Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Introducing.....T-BONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Sammy the Bull woke up feelin’ finer than frog hair. Honestly, it’s AMAZING what a good night’s sleep will do. My armpits even feel better (yes, you’re welcome for that).

However, in a shocking turn of events, the Land’s End Challenge DID NOT move forward today. That’s right – Sammy slept in this morning and did NOT get a workout in before work. However, after the 10K yesterday and the fact that my body is still craving another 10 hours of sleep, I don’t think it’s the end of the world. Tomorrow, however, is non-negotiable!

And on that note, the Hairless Wonder pinged me today and called BS on my weight. T-rowe, I will now file you in the same group as Dinger and the Big Cat – the group that hates the fact “I can’t hide sexy.”

The biggest news of the day? THE ARRIVAL OF T-BONE!!!!! That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, after becoming Follower NUMBER 1 of “The Adventures of Mr. & Mrs. Assignee 47,” T-bone has “stepped through the pages,” become a character himself. And so, I present to you – Tait Robinson!
Our first stop was, well, what anyone’s first stop should be in the UK – a pub! Consequently, we rolled over to the Marylebone, where we had a few pints of Sagres (Tait opted for a Guinness on the second round) before making the wander to Great Portland Street. Once there, we hit up the Green Man, where some Heineken, burgers, and Bangers & Mash set us up RIGHT for a good start to his visit. Given that we were all EXHAUSTED, we came home soon after, and it’s now time to sack out. Fret not, however, the adventures have just begun!

BTW – HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KNOCKOUT!!!!! I’ll drink a Molson tonight in your honor.

Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny (and T-bone)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

BEWARE, DINGER!!!!!!!!! Taylor's almost back down to playin' weight...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Man, is this week flying. Muffin Puffin's grinding out laps as I type this, and it will be a quick one tonight, as I'm feeling quite run down. I didn't sleep great last night, and I was so tired today that I almost didn't work out. Now that I have, worked out, however, I'm even MORE exhausted.

The Land's End challenge got a boost from a (slow) 10K today - 55 minutes. I just didn't have a lot of thrust. But hey, it's still under 9 minutes a mile, so I can't complain too much. Tomorrow's back to the bike, even though I should be taking it easy since I'm planning a jog with T-bone in Regent's Park this weekend.

The big news, however, goes to Dinger and the Big Cat - I'm back under 170, baby!!!!! Taylor weighed in at 168 today, the lowest since October of last year. Now granted, the next month is probably going to torpedo my chances of staying there, but at least I can say I made it down! Cown Town HALF, here we come, baby...

In medical news, my ear and foot have finally healed. The armpits, however, continue to prove an oddity. I think it's how I'm sitting at work, because it sure as hell isn't from lifting weights. I'm giving it until the end of this week (it had subsided) and then going to bond with my boys at NHS. Mum - it looks like we'll both have that on our resume of "life's adventures" by the time this year is out. However, most things I've read suggest it's nothing and that I need to "gut divorce it" as dad would say. For now, I think I just need some sleep and a night without curry. As I type this, I can't help but think: "Wow, I bet none of these folks ever thought they'd learn so much about my pits when they signed on to be followers." Good times...

Other than that, not a whole lot else to report, other than the fact that T-BONE ARRIVES IN 15 HOURS!!!! Dude - I can't WAIT. It's gonna be awesome. Safe travels!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Monday, 25 October 2010

FINALLY!!!! Dinner at Ishbilia....and with KNOCKOUT, no less!!!!

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. It's cold but still dry, and so this country boy can't complain too much. Actually, I can complain, because buying a scarf in this damn town is a FORTUNE! Seriously, I will agree that it's my fault for losing my other scarf in a karaoke bar in Copenhagen, but still - 40 quid for a scarf and having only 100% cashmere as a choice? COME ON!!!!

So the Land's End challenge officially crossed the halfway mark today, with Sammy the Bull logging 27KM in 45 minutes. It felt good, and so we'll see how a nice run goes tomorrow. I might try and tackle the great outdoors, but that's TBD based on how cold it is. Since right now it feels like walking around the Falklands in July, I'm NOT terribly hopeful.

The highlight of the evening was (FINALLY) a visit to a place I've wanted to try FOREVER - a Lebanese joint called Ishbilia. A little back story here - I tried to go to this place twice in 2007, but both times I was shot down on the basis that "they were too busy" (translation - "you are not welcome here on a Thursday, white boy - go eat with your own kind"). We actually did get a table in August this year (with Stacey, Tripp, and K-Wall), but I was busy dealing with a "personal matter" in Charlotte, and so I had to cancel. This evening, however, I was DETERMINED to make it happen. Consequently, I booked a table in advance and showed up 5 minutes ahead of schedule.

Dinner that night was with the greatest Canadian timekeeping specialist out there - KNOCKOUT!!!!! It had been FOREVER since we'd seen her, and so it was SO GREAT to catch up. Unfortunately, Istvan (her husband) didn't make it, but Istvan, fret not - we did 44 shots of palinke each in your honor. My insides will NEVER be the same...

We had a GREAT meal, churning through all kinds of mezzes (hummous, shwarma - Yazz style, halloumi, falafel, you get the picture...) and splitting a GREAT bottle of house red (from France, so it was quality). It was a PERFECT night, and it just FLEW by.

We then headed to the Tube together, at which point we learned that the Piccadilly Line was suspended due to a "passenger action." They then explained further: "There is currently someone UNDER THE TRAIN at Green Park who's been there FOR 2 HOURS." Sure enough, this was the SAME DELAY that had slowed Muffin's journey to dinner. Owain - I am betting you that within the week we have another call for a strike because "the stressed drivers and their miserable working conditions." SERENITY NOW!!!!!!

All the same, after 2 changes we made it back to the flat, where it's now time to PASS OUT. Only 36 hours until Cracker Tsunami washes over Britain - I CAN'T WAIT!!!!! And, um, if you have NO IDEA what I'm talking about, fret not - you will. :-)

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 24 October 2010

If you absolutely MUST say goodbye to great friends, THIS is how you want to do it...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after, well, a PERFECT DAY in the Mother Country. I write to you tonight with some sadness, as this evening we officially said goodbye to two of our best friends without knowing when we'll see them again. However, as I said in the title - if you have to part ways, you want to do it on a high note, and I think I speak for "all the girls" when I say this weekend happened EXACTLY as we'd have wanted.


As you saw from the earlier posts, the weekend had already been AMAZING coming into today. More to the point, as I'd told Jenny about 2 weeks ago, we've seen and experienced so much at this point that my heart is already full, meaning that anything beyond this point was just gravy on the experience of a lifetime. Well, today we got a LOT more gravy, and it was just fabulous.


We woke up at 9, and we were out the door ~10:30. The destination was the Prince Regent for a Full English (or Veggie English for Cath and Alison), but en route Cath said, "I think there's a farmer's market around here on Sunday." Sure enough, 2 minutes later we're wandering around this GREAT little farmer's market (I mean, it's not like we LIVE HERE or anything - HOW DID WE MISS THIS?) , complete with fresh seafood, sumptous cheese, and lots of fresh goodies. It was EXTRA AWESOME.

And then, as it we hadn't had enough pleasant surprises this weekend, we found out that LA FROMAGERIE (yes, the cheese shop) is NOW OPEN ON SUNDAYS!!!! Consequently, Team Taylor wandered into "The Cheese Room," which is almost as exciting as entering the "29 degree beer cave" in Tazewell (Miller - that was for you, and P.S. - the Yankees suck). This place was GREAT - picture being in a vaccuum tube filled with about 15,000 cheeses and tons of French dudes who know EVERYTHING about where the cheese is from and how it's made. Throw in a little 3 year old yelling "Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!" and bouncing around like a Jack Russell Terrier (AC - that was for Luke - just had to leave out the expletive), and you have a guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud start to the day. 2 cheeses heavier and 8 quid lighter, we were out the door and (Finally) on the road to brekkie.


The Full English was better than recent memory, even if the price was now up 50p (inflation's a KILLER). We left there STUFFED but full of energy, and we then rolled out to the Regent's Park Tube Stop to kick off an ACTION PACKED day in London.

Our first stop on the whirlwind tour of the Southbank was Lambeth Palace, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury (head of St. Paul’s and the Catholic Church in Britain) since 1207. As fate would have it, it’s about THIRTY SECONDS across the Lambeth bridge from where Puffin and I used to live. At the time we boarded the Tube, however, we DID NOT know that, but rather thought that this palace was down near ELEPHANT AND CASTLE.

At some point along the ride, I leaned in and told the girls, “I think that we should get off at Lambeth North instead.” Cath, however, dismissed this notion, saying, “I really want to see the Elephant and the council housing down there.” Granted, I’d been there twice before and didn’t remember a) ANY KIND OF ELEPHANT or b) any council blocks, but as I probably wasn’t looking for either, I just assumed we would still be close to the palace. FIRST MISTAKE.

We popped up topside to find NOTHING of any familiarity to us – no markers, no signs, and certainly no elephant. And despite Cath’s best efforts (meaning trying to speak with a catatonic bus driver and a family training for the Tour de France), NO ONE knew where Lambeth Palace was. But it was at this point that Jenny did see a map and said, “There’s a Lambeth Palace Road about 2 miles from here – think that’s it?” Perfect Pumpkin delivers again!

FORTY-FIVE MINUTES AND 2 MILES LATER, Sam and his angels are standing on the Southbank, looking over at Parliament and pulling up beside Lambth Palace. True, we couldn’t go in, but you could tell that building was OLD, and it was actually really cool. It wasn’t NEARLY as cool, however, as the building beside it, which was stop #2 in the tour – THE GARDEN MUSEUM OF BRITAIN. SECOND MISTAKE.

