Hello. My name is Isaac, 35 years old from Vancouver, Canada. I have set this blog up to document my journey following Mark Knopfler’s 2013 “Privateering” tour, from April 25 (Bucharest, Romania) to July 31 (Calella de Palafrugell, Spain).

Due to Despite the tour’s obnoxious schedule (thanks, Mark), I cannot be entirely sure that I will attend all concerts. That being said, I will try. You are more than welcome to sit back, relax, read, and comment. You can also subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed (see the “Subscribe for Updates” box at the right hand side of the page. For standard RSS readers, select the “Atom” option).

Have fun,

Note: The contents of this blog are also available in hardcover and paperback formats. For more information, click here:

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Quick Note from London, UK

Oh hello.

Just a short one this time as a few kind readers emailed me asking what the hell is going on.

As there isn’t any travel involved during the week in London, and I am using this week primarily to catch up with certain obligations (I actually hardly left my hotel room ever since getting here, except for dining. And buying underwear. I’ll elaborate later), there isn’t much to tell.

The concerts on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (yesterday) were a treat. After an exceptionally tasty concert on Monday night—which I would definitely label as the best one yet in this tour*—the following experiences in the Royal Albert Hall were different, as the band seemed more relaxed and the audience (for the most part) exhibiting more of the typical London‐ish reserved temperament.

* One reader suggested that I recommend which USB stick(s) to purchase. Frankly, I am a little uncomfortable with that because enjoyment of these concerts is rather subjective and I wouldn’t want people to take a blind bet expecting me to be the judge of things. So, let’s get this out of the way: whatever I write reflects my own personal opinion. It’s up to you to decide how to use your money—my opinions about the concerts are all described here and you’re welcome to make your own judgement based on them.

Two exceedingly disconcerting violent incidents took place (so far), one on Tuesday and one on Thursday; I happened to be witnessing the first and being one of the victims of the second. I decided to do something about it and will keep you posted. People shouldn’t have to attend concerts fearing for their lives, this just isn’t right. All details (well, not all; whatever I will be in the liberty to publish) will be revealed in a blog post once the London week is over.

Bye for now,


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Brighton to London, UK (May 27, 2013)

Monday, May 27, was a day I was greatly looking forward to. After more than a month of intense travel—will I ever forget that 10 hours bus ride to Poland? probably not—finally, I get the chance to rest in one hotel for not one day, not two days, but for six nights.

And not only that there’s an entire week free of travel, but also this week happens to be spent in one of my favourite cities on earth (I maintain a separate list for each planet)—the wonderful city of London.

Needless to say, then, I was quite eager to pack everything up and board the train from Brighton to London. After a short breakfast at Pret‐A‐Manger, inconveniently located more than a mile from the “hotel”, ran some inventory check: it was just about time to do the laundry, and as there was a Laundromat across the street from the hotel, it was decided to get laundry work done with before heading to London.

That killed about an hour and a half. Well, didn’t kill, really: just turned a hour and a half, which could have been used for fruitful purposes, into an hour and a half of watching this:


In the very first episode of Seinfeld, George joins Jerry to a Laundromat. During that scene, George is staring at the dryer spin and then saying: “Jerry? I have to tell you something. This is the dullest moment I’ve ever experienced”. I relate. If you reach a point in your life when you are staring at a dryer spin for more than 20 seconds, and trying to guess the order in which your clothes are going to tumble over with every spin, then you are most likely not living life to the fullest.

Total cost of washing and drying—around £6, a price for which you can by a laundry machine in Bulgaria. Whatever. Let’s just get it over with and get the hell out of here. Found the first bus to the central railway station, and took the 12:04pm train to London.

An hour later, left the train at London Blackfriars, then took the Tube to High Street Kensington, conveniently located a few steps away from the hotel, the Copthorne Tara, located in Scarsdale Place.

Exiting the High Street Kensington station, I looked above, looked to the sides… blue sky. Fantastic weather.

This is going to be a good week.


Faith in humanity (partially) restored.

I had stayed in the Copthorne Tara hotel before, during the 2010 Get Lucky tour. It is a centrally located, well‐maintained property. While planning the tour’s schedule, the six nights stay in London was of the earlier planned legs which is why it didn’t end up being too expensive (their “rack rate”—that is, the rate that you’d pay if you simply walk into the hotel without advance reservation and ask for a room—currently stands at £360 per night). Last minute bookings in such a hotel in such a location costs a fortune (less than the “rack rate”, but still exceptionally ridiculous), which is why I decided to remain in Brighton during the day‐off even after realizing that it sucks royal ass.

