Friday, 17 December 2010

Singapore Part 2 - Starting a life in Southeast Asia...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY back in the US. Okay, so I’m sure there will be some boo’s and general anger/revolt/mutiny here, but this will officially be the LAST POST OF 2010. Whilst I had planned to keep folks up to date on all the homecoming activities, Disney, Christmas, etc, the simple fact is that the time with my family is just too precious, and I can’t lose a second of it in front of the PC. My commitment to everyone is that I WILL commit all of it to the blog. However, the next post after this will be 7 January, 2011. Hitman, Hairless, Fizzy – don’t give up on me. The Bull just needs a break.

And so, without further a do, I give you Singapore – the REST of the story…

Monday: In search of the perfect place to call “home…”

So the day started at 9:30 when we met our “relocation consultant” to look at properties. This is a crucial activity for expats, especially when moving to a city they’ve NEVER visited before. Well, I am happy to report that our girl Olivia was a rock star, and she came through BIG TIME.

We spent the day looking at 14 different flats throughout the city, most of them focused on areas called Robertson Quay, Clarke Quay, and Orchard (you’ll hear me reference these A LOT over the next year), which are popular places for expats. As fate would have it, the first place we saw ended up being our favorite, and so we scheduled a second viewing for our first, second, and third choices the following day.

We spent the afternoon wandering the neighborhood around Robertson Quay, the site of all potential finalists and a spot that I think we’ll DEFINITELY enjoy. Then, given that it was 167,000 degree Celsius, we went back to Paula’s and jumped in the pool, where we spent about 30 minutes cooling down bfore we rolled to th feature event of the evning – dinner at the boss’ place!

So for those of you that don’t know, Sammy is moving from a Change Management role to a service delivery role. If you don’t speak “Bank,” it means that I’m going to be the head of Benefits Administration for APAC (yes, you read that correctly – the fate of benefits for associates in TWELVE COUNTRIES is my responsibility – does anyone else smell a goat rodeo?). In addition to changing jobs and continents, it means that I also have a new manager, this one taking th form of a South African Rugby fanatic and formr marathoner named Martin Appel.

Martin invited Jenny and I over to his (SUPER SWEEEEEET) pad, and so we hopped a cab around 6:30 and rolled out to meet the fam. We then spent th evning eating lik KINGS, as Martin grilled a feast that could have fed 273 people – it was SO GUUUUUUUUUUUD. We had a blast – too much fun, in fact, as we went through about 4 bottles of wine and suddenly checked our watches to realize it was AFTER 1 IN THE MORNING! YIKES! Martin – sorry about that! Thank you SO MUCH for your hospitality – it was a BLAST.

Tuesday: And the winner is…

So Tuesday was spent reviewing the “short list” of properties. After much deliberation, Team Taylor settled on Fraser Place (30 Robertson Walk, in case anyone’s curious for Google Earth). We LOVE this place, as it’s a) right by a grocery store, b) has an Indian, Japanese, and French place in the basement (all you can eat Raclette for 30 bucks, baby!!!!), and d) has a “Wine Connection” shop on the ground floor. I can feel the calories flowing through already…

After the selection we rolled down to an area called Harbourfront, which is where the office is located. This is a PERFECT spot for the office, as a) th cable cars to Sentosa (th resort island FIVE MINUTES off the coast of Singapore), b) the ferries to Indonesia, and c) the buses to K-L and Malacca all leave from the mall ATTACHED to the office. It’s funny, when Pumpkin and I popped up out of the metro station, we asked each other, “How will we ever find th building?” Then, looking to our left, we saw a HUGE sign that said: “Bank of America Merrill Lynch Harbourfront Office – this way.” Easy enough!
We wandered around the area a bit (very cool) befor heading back into town, where we made a dash for the last activity on the to-do list: finding a gym. We had actually passed a Fitness First on our walk to Boat Quay the first day, and so we popped in to see how it looked.

This place is AMAZING. There are 14 locations on the island, and 5 of thm have AT LEAST a half Olympic pool! The pool at this place is outside and overlooks the Singapore Flyer (think London Eye) and the Marina – SO NEAT. JT and I both signed up. I can’t WAIT to get back in a pool – two weeks until the fitness begins again!

Dinner that night was an institution – Da Dong by Fatty Wong (YES – that’s what she said). I mean, come on – with a name like that, you KNOW they are gonna get my business at least once. CLASSIC!

We ate the Peking Duck, which was delish with one random difference to the crispy aromatic duck from London – they cut the skin off and wrap ONLY THAT in the plum sauce pancake! And hey, who doesn’t love some fat filled skin, but JT and I had to eat the bird as well to make it truly palatable. And let me tell you – again, it was GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD. Seriously – Muffin and I have yet to find a bad meal here. If anything, since we don’t actually know what ANYTHING is on ANY menu, we’re on a journey of culinary discovery at th moment, and we are LOVING IT!!! My waist line, however, isn’t enjoying it as much. However, the meat sweats and the heat sweats are keeping the “muffin top to muffin tank” expansion project in check.

We spent the evening at home, as Sammy the Bull had a call (lovin’ that Analyze Tollgate, baby!), and then I stayed up until 1:30 watching tv. WHY, you ask? Well, only because YOU CAN GET CSI: VEGAS AND THE AMAZING RACE IN THE SING!!!! WOO-HOO!!!! They even have “Amazing Race – Asia!” Can’t WAIT! I am ALL ABOUT the AXN Network.

Wednesday: Team – Meet Sammy. Sammy – don’t scare the team…

So Wednesday was a big day, as it was my inaugural meeting with my new team. I was definitely excited to see the gang, and in true Sam Taylor fashion, I had NO KHAKIS TO WEAR (K-Rack – those would be chinos to you…). That’s right, after having FINALLY tossed the Duckheads I have owned since 1991, Sammy the Bull had NOTHING but a pair of dark jeans (Gap at least) and a shirt that I sweat through about 38 seconds after walking through my door. Seriously – when I got back from the office and dropped the backpack, you could have run a slip ‘n slide down my back. I know what sexy is…
The last bit of the day was roaming around the Marina, where we noticed about 610 TRILLION white balls in the water. Honestly, they looked like crab traps, but apparently they were actually little floating balls called "wishing spheres." The idea is that you write a wish for 2011 and then chuck the ball into the harbour, where it sits until New Year's. It should be noted that they are quick to mention "All spheres are non-toxic and 100% recyclable. The Singaporean Government will ensure that none of the 20,000 spheres enter the open ocean or cause any damage to our environment." After all - the Sing is cleeeeeeeean.

Dinner that night was in Little India (the tube stop for which is – oddly enough – Little India – isn’t that just supposed to be the nickname?), where we hit this AMAZING PLACE called Spice Junction. These dishes (South Indian – Puma, you would have been proud) were DELISH, and we’d never heard of most of them. Thanks for the recommendation, Biju!

