – it now has a firm spot in the “Top 5 places in Europe you must visit before you die” list. How’s THAT for praise?
Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny
Sunday, 26 September 2010
Saturday, 25 September 2010
And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. The plan is to break tonight's blog into 2 pieces - the Friday/Saturday recap and then the Budapest recap. We'll start with all that's transpired since I last left you, at which point I was chowing down on Chili Heatwave Doritos and herb spiced cheese after Midnight (good thing I'm not a Gremlin.
So Friday was a great day, complete with the breafast of Champions: THE BIRLEY BACON & EGG BLOOMER. I gotta tell ya - the egg is now runny, the mayo flows freely, and this sandwich eating experience has become transcendental. Seriously - I had it twice this week (which equates to a week of my life gone due to artery clogging), and they were the best 2 sandwiches I've ever had there.
The Land's End Challenge ended on solid ground this week, with Taylor logging 27Km in 46:30, meaning that I covered 100Km or week 1. And whilst that is great and I am pleased, it doesn't take a mathematician to calculate that I am operating at exactly HALF of what I need to be clocking in a week to complete the challenge on time. At this rate, it will take me TEN WEEKS to complete the journey. Oh well, perhaps I'll integrate the "3 Peaks Challenge" or the "Row the Channel" challenge into the mix. After all, Rugby Union tickets are on the line here!
The evening was an absolute BLAST, as Muffin and I met up with Grimshaw, Kat, and Fiona (as well as their fellows) for drinks at De Hems Dutch cafe (which serves, oddly enough, primarily Belgian Beer). I ordered us a pair of Mardesous 8 pints, which, upon delivery from the bar keep, I realized IMMEDIATELY to be a mistake. Instead of the blond goodness that we were expecting (which, upon further review and memory, was the Mardesous SIX), we were served two pints of DARK BROWN brew that smelled EVERY BIT as caloric as they tasted. For the record, I didn't get through mine, but Muffin Puffin powered through (ANIMAL!!!!).
After a few drinks there, we rolled into Chinatown, where the gang followed me to Kum Tang (Hitman - this is the Malaysian spot beside Fung Sheng). I had been talking this place up ALL WEEK, and I was ITCHIN' for some pork belly. Well, in CLASSIC Taylor fashion, we rock up to find that it is NOW called the HONG KONG BUFFET. That's right, folks - Kum Tang was SHUT DOWN. You see what happens when Transition packs up and leaves? Honestly, I can't believe that the Cat & Canary is still functioning...SERENITY NOW!!!
Personally, I wasn't worried (although this did echo the time I tried to reserve bowling for my project team the day of and found out they were booked out), as we had Feng Sheng to fall back on next door. So we walk in (I mean, hey - after Fizzy stood up and sang Def Leppard, Wild Card put chop sticks in his mouth to act like a walrus and Hitman told the wait staff that their prawn crackers tasted like shit, I KNEW they would remember and LOVE me...) and ask for a table for 8 (keep in mind the place is PACKED). The guy nods and says, "No problem - one second." Consequently, I give the gang the thumbs up and await the host's return. He comes back 1 minute later, and here's the conversation:
Mao Tse-tung's Cousin (MTC): "I sorry, sir. Is no way."
Sammy: (bewildered) "You mean you don't have space?"
MTC: "No sir. Is no way."
Sammy: "Okay, no worries. How long is the wait?"
MTC: "Is no chance sir. All tables full."
Sammy: "Yep - got that part. HOW LONG IS THE WAIT."
MTC: "Is very long, sir."
Sammy: "BALLPARK IT."
MTC: "Is all night, sir. Is impossible."
Sammy: "The wait is ALL NIGHT?"
MTC: "Yes, sir." (waves his little red book as he dreams of the Forbidden Palace)
Despondent, I give the gang the news. However, all was not lost, as Lovely Lynda came through in the clutch and got us into a place called "London Chinatown" (yep - their advertising team was clearly AWESOME). There we proceeded to KILL food, including ducks, scallops, shrimp, beef, and chicken. The gang had a great time, and every seemed to get on well.