The Copthorne Tara hotel belongs to a chain called “Millennium Hotels”, owning a few hotels in London and elsewhere. This chain has a very interesting pricing scheme for logging into your Facebook account and get frustrated again witnessing people uploading pictures of dogs, cats, mice and Instagram photos of the food they’re just about to eat internet connection: it costs £10 per 24 hours—not per room, but per device. That means that for one person carrying a laptop and a smartphone would end up paying £20 (!) per day (!!) for Wi‐Fi. Time it by six and you get £120.

Just to make sure you understand what £120 means, here’s a list of things that cost (approximately) £120:

  • €140; $181 US; $187 CDN; 672 ILS.
  • Four times my recent monthly electricity bill.
  • Almost five times my recent monthly high‐speed internet bill (FiOS‐based: 25Mbps download speed).
  • 40% of one common stock of Apple (although, the way Apple is going, this percentage is likely to be raised soon).
  • Not much less than the median monthly salary in Bulgaria.
  • Approximately 60 cups of cappuccino from Starbucks.
  • Three months worth of provincial health insurance in British Columbia, required to pay the doctors so they can heal you from the physical and mental wounds that you will surely suffer after drinking even one cup of cappuccino from Starbucks.

A few attempts to show how ridiculous this scheme was to the receptionist went unfruitful. Not because the poor lady didn’t want to help, but mostly because she couldn’t. It was decided, then, to postpone the fight for later on.

Quick setup in the room and we decided to go for lunch in a nearby Thai restaurant called Thai Terrace. I have been here before a couple of times and had good recollection of this place. As we were about to leave the hotel, Ingrid and Nelly were on their way in so we ended up going to the restaurant together. Shortly after, Philipp and his friend Werner from Switzerland joined us. Fun with interesting people.

Back at the hotel, armed with Ingrid, it was decided to once again attempt to demonstrate to this hotel that their Wi‐Fi pricing scheme makes no sense for people who are staying there for six nights, and to use group power to try negotiating a deal that makes more sense. Once Ingrid explained the situation to the hotel’s duty manager, in her own unique way, a much better deal was achieved and everyone was happy—the only caveat was that the arrangement was to start on Tuesday morning, not right away (which explains the delay in this post and the preceding one).

Knopfler usually plays more than one or two concerts in London during his solo tours. In 2008, for example, he played here six nights in a row. Same for 2010, and for the current tour. Therefore, the London stretch results in Knopfler fans pouring into London from various places on the planet, planning a vacation in England around the London tour dates.

While I am not active in any Knopfler fan forum (or any fan forum of any artist, actually), over the years I became acquainted with some. That might have something to do with the fact that I have attended more than a few concerts already. I was told that, in 2008, someone suggested the Stanhope Arms—a pub in Gloucester Road—as a pre‐concert gathering place for concerts taking place in the Royal Albert Hall. Since then, it became a habit: whenever Knopfler touches ground in London for a concert, the Stanhope Arms is populated almost exclusively by concertgoers.

Due to a few peculiarities in my social upbringing (a skim Myers‐Briggs I took once has shown that I’m an INTP. Some claim that so was Albert Einstein. Not that I’m trying to imply anything) as well as my drinking habits (that is, my non‐existing drinking habits), I tend to feel uncomfortable in noisy, crowded environments and have very little to do in pubs as I hardly ever consume alcohol in any way, shape or form. I hope that this is not held against me folks, but that’s the truth and that’s what I am—I shy away from places I feel uncomfortable in.

Still, I remembered that there’s a coffee place right next to that pub so I decided to pop in to say hello and then go sip some (decaf) coffee. The place was full of people, some more familiar than others. There were people from England; The Netherlands; Germany; Belgium; USA; Switzerland—an interesting setting. That must be what it feels like to attend a meeting of the Bilderberg Group, except that no wars and/or artificial economy crises are being planned out at this seemingly harmless English pub.