Okay, so some back story here – Lady Catherine has an amazing talent for finding THE MOST obscure museums. Case in point – the Pencil Museum in Keswick (home of the world’s largest pencil – let’s keep comments to a minimum, shall we) and the Slate Museum near Snowden. Well, the Garden Museum (which billed itself as free) definitely fit into that category, what with all the descriptions of “boxed hedges, garden utensils, and the history of modern gardening architecture.” Honestly, I would rather have drunk 10 gallons of Thames water than go into this place, but since the remains of Captain Blithe were in there AND it was free, I figured – why not.

BUT OH NO! Due to popular demand and the upkeep/maintenance required, this year the museum officially started charging SIX QUID to come in. We just couldn’t go do it – I mean, a guy’s gotta have limits, both to his wallet and to what his manhood can bear.

However, getting shut out of the museum did mean that we had time for a GREAT walk along the Southbank, which was full of great people watching, fresh air, and sunshine. The weather, whilst cold, was simply PERFECT, and we had an absolute BLAST as we looked at Parliament, the Eye, St. Paul’s, and a host of other buildings along the walk.

The destination was the Tate Modern, where we had free tickets to an exhibit of Gauguin (courtesy of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, thank you very much). Seriously – tickets would have been 15 quid AND with timed entry had we not been associates. WINNER WINNER CHICKN DINNER!!!

Prior to entering the exhibition, however, we HAD to make a stop in the turbine hall to see the latest work by Muffin’s favorite Chinese Social Activist artist – Wee Wu Wu. Okay, seriously – I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time. VA! Man, I wish you’d been there…

So back story – a while back, Jenny saw this exhibit advertised at the Tate, but she thought it was the one I was referring to when I said that the bank was sponsoring an exhibit. The conversation went something like this:

Jenny: “I saw the exhibit we need to see. It’s by some Chinese dude.”

Sammy: “No, Gauguin wasn’t Chinese. That’s different.”
Jenny: “No, it’s him. Wee Wu Wu. Or maybe Wu Wee Wee.”

Sammy: “Sweetheart, that’s definitely NOT anything I’ve ever head of. There is no Chinese dude with an art exhibit at the Tate.”

Jenny: “Yes, there is! Wee Wu Wu has an exhibit there.”

Sammy: “I love you, and you are the hottest thing in Creation. But you are out of your damn mind.”

But only then does VA send us a link on Facebook that says, “Possible Double No (long story) substitute?” And sure enough, what’s on the link? WU WEE WEE!!!!!

Actually, his real name is Ai Wei Wei, and his exhibit was UTTER DONKEY TRASH. What was it, you ask? 100 MILLION HANDMADE SUNFLOWER SEEDS SCATTERED ON THE FLOOR. Seriously – that’s it. And what was worse, due to “dust,” you couldn’t even walk on it (which is too bad, because I wanted to jump up and down on it and crush it in defiance). I mean, really? REALLY?

The Gauguin exhibit was really good, even if that cat was a weird dude. I mean, some of his art was great, but the fact that he created a wood carving for his house that said “Welcome to the House of Orgasm” and spent most of his time making pictures of nude Tahitian women tells me that he probably had a few screws loose. All the same, full marks to the curator for the best laid out (and most expansive) exhibit we’ve been to over here.

After that, we crossed the Millennium Bridge and popped into St. Paul’s, where an organ concert was just starting! Muffin called it on the walk in, as she’d done the same thing with her folks when they were over. It was very cool and VERY loud. Wow – I’m glad we weren’t under the dome – my ears would STILL be hurting.

After that, we completed the last “to do” on the tour – getting Cath a flavored coffee. We popped into Costa and warmed our cold cockles with lattes before setting out on the walk home. We were treated to a final surprise, however, as (FINALLY) St. Bride’s was OPEN! We went in during the Evensong, where we heard “The Wilderness,” one of 2 famous pieces by Samuel Wesley (grandson of Charles Wesley, John’s brother). You would not have BELIEVED the voices in this choir – STUNNING. Nor would you have believed the congregation, as there were only about 10 people not singing in the ENTIRE church. Seriously – it was shocking to see a choir of this talent in a church of that grandeur with virtually no one experiencing the music. For our part, it was just AMAZING, and I really wish we could have stayed longer. However, there were trains to catch, and so we had to make the 45 minute walk home.

We got the girls packed up and then rolled over to Euston, where we said a (just slightly!) tearful goodbye to the girls before sending them on their way. We consoled ourselves with lamb burgers at The Albany, a pub right by the house. It was the perfect ending to a PERFECT weekend, and I can definitely say that our hearts are full. For Jenny and I, saying by at the station was a realization that this was just the first of many goodbyes we’ll have over the next 6 to 7 weeks, none of which will be easy. However, we rest confident in the knowledge that a) we’ll see everyone again and b) no matter what happens, we’ve had this amazing experience, during which time we’ve been able to see and deepen friendships with so many wonderful people.

Girls – we don’t know when (or where!) we’ll see you again, but we WILL see you soon. Thanks for a PERFECT weekend and for being the wonderful people you are. We miss you already.

Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny (and Cath and Alison)

From her fearful symmetry to our stunning view - a GREAT day of new spots in the Smoke...

Family,

And a good Sunday morning to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Talk about making it count yesterday! Sam and "his angels" hit some GREAT new places, including a to-do that has (inadvertently) fallen off our list!

We got up around 9, and we were out the door just before 11. The day was cold, but there were blue skies above us, punctuated by some of the biggest cumulo-nimbus towers I've ever seen in the UK (that's right - I just used the word "cumulo-nimbus" - sophomore Carolina Geography 11 class REPRESENT!). We walked to Warren Street (which was open for a change) and hopped the tube to a new destination for us: Archway.

The destination was one Puffin and I'd been interested in since completing Audrey Niffenegger's (rather disappointing) book "Her Fearful Symmetry" - Highgate Cemetary. But JT and I read it, and we'd decided to go and explore this place at some point. However, with everything else going on, we just forgot about it. However, as Lady Catherine had it on her "to do" list, we got to cross it off!
The walk to the cemetary was very nice, including a brief stop at the Dick Whittington stone (commemorating his 3 terms as Lord Mayor of London under Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V) and a nice walk through Waterlow park. This "garden for the gardenless" was GORGEOUS - fall colors were alive and well on this SPECTACULAR late fall day, and it was nice to see some green and breathe some fresh air after the past couple of weeks of "city livin'."
Highgate itself was AWESOME, and DEFINITELY worth the visit. There are 2 sides (east and west), with the east being a self-guided section and the west by guided tour only. We got in line 15 minutes before the tour was supposed to start (they are on the hour), thinking that would be PLENTY of time. After all, it's a bloody CEMETARY - how many people could possibly want to visit? Well, we soon learned that they only took in parties of 15, and so at least 18 wanted to visit that hour because the guide SLAMMED THE GATE IN OUR FACES at 12:58 and said,"Come back in 1 hour." No ceremony. No pleading. Just a lot of iron in my face and a dude with a pierced eyebrow who did NOT care about an American's opinion.
The tour of the west side was BRILLIANT, as we learned about the symbols on the tombs, the history of the cemetary, and the lives of some of the more famous residents. Highgate has over 55,000 tombs and 180,000 bodies! HOLY MOLY!!!! The section, the oldest (and prettiest), was something out of a movie - you would NOT want to be locked in there after dark. And perhaps the neatest point was at the end, when, true to form in the afterword from the book, the "little green box" was sitting by the exit. The cemetary costs about 1000 pounds a day to maintain, and consequently all the work is done by volunteers. We'd already paid for our tour, of course, but there was no two ways about it - we simply had to throw a quid in that box.

The east side has plenty of famous graves, including Doug Addams (author of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") and Geoge Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans, author of "Middlemarch"). The most famous, however, is Karl Marx. Hitman, OSC, MattPa, Big Cat - this photo is for you. That's all I have to say. Oh, and POWER TO THE PEOPLE! WORKER'S OF THE WORLD, UNITE!!!!! But seriously - it was cool, even if Alison later on referred to us a bunch of "graveyard groupies."
After the cemetary visit, we rode the Tube back to Euston, where we arrived just in time to a) eat 4 Millie's cookies and b) greet Alison! That's right - fresh off from a lecture in Liverpool, Ms. Lailey rolled in just before 4 PM. Consequently we headed back to the flat, dropped her stuff, added a layer, and then headed out again. The only problem was that we didn't actually know where we wanted to go...
We started out heading toward Covent Garden, but Catherine came through in the clutch YET AGAIN with the statement "Have you been to the bar at the top of the Portrait Gallery?" Ten minutes later, we had an AMAZING VIEW of Trafalgar Square at sunset - WAY TO GO, CATH! We sat there through 2 bottles of wine, watching the sun go down and the lights come up over London (the Eye was particularly active, constantly changing colors inside the wheel). It was GREAT, and it was ANOTHER to do that we'd totally forgotten about.
After that we went to the Salisbury, where, for only the second time EVER, we actually got seats! I couldn't believe it. And I am happy to report that the Heineken was fresh as well. :-)
It was then on to dinner at Manoram Thai, where we KILLED some starters, green curries, pad thai, and even 2 helpings of coconut ice cream (which was utterly DELICIOUS). All in all, it was a GREAT night, especially when we got home and I got back into the cheese! Big Cat - if you think I'm fat now - just wait until the end of the assignment: CHUUUUUUUBBY BUUUUUUNNNNNY!!!!!
We got home around 11, passing out around midnight. And given that it's now 15 til 10, I need to go rouse perfect pumpkin.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Love,
Sam and Jenny (and Cath and Alison)

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Sacrilege in the Wharf and Hassling at the Doot - is the Apocalypse upon us?