The quote from the night (courtesy of Fiona's fiancee Tom when speaking to me - whom he'd just met 2 hours before): "Well, the project is a mess right now because our company needs to stop recruiting and hiring bloody History majors who don't know anything and can't DO anything." Fiona starts chuckling, at which point Tom says, "Oh @#$# it, you were a History major, weren't you?" The girls then begin cackling uncontrollably, but Tom and I carry on as boys do. T-Rowe, it was akin to the famous "At Last" comment...PRICELESS. And the photo isn't great, but when your camera's viewfinder no longer works, what can you really expect?
We then popped over to the Imperial for a nightcap, where we chatted until about 11:30 or so before each couple headed out. We got home about midnight, at which point Team Taylor PASSED OUT.
We slept over THIRTEEN HOURS last night, finally getting out of bed about 1:30 or so. We had some coffee, ate some British raspberries the size of our heads, and then Sammy went to buzz his head. After that, it was over to Oxford Street, where Sammy did THE UNTHINKABLE - I SHOPPED AT GAP!!!!! Back story here - Sammy is OUT of jeans. He's down to 1 pair, and there's a ventilation hole ripped in the side of it where he tried to run up a down escalator in Vegas and fell FACE FIRST (CLASSIC feat of coordination there). Knowing that it's getting colder and that he can't go into a single "respectible" establishment without a proper pair of trousers, he agreed to make the march to Oxford Street.
Honestly, I am used to buying Wrangler's, where you just pick your size and go. However, at Gap, there 14,963 different TYPES of jeans (skinny, authentic, boot, skinny boot, original, slim, authentic skinny, loose, easy, etc. - really? REALLY?), and you have to look through all of them to find a pair that:
1. Is NOT button fly
2. Will not crush your giggleberries
3. Actually has legs wide enough so that men can get into them (vs. transvestites - lady boys would LOVE this place)
4. Doesn't already have rips in them (destructed is the style...riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight)
5. Is something you could wear back at home without getting your ass kicked
Luckily, after a lot of tries, we found 2 pairs. And now, Sammy is a new man. :-)
Dinner was La Tasca, where JT and I CRUSHED our meals. It was SUPER GOOD, and, as always, Perfect Pumpkin came through in the clutch with a coupon, thereby saving us TONS o' cash.
We're now back at the flat, where Team Taylor is getting ready to Skype with Team Tacy before PASSING OUT and calling it a night. After all - tomorrow's a BIG day out. To find out why, however, you'll have to stay tuned.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny
Thursday, 23 September 2010
The show had us in stitches the entire time (even when it started to rain during the first act - let's hope I don't get sick again), and one of the neatest moments was when, near the end, you could actually hear the bells from St. Paul's Cathedral across the river chiming 10 PM.
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
And a good evening to you from cross the pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Okay, so first off, announcement (and don't worry - we're not going back on vacation) - the Budapest highlights will be in the Saturday night blog. Why, you ask? Because this has been a CRAZY week, and we've had so much going on that I would be remiss if I didn't tackle some of it now!
Monday: Meet the Wild Wallaby and the Pool Shark!!!!!!
So Monday was GREAT. For starters, we'd arrived back in London at a decent hour, which meant that we actually got some sleep and had a chance to get some rest before the start of the week (novel concept, I know...). The work day was good as well, as Sammy entered a new phase into his physical conditioning (that's right - my body is a temple...a Buddhist temple) - the Land's End Challenge. And for the record, I'm pretty sure I'm gonna regret signing up.
Our gym is currently holding a couple of endurance challenges, all if which are to be completed on equipment in the gym or outside along approved trails. There are myriad options - 3 Peaks challenge (you walk on the treadmill on an incline), cycle to Brighton (on the stationary), row across the channel (on the Concept-2), etc. Sammy, however, has chosen to tackle the big dog - the Land's End Challenge. And what, praytell, is the Land's End Challenge. I have FIVE WEEKS to cover 970 kilometers on the bike or running. Granted, I will admit - it's practically impossible. However, a pair of rugby tickets are on the line, and I want to see how much ground I can cover. I ended up logging 27 km on Monday in 46 minutes. It felt good, and I felt good in the knowledge that I only had 943 "clicks" to go...