I had one half of one pint of beer. The last time I had beer before that was in the front yard of a friend of mine in Israel, who brought some beer that was home‐brewed by a relative; that happened in December 2012. Before that, I can’t recall when was the last time I had any sort of alcohol. That one half of one pint was enough to make me feel a bit off, so I joined my friend James for a snack in the nearby Paul cafe. Absolutely fantastic place for freshly baked goods—I will definitely revisit.

About half an hour later, it was time to head to the Royal Albert Hall, about 10 minutes walk away.

The Royal Albert Hall was opened in 1871 by Queen Victoria. It was originally named “The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences”, but was later renamed by Queen Victoria to “Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences”, dedicating the place to her husband, Prince Albert.

In England, there’s a concept of Listed Buildings; these are buildings that carry special architectural or historic interest. There are three “grades” of such buildings—1, 2* and 2—with Grade 1 defined as “buildings of exceptional interest”. The Royal Albert Hall is a Grade 1 listed building for its architecture. It looks astonishing from the outside, but the real treat happens once you enter the hall and look around you.

This is, hands down, the most astonishing hall I have ever seen in my entire life. No photograph I took could ever do justice to how amazing this venue is from the inside, but here are a few attempts.


In the floor seating section, the front rows are exceptionally close to the stage. Moreover, the stage itself is very low. If you are seated somewhere in the front, you actually feel that the band is not playing for 5,500 people (the maximum capacity in the hall), but for one person: yourself. This is a remarkable experience that I would wish on pretty much anyone I am fond of.

Ruth Moody, who was last seen performing in Amsterdam making the Amsterdam concert the most memorable one in the tour so far, is also the opening act for Knopfler in all six concerts in London. Slightly less excited and trembling than she was in Amsterdam, she gave a remarkable performance, assisted by three band members, out of which two are from British Columbia. I should have a word.


About half an hour break, during which I went about to take a few breaths of fresh air. At around 8:45pm, the band took the stage…

… And gave the Royal Albert Hall the rocking of its lifetime.

In my post about the Amsterdam concert, I described that performance as being fantastic thanks to Ruth’s involvement. Now, take that, and add the fact that London is Knopfler’s back yard. To that, add Nigel Hitchcock and you end up with a product that I can hardly see how it can be beaten.

There was nothing in this show that I can say a negative word about. The Royal Albert Hall yesterday looked like one big happy party. Of course, the venue’s special, intimate (at least at the floor section) layout contributed to the overall feeling that there’s one hell of a party going on, but the music emitted by these ten performers was marvellous.

It’s that type of energy that made the Toronto and Locarno concerts (2010) unforgettable. When the energy isn’t there, or isn’t there at its fullest, it is sometimes hard to notice; but when the energy is there, and all cannons are firing at full power, you see it. And you can see it despite having seen this band perform approximately 170 times before.

Quite expectedly, the highlight of this concert was Ruth’s participation. I Dug Up a Diamond was played again with Ruth providing beautiful vocals as well as accompanying acoustic guitar work. It was evident that the excitement that was slightly holding her back during the Amsterdam performance was well under control now. Right next, Seattle, again with Ruth, minus Mark’s guitar’s tremolo effect, causing a bit of a stir at the side of the stage as Glen was trying to figure out what’s wrong.

In Amsterdam, Ruth joined the band for the performance of three songs. Here in the UK, Nigel Hitchcock is also in the guests’ line‐up so some changes had to be introduced to the set.


Sultans of Swing was back, in a very good performance—good enough that even I enjoyed it.


Nobody wanted this show to be over. Off to Telegraph Road


Followed by a crazed Running of the Bulls session when people from pretty much the entire floor area came sprinting by to catch a spot near the stage. When I thought it was safe to get up and march forward, two individuals who could hardly be described as “petite figured” came blazing through the wind, knocking me sideways.

I suppose I should look behind me next time, as well. Went back to my seat for the encore, when I noticed a lady struggling to watch the show as she was standing behind an exceptionally tall individual. I invited her to take my spot which had a better view of the stage, a suggestion which she couldn’t quite comprehend at the beginning but eventually was very happy with. Turned out she came all the way from Brazil for this. Who am I to stand in the way?

The Royal Albert Hall’s roof was close to being blown away with an energetic performance of Going Home. The entire audience—front, back, sideways—everybody were on their feet.

As good as this band is, performances as explosive as that one aren’t very frequent to come by. You can have many good concerts, a few very good ones, fewer excellent ones… but not too many extraordinarily exceptional ones such as that one.

