To say we were waiting with bated breath for the Braunds arrival would be something of an understatement. The closest likeness would probably be two kids trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. Shayne took the long and arduous journey out to Heathrow International Airport (a pure act of love) and briefly spasmed when Kristyn and Mike rounded the bend from international arrivals. A giggle and hug filled reunion ensued, and as Kristyn was feeling a little left out, Shayne decided to formally greet her with a hand shake. OK, so maybe we had our Braunds crossed there, but to say it was a joyous reunion would be quite accurate.
The full SDSC - minus three - stumbled into the Draft House (a new beer bar discovery we found when Kristyn and Shayne had to pee). In the UK, all you can find on tap is Peroni, Kronenberg, Aspall (yes, say that outloud!), and Stella, so finding a beer mecca always results with a true time of jubilee. The Draft House had over 200 bottles of craft beer and a fantastic line-up of local and import drafts. Jake met the gang after work and another giggle-ishious reunion took place. Again, Kristyn hung back during the excitement and finally greeted Jake with a hardy slap on the back. Did we cross our Braunds again? OH! The SDSC gang - minus two - was finally together.
The plan was to get a few beers and head to dinner. However, like most nights on the trip, dinner was something of a formality. We caught up over a few rounds and jumped in a cab to The Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. The laughs had already started and became thunderous when Shayne tried to safety belt herself into the fold down taxi chair and ended up on the floor. A truly elegant maneuver.
What was supposed to be a brief stop to highlight the charm of this 1667 rebuilt pub, ended up taking a slight detour when, across the room, a deck of cards was spotted. There's really only one SDSC reaction to a deck of cards - Asshole anyone?!? 10+ rounds of this wonderfully addicting card game later, we had officially missed our first dinner opportunity of the trip. There's really only one thing to do if you miss the evening dining window... KEBABS! A few Doners later we tucked the Braunds in and fell asleep like a child with Christmas dinner in their belly and their favorite new toy under their pillow.
Day Two: Sightseeing speed round:
* Tube - London Bridge stop
* Shayne SCREAMED and clung to Mike when she accidentally ran into the scary, bloody, 7 foot guy from the haunted dungeon who was outside handing out fliers
* Shayne yelled, "JUST MAKE HIM GO AWAY!" when he chased after them to apologize
* We all almost peed from laughing
* Borough Market
* Lunch - Shayne and Mike had fish and chips
* Kristyn decided she wanted a baguette - Shayne reminded her she wasn't in France - Kristyn discovered british egg salad sandwiches - success!
* Walked down Southbank
* Millenium Bridge
* Tate Museum of Modern Art
* Cheeky Pint
SIDENOTE: 'Cheeky Pint' per Urban Dictionary: An impromptu pint of beer, unplanned and executed in between or after existing obligations. The consumption of said beer is often later denied. 'Pint' is often substituted with the intended volume of cheekys to be consumed, or dropped completely when used in an informal, familiar environment. Examples include: Fancy a cheeky pint? Let's go for a cheeky! It's 3:00, it's time for a cheeky 6.
* Mike decided he wanted to rent bikes from the SIMPLE Barclay's street-side hire system
* An HOUR later we had figured out how to dislodge the bikes from their stand and we were on our way
* Through the streets we journeyed and, at one point, ended up on a free-way loop looking street
* Turned around!
* Found a stand and parked the bikes
* Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and Parliament
* Cheeky pint
* Trafalgar Square
* National Museum of Art - Sunflower painting!!!
* Gordon's Wine Bar - PHEW!!!
Speed round over!
Gordon's Wine Bar - Oh, what a night (late December back in '63...you all know it's what you were thinking!). Kristyn and Mike got to meet some the London gang, namely: Ben and Marge, Mike and Carly, Sophie and George. The over/under on number of bottles consumed was approximately 8. Needless to say, it was a pretty fun night. The Braunds introduced our UK brethren to 'Pass the Pigs.' Curious about this game? Click this link and enjoy the online version. Sure you won't have tiny, rubber, hogs to throw, but this will surely be a second best! By the end of the night, everyone crowded around in a screaming fanfare of pigs and dice support. Curious about dinner? OOPS - forgot again! Luckily we coerced the Italian sit-down restaurant next to Gordon's to allow us a few take away pies. Pizza on the sidewalk - classy!
As we had missed the last tube of the evening, the search was on for a taxi ride home. This proved rather difficult given the hour and number of people attempting the same feat, so after the street wandering had reached it's maximum, we miraculously stumbled upon a local boutique hotel. Hey, wouldn't you know it, the hotel bar/club was still serving. The only problem was they were only allowing entrance to hotel guests. Turns out there wasn't a Mr. Jones staying in room 312, and we were not granted entrance. The bright side of this detour was that we were now able to use the hotel car service back to our flat. Result!
Back at the house, Cirque-du-soleil came to town.
Mike approached Jake, gently rested his hand on his chest, looked him in the eye, and asked, "Are you ready?"
Jake responded, "I think so."
In the beat of an eyelash, Mike proceeded to leap, assume full pike position, and trusted that Jake would be there to complete the lift. However, being that this stunt had never before been attempted, Jake was slightly unprepared, presumably NOT ready, and only managed to just barely break Mike's fall.
Jake looked at Mike, shook his head in confusion, and said, "Why would I have been ready for that?" Needless to say, the two were eager to successfully complete the stunt and round two was gold medal material.
Saturday: A day on the town
The day started a little slowly as we shook off the rust that resulted from a night of wine drinking. What better way to get back on track than a trip to one of the finest craft brewers in London. We headed to the wonderful garage/warehouse/brewery that is 'The Kernel' and enjoyed some delicious craft beers. The next stop on the list was the world famous Portobello Market. But if we were being honest with ourselves, it was really a 'Notting Hill' movie location hunt for the girls. We followed in the footsteps of Huge and Julia as we tracked down the famous front door, the book shop, and even the corner with the orange juice incident. "I am just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her...." Classic! After all of these mushy Rom-Com moments, the boys (and girls too for that matter) were ready for a cheeky.
The Churchill Arms and Windsor Castle pubs, our two favorites in Notting Hill, were next on the agenda. The cold pints were calling and, you guessed it, pigs and dice were thrown. The Braunds had the pleasure of trying their first Pimm's and it passed with flying colors! We knew dinner would be a must and made it a top priority. The Mitre, a hot spot for fabulous meat pies, is out in Notting Hill so we decided to share the delights of meat, gravy, and mash. We walked in, were shown to our table, and ordered water while we scoured the menu. FYI - the pie special of the day was something to the effect of Gallbladder and Sphincter Surprise. Being that you have to pay for your water here, we essentially 'dined and dashed' from The Mitre and headed to the tube station. We were immediately notified that the tubes were closed due to another jumper on the tracks. Damn you jumper! Dinner was seemingly out of our reach again. We had one other idea for a quality pie, and hailed a cab to make this dinner dream a reality. Our destination: Brown's just off Islington Green. The obstacle: 35+ min cab ride across the city in evening traffic, and the potential that the restaurant would stop serving. The result: Dinner for 4, win!
Stay tuned for the next installment: The one with the Braunds (Scotland)!
Lesson's Learned: 1) All Cirque-du-Soleil stunts should be properly planned and coordinated between all parties, 2) It's always the right time for a cheeky pint, 3) Dinner is often overrated, 4) The double-leaning-jowlers still elude us (see 'Pass the Pigs' rules on the link provided above), 5) There is absolutely nothing finer than true friendship.