The evening was a true highlight, as the Taylor clan had special visitors from the Lonestar state (deep in the heaaaaaaaaaaaaaart of Texas) - Henry and Jenny Robinson!!!! Also known as the Pool Shark and the Wild Wallaby (because, well, she's a kiwi and he's never shot a game of pool in his life - unless you're playing for money), these folks are T-bone's parents. We had a BLAST!
The arrived about 6 PM, and we chatted for a bit before nipping to the Marylebone for a pint (I needed my Sagres) and then to - where else - THE DOOT, BABY!!!! Their youngest (Kyle) had just married an Indian gal, so we knew they would love it! Consequently, we ordered up a ton of food and crushed plate after plate.
The visit was quick, but MAN did we have a blast. We sacked out about midnight or so, which is why there was no blog on Monday night (see Fizzy and Hairless - I TOLD YOU I had a good reason).
Tuesday: A quiet night in...
Tuesday was quiet and uneventful, but no complaints here. Actually, in truth, I have PLENTY OF COMPLAINTS about Tuesday. The day started great - we got to chat with Henry and Jenny for an hour before they left for the airport (Tommy Lee Jones was on their flight, btw). It continued great, as I got my Starbucks coffee and prepared for a day of working at home. Only then did my PC decide to tell me that it didn't like the idea of working from home that day. Consequently, after 30 VERY frustrating minutes, I packed it in and rolled to the office.
The good news was that I managed to log a 10K in 48:07!!! That's about 7:45 a mile!!! It was a perfect day, and it felt GREAT. All in all, I was thrilled. Plus, the quiet night in allowed for a) a salad for din din, b) an AFD, and c) a chance to wrap Croatia AND do some more vacation planning (Big Cat - look surprised).
All the same, we still didn't hit the sack until about midnight, at which point I laid awake for 2 hours. There is good news in my sleep of late, however. Normally, I get up every hour on the hour to pee (yep - you're welcome for that). Lately, however, I've been sleeping like the dead, barely waking up. The good news is that I feel rested. The bad news is that I have had some FREAKY dreams lately, and I've actually woken myself up 3 times in the month of September calling out (only once did it approach scream status, and it should be noted that Jenny has slept through 2 of these incidents. I really hope the kids take after her...). Clearly French benefits harmonization is taking a heavier toll than I realize...
Wednesday: Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea!!!!
So the Land's End Challenge entered day 3 today fueled by a Birley bacon and egg bloomer (Hitman - no cheese for me - I have decided that it is no longer a necessary part of breakfast). I logged 31km, and I FINALLY finished the Millennium Trilogy. And whilst I don't think that it's the best trilogy I've ever read, I really did enjoy them and would recommend them. That being said, it is REALLY twisted in places, so don't wander into it if you're looking for "light summer reading."
The evening yielded a VERY unexpected surprise - TICKETS TO A CHELSEA MATCH!!!! So if you go back to last night's blog, you'll remember a reference to a fella named Mark from Tampa that we met during our day trip to Vis. Well, as fate would have it, he is currently in London doing some work, and he asked if we wanted to go to a Chelsea match (Carling Cup, 3rd round). For the record, he had expressed a desire to catch the Sunday premiership match, but I told him he didn't have a chance. However, the boy scored a ticket for FACE VALUE!!!! So when he said we could get tickets for tonight's game, I abandoned all preconceived notions and took the District Line to Fulham Broadway, site of Stamford Bridge and Chelsea FC.
Granted, we did have to haggle, but the tickets that started at 50 quid ended up at 25 with just 10 minutes until kickoff. The scalper approach in the UK is CLASSIC. Basically you get the following phrases thrown at you by ALL of them:
1. "This ain't a charity, mate."
2. "I got kids to feed, too, yeah?"
3. "Do you think I like bein' out here and sellin' these for a fiver?"