And then you ask me why I’m attending more than one show…

After the concert, a quick walk back to the hotel. Grabbed some Shawarma and started devouring it senselessly in the hotel’s bar. By the time the waiter came by to tell us that hey, this is a restaurant and you shouldn’t bring outside food here (fair enough. I honestly didn’t know), I was already done. Minutes later, about 15–20 familiar faces—pretty much, whoever went earlier to the Stanhope Arms—came by for a drink and late night dinners. I went back to my room to grab my laptop, so I can catch up with blogging while others around me were busy talking in various languages I couldn’t make sense of. It wasn’t before 2:00am when it all ended and I went upstairs to catch a good night sleep.

It’s days like these that make such a journey a memorable experience.

Signing off this post from my hotel room in London. Will go catch up with other things now, and then head to the Royal Albert Hall again for tonight’s (*cough* Kingdom of Gold *cough*) concert.


Birmingham to Brighton, UK (May 25–26, 2013)

This post was posted late due to the Copthorne Tara Hotel’s ridiculous Wi‐Fi usage policy. More on that in the upcoming post that will be live later on today. Stay tuned.

After a cold, often rainy, day in Birmingham, woke up east around 8:00am feeling fantastic. Admit it: you were expecting me to whine about how tired I was, as I am in the habit of doing recently.

But no. I slept very well. That made me think that maybe my recent tiredness had to do with over‐consumption of caffeine. Once you consume more caffeine regularly, your body becomes dependent on it. As a result, changes in your caffeine consumption (for example, not having your coffee “on time”, when your body expects it) can lead to extreme tiredness, which opens a can of all sorts of worms—when you’re constantly tired and unrested, your immune system weakens, and if there’s one thing you want to avoid while following a concert tour, it is exactly that.

That led me to decide that, from now on until the end of the tour, all coffee that I consume is going to be caffeine‐free. Tea‐wise, I’ll try to stick to low‐caffeine variants. Time to get things back under control.

Breakfast at the hotel, and by 10:30am I was on the train to London Euston. This time it was the Virgin train. Virgin (the same company that owns the airline by the same name) boasts fantastic 1st class cabins, but it comes with a price: riding their trains isn’t a cheap endeavour. For short haul rides, the price difference might not be worth it.

One hour ride to London Euston, then the Tube to London Victoria to catch the Southeastern train to Brighton.


Southeastern’s trains’ 1st class cabins, in contrary to Virgin’s, are not really 1st class by any measure. The only difference between 1st class and 2nd class there is this piece of textile over the headrest:


Everything else is the same. If you happen to take a Southeastern train anywhere, don’t bother paying extra for 1st class.

As I arrived in Brighton’s central railway station and went outside, I realized that, at least weather‐wise, this is going to be a pleasant experience. It was sunny and—listen to this—warm. Yes, it was warm. So warm, that shortly after starting the mile long walk towards the hotel, I had to stop, remove my jacket, remove my buttoned shirt and remain with a T‐shirt—an activity that I had thought I’d never get to perform in England this year, as England is going through a terrible spring season.

The streets were flooded with people. Brighton’s sidewalks aren’t exactly huge, so that rendered navigating through a sea of people a rather tricky endeavour. At times, I was jumping sideways and sneaking between people (walking in both directions) in order to maintain my pace.

Felt like the character of George Costanza in that unforgettable Frogger episode, only I didn’t crash into any truck at the end.

In London, there’s an unwritten rule whereby, if you take the escalator from a train station to the train’s platform and choose to stand your entire way through, then you should align to the right hand side, so people with better things to do can easily bypass you and get to their destination sooner. How about we apply the same rule for sidewalks?

After a long walk…


Finally arrived at this place:


A sign said that this place is called “Brunswick Square”. I remembered that the hotel was located in “Brunswick” something, so I was very happy. How pleasant, to stay in a hotel in such a beautiful complex.

Alas, my joy was short lived. Turned out that the hotel, Bow Street Runner, is located in “Brunswick Street”, which is one short block away. It’s actually a pub that owns a few rooms in the same building, upstairs. There are a couple of restaurants adjacent to it, and they all happen to be throwing their garbage through their back doors; those back doors face the narrow street that lead to the hotel. The result? as you approach the hotel, you feel like you’re in garbage galore.

