Sunday, 24 October 2010

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


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!


Sam and Jenny (and Cath and Alison)

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