Family,

And a good Saturday morning to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. IT'S THE WEEKEND!!!!! Yesterday was a good one, even if I was tired for most of it. For starters, just getting ~6 hours of sleep didn't help, but the cure for that is a little thing called Starbucks. And I am pleased to report that, after just 16 consecutive months of going there daily, they FINALLY remembered my order in advance. Hey - better late than never.
Lunch was Tortilla (guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud - peppy cheekies), which came on the back of Sammy's 6th consecutive workout in a row (I just realized that I've used the word "consecutive twice in two paragraphs - odd...). I logged scant 18 KM on the bike in a 30 minute session, but I was pleased overall. I'm definitely taking today and tomorrow off, and then I reckon I'll do a 10K run on Monday. And now that I have the secrets of Carly "the Speedy Ninja" O'Sullivan's running playlist, I fully expect minutes to just DROP off my time (but Carly, seriously - BIEBER? Come on...).

So after work, Owain and I committed a terrible sin, one that perhaps Hitman will never forgive (and now, it wasn't given the fat, tired, and sweaty kid more Snickers). Instead of hitting the Music Factory, we met Catherine and went to...to...(I'm scare to say it) - THE NEW PUB!!!!!
That's right - The Welsh/Appalachian Express took Manchester's finest to the Henry Addington, where we had a nice seat and drank some guuuuuuuuuuuud beer. I had a Timmy first, but I think I have FINALLY come to the conclusion that I need a prolonged break from real ale. Consequently, I went back to Heineken, which was fab (as always on this side of the Pond!).
After parting ways with Owain, we rolled back to the flat, picked up Muffin, and then rolled to the Doot. And whilst Jenny's meal was one of her faves to date, my food (for the second time running) wasn't as good AND the new staff CONSTANTLY TRIED TO MAKE US ORDER MORE FOOD. Finally Perfect Pumpkin popped (after the 3rd "Don't you want naan bread to share?) and said, "We come here a lot and we know what we want." The look on her face said it all, and he the dude backed off quick. GO MUFFIN!!!!!
Honestly, we'll take T-bone there for sure, but I'm taking my waning interest in our local curry house as just another sign that it's about time to pack it up and move on.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Love,
Sam and Jenny (and Cath)

Friday, 22 October 2010

And so begins a wonderful (but final - sniff, sniff) weekend with the girls...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. The work day was good, and the workout went really well. The Land's End Challenge saw Sammy the Bull log 4 miles in 32:30, which I was pleased with given that I didn't feel much punch in my legs. But the biggest news flash? Crazy biker dude was NOT on the bike!!! No, sir - he's now graduated to the Concept 2 (rowing machine). I will say that he was going at that machine like a rabid banshee chasing a night in a haunted castle (as evidenced by the fact that I was watching for him to pull the row bar out of the machine), and I think he might have found a more effective exercise method. He's still staring daggers at me when I enter, however, so he might be reading this as I type...

After dropping my gear at home, I went to Pizza Express (53p entree coupon - YEAH, BABY!!!) and met Jenny and Lady Catherine!!!! We then tore through some food (and 2 bottles of chianti) before heading back to the flat, where we're about to call it a night (it's pushing 1 but I had to get this out).

And so begins what I expect to be a FABULOUS (but somewhat sad) final, farewell weekend with Catherine and Alison. But I refuse to get sentimental yet, as we've still got the whole weekend in front of us!

Sorry so short, but it's late and I am EXHAUSTED.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny (and Cath)

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Doing the unthinkable - lunch in the Wharf somewhere OTHER than Nando's...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. 3 AFD's in a row! What's become of us?

Sammy crossed the 400 KM mark in the Land's End Challenge today, logging 35.5 on the bike in an hour of spinning. Tomorrow's a run day, but Friday I should hit the halfway point. Bring it on, baby!!! And yes, in case anyone's curious - psycho spin dude was there. He knows I'm staring at him now, and he's been looking back. A confrontation is brewing. C-Web actually looked up this dude's approach on-line, and apparently it's a fat burning technique. I'm more concerned about it being a "machine breaking" technique, as that bike was rocking off its hinges today. And as I type this, I now realize just how much airtime a TOTAL STRANGER has received on my blog lately. I might have to introduce myself and get a picture just to complete the experience.

So lunch today was GREAT. Muffin was in the Wharf, and we ventured over to the "undiscovered country" by the new pub. We hit an Italian joint called Amerigo Vespucci, and we arrived at 11:45 to a TOTALLY EMPTY restaurant. Sure enough, they seated us, but the kitchen didn't open until 12. They were shocked we didn't want wine (because who doesn't before 12 on a Wednesday?), but they soon adjusted to the quirky Americans. I think they were somewhat confused when we ordered the same main as well (papadelle a salmone - 2 kinds of salmon!), but the food came out quick and was DELISH! It was a neat place, but it was a bit pricey and is NO la Figa. Consequently, they probably won't get the nod again.

Other than that, not a whole lot else to report. Muffin Puffin is at the store procuring groceries, and I'm about to put on our newest i-Tunes selection: California Gurls by Katy Perry. I know, I know...TAKE MY MANCARD. But I can't help it - it's AWESOME. Real men dig gummy bears flipping birds, right?

Lastly, I realize that the blog has been totally devoid of images lately, and we meant to rectify that one today (blame Sammy for that). However, we've got peeps in town tomorrow, so we'll definitely remedy the mistakes of the week to date.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print - chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A good night's sleep cures EVERYTHING...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Sammy is a NEW MAN today, fresh off 7.5 hours of sleep! I mean, when's the last time that happened? The reason would be the AWESOME massage Perfect Pumpkin gave me last night. 2 seconds later I was down for the count. The best part is that my ear pain is totally gone, my foot feels much better, and both armpits (I am still shaking my head) are in recovery. Here's hoping tomorrow I can bathe without pain (yes, yes - pathetic, I know...).

So the Land's End Challenge approached 400 KM's today, with Sammy going 5K in 24:07. Crazy biker dude was back on the stationary today, and I KNOW he caught me looking at him. But how could I help it? Today's ritual was as follows:

1. Go hard for 3 seconds (yes - three WHOLE seconds)

2. Exhale as though you're giving birth to octuplets at the same time

3. Stand on bike - wait 15 seconds

4. Watch John Cena do a move on Raw (ALWAYS on the telly)

5. Go even harder for 3 seconds (again - three WHOLE seconds)

6. Look so in pain you'd think there's a cougar clawing his way out of your chest (Ricky Bobby style)

7. Rinse-repeat

Seriously - this guy was going at it when I got in and going at it when I left. I am mesmerized. Today I started thinking of what I could say to him to spark a conversation about his unique Tour de France training routine. I think I'm gonna say, "I have a friend from home who shaves his legs a lot, wears lycra, and is fascinated by your technique. What exactly do you call it?" Bets on whether or not I can keep a straight face?

The work day was good, so no complaints there. I had a salad again for lunch. That makes 3 salads in a row (as well as 2 AFD's, I might add). I'll have another one tonight, but Muffin is in the Wharf tomorrow, so we are going out! And the craziest part - it WON'T BE NANDO'S THIS TIME! Shocking, I know...stay tuned...

Tonight is another low key one for Team Taylor. I've just downloaded a few new songs on i-Tunes, including that song with Eminem and Rihanna. I gotta tell ya - it's AWESOME.

Lastly - Dad - full marks for the speech today. I wish I'd been there, as I'm sure you were great. I'm proud of you.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Monday, 18 October 2010

A little walk around the Wharf reveals a whole new world...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. The Land's End Challenge got a big boost today, with Sammy the Bull logging 35.5 KM on the bike over the course of an hour. And whilst my workout was good, I'm still a little confused about the guy's technique on the bike beside me. Here's how he approached the workout:

1. Pedal as HARD AS YOU CAN for 10 seconds

2. Stop abruptly

3. Pedal EVEN HARDER for 5 seconds (all of this on the easiest gear) - I mean we're talking go at it until the machine is wobbling

4. Stop abrupty for about 20 seconds, adjust your book

5. Pedal as though you're running from the Vampires in "30 days of night" (breathing like you've been shot)

6. Stop abruptly for another 20 seconds, look round, relax, read a page in the book

7. Rinse-repeat FOR 45 MINUTES

Seriously - Hairless Wonder - educate me here - WHAT AM I MISSING? Is that how you train to win the brown mule or whatever that king of the hill jersey is?

Other than that, the day was good - steadily busy, and complete with time enough to walk around at lunch. I went down to Westferry Circus (start of my running route) before wandering around the island and the docks. It was a nice day, and I saw 3 GREAT looking new restaurants. Transition family - we missed the boat on some of these. Oh well, next time...riiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

The craziest thing is that, rounding the corner by the post office, I found something that I didn't think existed - ANOTHER PUB!!!! And even more shocking - THEY HAVE TIMMY TAYLOR AND HOBGOBLIN ON DRAFT. Is this possible? 2.5 years of my life I've worked (on and off) in the Wharf, and with SEVEN WEEKS TO GO I'm just now discovering a place with Timmy T? OH THE HUMANITY!!!!! Granted, Old School Cool has been busy reading reviews and says it's a dump, but I maintain that, like Moses standing on Mt. Nebo, I have just glimpsed the Holy Land! I'm just hoping I don't follow in his footsteps and fail to make it there...