The staff is very nice, but the actual facilities… well, let’s put it this way: it’s not a hotel. More like a Bed & Breakfast. The rooms are tiny: good for one person, way too small for two. The “Breakfast” part of the “Bed & Breakfast” term consists of a dried croissant (placed on your desk a day in advance), two packs of cereal, a miniature fridge containing a jug of milk and a jug of orange juice, and a basket with semi‐fresh fruit.

The idea here is to have your breakfast in bed. That is, since the room is so small, you can’t possibly sit at the desk to have breakfast—you need to sit on your bed.

Altogether a rather questionable experience. The price? sit tight: £97 a night, and this is for a questionable place located about a mile away from Brighton’s city center.

I have been to Brighton before, during the 2010 Get Lucky tour. My recollection of this city was generally positive, which made me look forward to visiting it again. That’s why I chose to spend Sunday night—a day off—in Brighton instead of in London.

I don’t know what I was thinking.

So here’s the deal about Brighton: it is, when all is said and done, a seaside resort town.

It boasts a beach, which many consider to be the best in England (my foot. I’d take Bournemouth’s beach over Brighton’s any day of the week)—although it is made up of gravel rather than sand, which makes it look fake.

Along King’s Road—which crosses Brighton from east to west, along the seashore—you will find gazillions of pubs, bars, dance clubs, restaurants (mostly substandard), cafes… you name it. As a resort town catering mainly to the young and the restless, most establishments you’re going to be seeing will be leaning more towards serving alcohol and cheap food than serving anything else.


I am not entirely sure what’s the deal behind picking two nouns—at least one of which is the name of an animal—and naming a pub after them. I think I have seen all possible combinations already: Fox & Fiddle; Duck & Goose; Sheep & Lawnmower; Fish & Spoon; Monkey & Banana; Fiddler’s Elbow; Pianist’s Pancreas; Violinist’s mitre valve.

Another consequence of this city catering to the younger generation is that most hotels here are of quality that is just enough to be bearable. When you’re a 25 years old human whose definition of a “good time” is to convert beer to urine, tip‐top hotel experience isn’t normally your highest priority. This is why so many hotels here can get away with offering junk rooms for an insane amount of money.

For me… I don’t know, it just didn’t click. It’s not that I am past the stage in my life when I’m looking for parties, drinks and crap like that: I simply have never set foot in that stage to begin with. I’m not exactly sure how people find emotional outlets by partying and drinking in extremely noisy places; I tried it a few times in the last 35 years, and in all times I felt… well… stupid. Not something I wanna take a part in.

Saturday was a concert day, so I didn’t do much. Rested for a bit and then took a walk to the city center. Last time I was here, I came across a wonderful coffee place called Marwood Coffee, located in Ship Street. This place is as strange as they come: as soon as you enter the place, you get the feeling that you’re in some sort of a bizarre fantasy world. They have tables there made of old desktop PC’s. Things hanging down from the ceiling. Really groovy. And their coffee is top notch. If you are ever in Brighton, pay them a visit.


Then, back to the hotel through Brunswick Square which looked lovely:


And then off to the venue.

The venue, Brighton Center, is the largest conference center in southern England, also used for concerts. It is located in King’s Road, adjacent to a movie theater, a beautiful Victorian hotel by the name of The Grand and the fancy Hilton—hotels that cater to a slightly more adult (and rich) clientele.

I usually try to avoid spending too much time in the venue before the concert because I get somewhat anxious when surrounded by millions of people. Therefore, until 15 minutes before the concert, I was still outside the venue, sipping tea in the adjacent Costa Coffee with the Dutchman and with my friend James Morris who lives in Kent and made it to the concert.

Concert started about 10 minutes later than posted, and featured an identical set to the one played in Birmingham just the night before, except for Our Shangri La replacing So Far Away at the encore. I definitely prefer the former, especially when Nigel Hitchcock is involved as a saxophone adds a lot to that song.

Due to where I was seated—directly facing a loudspeaker—I had to watch Speedway at Nazareth from the door. Sound throughout the performance was very loud where I was seated, so I preferred to not take the risk.

Leaving the venue, I came to realize what Brighton is like on Saturday nights—essentially, representing everything I’m trying to get away from. I then opted to give up a gathering in a nearby pub and went back to the hotel for a good night sleep.