We then rolled back the flat, where we spent the evening chillin’ with Paula and packing up. I actually tried to go to sleep at 11, but after 15 trips to the bathroom, I can confirm I hadn’t slept a WINK when the alarm went off at 3:15. Muffin actually stayed up all night, so she looked in MUCH better shape than me…

Thursday: We have HOW MANY hours of transit time?
THIRTY HOURS. That's right, sports fans. That's how many hours you'll spend in transit to get from the Sing to the Queen City? The most direct route? Well, that would be Singapore to Hong Kong, at which point you have to:
1. Get off the plane in HK
2. Pass through security...TWICE (all the while with cats yelling at you in Cantonese)
3. Go up 1 escalator (with reminders everywhere to protect the elderly and children - my question is: from what? Dim sum?)
4. Go to gate 50 and board THE EXACT PLANE YOU JUST DEPARTED
The most painful part of it all was that, try as I might, I simply COULD NOT sleep on the 14 hour flight from HK to the Windy City. And since the entertainment was donkey trash, I cut through my latest book: "Let the Right One In." Between this and the Millennium Trilogy, I have now concluded that cats in Sweden are REALLY messed up - just sayin'...
We arrived an hour late into Chicago, where the temperature was SIXTY DEGREES COLDER THAN IN SINGAPORE. All this was fine, but the part that bothered us was MISSING OUR CONNECTION. That being said, we had access to the lounge and got on board the next flight to Charlotte, so no complaints at the end of the day.
And then, finally, after 30 hours of transit and 50 of being awake, Team Taylor set foot in the QC. As I've said all day today, this first day back has been crazy, as I honestly feel like a nomad at the moment (well said by C-Web). To quote Bill Bryson when thinking about the states after being away for awhile: "I'm a stranger here myself." A few things in particular:
1. Food portion sizes - HOLY MOLY
2. Driving a car - Jenny did that today for the first time IN A YEAR

3. Watching out for traffic that drives on the RIGHT side of the road
4. Half and half creamer...who knew it was THIS HARD TO MIX?
But hey, I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, as these observations (as well as the homecoming) are the subject of a different blog, but that will have to keep until the New Year.
And so, it is with heavy eyelids, a full belly, and a light heart that I sign off for 2010. No one delete this link, and I PROMISE Team Taylor will be back in full swing to kick off the new year.
Seriously - thanks to all of you guys for reading. See you in 2011, when the bets on how many weeks I last before my first caning will start flying in fast and furious. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Festivus, and everything in between!!!
Love,
Sam and Jenny

Singapore Part 1 - Asia for Beginners...

Family,

And a good morning to you from…THE OLD NORTH STATE! Yeah, baby!!! That’s right – Team Taylor is back on the ground and ready for 2 weeks of casseroles, football, family, and Fat Tire. Bring on the calories!!!! But honestly, as I type that – how is that request different from ANY OTHER DAY.

Okay, so Hitman (now officially a follower) and Hairless have already ragged me (DNM/DNM) for my delay in giving you guys the Singapore update. However, I am here to make amends. (C-Web – not a word out of you on my metrics - but glad you're now a follower as well).

And so, without further ado, I present to you the recap of Typhoon Taylor’s first full week in the Lion City.

Thursday: But we’re in BUSINESS CLASS!!!!!

So Thursday started out less than extra awesome. For starters, there was certainly the expected twinge of sadness when we said goodbye to our home of the last 18 months. It was akin to cleaning out 1828 Granville West after my Freshman year of college (but Warf, fret not – I will concede the point that this flat was a LOT cleaner thanks to a weekly maid), but this certainly felt more final, as there’s the obvious realization that we’ll never set food inside that apartment ever again. That being said, the buzz of the next great adventure was ringing in our ears, and so we hopped our cab to Paddington.

So we rock up to Terminal 3 and arrive at the Sing Air counter. Now a little back story – all I have heard about Sing Air is that a) flight attendants are HOT, b) the service is AMAZING, c) the food is great, and d) the seats will change your LIFE. Well, while (notice – not whilst) some of that is true, I can confirm (unfortunately) that the check-in staff is LESS than friendly. Here was the conversation:

Rude Counter Lady (RCL): “Do you live in Singapore?”

Sleepy Sammy (SS): “No – we are continuing on to the states.”

RCL: “Do you have proof of this?”

SS: “Yep.” (hands flight confirmation to RCL)

RCL: “You are confirmed on this flight?”

SS: “Yep.” (WHY EXACTLY WOULDN’T I BE CONFIRMED ON IT? DOES IT LOOK LIKE I ENJOY FORGING FLIGHT DOCUMENTS IN MY SPARE TIME?)

RCL: “Your carry on bags are too heavy.”

SS: “We’re in Business class.”

RCL: “I know. Your bags are STILL too heavy.”

SS: “But we have an entire storage bin to ourselves.”

RCL: “Still too heavy.” (her tone indicated that she was less than impressed with my argument).

So APPARENTLY you can only have 15kg of luggage on board a 380 (I blame Rolls Royce for this), and no single bag can be more than 7 (which means, when you think about it, that you actually can only have 14 kg, but I digress…). Consequently, Muffin and I spent the next FORTY MINUTES repacking EVERYTHING. As a result, we had a) a scramble to the lounge and then the flight, followed by b) a less than favorable first impression of Sing Air.

That being said, the flight was GREAT. The seats were SUPER nice, the staff wonderful, and the food OUT OF CONTROL. Jenny and I were TOTAL TOURISTS, snapping photos EVERY TIME food came out (Hitman – let m just say thanks again). It was JT’s first biz class flight, and the readership can rest easy in the knowledge that we ate and drank our way through that plane.

We then passed through the Bermuda triangle or some space-time continuum, because without sleeping we magically landed in Asia, where we found the local time was 7:35 AM. And so began the first of what is certain to be ENDLESS misadventures on a new continent.

Friday: You mean $7 for that bottle of beer IS the special?

Singapore – the Lion City. A thriving metropolis of 4.4 million people at the tail end of the Malaysian peninsula. A booming city in an even more booming corner of the world. And, for the next year, home. And while it’s early, I gotta tell ya – I LOVE THIS PLACE.

The airport was, like EVERY OTHER SPOT ON THE ISLAND – clean (MattPa – you’re welcome – and p.s. – I told the monkeys hello for you and even gave them some Gatorade) and super efficient. We cleared customs quickly and then rolled straight to the cabs, where JT and I rolled Wild Card-Hitman style in the black “limo” (translation – a Chrysler town car – details…).