Other than that, not a lot to report. The commute home was a bear due to some signal failures and power outages, but I'm home now and muffin puffin is slaving away in the kitchen. I only got about 2 hours of sleep last night, and right now EVERY PART OF MY BODY HURTS. Between an arch pain, an ear pain, and tenderness in BOTH ARMPITS (seriously, who has pain in BOTH armpits? That's what I get for trying to sleep on my sides...), Sammy's feeling pretty rocky this evening. However, Jenny has just brought out the miracle cure (read: CHILI HEATWAVE DORITOS, BABY), and so I'm expecting to feel right as rain by this time tomorrow.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Running in Regents, Reading, and Raj Doot - the 3 essential "R's" for a perfect Sunday...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the mother country. Today was short, but no complaints, as it was terrific. For starters, Sammy continued in his quest on the Land's End challenge, logging 9K (5.6 miles) in ~45 minutes running through Regent's Park. It was a PERFECT day to run - cool temperature, almost no wind, a blisteringly blue sky, and the sun shining. Regent's Park was alive with people, and the leaves have certainly started to change. It was beautiful running past all the colors (I'll say it again - I LOVE Polarized lenses), and it was truly a special run. To top it off, there was a sculpture and art exhibit going on in the park, so I got a chance to run past that.

On the reading front, Muffin Puffin continued her march through the Millennium Trilogy - she's only got 100 pages to go! For my part, I found another winner - "Shutter Island." I read this thing in a weekend, and I must confess that I was really impressed. I'll definitely pick up "The Given Day" and "Gone, Baby Gone," as this guy spins a good yard. The next book up is TBD, but I'll make a decision before I hit the bike tomorrow.

Speaking of Muffin Puffin, she was an ANIMAL on Facebook today, creating 5 new photo albums. Thanks, baby pie!

Dinner (and truly our only meal of the day) was (where else) the DOOT, BABY!!!!! Team Taylor went back to basics, ordering Sag Paneer, Shai Gosht Tava, and Lamb Ceylon (which was SMOKIN' - Price, this WAS Geiger counter style). We were the only cats in there, so a 4:1 server to table ratio ensured we had everything we needed (after asking twice, of course).

It was then back to casa de Taylor, where we sat around watching American Football on channelsurfing.net. Seriously - WHAT IS GOING ON WITH BRADY'S MULLET? Are people officially calling him Mullet Cutter now (Ditty - that was for you)? Talk about utter DONKEY TRASH hairstyles (and the fact that they won makes it worse).

Other than that, not a whole lot else to report. The week begins anew, so as Dad would say: "Let's get up and get after it!"

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Nothin' says the BEST of 80's dance music like...Dolly Parton?

Family,

And a good Sunday morning to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. I really shouldn't say good morning, as it's 1:30 PM at the moment and Muffin Puffin is still PASSED OUT. However, as I'm now (slowly) come back to life (courtesy of some imported Mountain Dew from East Texas), I thought I'd go ahead and explain why Jenny will probably sleep until 4 PM and Prosecco and colonists don't mix.
So yesterday was GREAT. We got a chance to chat with the Rice clan, and I am happy to confirm that little Sam looks CUTER THAN EVER. Wow - that girl is gonna be a heartbreaker. But Rice - all I can say is that I hope the Yankees don't win another one. GOOOOOOOO RANGERS!!!!

I also got a chance to chat with Dad and Pattie, and that was GREAT (and LONG overdue). It was chilly yesterday, but luckily the weather held long enough for us to chat whilst wandering around Portland Place (since my cell phone doesn't work IN MY APARTMENT - details...).

The featured event of the night was Jenny's final 32nd birthday celebration - dinner and dancing! And let me say it right now - my wife looked SMOKIN' HOT. Hubba, hubba...but I digress...

So the first stop on the tour was Momo (no Miller - not THAT kind of Momo) - a Moroccan joint on Heddon street (near where I hung out with the Bristol Pistol last week). This place was FANTASTIC, complete with a VERY cool interior, attentive staff, and an AWESOME atmosphere. We had THE BEST seats in the house, as we looked over the entire restaurant, so we could see all the decor, candles, and lighting which in total gave the place a true "Moroccan souk" vibe (minus smelly dudes, camel dung, snake charmers, Indiana Jones, and carpet sales me throwing fabric at you, of course).

I started with a wood pigeon pastry, and it was SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies). Picture spiced meat wrapped in a thin pastry and then covered with sugar, flour, and cinnamon -very unique! Mains were delish as well, with all of us opting for Couscous except Jenny, who rolled with Fish tangine (and it was guuuuuuuuuuuuuud). Throw in some Moroccan wine (Syrah) and 2 crazy Australians (Sam and Yazz), and you have a GREAT START to an evening!

After that, we rolled to the featured event of the night - 80's dancing at Strawberry Moons! Okay, so this place is reknown for bachelorette parties (hen do's as they would say over here), and some folks had warned us that "You don't go to Strawberry Moons unless you want cheap drinks and nothing but 80's music." Since that was EXACTLY what we were looking for, we were QUITE excited.

I'd booked us on the guest list, but the place wasn't at capacity when we arrived (~10ish), so we strolled right in. Well, not quite strolled, as we watched 3 guys get turned away at the door because NO GUY IS ALLOWED IN WITHOUT BEING ACCOMPANIED BY A GIRL. Seriously? A group of 3 dudes were SHOT DOWN, at which point they got PISSED (picture dudes kicking poles, screaming at security, and looking generally like they had kerosene stashed away and weren't afraid to use it). That was our first experience. Luckily it got better.

So simply put, this place was GREAT. Was it cheesy? ABSOLUTELY. Was it everything we wanted? AND THEN SOME. We hadn't been in there FIVE MINUTES when Journey came on, and the dancing began. 5 minutes later Jenny was trying her first bramble, and 10 minutes later we were on the dance floor (which lights up and changes colors, for the record). Oh, but wait, I forgot to mention the stripper...

We really had been there all of 7 minutes when one of the bride-to-be's is put on a separate stage (with a pole, of course...) and asked to take a seat. Then a dude walks up and does a 2 song strip tease and, well, is pretty much TOTALLY NAKED. The entire crowd is watching this, and the bachelorette is LOVING IT, which makes the whole thing funnier. Honestly, if someone ever tried this in the states, they'd be in jail for a year. Here, however, it's just another Saturday night when you're bringin' sexy back...
The music was great, even if we didn't know all the songs (plenty of the 80's mix was UK 80's, which obviously was a bit beyond our scope of knowledge), and we danced the night away, Prosecco in hand (not me - I stuck to Sol - mum, you would have been proud). However, there were a few songs that I simply must question in the playlist. For example, how hype can a crowd really get when Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" starts blaring on the speakers? I mean really? REALLY? That being said, people went CRAZY, and all of them knew the words (better than me, for the record). So maybe that guy's got it all figured out...
Also, the staff were all dressed up in crazy outfits, and at times they even did choreographed dances. There was one gal in particular who was EXTRA AWESOME as she performed a dance routine to Usher.

Jenny had mentioned earlier in the week that she "didn't want it to be too late of a night," and she had suggested leaving around 1:30 or so. Well, considering all the fun we were having, we actually didn't leave until CLOSING TIME, which was 3 AM. By this point, the Prosecco was taking its toll on Yazz, and it made for a GREAT conversation with this Irish dude who kept telling Yazz and Sam that "Australia was their problem." The guy was clearly hammered (because, I mean, let's face it - WHAT DOES THAT SENTENCE EVEN MEAN?), but Yazz zinged him good with "Go back to Ireland and enjoy your checkered flannel shirt." He didn't seem to like that too much (and T-Rowe, for the record, I'm sure I had a shirt EXACTLY LIKE THAT on LoanSolutions). He wasn't the scariest dude, however - it was the Algerian dude asking Sam "when the afterparty drinks at her house started" that was more a reason to run...

We parted ways about 3:40 (they give you 30 minutes after closing to finish drinks, get coats, etc), getting home at 4 AM and settling into a nice, healthy block of organic cheddar. It was then a 5 AM sackout, which probably means today (and tonight) will be ROUGH. But hey - it was worth EVERY SECOND of sleep lost, so no complaints here!

Okay, it's time to have a little coffee, get some fresh air, and enjoy the day. Chat tonight!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Now THIS is some eatin'! A full on South African culinary experience at casa de Grimshaw/Marshall...

Family,
And a good Saturday morning to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. IT'S THE WEEKEND!!!!!!!! It's currently 1:18 PM at the moment, meaning that Team Taylor just logged 12 hours of sleep. And now, with the coffee brewing, the Mountain Dew about to flow, and yesterday's Krispy Kreme's about to be cracked open, I feel it's only appropriate to give you the play-by-play from yesterday.
So, for starters, Muffin Puffin came to the Wharf to work. She had been trying to get Krispy Kreme for 2 days in a row en route to Croydon, but, for whatever reason (call it a "baking" incident), the donuts weren't ready EITHER DAY at 8:20 when she arrived. SERIOUSLY? What happened to the old dude who used to get up at 4 in the morning and say "Time to make the donuts?" Oh, wait...that might have been Dunkin'. Details...
Anyhoo, we break off at the Tube, with Sammy going for Starbucks and Muffin going for donuts. When she goes to procure 6 however (these puppies are $2.50 EACH!), the lady says that 12 and 6 are the SAME PRICE! That's some kind of business model you've got there, guys. And you wonder why you almost went under...

The Land's End Challenge was good as well, with Taylor logging 17 KM on the bike (30 min) and then just a scant 2 KM on the treadmill. As I was running, I realized that my legs were SHOT. I am taking today off, but I'm planning to run tomorrow. I simply MUST make myself run 3 times a week, regardless of the distance. There are some tendons that need shoring up, and my big fat belly needs all the calorie burns it can get.

After work, I grabbed a couple of quick pints with Brother Morgan and his friend Grant at (where else) the Music Factory before rolling onto the Tube for the commute out to Kew. There, Jenny and I embarked on a CULINARY FEAST FOR THE AGES - a night of South African cooking with Lynda and Barry!!!