4. "You won't be able to find 3 seats together in that place for all the money in the world. If you do find it, let me know. I'll get you a medal." (For the record, we actually got the three together for 5 above face literally TEN MINUTES after seeing that guy. As we walked back past him, he asked, "Did you get 'em?" When we said yes and gave him the price, he couldn't stop chuckling).
So bottom line, the unthinkable had just happened - WE HAD TICKETS TO STAMFORD BRIDGE!!!! Granted, the haggling did mean that we missed the first 13 minutes of the match (and Chelsea's first goal). You see, due to football being a sport of "thugs and hooligans," you have to enter the stadium one at a time through a metal gate that is, well, like entering San Quinten. Seriously - it was MASS HUMANITY trying to get in, and you have to proceed ONE AT A TIME. All the same, once we got in, it was AWESOME!!!!!
Truth be told, Jenny and I didn't even have "see a Chelsea match" on our to-do list prior to going home, as we'd always heard that tickets were impossible to score. Consequently, not only was this a surprise, it was a REAL TREAT. We saw SIX GOALS, experienced the GREAT atmosphere of 41,000+ Blues fans singing and chanting in unison, and got a chance to sit in one of the temples of football. Granted, the Blues did lose 4-3 in a shocker to Newcastle United, but we got to see John Terry on the pitch, which is something that I will ALWAYS remember.
After that we caught a pint at Brogan's Irish Pub before bonding with 47 BILLION of our closest fans and hopping the tube. There we said goodbye to Mark and then walked home, where I'm now blogging at 12:15 AM and eating cheese filled with herbs (SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUD - peppy cheekies).
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Land's End Day 4 tomorrow - lookout treadmill! Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. So first off - apologies (especially to Fizzy and the Hairless Wonder) for no blog last night. I will just say that it was a very fun night and I didn't want to miss a second of it by blogging. Fret not, however, as I will catch you up on the events of the week. For tonight, however, I will assume the task that I have put off for far too long - WRAPPING CROATIA. And so, once more to the breach, dear friends!
Saturday - VIS: THE BEST day of the trip
So Team Taylor popped up at 8 again and made our way down to the Old Town Harbor. I must confess that I was a little worried that the day trip was not going. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find our boy chillin' down by the dock beside our boat! Consequently, we hopped aboard the SS Minnow (actually, it was a decent sized boat) and headed out for our 8th destination in 8 days - VIS.
The ride out to Vis was 1 hour and 45 minutes, but we had a stopover en route - the Green Cave. Yazz had told us about this place and said that we should DEFINITELY NOT miss it, and she was NOT wrong. We had 20 minutes in the cave, but there was only one way it - OPEN WATER, BABY.
Please keep 2 things in mind. 1. The water is NOT warm. 2. My wife is from Florida. I'll let you sum up that equation, but suffice it to say that the captain's announcement that "you have 20 minutes to swim" did NOT make her jump for joy. However, knowing that this was a once in a lifetime experience and that she would regret it if she didn't jump, my Perfect Pumpkin counted down from 3, squealed, and jumped into that water like the Navy SEAL I know she was in a previous life. I mean, come on - check out perfect pumpkin in the water!
The caves were REALLY cool. The current was strong, but the water was reasonably warm. I actually dove into the water, which looks dangerous because it's crystal clear but actually is no risk because the waters about 30 feet deep (you can really see STRAIGHT DONW).
We puttered around for 20 minutes, swimming inside the cave (which did have green tints due to the way the light hit the water and the algae in the cave). And whilst this was fun, it was NOTHING compared to the Blue Cave. In a word - WOW.
After we left the green cave, we puttered along to another island off the coast of Vis - home of the Blue Cave. When we rocked up, we noticed all these TINY boats that looked as though they'd helped at Dunkirk. I remember thinking to myself, "Why on earth are those boats so battered?" I also had the thought, "Is that driver over 90? Me thinks YES." And THAT, folks, was the start of a GREAT adventure.