We rolled into Chinatown, at which point Paula “P-Dawg” McHugh welcomed us to Chez Packer Fan. She was working, so we got cleaned up, showered, and then rolled out to begin the day and our first adventure in Singapore! First up – the national symbol of the Republic of Singapore – the Merlion (yes, I know – go ahead and say it: “What the hell is a Merlion?”

The Merlion is a statue down near the marina. It’s a half fish-half Lion, which is obviously something you don’t see every day. The Lion bit comes from the city’s name (“Singa” means Lion in the ancient tongue), and the fish rising from the water represents the city’s past as a fishing village and its ascent into on of the world’s foremost cities. I realize it sounds rather random, but it was really cool.

We then walked around a bit, tooling around Boat Quay and looking at the 10 million new dishes we are already looking forward to trying at various restaurants. And Pistol – so you know – there is actually a bar called “Manchester United CafĂ©” – wonder if they show any Liverpool games in there?

However, before we could make the 10 minute sojourn to Clarke Quay, Muffin Puffin hit a WALL. Team Taylor needed food – ASAP – and there is only ONE PLACE to have lunch in the Sing – THE HAWKER CNTR, BABY!!!

So here’s the deal – whilst a lot of things are REDONKULOUSLY expensive in the Sing, there are a few things which are still REALLY good deals. One of these would be lunch at the Hawker Centers spread throughout the city, as you can get AMAZING Thai, Chinese, and Indian food for ~$2 USD! Seriously – it is AWSOME, and JT and I started with duck, noodles, dim sum, dumplings, and a Starfruit shake. SOOOOOO GUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy MSG cheekies).

After that we rolled over to another first for Team Taylor – our first ever Buddhist temple. DUDE – it was something out of a movie – picture 200 cats in robes chanting whilst some dude bangs on a gong and another dude chants “oooooooommmmmm” with incense burning all the while. I mean, check out this video!






video
After that it was back to Paula’s, where we sat by the pool and PASSED OUT for a bit. Seriously – Paula even cam home early to check on us and found us SPRAWLED OUT AND UNCONSCIOUS BY THE POOL. Perfect pumpkin had a pretty funny line on her cheek from the wooden seats.

Dinner that night was something that I’d been CRAVING – WINGS AND BEER, BABY!!! Oh yeah! We rolled over to this area called Emerald Hill, which was SO COOL – it had such an old world colonial feel to it. The name of the bar/restaurant was (appropriately enough) – Ice Cold Beer – wonder what they sell there?

So we rock up, order our beers, and the first bill comes. Yes – apparently you pay for things at time of services rendered. No problem, I thought, until I saw the bill – 3 beers? 40 BUCKS!!!!!! HOLY MOLY!!!!! And we ain’t talking Delerium Tremens here, people – we are talking ASAHI AND HOEGARDEN. WOW…I eventually got “the special,” which was 3 beers for $22. But since it’s about 49,000 degrees in Singapore (this place even has OUTDOOR AIR CONDITIONING), you have to pound those puppies pretty quick.

We ended up hitting 2 more bars that night, but in Chinatown and both VERY cool. Most notable was “The Screening Room,” which offered us a) our first Singapore Sling and b) a rooftop bar with an AMAZING view of the city.

We hit the hay around 2 AM, thereby completing the LONGEST DAY OF MY LIFE. Good times, and a GREAT start to Singapore.

Saturday: “Your sex is on Fiiiiiiiiire!!!!!!!”

In true Team Taylor fashion, we didn’t wake up until Paula pounded on our door at 1:30 PM to tell us lunch was ready. Yeah – we were BUSHED. Consequently, we hung out by the pool until around 4ish, at which point we headed to the Macrichie Reservoir Park, a seriously neat stretch of rainforest in the middle of the island that offers some good trekking, kayaking, and a chance to generally lose 45 pounds sweating. We arrived just in time for me to witness our inaugural monsoon, as it PELTED it down for about 20 minutes before the steam then started to rise from the jungle. Not to be deterred, however, we made at 10 KM hike, getting lost only once beside the fenced off Singapore Armed Forces training center. I mean seriously – check out this sign. This makes the “no chewing gum” thing seem less of a big deal…

We cleaned up that night before rolling into Chinatown where Sammy fulfilled Tom Price’s lifelong dream of consuming ALL KINDS OF CRITTERS YOU CAN’T NAME. Seriously – this was hilarious. We rock up to this place, and P tells us that we need to try Chili Crab, which is the national dish of Singapore. When Jenny selects it, they actually wave her over and let her PICK OUT HER OWN CRAB. I mean – LOOK at that monster. Brother – if it was any consolation, you were REALLY tasty, and Jenny didn’t leave a SPECK of meat behind.

It should be noted that thy brought Paula’s fish out ALIVE to her as well. As for Sammy, I stuck with…wait for it…wait for it…BARBEQUED STING RAY, BABY!!! OH YEAH!!!! In a word – RELIGIOUS.










Oh, and side note before we continue. We're all getting ready, and I'm sitting on the couch checking email, when I hear this CRACK in the bathroom. Now Muffin is in there, and at first I just assume that something has fallen to the floor. But then I hear "Shit." Followed 5 seconds later by "Shit" said MUCH more emphatically.


Well, as fate would have it, Jenny had a craving to move her towel from it's current location to a shelf above the toilet. And how, pray tell, did she plan to get it there? SHE PUT HER ENTIRE BODY WEIGHT ON THE HALF INCH PLASTIC TOILET AND USED IT AS A STEP LADDER. Needless to say, she was lucky that her foot didn't end up in the bowl. I mean, my wife is skinny, but come on...

It was then into Clarke Quay, where we rolled into a pub called the Highlander. The good thing about this place? MICROBREWED BEER! The bad thing? IT’S $18 A GLASS!!!!! 6 beers = $108 SNG – I mean, I have no words…other than the fact that I will be a sober man for much of my time here.

I will say that the place is AWESOME, and the live band ROCKED the party. And as you can expect, we were probably the most vocal cats in the crowd, supplying FANTASTIC backup vocal to hits like “Sweet Home, Alabama” and “Your Sex is on Fire!” Sam Stone (Private Eye) – you will HAVE to check out the video.

Oh, and did I mention some of the “fine dining” one can find in CQ? That’s right, folks – “delightfully tacky…yet unrefined.”

It was then another night of sleep for Team Taylor, as Sunday had all the trimmings of an EPIC day.

Sunday: “He needs a cold shower after that one…”

So Sunday was honestly one of the neater things we’ve done in a long time. As fate would have it, Paula somehow met the guy who CALLS THE HORSE RACES at the Singapore Turf Club (Dad – this is an AWESOME facility – we are SO rocking this when you are here), and he offered us a tour of the facility beforehand. Not ONLY did he hook us up with a tour of the facility, he even LET US GO INTO THE BOOTH AND WATCH AS HE CALLED THE FIRST RACE! As a kid who grew up on horse racing, it was a real treat.