So seriously - we were treated like ROYALTY. We show up to the smell of AMAZING cooking, and we are immediately escorted into the kitchen, where we've got 2 types of chips (their version of Fritos - Grimshaw, WE INVENTED THEM FIRST!!!!) and 2 types of Biltong (a type of air-dried tenderloin, one of which was prepared with brandy) waiting for us. But, as Lynda says, you can't eat Biltong unless you have beer, and so VOILA! She whips out 4 different South African lagers to dance with. Castle, Amstel Export, Windhoek, and Hansa - all of them UBER tasty. And THEN Springbok biltong appears out of nowhere! Now THAT STUFF WAS GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies).

After a tour of their place (these guys have some AMAZING art, to say nothing of Barry's own work - that's right, during a back injury last year he just "discovered he was the next Picasso"), we settled down for a DELICIOUS MEAL of bobotie (using Grimshaw's analogy - think spiced meat loaf, but with better meat) and a bottle of FABU South African wine. Then it was onto desert, where we had melktert (I kept saing "milk turd," but that wasn't quite the correct pronunciation), which is a delish tart. Add in some Cooksisters (T-bone - I think if this as non-spongy golub jaman) and ANOTHER bottle of wine, and you are a recipe for being FAAAAAAAT and happy.

Jenny even got a birthday present (AND got to blow out a candle) - A guide book for South Africa! It's a GREAT book, filled with information, maps, and everything you need to know to get in trouble in the big SA. Thanks SO MUCH, guys!

We caught the last trains home, getting back to the flat about 12:45. 15 minutes later, it was nothing but snoring at the Taylor household.

Guys - thanks again SO MUCH for having us over and for the AMAZING meal. It was fabulous! See you again soon!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Provided Team Taylor survives this evening, we'll chat tomorrow!
Love,

Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Little treats popping up everywhere...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Here's a crazy stat for you - EIGHT WEEKS AND COUNTING UNTIL WE BOARD A PLANE BOUND FOR HOME!!!! How on EARTH is that possible?



So first off - I simply must share a GEM of a quote from the London Underground today. I'm walking toward the Jubes (aka Hitman's FAVORITE TUBE LINE) when I hear the following announcement:



"Update from the station control room at Bond Street: Planned track closures will affect 10 lines of the London Underground this weekend. The Central, Circle, Hammersmith & City, Bakerloo, Victoria, Piccadilly, District, Central, Metropolitan, and Jubilee line will all be part or completely suspenced. All other lines will operate with a good service."



Sounds GREAT, right? A few track closures only affecting 10 lines? It doesn't sound too bad, until you consider THERE ARE ONLY 11 LINES ON THE UNDERGROUND! ONLY THE NORTHERN LINE IS RUNNING. I mean, true, the Waterloo & City line doesn't have a planned closure, but THAT'S BECAUSE IT SHUTS DOWN EVERY WEEKEND BECAUSE THERE'S NO BUSINESS IN THE CITY. I mean really, couldn't they have just said: "Service update - TAKE THE BUS." It would have been quicker.



In the Land's End Challenge today, Sammy ran a 5K in 25 (those potato chips 2 hours before were NOT a good idea) and then did 10K on the bike. It wasn't a stellar performance, but on the whole I was just glad to get back on the treadmill.



The best part of the day was an interoffice mail I received. A work pal Elena walked it to my desk, and I noticed that the previous address on the envelope was the Big Cat. Very curious as to what Obama or Socialist hate mail he had sent me, I unwrapped the envelope, only to find a sealed envelop with my name on it (Ritz Carlton letterhead). I then opened the letter (Anthrax free - I think...) to find a sealed deposit slip with the message "Have a beer on me." That's right, folks - unable to redeem them, the Big Cat shipped me his last 3 quid in coins. NICE ONE! Big Cat - that WILL be a pint of Timmy T this weekend.



Other than that, it was a quiet day in the office. With my shelves finally cleared (and that damn Fingerpost book done), I went to Waterstone's (the Barnes & Noble of the UK) and did something I haven't done in AGES - bought books for myself. Consequently, I'll start with "Shutter Island" tomorrow. Hey, if nothing else, the cover is cool...


Muffin Puffin is busy making din-din, so I better get in there and lend a hand.



Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!



Love,


Sam and Jenny

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MUFFIN PUFFIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Tons to get through, but let's start with the most important announcement of all: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MUFFIN PUFFIN!!!!!!!

So first off, the normal update on the Land’s End Challenge – Sammy the Bull hit a milestone today, crossing the 300 KM mark for the challenge. That’s right – I’m still NOT EVEN A THIRD OF THE WAY HOME WITH LESS THAN 2 WEEKS TO GO. Oh well, I really treated it more as “Farewell London” event than a 1 month event, so I still consider myself (more or less) on schedule.

Second, to the Wild Card – Utter brilliance and thank you, brother. Full marks.

Third – to T-Bone – YOU ARE DEAD TO ME. Why, you ask? Actually, in truth, it’s not at ALL your fault, but because I am a totally blameless and perfect child, I simply must go after someone.

Long story short – when you were living in Charlotte many moons ago, I noticed that you were reading a book that looked really cool called “And Instance of the Fingerpost.” I was interested, but it was ~700 pages and looked DAUNTING. However, when I saw it for 50p at a Chester book fair in 2007, I thought “Eh, why not take a chance?” I have since carried that book EVERYWHERE, listening to it mock me for my lack of motivation to cut through it. Last week, however, I FINALLY broke down (translation – it was the only book left on my shelf) and started reading it. I finished it yesterday, and I can now confirm that it is UTTER DONKEY TRASH. Why oh why didn’t you just burn it in my presence back in CLT and tell me how horrible it was? I am scarred for life now when it comes to Restoration England. Oh, the horror, the horror…

But enough of that, let’s skip ahead to the most important event of the evening – PERFECT PUMPKIN’S BIRTHDAY DINNER!!!!!! That’s right, folks – today, 13 October, my beautiful bride hit the big 3-2. Consequently, we needed to go out and celebrate!!!

We started at a small wine bar called Vinoteca (in the meatpacking district of Smithfield Market), where we had a couple of FABULOUS glasses of red (Grimshaw – we started with a South African wine to put us in the proper mood). After that (and after recovering from shivering after sitting at a table beside the door – it is bloody FREEZING here), we rolled down the street to a “to-do” that’s been THREE YEARS in the making. That’s right, baby – Team Taylor had dinner at Smith’s of Smithfield!!!!!

So some back story on this place – we first learned of it with Yazz and Jason back in November of 2007 (Yazz – remember that? It was rammed so we had pints of Meantime and Union before wandering to Dollars Martini Grill in Exmouth Market), and we’d been wanting to eat there ever since. It is ALWAYS PACKED, and reservations are a must. There are 5 floors – 1 for booze and dancing, 1 for wine, 1 for private dining, 1 for casual dining, and 1 for “I make more money than the Sheik and want a massive steak” dining (in case anyone’s curious, we opted for casual).

This place was GREAT. We had a nice bottle of chianti, they mixed the oil and balsamic for us, the atmosphere was terrific, the service good, etc. The highlight, however, was the INSANE GOOD FOOD. Seriously, we had (between the 2 of us): chili squid, duck salad, pork belly, bream over gnocchi, roasted peach with mascarpone and donuts, and vanilla rice pudding. We walked out of there STUFFED (even though I did have some Doritos at home – details…) and thrilled that we’d finally crossed it off the “must do” list in Foggytown.

We’re now back at the flat, and having just finished Skyping with JT’s parents, it’s time to call it a night.

Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and (Birthday Girl) Jenny

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

From the Count of Monte Cristo to the Count of Calories – a top weekend in Marseille…

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Team Taylor is back in England and back in the gym, although it was a less than stellar performance in the Land’s End Challenge. For some reason my foot is hurting again (just slightly), so I took to the bike today for 32KM in an effort to a) burn off some of the 10,000 calories I consumed this weekend and b) minimize impact.

And so, without further ado, I present to you the recap of Jenny’s birthday trip – 3 days in the concrete jungle that is Marseille…

Friday: THIS is our hotel?

So the trip over was an easy one, as Team Taylor took a ride on BA, who is AWESOME (when they’re not striking, of course). The only “slight” hiccup was the 45 minute delay that resulted from a “minor mechanical malfunction. Here’s the direct quote from the pilot: “Ladies and gentlemen, from the flight deck. Well, we were ready to go, but, well, you know that little tram that brings the stairs to the plane? Well, that’s stuck on the plane right now and the battery’s dead. And since it’s attacked, the wheels are in lock mode, which means we can move it. We’re trying to find someone to replace the battery but, well, there’s no one around.” Full stop.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Can somebody go out to Waitrose and buy the guys at Gatwick some Energizers or something? But anyhoo – I digress…

En route we met a very nice fella from Aix named Thomas (who’s hopefully back on good terms with his gal by now), and we had a GREAT conversation. Turns out this good is a HUGE American sports fan, and we spent a good 30 minutes talking about “pro wrasslin’.” This guy knows more about John Cena, Sheamus, The Undertaker, and Edge than even Chuck Powell – it was impressive.

The cab ride in was fine, even if it did cost SIXTY EUROS. And when I tried to explain what I wanted to leave for a tip, I realized that, unlike Paris, these cats do NOT speak English. Consequently, Sammy started communicating in the lengua franca, and it was HILARIOUS.

We checked into our hotel – called the “new” hotel of Marseille – and it was AWESOME!!!! Seriously – we had funky trendy black lights in the hallways, a terrace for the bar that you could launch a space shuttle from, and a room big enough to sleep 50. We actually had a California King!

We celebrated that night by having a pint down by the pool. The weather was warm, the view was stunning, and the Heineken was AMSTERDAM quality. Seriously – how am I going to cope with life post-Heineken? Oh, the drama….