So here's the deal with the Blue Cave - there is a hole in the side of the island below the water (15 meters down) that lets in sunlight. Because of the water content, it only reflects blue. Since you truly are in darkness except for the underwater light, it is CRAZY awesome. But if you think THAT is cool, you should try getting INTO the cave.
The entrance to the cave is TINY - we are talking probably 3 feet high. And even better, there are waves CRASHING against the opening, and at regular intervals the cave disappears. In case you're still in suspense, I'll tell you - the only way you get in is by LAYING DOWN IN THE BOAT WHILST THE OLD MAN IN THE SEA DRIVES THE DINGHY LIKE A BATTERING RAM THROUGH THE HOLE. And the craziest part? HE MISSED THE FIRST TIME.
That's right - WHAM! Our boat gets ROCKED against the cliff. However, Old Man River does NOT slow down. Instead, he doubles the throttle and sends us rocketing through the hole with only the words "HEAD DOWN!" as a warning that we are about a millisecond from being chum. It was AWESOME. And the reward was a view that NO picture can do justice.
And dad - on the ride back to the boat I pulled off one of my best coups EVER - I think you would be so proud. As we got back onto the dock, I noticed that they had a final load of passengers (just a few). I grabbed Jenny and walked back over to the boat and asked the guy if we could go again. He looks at me, then the boat, then says something in Croatia to Moses' grandfather (aka the skipper) before waving me on. Consequently, we got to go a second time for FREE!!! WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!!!!
After that, it was back on the boat for an AMAZING lunch of all the Tuna you could eat. And let me tell you - A THIRD OF THE OCEAN DIED TO FEED ME THAT DAY. It was SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies). And best of all, we had a GREAT lunch crew to sit with (well, except for this Canadian dude who announced to us that British Beer sucks and is like water compared to Canadian brew. Really? REALLY? Muise - you simply HAVE to learn to better control your people). We met Lloyd and Karina, two Kiwis living at Oxford, where she was getting her Ph.D. and he was a FELLOW. His best line of the day, "Well, I figured that, if I was working at Oxford, I might as well get a Master's whilst there." Oh YEAH!!! Cause who doesn't do that? Hell, I picked up 16 or 17 of 'em the last time I passed through...
Also, we met Mark and Jess from TAMPA, FLORIDA. That's right - HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY REPRESENT! We had a GREAT time hanging with them, so much so that we exchanged numbers and also shared the table on the long cruise back to Hvar.
The last stop of the day was the island of Vis itself, which was off limits to foreigners until 1970. The beach there was BEAUTIFUL, and so we did some swimming, got some sun, had a brew, and then had some GREAT gelatto before departure. It was GREAT.
Dinner that night was at a place called Bonaca, where JT and I tried the specialty dish - SHARK GRILLED AND MARINATED IN VEGETABLES AND SPICES. SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD!!!!!!!! Seriously - one would have been enough, but OH, NO - not for Team Taylor. We rolled BIG TIME and each got one, which we DECIMATED. But MAN, were we stuffed when we finished. All the same, we had a rooftop view on a lovely night, so we had NO complaints.
Sunday - FINALLY: staying in once place
Sunday was GREAT. Simply put, we wanted to do NOTHING except enjoy the beaches and bars of Hvar. We started the day with coffee at the Red Baron Cafe, where we picked the ONE SEAT that was REIGNING DOWN seeds from the coconut trees. It was hilarious, and luckily the one time it reigned down a carpet bombing of seeds was the one time JT got up for the loo, so we're lucky we didn't end up in the ER. After that it was wandering around, getting some food, doing some shopping, exploring the old town, and just relaxing until about 3 or so, when we rolled into one of the "must see" desintations: The Hula Hula Beach Bar.
This place was AWESOME. Seated right on the water, you had an AMAZING view of the bay and the islands. There was a DJ mixing techno, and so we just sat down, ordered a few brewskis, sat in the shade (check out muffin puffin in her stylish new Croatian hat), and watched the world go by. The place was trendy and funky, so we had a blast (cause, well, we're SO trendy and funky - especially with our ripped bodies clad in only bathing suits).