The races were FANTASTIC. Matt (the commentator) got us free tickets into the indoor viewing platform, which meant that a) we were in the AC, b) I felt like Saul in Ocean’s 11, and c) we had an INCREDIBLE view of the entire track. And so, Tiger beers in hand, odds reviewed, we all went to the windows to begin placing our bets (minimum is $5 SNG here).

The first 4 races were a blood bath, as we didn’t win ANYTHING. But then, in the footsteps of Chester ladies and gentlemen, Jenny Taylor got hot. Muffin Puffin took down THREE WINNERS in a row! Basically she was BLOWING IT UP whilst I dragged the overall family winners back down to even (Mom, Dad – CLIFF DWELLER – that’s all I’m sayin’…).

However, Race 8 arrived, and Sammy went out on a limb to pick “Trigger Legacy.” We actually went back up to the booth for this one, and Matt listened to our picks and said “Paula, Jen, you guys have GREAT picks. Sam- you don’t have a chance in this one, mate.” Two minutes later, Trigger Legacy shocked the Singapore racing community with a GREAT Victory, paying out $150!!! Matt was in shock, and as they came across the finish he noted that the owner “is gonna need a cold shower after that one…” Good times.

After the races, we rolled to a place called Dempsey Hill, site of the former British Military Barracks. This was a REALLY neat spot, filled with tons of restaurants, each occupying a former “block” of the old Presidio. Our spot for the evening was the Tawandong Microbrewery, where we had 2 liter lube tubes of micro-brewed lager with some AMAZING Thai food (I mean seriously – where else do you have a Thai-German microbrewery?). We ate outside, something that you can do pretty much every night in Singapore (which we LOVE).

It was then back to the palace, where we prepared for the next adventure – house hunting. However, that will have to wait until tomorrow.

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Last call: All stations to Stratford...

Family,

And a good evening to you from THE LAST DAY in the Mother Country. That’s right, sports fans – this is the FINAL post for Team Taylor on English soil. How did we celebrate our last day in the UK? With a dinner at La Tasca, of course! That's right - the bloody Spanish have struck again, dealing me a final blow in the form of a craving for a little more jamon y queso prior to departure. Consequently, Jenny and I went for a "light" tapas dinner - the picture pretty much speaks for itself.
So seriously, now that it's all said and done, how on EARTH do you sum up this experience? How do you describe everything that you've seen, the emotions you've gone through, and how it's changed you as a person and as a couple? I think the short answer is: “you don’t.” However, to cite a favorite quote: “We don’t remember days – we remember moments.” And so, as a trip down memory lane, dear friends, here are the memories that, as I sit here in a now barren flat with only a final Brewdog IPA, 6 pieces of stuffed-to-the-brim luggage, and my soul mate around me, surface to mind as the best of this amazing, incredible, unbelievable chapter in our lives that closes tomorrow at 10:55 AM GMT when we board Singapore Air Flight 317 to Asia.

1. The look on Jenny’s face when we first walked into Flat 303, 10 Weymouth Street, and the squeal that she just couldn’t suppress...

2. The chills along my spine when Elphaba “defied gravity” – for the second AND third time...
3. That first landing in Charlotte Douglas in October, seeing the “Beacon” (also known as the Bank of America Corporate Center) in the distance and realizing how proud I am to be an American and how many things about home I will forever appreciate all the more...

4. That first GREAT run in Regent’s Park with a healed foot, surrounded by soccer, cricket, and all the colors of England in bloom...

5. “Into the Woods, and out of the woods, and home before…there are Giants in the Sky…”

6. England 35 – Australia 18 – SWIIIIIIIIIIING LOOOOOOOOOOOOW……SWEEEEET CHAAAAAAARIOOOOOOOOT….

7. Standing at the Treasury of Petra…and repeating lines from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” over and over…

8. Opening a $60 package of Mountain Dew – forever known as the most expensive sugar rush in HISTORY...

9. The moment I realized (5 seconds too late) that the 9 pin bowling was actually TEN pin bowling…DONKEYS.

10. Skafell Pike on a day you could see forever...

11. That first pint in a 3 table bar in Prague, heart full, body warm, and soul at peace...

12. The moment I discovered that Heineken WAS different in the Dam!

13. Finally, finally, FINALLY – making good on my promise of getting my mom to the Sistine Chapel...

14. And amazing week with an old friend from Down Under – after WAY too long of a dry spell...

15. The laughter of good friends and fellow combatants at the April celebration...

16. A waterfall, no towel, some Japanese cats who couldn’t speak English, and a guide who didn’t really expect to live until 30 – all culminating in me jumping into a Norwegian river...
17. The moment Jenny said, “We’re staying at some place called the Freitheim,” with me staring at a hotel of the same name that basically looked like the MGM Grand of Norway...
18. Miller joking at the Lamb & Flag "Hey, can you believe we might really pull this off?", and then smiling, proud in the knowledge that we knew we already had...

19. "Everything you say to me takes me one step closer to the edge.....SHUT UP WHEN I'M TALKIN' TO YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU" - and then noticing the look in Goodyer's face...
20. "We regret to inform you that Gatwick airport has closed due to snow in the Home Counties."

21. The Keg in Ottawa - do I really have to say any more?

22. My first ever $500 chip with "the Shootahs!"

23. Oysters, bubbly, and perhaps THE BEST photo of 2010 - Reddingtons, Taylors, and Powells in front of Tower Bridge...

24. Tait Robinson saying, "I think I need one more pastry" after we'd just LAID WASTE to Borough Market's food stalls...

25. A Friday night email from the Hitman just before stepping on the Jubes with the title: "We will be extending your assignment- FYI going into the weekend..."

26. The look of composure on Andrew Harwood's face when I told him, "Dude - I just peed in your toilet that doesn't flush."

27. Sitting in dad's hotel room with dad and mom, Trader Jose's Light in hand, drawing lots for the Kentucky Derby (which I won, for the record)...

28. The day I first was introduced to Selwyn...

29. Matt Miller taking a sip of his beer and then saying, "This tastes like feet. This is feet ale."
30. Sitting outside with Muffin on our balcony that first Sunday, absolutely in shock that we were here and wondering what foolishness we'd get into...
So there you have it – a year and a half crystallized into some of the best memories of our lives. I have no lie to tell – this past year and half has been, WITHOUT A DOUBT, the best 18 months of my life, made all the more special by the fact that I’ve made so many WONDERFUL friends here, been supported by a cast of CRAZY Americans making myriad trips over, and had my AMAZING wife beside me through it all.