We sacked out around 1 AM, and thus began a 3 day sleeping and eating binge…

Saturday: This hill’s a little steeper than I’d reckoned…

So Team Taylor rolled out of bed around 10:30 or so (more like “or so,” but you get the drift – it was before noon) and wandered down to the Old Port. This port, founded in 600 BC by the Greeks, was the only port for the city between its founding in 2600 BC (making it the oldest city in France – mom, this is the perfect time to answer the question: “U be est Galia?”) and 1850, at which point the “new” port was built beside it. Seriously, you have NEVER SEEN so many ships in one place – it was CRAZY! We walked around the harbor, stepping off to a side street to find a nice lunch at Simon’s café. Once there, JT tore up some salmon whilst I had a salad (Elaine style) covered in enough cheese to feed an army. To be fair, I might have picked something else, but there was no English menu, and I was NOT gonna have another tartar incident. JT also got chocolate mousse for desert, and it was EXTRA AWESOME.

After that, we went for the “casual stroll” to the Notre Dame de la Garde. This church, situated at the top of the hill, has AMAZING views of the harbor islands, the old port, and the city. It is said that Marseille is a “concrete jungle,” and from the church’s vantage point, you can see why – there isn’t a SCRAP OF GREEN IN THAT ENTIRE CITY. Seriously – there was ONE STREET lined with trees. The rest was an endless sea of buildings.

After milling around the church, we wandered down to the sea, checking out the World War I memorial by the beach. Then, to reward ourselves for a solid 3 hours of exertion, we sat on a bench to overlook the Frioul and If islands, at which point Perfect Pumpkin PASSED OUT. She caught a nice 20 minute power nap before we headed back into town for dinner.

So the interesting story – prior to setting out that morning, we asked the concierge where he would recommend eating. He pointed to 2 spots (both of which we’d seen before), but then said there was another area that was “fun for young people,” filled with music and lots of bars. That sounded great and off the beaten path, and so we said we’d try that. As we turned to go, however, he grabbed our map to stop us and said (again – DIRECT QUOTE): “Um, in Marseille, is not so safe to, um, walk around with anything on you. No rings, necklace, money, (sidebar – WHO THE HELL CAN JUST WANDER AROUND A FOREIGN CITY WITH NO MONEY?), nothing to show to anyone.” He then proceeds to make motions and gestures of rings being RIPPED OFF HIS HANDS. After that he promptly smiled and said, “Enjoy your dinner!” Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight…

Unconvinced that we were going to get knifed, we started to the walk to this place that was “fun for young people.” Well, let me just say that if he considers this place fun, then I bet he finds Baghdad to be a HOOT. WOW – what a journey.

The walk up was through a place that was one step shy of an Algerian bazaar (bizarre might have been more appropriate), ultimately leading us to the “fun place,” which was:

A. SHUT DOWN

B. Filled with cats who did NOT look friendly

C. covered in graffitti
D. IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

Consequently, Sammy and Jenny made a BEE LINE back toward the harbor, stopping to breathe outside the police station.

All was not lost, however, as we ended up finding a GREAT place right on the water, where we KILLED some cheese, salmon, and fish. It was all SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies). We then stopped for a pint to watch the first half of France vs. Romania (2012 Euro Cup qualifier) before catching the second half at the hotel (I had a GREAT Bordeaux and France won 2-0 – all in all, a great night). We then hit the sack and PASSED OUT around midnight.

Sunday: No, babe – I want to walk this way…into North Africa…

After an 11 hour sleep, Team Taylor work up and headed out just after noon. Not wanting to stray too far from the path (as they would say in “Into the Woods”), we decided to take it easy and just check out the other side of the harbor. That lead to a GREAT meal for lunch and then a pleasant stroll by the water, stopping along side one of the old forts of the city.

As we rounded the fort, I noticed a walkway to the city’s Cathedral. I mentioned that this was the path, but Jenny had other ideas, as she saw a VERITABLE WAR ZONE in front of us and felt compelled to see what was there. Thinking nothing of it, we strolled that way.

Our first sign indicator should have been the fact that there was NO SIDEWALK. Our second sign indicator should have been that there were BARRICADES EVERYWHERE. However, that didn’t slow us down – not one bit. Instead, we kept walking in the mud past on-coming traffic, convinced we would find something (a pot of gold perhaps) just around the bend.

What we found instead was a dead end and 3 tents beside an old shack. Beside the shack was a sign that said: “Entry Forbidden – Restricted International Trading Space.” Thinking it was a good idea to turn around at that point, we spun around to see the HUGE SIGN directly over our heads that said: “Ferry for Algeria and Tunisia.” Basically, we were the LONE PEDESTRIANS walking in the middle of the zone for the car ferry to North Africa. Quality…Puma – this sounds like something you and I would get into…

We managed to walk (briskly) back out of the zone and to the ORIGINAL walking path, where we found the original Cathedral. This was truly an AMAZING church, and it was almost TOTALLY EMPTY inside. JT said it best when she said it was like something out of a movie. I kept waiting for Robert Langdon to jump out and tell me he’d cracked some code.

After that, we strolled around a bit before dinner, where Team Taylor KILLED some grub. We had an AMAZING cheese plate (shocker, I know), and I think polished off another plate of…wait for it…wait for it…BLACK SPAGHETTI, BABY!!!!! Who loves spicy squid ink? THIS GUY!!!!! It was classic – I ordered the food, the waiter nodded, and then he came back and said in English: “This spaghetti is black – is okay?” Aaaaaaaaaaahh, yeah…..

Monday: In the footsteps of Edmund Dauntess – sailing to Chateau D’If…

We rolled out of bed after another 11 hour sleep, stopped for a DELICIOUS salmon and cream cheese bagel (complete with capers – YEAH, BABY), and then rolled to the old port, where we caught our boat for the day’s activity. We’d actually planned to sail on a three hour tour (a three hour tour…sorry – couldn’t resist) to Cassis and the Calenques (rock formations), but it was too windy. Instead, we took a journey deep into my imagination: a sail past Chateau D’If.

For anyone who doesn’t know, this is the infamous prison which features in “The Count of Monte Cristo.” I will confess that, prior to seeing it on a map on Friday, I didn’t actually know that it was a real place (P.S. Let’s not tell anyone that part, especially my retired librarian grandmother, okay?). Once I saw it on the map, however, I knew that we HAD to go.

The castle is currently under renovation, and so we couldn’t go to the island. That being said, we did get to sail around it, and we got some great shots of the rock (it was basically the Medieval equivalent of Alcatraz). We also got about 49,000 gallons of saltwater to the face, as it was CRAZY WINDY OUT THERE. Seriously, we sailed past Chateau D’If and onto the Frioul Islands, and it was like something out of “The Perfect Storm.” When we got back to the shore, I felt like I’d been slapped in the face repeatedly by a wet mackerel.

We then rolled up to Fort St. Nicholas, where we had some GREAT VIEWS of the port (as well as watching some cats who were MASTERS of bacci ball – it was AWESOME). We then rolled over to Victor Abbey, the oldest church in the city (dating back to 977 – some of the original stonework was STILL THERE!). After that, it was a farewell pint (or 2) before rolling back to the airport, where a half-full flight turned out to be AWESOME when we arrived 30 minutes early. WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!

We got home just after midnight and passed out around 1. Well, Muffin did, at least. I COULD NOT sleep to save my life, and so I ended up staring at the clock until well past 3 AM. So it goes…

All in all, it was a GREAT TRIP, especially if you are just looking to relax. If you want to go hard, then 2 days is plenty. However, should you fancy a long weekend, you could definitely spend 3 days in Marseille, especially during the summer when it’s warm (there’s a beach for swimming down by the old port, and the water is AMAZINGLY CLEAR.

Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Hangin' with the Bristol Pistol...

Family,


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. First off - GOOD NEWS! On the verge of despondency (pathetic and overdramatic, I know, but you should have seen us last night - WEAK), thinking that the Middle East was closed to us and that there was no way into the "Peace Capital of the Middle East" (seriously - that's one of their slogans - again, I will say it: I can't make this stuff up), Team Taylor logged on this evening to figure out another option for vacation. As I brought up "Morocco vacation packages," I noticed a link that said "Responsibletravel.com - trips to Morocco and Jordan." Sure enough, we click on this link, and it's got THE EXACT ITINERARY WE WANT ON THE EXACT DAYS WE HAVE TO HAVE!!! And best of all, it's WAAAAAAAAY cheaper than the other FIFTEEN BILLION SITES we'd visited previously. So that's it, family - WE'RE BOOKED!!!! Bring on the Bedouins, baby!!!!

Second announcement – there will be NO BLOG after tonight until Tuesday. Why, you ask? Because Team Taylor is taking Jenny’s birthday trip as an excuse to explore some more of the Terrier’s homeland. That’s right – the Taylors are headin’ to Marseille, baby!!!! Oh yeah! Bring on the cheese, wine, ice cream, wine, and more cheese. Oh, and we’ll probably see some churches as well…

The Land’s End Challenge continued its inexorable march today, with Sammy logging only 18 KM on the bike (had to do it at lunch, so it was abbreviated). The total to date (with only 2 weeks left) is 239.5 of 970 KM completed. Needless to say, I’m a little behind…maybe I’ll bike 600 miles tomorrow to just close it out…

Tonight was a great night, as I got to hang with my buddy Duncan – aka the Bristol Pistol (a darts man from way back). Big D and I worked on the Transition together, and he was over from Ireland (where he serves as the “Mayor of Carrick” as well as working for the Bank) with his new team doing some work in exotic Bromley Vegas. I met his brother and some of his college mates, all of whom were great. I was very well behaved, keeping it to just 3 beers. That didn’t stop his brother, however, from ordering 2 rounds of shots for us (MORE SAMBUCA – DAMN IT!!!!), but fret not – I soaked up all that booze with a nice healthy late night run to McDonald’s, where I polished off a large fry and Big Mac (I asked for a Quarter Pounder, he rang up a Quarter Pounder, he charged me for a Quarter Pounder – sorry, Royale with Cheese, and then said “it will be 4 minutes for the Quarter Pounder – I’ll give you a Big Mac instead” – Gotta love that customer service, baby…). Ba-da-ba-BA-ba...I'm lovin' it (Megs - that was for you).