After that, we got a farewell swim in (and made a sandwich) on the water before heading over to Falko, the last bar at the edge of town and the water. This place was GREAT - hammocks to lie in, an unobstructed view of the sunset (I mean check out that shot), and free shots from the guy who ran the place (granted, he ROOKED US later, but hey - it's the cost of doin' business, right?).
Best of all, our new found Floridian friends Mark and Jess came out to meet us, so we spent a solid 2-3 hours just chillin' at Falko before a) getting ripped off and then b) wandering back into Hvar town for dinner. The winner for the final meal was the same as the opening meal - Alga. This time we got the PRIME SEAT overlooking the harbor, where we stared at all the REDONKULOUS yachts moored in the harbor. Seriously, T-bone - remember when we saw Greg Norman's yacht in Auckland? Yeah, picture a sea of those puppies lined up. All I can say is that I'm in the WRONG business, cause some of those fools are makin' BANK.
We had a great final meal, said goodbye to our compatriots, and then hit the head, another PERFECT day in the books.
Monday: Diocletian liked it, I know - but I was NOT impressed...
On Monday we got up around 9 and went to check out of the hotel. This was classic for a few reasons:
1. I'd left the print out of what we owed so we had NO IDEA what the room rate was.
2. When we tried to check out, she quoted us in kuna (local currency) even though we brought euros to pay (as instructed).
3. We then had to find a currency calculator to work out what we owed in euros and then make the exchange using a) her ten words in English and b) our 1 word in Croatian (hvala - "Thank you").
4. (The not funny part) I found the print out as soon as we got home and discovered that we'd overpaid by 20 euros (~$28). Oh well, the view was AMAZING, the location was perfect, and I have no complaints. It was worth that and then some.
We then rolled down to the harbor, where we sat down at the Hvar Yacht Club and camped out for the next THREE AND A HALF HOURS. You see, I will confess that I have a weakness - I am IN LOVE with outdoor furniture (OSC - if Lisa wants to sell some of your "outside" chairs, just give me a holler), and so I LOVED all the funky bars in Croatia with their neat and stylish outdoor seats and cushions. As I had been eyeing this joint since our arrival in Hvar, I decided that, for at least a brief moment, I wanted to sit there and look cool (at least in my own mind). Consequently, we rocked that seat for 3.5 hours, drinking coffee first and then moving onto lunch.
I mean, how cute is muffin puffin?
After that, we caught the 1:45 PM ferry to Split, where we arrived to a port that was LASHING IT DOWN with rain. I mean, this was MONSOON STYLE. Consequently, we didn't see much of Split. That being said, we weren't very impressed with it, so I'm really glad we didn't spend much time there. We could tell it was a great jumping off point, and it's even on the UNESCO World Heritage List (Diocletian's summer palace was there), but it just felt like such a one-day tourist port for folks on cruises. Granted, that didn't stop me from trying on some cheap jeans (because ALL of my jeans have holes in them now). However, I regret to report that, in Europe at least, THE BUTTON FLY IS ALIVE AND WELL. SERIOUSLY? Didn't that @#$# vanish in like, the 3rd grade? SERENITY NOW!!!!!
We caught the shuttle to the airport and arrived at Split "international" at 6:05 PM, 3 hours before our planned flight home. Why, you ask? Because the shuttle to the airport STOPS RUNNING AT 6, even though there are flights until 10. Grrrrrrrrrrreat...
Anyhoo, we rock up and realize that this airport is, without a doubt, THE SMALLEST ON EARTH. Seriously - this place makes Tri-Cities Regional (YES, MATT - that serves Tazewell) look like Dubai International. Why? Because it had EIGHT GATES. That's right - EIGHT. The only restaurant was in front of security, and the sandwich I got was 2 slices of 14 year old bread and a thin slice of salted ham (Puma - can you say salt sandwich on steroids? Yeah, it was kinda like that). Consequently, I was quite happy when the flight took off, ESPECIALLY considering that it was AN HOUR DELAYED.