But the good news is that, whilst this chapter is closing, the next one is opening. I’m sure most of the followers of the blog know, but for anyone who doesn’t – TEAM TAYLOR IS MOVING TO SINGAPORE!!!!! That’s right, campers – you’ve got ANOTHER year of misadventures, “lost in translation” moments, and (most likely) first hand discussions about the joys of caning comin’ at you in 2011.

Oh, and I would simply be remiss if I didn’t say HAPPY BIRTHDAY BROTHER OWAIN MORGAN!!!!! Here’s hoping you got that dinner and have a GREAT day off tomorrow.

Lovely Lisa - the desk is now yours - take good care of it (translation - POWER WASH IT TO REMOVE THE BACTERIA). I also realized, admittedly a little too late, that I still have the key. Oops...check your interoffice mail in about a week...

Okay, whether it's enough or not, that's all I've got left to print. We're flying tomorrow, so no blog from Team Taylor until AT LEAST Friday. However, I'd say that Sunday's a more realistic assessment.

Again - to all those that have laughed with us, cried with us, and read with us this far - thank you. I really hope you'll continue the journey with us into Asia. After all, if you thought I stuck out here, just WAIT until I start asking folks if they're descended from Ghengis Khan...
Chat soon!
Love,
Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The day that we thought would NEVER come (except the other two times it's come) - Leaving Drinks for the Taylors...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. So tonight was another big milestone in the “Countdown to Deportation” – Sam and Jenny’s “Leaving Do.”

As I’m sure you can appreciate, despite having tons of Londoners around, the Smoke is a very transient city, filled with a lot of folks working here for finite periods of time. Leaving drinks are a big thing here, and since that covers a lot of ground (leaving the job, city, or country), it happens quite frequently. In fact, as Brother Morgan so observantly commented earlier today, “This is actually the THIRD leaving do for Team Taylor.” He said that, based on history, this isn’t really a “goodbye” but more a “see you in 2012.” In truth, whilst I know that won’t be the case, I think that mentally I’m so used to coming BACK to London that I haven’t actually processed the reality that I have 2 sleeps left in this country before shuffling off.

The reality of the situation certainly got a jolt today when, at 8:45 AM, the packers arrived to load our stuff for shipping to Singapore. Seriously – those guys are a FORCE OF NATURE, sweeping up everything in their path and leaving a void in their wake. They had EVERYTHING boxed up and sealed in under 90 minutes – AMAZING! And T-Bone, true to your request, the remaining Mountain Dew bottles (of which there weren’t many) were given to the fine gentlemen who did the packing in an effort to further American-British relations. I even threw in a little “Cat Daddy” moonshine as well. I mean, it’s all about giving them a true “Jack of the Wood” experience…

The work day was good (no pigeons in my food and SUCCESS on the Readiness Review, baby!) for both Jenny and I, but Jenny's was pretty much PERFECT due to the THREE HOUR LUNCH her team had for their Christmas Dinner. I tell ya what - those finance folks know how to party....
The featured event of the day kicked off around 6 PM at the Market Porter, an old (and GREAT) staple of the London Bridge area. I rocked up with my old India travel companion Jen and Lovely Lisa, where we found a pub in FULL SWING. Seriously - this place was HEAVING.
We tried to carve out a spot, but we actually were forced OUTSIDE for about 15 minutes before, realizing that it was colder than the South Pole Station in winter, we pushed our way back in and solidified a foothold in one of the front corners. The place loosened up a bit after that, and then folks started rolling in.
Honestly, to say too much about it is going to make me sad, as the evening went by in a whirlwind - picture the speed of your wedding day and then condense it down to 4 hours. Yeah, it was pretty much like that. We threw up some gang signs (all you skirts know what's up with 2-1-3), talked (American) football, discussed the merits of the bus system in Charlotte and LA, and planned 2011 travels (Big Cat - don't even act like you're surprised). Suffice it to say that it was filled with laughs, real ale (some of which found its way onto my pants, fleece, and shoes), and lots of good memories. And can I just say that Harvey's Best Bitter and Starry night were two QUALITY ales for a London sendoff. Hitman - they weren't Centurion's Ghost Ale, but they were definitely up there.
We rocked the Porter from 6-11, at which point folks had trains to catch and Team Taylor needed FOOD. We rounded the corner and found some Indian (Hitman - same spot we tried to recruit Knockout), and it was SOOOOOOOOOOO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies). It was also RIDICULOUSLY fast service, as well a) we were the ONLY cats in the place, and b) I think the server was more than a little annoyed by our drunken antics (particularly the part where Yazz kept telling the guy that Bengladesh was VERY close to Singapore).
Seriously - thanks to everyone who's pinged, called, emailed, and most especially made the trek through Siberia to spend the evening with us last night. We have so many great friends and memories here, and last night was one of the crown jewels of the experience.
But again - no getting sappy for this guy - that's tomorrow's blog (the LAST from London!).
And last but not least - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO OUR GOD DAUGHTER SAM!!!!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Love,
Sam and Jenny

Monday, 6 December 2010

Congratulations MUFFIN PUFFIN!!!!

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Okay, so according to the Hitman a) I only have until 11 AM on Thursday to use my mostest favoritest British word EVER (that would be “whilst”) AND b) my blogs have become depressing as hell in my last week in the Mother Country. Consequently, I am hopeful I can rejuvenate everyone’s spirits with this installment of Team Taylor’s escapades.

So first and foremost – CONGRATS TO MUFFIN PUFFIN!!!! That’s right, folks – my perfect pumpkin received some VERY well deserved recognition yesterday (granted, I’m a little biased, but hey – a husband can be proud, right?) and got the bump to VICE PRESIDENT! It was unexpected, and Jenny actually found out via email on Monday morning – what a way to start the week!

To celebrate and to begin “the transition,” Brother Morgan, Sister Lisa, Puffin, and me all rolled out for lunch to a spot we’d never hit before but seemed oddly appropriate – Singapore Sam’s. Now granted, we’ve had some culinary adventures before, but this was in a whole different category.

For starters, Owain and I had slight concerns when, upon plotting the route to this establishment, we noticed that the only other restaurant beside it was Burger King. Now normally, this is NOT a big issue. However, when you consider that this is the area of bankers, money, and expensive lunches, a fast food chain is never a good first sign indicator. But hey, thinking it would put me in the “hawker mood” for the Sing, we kept rolling.

Well, Singapore Sam’s is…basically…Panda Wok in the states. However, there was 1 small twist with this one. Just as we were about to walk up and place our order, A PIGEON FLEW OVER OUR HEADS AND LANDED IN THE KITCHEN. Clearly the pigeon felt at home there, BECAUSE HE LEFT AND CAME BACK 3 TIMES. The look on Perfect Pumpkin’s face? PRICELESS…

All the same, since a) all the dishes were covered and b) in the words of Matt Miller: “When it comes to street meat, go big or go home,” we ate there all the same (and quite enjoyed our meals, for the record).