I’m now back at the flat, where it’s time to pack up for France. We can’t wait!

Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Everyone have a GREAT holiday weekend, and we’ll chat Tuesday!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

I mean seriously – HOW HARD CAN IT BE to plan a vacation?

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another great (but frustrating) day in the Mother Country. First, the good news – Sammy continued his pursuits in the Land’s End challenge today, logging another 4.25 miles in Regent’s Park (exact same route as yesterday). And whilst the legs felt slightly sluggish today, I felt reasonably strong throughout and even turned in a quicker time than yesterday. Dinger and T-bone – I’m comin’ for you, boys…just a scant 5 months away…actually, there’s no way I can beat T-bone. For Dinger, however – it’s Jimmy Shaker Day. :-)

The other highlight of the day was THAI TAKE-OUT!!!! Any member of the readership knows that Thai is, pretty much, our favorite cuisine (it does battle with Indian constantly). That being said, we hadn’t had it since AUGUST!!!! Staci – I blame you, as the memories of being forced to wear a Stinkees jersey with pretty boy’s name on the back was just too painful to revisit…that being said, even green curry is more powerful than my hatred of the Bronx Bombers…

It was DELISH! 2 green curries, 2 orders of coconut rice, and even some prawns on toast – SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies). And when you throw in some spicy cheese and EVERYTHING ELSE IN OUR CABINETS that could go bad whilst we’re gone this weekend, you have a recipe for some guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud eatin’…

Also, it brings me great pleasure to inform you that, since I worked from home today, I HAD 2 GLASSES OF MOUNTAIN DEW!!!!!! WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER, BABY!!!!!!!! It was a transcendental experience – I almost wet as I felt the healing power of the dew slide down my esophagus and into my bloodstream, it’s potent healing powers coursing through my veins. Robinsons – you may have very well saved my life. At the very least, you have brought infinite happiness to this Redneck outpost in the British Isles.

The frustrating part of the day came from something that should be SECOND NATURE to Team Taylor by now – VACATION PLANNING. Seriously, JT and I have spent the last 3 nights REVIEWING WEBSITES LIKE BANSHEES trying to figure out our trip to Jordan. We have looked at nothing shy of 40 websites, each containing at least 4-5 tours. That means that we’ve checked prices, itineraries, and availability for TWO HUNDRED TOURS, and do you know what we’ve found? Oh, I’ll be HAPPY to sum it up:

1. 7 days of sight-seeing will cost you around $7,000-$9,000 USD – NO EXCEPTIONS
2. There are NO tours available the week we need (Thanksgiving week) – all booked up
3. Day 1 of the 7 day itinerary is a flight that gets you to Jordan JUST BEFORE MIDNIGHT
You are on your own for meals – almost ALL of them

So it seems that, as much as Team Taylor believes you only live once and that we work simply to travel, Jordan might not be the “big trip” of 2010. That being said, Team Taylor is already working on the back-up plan (insert Woest shaking his head and saying, “Well, of course!” here). More to come as the date approaches…

Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

God Bless the Robinsons and the Great State of Texas!!!

Family,


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. I'm happy to report we're on our second AFD in a row, and I'm fresh out of the shower after logging ~4.25 miles in Regent's Park for an evening run. The weather was PERFECT for running - cool, gray skies, complete with a beautiful sunset just on the other side of the ridge.

The weather is NOT, however, perfect for much else, as it's rained pretty much every day for the past week. I hate to admit it, but there's no denying that the weather has officially turned. Forget Fall - Winter has arrived. Grrrrrreat...

Two highlights for the day:
1. Today I discovered an a capella version of "On a Boat!" It was HILARIOUS. If you hit youtube and check on "On a Boat - Hellacapella 2010," you will NOT be disappointed. Note - not suitable for any members of the readership who also happen to be parents of either the author or editor/photographer. Old School Cool, Megs, Shogun, Hitman, Fizzy, and the rest of you out there - it is AWESOME.

2. I received a present in the mail today from "deep in the heaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaart of Texas." That's right, folks - the Wild Wallaby and the Pool Shark sent us a package. I must confess that, at first, I was quite confused. And then, when Jenny pointed out that the postage was $58.50, I honestly COULD NOT think what on earth was in that box. Unable to contain my curiosity and excitement, I broke out the steak knife and tore it open.
What did they send, you ask? Why, nothing short of ambrosia, the nectar of the gods, the mead of Tennessee rednecks, the very essence of the Fountain of Youth, is what! That's right, Sammy is now the proud owner of a PAIR OF 2 LITER BOTTLES OF MOUNTAIN DEW. OH YEAH, BABY!!!!!! Bring on the sugar and caffeine!!!!!

Guys - opening that package was HILARIOUS. Thank you SO MUCH!!!! You have NO IDEA how long a dry spell it's been!!! I feel I speak for my wife when I say that this benevolent gesture truly is the gift that will keep on giving... :-)
T-bone - I'm counting on you to keep this trend going when you arrive (just 3 scant weeks from tomorrow, for the record!). Henry and Jenny - so you know - I won't drink it tonight because, well, I would be awake for the NEXT 3 DAYS (I'm no longer acclimated to the stuff). Come next Saturday, however - ALL BETS ARE OFF. THIS GUY'S GOIN' DANCIN' (CP - Dancin' Armadillos!!!!)!!!!!! WOOOOO-HOOOO!!!!!!!

Okay, the Gin Blossoms are blasting on i-Tunes and there's a salad that needs to be prepared (Yazz - we weren't kidding - this IS the extent of our cooking).

That's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,
Sam and Jenny

Monday, 4 October 2010

Carlsberg, Canals, and Karaoke – everything you need for a weekend in Copenhagen…

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country, on this VERY special edition of Travel with the Taylors. That’s right, folks – today Sam and Jenny hit a milestone, as this is post number 300!!!! How crazy is that?

So 2 other points right quick:
1. The Land's End Challenge continued today with a 28 KM bike ride. I needed over 50 minutes to get through it, but I was pleased and feel that at least a little of the sodium that I consumed this weekend has now been expunged.

2. There's a new WORST SONG EVER in the gym! I am assuming that the song is entitled "West Ridge Mother F@#$ER!!!!" because, well, here are the lyrics (don't blink - you'll miss 'em):
(heavy techno music followed by pathetic electronic drums)

"WEST RIDGE MOTHER F#$#ER!!!!!"
(song repeats the above segments about SIXTEEN THOUSAND TIMES)

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? This was FULL VOLUME UNEDITED IN THE GYM. Needless to say, this is NOT your local YMCA...

But enough of that - Team Taylor is back on English soil, another country (and several REDONKULOUS stories) in the books. And so, without further ado…


Friday Night: A Traditional Danish Dinner – Hard Rock Café…

The trip over was easy, arriving at the airport about 4 and departing on time ~5:30. We landed around 8, arriving at Central Station just after 9 PM. The station was VERY cool, complete with Viking symbols throughout and the traditional Scandinavian open ceiling, highlighting the craftsmanship of all the wooden beams.

We popped out to an UBER windy night, but since the hotel was only 4 tenths of a mile away, we decided to walk it. That being said, the one fly in the serum was that we didn’t actually know WHERE the hotel was. However, as that’s never been a concern that’s stopped us before, Sammy popped into a 7-11 (yes – they are EVERYWHERE in Scandinavia – Oh, Thank Heaven…) to ask for directions. In 2 words or less – BIG MISTAKE.

Sammy walks in and a dude who is clearly NOT Danish with a buzzed head is working the hot dog counter. I walk in, and the conversation was something like this:

Sammy: “Do you know the way to the Marriott? It’s on (insert street name that I butcher here).”

Foreign Hot Dog Dude (FHDD): Never heard of that street.”

Sammy: “It’s apparently near the canal.” (Author’s note – I didn’t realize there were about 478 canals – Amsterdam style)

FHDD: “Uh, sorry, sir. I have no idea where the canal is.”

(Really? Whether there is 1 or 5 BILLION of them, YOU LIVE IN THIS CITY. How can you not know where a SINGLE canal is?)

FHDD: “Oh, wait, I know.” (Author’s note – I should have walked out then).

Sammy: “Great!”

FHDD: “Go out here, make a left, make a right, make another right, go down here….”

Seriously – I don’t know what canal the guy thought we needed, but he had us walking to SWEDEN. After about 15 minutes, we gave up, hailed a cab, and found out that we had been RIGHT BY the hotel. All the same, we got to the Marriott, dropped our gear (negotiated our rate back down to the agreed price – nice job, Pumpkin!), and headed out for dinner.

So here’s the problem – whilst bars stay open ALL NIGHT, Danes eat EARLY. 7 PM is prime dinner time (insert laughing Spaniards here). Consequently, EVERY PLACE was closed by the time we started out for dinner (it’s 10:20 at this time). However, much like in the Dam with mum and in Lisboa with OSC, there is one place you can ALWAYS count on to deliver in the clutch – HARD ROCK CAFÉ, BABY!!!!!!!! (Insert Shogun shaking his head here – but did, in my defense – we had NO CHOICE except Kebabs…come to think of it, I know which one you’d have chosen…).