We knew that vacation was over when the captain said, "From the flight deck, good evening. It's a lovely day here in Croatia, and I sure wish that I could tell you the same about London. However, it's absolutely CHUCKING it down right now. Visibility is nil, it's super windy, and we'll be further delayed because of a massive head wind. Thanks for choosing Easyjet." AWESOME.
Sure enough, we landed 90 minutes late. Sure enough, it was POURING. And sure enough, we were at the ONE GATE where they can't dock you directly to the jetway, meaning that you have to RUN LIKE HELL WITH ALL OF YOUR LUGGAGE across the tarmac. Customs was easy, but we were SCRAMBLING to catch the last train home at 12:30. Had we missed it, we would have had (at least) a 100 quid cab ride home (LESS than a stellar way to end a vacation).
Luckily, we did catch the last train, and we finally made it home at 2 AM. It set us up to be EXHAUSTED all week (which I know sounds like it defeats the whole purpose of vacation), but our batteries were ABSOLUTELY recharged mentally, and that was the most important thing.
And so, there you have it - THE BEST one week trip the Taylors have ever taken. If any of you out there are thinking about Croatia, MOVE IT UP YOUR LIST. It WILL NOT disappoint.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country! Okay, so first off - ANNOUNCEMENT - There will be NO BLOG until Monday evening, and even then it WILL NOT be about Croatia (I know, I know...WEAK). Why, you ask? Because tomorrow evening the Taylors are leavin' on a jet plane to...wait for it...wait for it...Budapest, Hungary, baby!!!! Oh yeah! Bring on the Goulash and kings that used to hunt and kill Dracula!
Secondly, apologies for no blog last night. However, that plays into the title of tonight's blog. You see, just like the did during the good ole' Transition era, the Americans are back in town. Granted, there are folks from Singapore, India, and the UK in the mix as well, but the last 2 days have felt VERY MUCH like an Integration session with Transition. Now granted, I've still made it to the gym every day this week (and 8 days in a row, for the record!), logging 27km in 45 minutes on Tuesday and logging 4 miles outside today (in perhaps the STRONGEST HEADWIND I'VE EVER RUN AGAINST). However, no among of gym time can make up for a typical Transition descent onto London restaurants. Consequently, I feel fat as a damn bear...
Tuesday night we had dinner reservations at a swish joint in Canary Wharf (despite the fact that its location is above the 6th floor of a Waitrose - that's a big UK grocery store chain) called Plateau. This place was posh puma, featuring a private elevator to the restaurant and a private room for our shindig (one wall was their wine rack, and it was UBER IMPRESSIVE). There were 14 of us, and so we tucked into some GUUUUUUUUUUUUD grub (and wine for that matter). I went with a goat's cheese and pesto tomato salad, followed by a parsley and barley mushroom risotto (it was an odd shade of green, but I made peace with that), and then coconut creme brulee for dessert (I even went with a decaf coffee to cap the evening). It was all SO DELISH.
We then ended the evening at...well, do I really need to say it? THE CANARY, BABY!!!! There a group of 6 (Wild Card, the Welshman, Oxford, SC, OSC, and Sammy) had a night cap and chatted the evening away until almost 11. Finally, I announced that it was 45 minutes home and that I had a wife (patiently) waiting for me. It's a sign that I'm getting old, as back during Transition days I would have stayed out until later. However, this time I just needed my sleep.
Today was FILLED with food, including SQUARE PIE FOR LUNCH - steak and cheese of course! Dinner was LATE, but after a quick pint at the Canary (Lord - I opted for a Guinness - I thought you'd be proud), we rolled over to Srinam, where the love of Hitman's life showed us to our table (but then snubbed us because he wasn't there to whisper sweet nothings into his...or her ear). Dude - shim says hello...and call shim. We ate a TON, and finally had to pack it in about 10:30, as I had to get home and post a blog for the faithful!
So now it's 11:40, and this guy's gotta hit the bed because, well, he still hasn't packed and has to do that tomorrow. Vacation is here - again...
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat on Monday!
Sam and Jenny