The evening was a blur, as we had about FIFTEEN MILLION things to do at home. However, I’m happy to report that we did manage to cross almost everything off the list, including the biggest item, which was “prepare everything for the movers.”

Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Congrats again, muffin! I’m so proud of you!!!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Our revels now are ended...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT WEEKEND in the Mother Country. Well, as much as I simply CANNOT BELIEVE I am typing this, it’s time to give you the recap of something that I thought would never come: our last weekend in the UK.

Friday: I GOT THE WHOLE CHICKEN, BABY!!!!! BOO-YAH!!!!!

So Friday was a good one from start to finish. The highlight of the work day (other than all of the wholistic yet detailed clear-and-crisp laser-like 1 pagers I worked on, of course) was, without a doubt – THE FAREWELL VISIT TO NANDO’S, BABY!!!! And why, pray tell, was this a religious experience – all I can say is CHECK THE LOYALTY CARD – we got the free whole chicken!!!!!

So seriously – back story on this – there is a “Nando’s loyalty card” whereby after 9 visits you get a free whole chicken. And whilst this is a good deal, by the time you’ve made 9 visits to this place, you’ve basically put in enough cash to open your own franchise. I mean seriously, even when you get something “free” at the halfway point, you still have to spend 6 quid to get it to count. I mean who’s doing this accounting, Madoff?

All the same, the chicken was, well – RELIGIOUS, and it kicked off a weekend of eating that was epic even by Transition expense account standards. CHUUUUUUBBY BUUUUUUUNNY!!!!!

After work, Team Taylor made what was, in all likelihood, the farewell trip to the Cat. It was almost as if the pub knew it was the end of an era, as despite it being RAMMED, a table opened up almost as soon as we rolled in. When you add in the fact that they had Jack Frost on draft (which is RARE), it made for a wonderful sendoff. The evening was not done, however, as Team Taylor made the walk across the frozen tundra of Canary Wharf to catch the DLR and make another curtain call – this time at La Figa!!!!

Again, it was just perfect – great food, 40 pounds of ravioli, good wine, and our usual wait staff shaking their heads at us. The only thing that didn’t go to plan was Sammy trying to go Bear Grylls style and “walk on water” in the frozen fountain, as about 2 seconds after the photo you see below, I promptly slipped and CRASHED into the ice and the side of the fountain. Guess I’m not as holy as originally believed…

We came home that night and PASSED OUT, sleeping a solid 12 hours to try and catch up from a busy week and some Jordanian jetlag.

Saturday: The pub crawl that wasn’t…

So Team Taylor rallied and got out of the house around 12:30 on Saturday, giving us a whopping THREE HOURS of daylight to wander around. The first stop was Borough Market, where being the soul mates we are we both shared the same thought – GET A DOUBLE CHORIZO SANDWICH ASAP. And let me tell you, it was soooooooooo guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud (peppy cheekies). In truth, we were very well behaved in this final installment at the food market, only sucking down 100 grams of Stichelton cheese, 1 cheese cake brownie (the “curly whirly”), and a few random nibbles here and there. T-bone – I tried to secure 3 cranberry pastries, but they were already out – heartbreaking…

After Borough, we walked across London Bridge on a mission – find the Jerusalem Tavern. This spot, recommended by Brother Morgan, was one of the few remaining pubs on the list for us to try, as they serve exclusively St. Peter’s Ale, which is some good stuff.

Team Taylor wandered ALL OVER the Bank and Smithfield Market area, getting lost about 47 times. It wasn't all bad, however, as we FINALLY found Mansion House (home to the Lord Mayor of London), the Royal Exchange (the old stock market), and the official Bank of England. We even stopped by to say thanks to the cats that made it all possible. :-) FINALLY, however, we succeeded in locating Britton Street. 10 seconds later, I saw the sign for the pub, my heart skipping a beat for joy. Then and only then, however, did I notice the sign out front: PRIVATE PARTY. WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!?! SERENITY NOW!!!!!!!!! And so, the front windows (single paned so that you could hear the laughter, merriment, and fellowship inside) were as close as we got to a proper pint of St. Peter’s Mild in the Jerusalem Tavern. However, not to be thwarted, we turned to head for Ye Olde Mitre, another pub high on the list and supposedly serving Dark Island.

Well, as fate would have it, Ely Place – the street where this pub resides – happens to be THE ONE STREET IN HOLBORN THAT’S NOT MARKED ON OUR MAP. Consequently, despite a good 30 minutes of wandering, we had NO LUCK in finding it. But spirits were still high, and we thought – “Let’s walk the mile plus back to the Ship near Bank – they’ll have Dark Island!” Two things:

They didn’t have Dark Island.
They closed TEN MINUTES BEFORE WE ARRIVED.

Determined to drink (and seriously dehydrated at this point), Team Taylor walked the 1.2 miles BACK to the OTHER Ship – this one near Holborn. There we found seats and SA Brains Festive Cheer Ales to warm us. Dinner that night was a delicious treat – Ping Pong Dim Sum! We basically ate Southeast Asia out of pork,as we just KEPT killing pot after pot. That stuff was GUUUUUUUUUUUUUD…It was then home for another 12 hour sleep, but not before I caught a little of the SEC championship – Waaaaaaaaar Eagle!

Sunday: I just want to hear some Irish music!

Team Taylor was out the door before noon this day, but only because we had a deadline – the noon cutoff for English Breakfast orders at the Prince Regent! However, since I’m sure the suspense is more than you can bear, I’ll go ahead and confirm that, not only did we make the cutoff, we DECIMATED those plates of food and even made way for a second cup of coffee.

We then made a final wander through Regent’s Park, taking a final stroll past the Open Air Theater and even the Rose Garden, where some of those tough buggers were still clinging to life, despite the deep freeze plaguing the city. It was then down to Embankment, where we wandered down by the river, including swinging over to the Southbank for a Christmas Market – full marks to Muffin Puffin for this find!!!

After doing a bit of shopping, team Taylor wandered along the river, taking some GREAT shots of the sunset (at 3:45, for the record) before heading to the last item on the check list – The Porterhouse.

So the only thing I had on my to-do list this day was “go to Porterhouse, have a Red, and listen to the Irish Seisiun.” We’ve been there on Sundays many times before, and I always LOVE to hear the Irish band that james just above the bar. This time we showed up right at 4 PM, ready to watch them JAM – only to find out that they were starting at 5 PM that day (due to the weather). CLASSIC. But hey – we had 3 guuuuuuud pints and had a blast, so no complaints!