Consequently the Fearsome Foursome DESTROYED some food (as well as a few Carlsbergs which, I must say, I actually thought were better in the UK – UK Carlsberg is brewed in North England, and it’s just cleaner – Hitman – it’s the water!). Jenny took down a burger that was literally the size of her head, and I crushed a FULL plate of ribs (mum – JUST LIKE the Dam, but I actually think the Dam’s rack was better). Throw in 14 billion fries and a ton of laughs, and you have a recipe for a GUUUUUUUUUUD evening. We then hopped a cab back to the hotel, where we passed out about 1 AM.

Saturday: Calories, Canals, and Karaoke – An adventure NOT for the faint of heart…

In a word – WOW. Honestly, when I think of “The 20 most action packed days in the life of Sam Taylor,” this one’s gonna be fighting for a spot in that mix. But I get ahead of myself, let’s begin with the LIFE CHANGING brekkie (yes, mum – PEPPY CHEEKIES!!!!!!).

So the Fab 4 rolled out of bed and wandered up Hans Christian Anderson Boulevard (honestly – I can’t make this stuff up), stopping first at the Town Hall and the City Hall Square. You will see it in the pictures throughout, but let me just say that Danish architecture is simply AMAZING. Honestly, I just LOVED all the spires, the gargoyles, the demons, you name it – it was all VERY cool.

Just pass the city square is Stroget, billed as the world’s longest pedestrian shopping street (NO IDEA if that’s true, but I knew that Puma would love the fact I mentioned it). And whilst the shopping was nothing life changing, what WAS life changing was the Lakenheuset Pastry Shop.

Okay, seriously – picture STACKS of fresh patries LOADED with fresh cream, fruits, and sugar. Imagine fresh bread wafting through the air, intermingling with the scent of freshly ground coffee. And lastly, picture biting into something that should only be offered to Royalty, and then ordering another one just because 11,000 calories just wasn’t enough. If you’ve got all that in your mind, you get a sense of what this place was like. I mean, just LOOK at my pastry!!!!! Oh, and I got a homemade pop tart as well that was, well, WICKED INSANE GOOD.

After that, we continued down Stroget (I can’t do the little slash thing through the “o”, but it’s there, trust me…), stopping to admire the architecture and the squares. We then hit the first activity of the day – the Round Tower. This building, Europe’s oldest observatory, is still functioning and was the old stomping ground of Tycho Brahe (Dr. Shapiro from UNC would be so proud). We popped in (after stopping at the attached church) to walk the spiral ramp to the top and catch some GREAT views of the city, including the bridge to Sweden (how crazy is THAT?). It was a nice day (windy, cold and gray, to be sure, but good visibility and NO RAIN), and the views from there were AWESOME.

After that, we rolled down to Nyhavn (New Harbor), where we embarked on a true highlight of the day – the Canal cruise. This was just FANTASTIC, as it took us by SO MANY great sights and gave us such a wonderful opportunity to see all the different buildings and areas of Copenhagen, including the Opera House, the Maersk HQ, lots of church spires, the Old Stock Exchange, Parliament, The Queen’s Palace, and a whole host of other areas.

The ONE THING that we didn’t see, however, was the Little Mermaid. So not sure how many of you know, but after ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF BEING IN THE COPENHAGEN HARBOR, the Danish government has ripped Ariel off her rock and shipped her to Shanghai for the Global Expo. That’s right – THE MOST FAMOUS LANDMARK IN COPENHAGEN IS NOW IN CHINA. Oh well, such is life. I did actually know this, but since the cruise takes you past the spot anyway, we hopped out (it was hop on-hop off) and saw the “mermaid exchange” TV, which is a live projection of the mermaid in Shanghai, where you can see those jokers checking her out. It’s funny, because we almost didn’t go to Copenhagen because of this. Upon further reflection, I am SO GLAD I didn’t skip this city…

After the cruise, we grabbed some street meat and then wandered around the city a bit more (let me tell you – that DOG was AWESOME! – 3 types of sauces, fried onion rings, etc – so guuuuuuuuuuuud) before deciding it was time for a celebratory drink to reward ourselves after all that heavy duty sight-seeing. And thanks to perfect puffin’s research, we had just the spot – the Copenhagen Brew Pub. This place, located in the basement of another building, was AWESOME!!!! We started with a sampler tray, and I can confirm that 5 of their 6 beers were TOP NOTCH (weisse was very good as well – I’m just not a wheat guy). We then settled in for Pale Ales and perhaps THE BEST amber we’ve had in a long time (pure caramel). It was Yazz and Sam’s first every sampler tray, and I basically held court explaining about the different styles and how each was brewed. It was in that moment that I realized – I’ve really spent a lot of time learning about beer. Perhaps I’ve missed my calling…

From there we hit the OTHER brew pub for a quick one (had to try their sampler platter as well, of course!) before wandering back to Nyhavn for an AMAZING meal at a place called Cap Horn. We had some DELISH cheese before settling in for the main – venison with pesto potatoes. This cat was ALLLLLL smiles.

At this point, I was ready to head back to the hotel (it was 11 PM), as it had been a perfect day and I was exhausted. However, as I was with 3 females on a Saturday night who had other ideas, 10 minutes later I was being led into “Sam’s Bar” for the unthinkable – a night of Karaoke in a foreign country. AND THAT, ladies and gentlemen, made for one of the FUNNIEST and best nights I’ve had in a LONG time.

For starters, it was just a RIOT. Half the songs were in Danish – the other half in English. Some people could rock – some were donkey trash. For my part, I started off with (that’s right, Fizzy) “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” which I feel went very well. But it was at this point that Yazz ordered a round of Sambuca shots and told me that I was going to help her sing “Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us” by Starship. Upon reflection, I’m not sure what was worse – the Sambuca or our performance. However, based upon the faces of the people around us as we sang, I feel pretty sure it was the later…

Jenny then asked if I was going to sing again, and I said sure. She was going to the bar anyway, so the conversation went like this:

Muffin Puffin: “What do you want to sing? I’ll sign you up.”

Husband Bear: “Sign me up for Bon Jovi. Any song but Livin’ on a Prayer.”

Muffin Puffin: “Which song do you want?”

Husband Bear: “Preferably ‘You Give Love a Bad Name,’ but I don’t care. Just not Livin’ on a Prayer – I can’t sing it after the key change (and it VA is reading this, she’ll agree…).”

Jenny smiles, kisses me, and walks to the bar. Two minutes later she returns.

Husband Bear: “Did you find anything?”

Muffin Puffin (without missing a BEAT): “Yep! Signed you up for “Livin on a Prayer.”

(straight faced – has NO IDEA why I look distressed)

Husband Bear: “Sweetheart. I can’t sing that song.”

Muffin Puffin: “Yes you can. That’s the one you wanted!”

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat…

And so I sang it, SCREAMING at the end like an extra in a Marilyn Manson video. All the same, the crowd got a kick out of it. I even tacked on Sweet Home, Alabama at the end of the night, which, in case you’re curious, was FOUR IN THE MORNING. And no joke – people were STILL streaming in, but I was EXHAUSTED. We got home at 5 AM and PASSED OUT.


Sunday: Probably the best lager in the world – a tour of the Carlsberg Brewery

So Sunday I actually woke up at 9 AM like a shot. I tried to go back to sleep, but since clearly I was acting like I was in college again, my body reacted appropriately, granting me only 4 hours of sleep. Th girls, however, didn’t move quite so fast…Three hours later, we finally checked out of the room. Details…

Stop #1 on the tour was the Carlsberg Brewery. Known for the slogan “probably the best beer in the world,” Carlsberg is the world’s 4th largest brewery. I have always loved brewery tours, and this was another really good one (still not as good as Heineken, but WAAAAAY better than Guinness). On a random note, we saw the jutland horse, the animal which used to be used for transport. HOLY MOLY – these horses are 2200 pounds and are SHEETS of muscle. WOW.

After that (and after the sampling, of course!), we rolled back into the city, stopping first at the Queen’s Palace (where we arrived just in time for the changing of the guard!) and then moving over to the nearby church (which apparently showcases the 4th largest down on earth!). The inside of the church was beautiful, sparsely furnished and decorated with the uncovered yet smoothed stone walls. It was truly impressive because the entire church was under the dome (completely devoid of chapels on either side), and the silence in that place was DEAFENING. It’s funny, at this point we’ve seen so many churches that you’d think they all start to run together. However, this marks two trips in a row where a church has taken me by surprise and wowed me (St. Stephen’s in Budapest being the other). It was simply, to be sure, but that made it all the more impressive.

After that, we walked back to Nyhavn for a final meal. Luckily lunch goes until 5 in Denmark, and so we rolled in at 4:41 and proceeded to CRUSH a traditional Danish lunch. And what, dare you ask, IS a traditional Danish lunch? Well, it went something like this:

Starter – marinated, curried, and pickled herring (Pooh – thought of Mrs. Adams, as she was the one who first introduced me to this back at the Parson’s table when I was in EIGHTH GRADE).
Entrée-
More herring (you can NEVER have enough)
Farmhouse cheese (so creamy it was a TRANSCENDENTAL experience)
Salad and grapes
Fried plaice (fish)
Rare roast beef
Chicken salad covered in curry
Bread with a sauce for dipping that will CHANGE YOUR LIFE…AND shorten it…

It was just INSANE good, and we ate like there was no tomorrow. We ate so much, in fact, that I am still full as I type this. That being said, it was the PERFECT ending to an AMAZING trip.

After that, we rolled to the airport, where it was smooth sailing all the way back to London. The smooth sailing ended there, however, as team Taylor arrived to find a Tube strike in progress, meaning a cab was the order of the day (insert expletive here). Oh well, it was still an EXTRA AWESOME weekend, so no complaints!!!!

Yazz and Sam – we had a blast! Thanks so much for suggesting this!

Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny (aka Thor and Helga)