Dinner that night was – where else – FAREWELL TO THE DOOT, BABY!!!!! And BOY did they give me a proper sendoff. I asked for Madras, but when it came out, Jenny said, “There’s a potato in yours.” Translation – POTATOES ARE ONLY USED FOR VINDALOO. Seriously – I was BREATHING FIRE – BRAVEHEART STYLE. I actually think the guy was using ghost chilis back there and that they were testing weaponized chili on me. Ugh…

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Catch-up Blog #1: Crossing off the final pair of to-do's...

Family,

And a good Sunday morning to you from across the Pond in the frozen tundra that is London after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Seriously - the two photos below are images I just never thought I'd see in London. I mean, the Globe might be warming, but Britain somehow clearly didn't get that memo...
You'll get a recap of the (FINAL) weekend's activities tonight, but for now I'll cover off all that transpired on Wednesday and Thursday, namely the completion of the "Countdown to Exodus Checklist!!!"
So a little backstory here - As I'm sure anyone who knows us will confirm, Team Taylor is pretty serious about planning in advance (case in point - me handing GC my list of vacation days for 2006 ON JANUARY 1ST OF THAT YEAR). Once we got extended 6 months, we made a day-by-day calendar to ensure that we could fit in everything we wanted to see prior to departure. And whilst we didn't see a West Ham game (unfortunate, since they are STILL in the relegation zone), I am SUPER pleased to report that, effective 10:00 PM on Thursday, Team Taylor officially crossed off the only other remaining item on the list.

On Wednesday, Team Taylor hit a show that we had been wanting to see since AUGUST OF 2009 - "Warhorse." Seriously, this show has been sold out EVERY NIGHT since our arrival, and we had heard NOTHING but amazing things. And when you add in that a) Spielberg is about to turn it into a movie and b) they were THE MOST EXPENSIVE TICKETS WE'VE BOUGHT OF ALL OUR SHOWS, you naturally expect great things. Well, we should have lowered our standards.

Our seats were amazing, and the choreography and direction was very cool - lights, blocking, rotating stage, etc. Most impressive, of course, was the horse, which was actually a puppet controlled by 3 people. The show itself, however, was a little light on plot and somewhat disappointing. I'm really glad that we saw it, but for those of you contemplating catching it on Broadway (it opens March 2011), I would say skip it unless you a) REALLY want to see it and b) can get REALLY cheap seats.

The walk home (whilst FRIGID!) was nice, as Muffin and I walked "in a winter wonderland" along Oxford Street, enjoying the snow pouring down and the lights set up for Christmas. That part really was magical.
On Thursday, Team Taylor was BACK in the West End, this time to see the FINAL SHOW on the list - "Love Never Dies." This show, Andre Lloyd Webber's latest AND the sequel to "Phantom of the Opera," was actually pretty good. We had GREAT seats again, and we definitely enjoyed this one a lot more. That being said, the show was a bit helter skelter in places AND had a BRICK WALL ending. All the same, much like watching James Cameron's "The Abyss," the show was definitely worth the blung for the first 2 hours of it. I will tip my cap to the dude who played the Phantom, as he could flat WAIL - Michael Crawford's got nothin' on that guy. Also, Webber did score another tuly iconic song in the second act of this one - expect this to appear on his next greatest hits album.

And because it simply must be stated: U-C-F! LET'S GO KNIGHTS!!!!! Liberty Bowl bound, baby!!!!!! WOOOOO-HOOOOO!!!!!!
Okay, it's time to get out and get after it - our final Sunday in the Smoke! Chat later today!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Friday, 3 December 2010

Jordan - Part 3 (the Trilogy ends)...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. The last chapter dealt with canyons, horrible songs form the 70’s, and AMAZING hiking. And so, striking while the iron’s hot vs. “pulling another Croatia,” Team Taylor presents the 3rd and final installment of Jordan.

Friday: Bamboo saddles = TERRIBLE IDEA

So Friday started with something more precious than gold – AN EXTRA HOUR OF SLEEP. We didn’t set out until 9 AM (that’s right, folks – Team Taylor gets up earlier on vacation than we EVER think about surfacing for work or on weekends), but we managed to dodge the big bus this time, opting instead for 4x4’s. Why, you ask? Because Team Explore was DESERT BOUND, BABY!!!!

Friday was one of the big highlights of the tour – a full day in the desert, complete with pretty much EVERYTHING you can do in the sand. We had an AWESOME drive into the desert (Omar was our driver, and homeboy knows how to buzz over some sand), stopping for some CRAZY photo opps, including this REALLY cool stretch of rock that has formed a natural arch. Check out the rough and tumble Muffin Puffin half of Team Taylor exploring the terrain, Lawrence of Arabia style! It was a decent climb up, so kudos to Brother Mark for figuring out a much simpler way back down.

As you can tell by the photos, this place is basically “Monument Valley on steroids.” Seriously – it was like staring at the surface of Mars – completely rock, barren, and filled with red and yellow dust. I was honestly mesmerized the entire day. Dad – it reminded me of trips out West, where the activity was staring out the window and taking in “beauty beyond” – something that I STILL love doing.

We rolled into our campsite around 11 or so and promptly devoured our lunch before setting off on the highlight of the day – A 4X4 TOUR INTO THE DEEP DESERT! Seriously – this…was…EXTRA…AWESOME. We spent 2 hours buzzing around, stopping for some AMAZING photo ops and for a chance to showcase just how FAT AND OUT OF SHAPE I WAS – that’s right, campers – Sammy tried to run up a sand dune.

So seriously, as the token idiot American on the tour, I found myself always at the forefront of foolishness. This time, however, I forgot that a) I wasn’t drinking water so I wouldn’t have to pee every 20 minutes, b) I hadn’t slept properly in a week, c) my fitness level at present is that of a 97 year old, and d) no amount of training is ever going to prepare you to hike up a sand dune. Consequently, halfway up I thought my lungs might explode. I took solace (momentarily) in the fact that I was the only one climbing, but then suddenly Carsten, the “great Dane” of the group (from Copenhagen – Yazz and Sam – I don’t think he shares our passion for Danish karaoke), began his ASSAULT of the summit. He pretty much walked straight up the damn thing without taking a break. T-bone – it was kind of like Cracker Tsunami at the Tongariro crossing: you sprinted up the mountain, I tried not to die en route.

After the 4x4, we returned to camp for the other “must do” in the desert – a TWO HOUR CAMEL RIDE. So a few things here:

1. Camels hate me and I hate camels. I am convinced all of them want to kill me and eat me, but perhaps not in that order.
2. My camel’s name was unpronounceable, so I called him Bob (no offense intended to my father-in-law there). I thought that by naming him we could bond and break the mold with my previous camel experiences. I was wrong.
3. Unpronounceable/Bob clearly hadn’t been fed since Lawrence of Arabia was running around this desert, as he stopped at EVERY BUSH AND PLANT TO EAT. My guide probably should have done something, but he was too busy ON HIS NOKIA PHONE to notice that we were 75 miles away from the rest of the group. I mean, for crying out loud, Sally’s camel was SEVEN MONTHS PREGNANT and had more “oomph” than my dude.

Jenny and I had done previous rides, but I gotta tell you, this one was easily the most brutal. After 2 hours, all I could think was:

1. I will never walk properly again.
2. Adoption is our only hope.
3. I am glad I wasn’t born to be a Silk Road trader.
4. Please someone give me a beer.

That being said, it was HILARIOUS, and we have some CLASSIC photos, most of which are of the sky, random rocks, and sideways people, as trying to take a photo whilst sitting on a hungry, jogging camel with a driver not paying attention makes for a rather “post modernistic” photo shoot.

Dinner that night was GREAT – we had the traditional Bedouin and Jordanian dish of Mansaf, which is lamb and chicken cooked underground for hours with vegetables. It was UBER TASTY, and I ate about 10 times my body weight before spending the next couple of hours looking up at the night sky. As there was ZERO light pollution, the view was AMAZING. It was so good, in fact, that Perfect Pumpkin and I slept out under the stars! I hadn’t done that since I was a pup, so it was truly fantabulous (I mean, not quite as nice as learning about all of the animals featured in “The Wild West Show” – PHEEEEENOMENAL…FAAAAAANTASTIC…What the HELL is that?”, but it was still good).

Saturday: Strong swimmers only…and by strong we mean Michael Phelps

Saturday was a drive out of the desert and down to the very tip of Jordan – the town of Aqaba, where Jordan touches the Red Sea. From here we were only 1 mile from Israel and 12 miles from the Saudi Arabian border (oddly enough, JT didn’t want to take a day trip…), but rather than risk nightmare border crossings, Team Taylor opted instead for snorkeling and beach time at a nearby Beach Resort.

So here’s the thing – in Jordan, most beaches are public, but there are “beach clubs” where the tourists go to a) lock up their stuff, b) have better facilities, c) have access to a pool, d) be able to rent gear, and e) DRINK BEER!!!! That’s right, folks – Team Taylor FINALLY fell off the wagon in Aqaba! It’s the greatest city EVER!!!!

So seriously – our goal for the day was snorkeling, and this place did rent gear. However, the quote from the divemaster was “strong swimmers only.” Again, Sammy the Bull, considering himself the peak of fitness, didn’t think twice about paying the money for snorkel gear. However, the second his flabby ass hit those choppy seas, there was a moment of consideration for personal safety.

You see, Aqaba is “the windsurfing capital of the Middle East.” I’m not really sure how many other cities actually fought for that designation, but I’m pretty sure this place would kick all of their asses. THE WIND WAS LIKE 14,000 MILES AN HOUR. Jenny and I spent the better part of an hour trying JUST TO STAY ALIVE, as the waves were constantly flooding our breathing tubes, the current pushing us to Saudi Arabia, and the water so choppy that it kept knocking out masks off. Now don’t get me wrong, we saw lots of very, very pretty (and colorful) fish, but the coral and the water made it a trying experience. On the whole, I’m VERY glad we did it, but I think my next snorkel will have to be the reef. It’s time to see the real thing.

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the club, including an hour snooze in a hammock! The weather was perfect, and Muffin and I were the ABSOLUTE peak of relaxation. Good times.

Prior to dinner, we threw caution and previous experience to the wind and tried the OTHER Jordanian Brewery – Petra. This stuff, with a logo that is CLEARLY a ripoff of the Silver Bullet, was 10%!!! Honestly, it wasn’t very good, but hey – we had to cross it off the list, right (insert Grimshaw shaking her head again here)? We had a team dinner that evening, which was DELISH. Roland (our tour guide) and I went head to head in a calorie consumption contest, unofficially declaring it a draw when we both passed 20,000. That orange mezze dip – RELIGIOUS. And I should probably mention the 5.5 dinar Amstel we had as a nightcap, but I’m pretty sure that any more dialogue about it will result in death threats from most of the tour group, as I was the guy who picked the spot. Oops…

Sunday: WOW – you really DO float!

Sunday was an easy day with only one activity on the docket – a visit to the Dead Sea. I really didn’t know what to expect on this one, but I gotta tell ya – it was CRAZY.

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, some 422 meters below sea level. The water in the sea is 30% salt, which is roughly 12 times saltier than the ocean. Because of this, you are ridonkulously buoyant whilst floating. Case in point, check us out, bobbing up and down like corks and reading our book (I finished that book, “The Secret Speech,” on the trip, btw – it’s the sequel to “Child 44” and it’s AWESOME)! And I would simply be remiss if I didn’t note that some folks were able to bob and float better than others. Let’s just say that more than a few newspapers were “collateral damage” as a result of folks tumbling into water, with the best line of the whole day coming from Mike: “Darling, put the puppies back.” (Honestly, I’m still laughing as I type this). We spent about 90 minutes in the water, floating around and swimming through what can only be described as slimy olive oil. We even took time out to coat ourselves in “Dead Sea mud” as part of a scrubbing ritual. I mean, let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good exfoliation every now and then?

This last day was an easy one, complete with the drive back to Amman and a farewell dinner at “Sam’s Diner,” which is what the tour group christened it after my 3rd visit. I mean, hey – good food CHEAP. Hitman, if they had places this cheap in London, I might have even paid for a meal once in awhile…okay, that’s just silly. Of course I wouldn’t have.

Team Taylor was asleep EARLY this night. Why, you ask? Keep reading.

Monday: Home Sweet Arctic

You know it’s gonna be a long day when your alarm goes off BEFORE the morning call to prayer. Oh, yes – who loves waking up at 4:15 to head to the airport? THIS GUY – but seriously, not so much.

We had a 5 AM cab to take us to Queen Alia Airport, where despite my BEST efforts, Team Taylor did NOT get the bump again. However, no complaints, as I got to watch Inception on the flight (as well as Jonah Hex, which was utter DONKEY TRASH) AND we arrived 40 minutes early! That set us up to cross off lots of to-do’s running around London, culminating with dinner at (where else?) THE DOOT, BABY!!!! We’ve only got 1 Doot run left – how on EARTH is that possible?


That being said, most of the "crossing off" we did was indoors, as it was (and still is) BLOODY FREEZING IN LONDON RIGHT NOW. Seriously, it was 85 when we left Amman and 28 when we landed at Heathrow! My bones still haven't warmed up. Just one more sign that it's time for Asia!

Okay, that’s WAY more than enough news fit to print, but now you’re all caught up with Jordan. Chat tomorrow!
Love,

Sam and Jenny