Well, I was going for a good night sleep, but I didn’t get one. The cheap spring mattresses at the hotel didn’t allow for a proper sleep, so I woke up Sunday morning a bit off. It was a day off that was planned to be spent in Brighton, so still, I tried to make the most out of it.

After a quick breakfast, took the bus east to see the Brighton Cliffs. Now this is something that should never be missed if you happen to be in the area.

These cliffs are designated as a “Site of Special Scientific Interest” for their geological characteristics—an interesting Wikipedia read; for us mortals, the cliffs provide a magnificent view of earth the way it could be had mankind opted to not fuck around with it.

Many pictures were taken and I’m not going to omit any of them:


There are a few things in life I can never get sick of, and one of them is natural bodies of water nature. The main reason I moved to Canada’s west coast to begin with was that I fell in love with nature there. Walking along natural bodies of water in naturally‐blessed settings is such an invigorating experience that it can do wonders to my well being, both physical and spiritual: fortunately, British Columbia certainly doesn’t suffer from a shortage of lakes, rivers, creeks, mountains, cliffs—you name it, it’s there.

Hence, when I travel, I can’t miss on the chance to see nature at its best; the sea, specifically, attracts me. I must have been a starfish in one of my previous lives.

Or a freshwater eel.

Definitely not a Mantis Shrimp, though.

Long walk east along the cliffs until reached Peacehaven. Lunch consisted of a short visit to the nearby Sainsbury’s supermarket, a few bread rolls and croissants for the staggering price of just under £4, consumed by the sea.

Half an our past due, the bus back to Brighton finally arrived and we made our way back to the city center. The closer the bus got to Brighton, the more people could be seen flooding the area and the less I wanted to be a part of this crowd. By the time the bus arrived at the city center, it became extremely crowded.


The Royal Pavilion is right at the city center. Its building started in 1787, for the Prince of Wales—just a nice seaside, you know, so he could sometimes just “get away from it all”; <sarcasm>it’s tough life, being a prince</sarcasm>—until Queen Victoria decided that Brighton doesn’t provide enough privacy anymore (once Brighton became accessible by train via London in 1841). A few years later, the land was sold to Brighton. A part of the pavilion was turned into a concert hall, nowadays referred to as the Brighton Dome.


Tourists, as well as locals, frequent the place. It’s a nice environment for a walk, and the green there serves as excellent spot to just sit down, chill out with a good book (or, better off, an e‐book of some sort. The end of the printed books can’t come soon enough. I guess I’m a tree hugger now).

Back to the hotel, dinner in a Lebanese restaurant called Kambis, another walk along the shore and back to the hotel for a good night sleep.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Liverpool to Bournemouth to Cardiff to Birmingham, UK (May 20–24, 2013)

Good to be back after a few days of silence. The last few days were very busy and I had to catch up with many important things—including sleep. Hopefully there won’t be any blogging interruptions from now on. I know how vital this blog is for your well being.

I like Bournemouth.

The first time I heard anything about the city of Bournemouth was some time in 2009, when the 2010 Get Lucky tour was announced. Bournemouth? where is that? I remember I took a glance at the map and the only thing I could think of was “fortunately, there’s a beach”.

My idea of how the British coasts look like stemmed from my familiarity with Cape Breton Island’s coastline, which is said to resemble much of England’s: green‐covered rugged cliffs over the beautiful sea. Standing upon them and looking at the water, you get the feeling that you have just reached the end of the world.

Ever since I first came here in 2010, I have been fond of Bournemouth. Hotels here are generally mediocre (except for the Marriott by the beach, which goes for around £160 a night. Never stayed there, but I know what the rooms are like), but other than that, it’s a fine spot for relaxation by England’s coastline.

Arrived to Bournemouth on Monday afternoon after a long train ride from Liverpool. A glance at Google Maps shown an easy one and so miles walk to the hotel, and the weather being cool, cloudy without rain, it seemed like an easy nice walk. However, what wasn’t taken into account is Bournemouth’s terrain: walking in this city is never boring, terrain‐wise. Inclines and declines up the yin and yang, and by the time I reached the hotel, my shirts (two layers. As I said, it looked as if it was going to be cold) turned into a pile of sweat.

The hotel, Best Western Connaught Hotel, is located steps away from the beach and is surprisingly ranked #1 in Bournemouth by TripAdvisor—bypassing the Marriott. How? Beats me. The hotel consists of two buildings, one of which is where the reception is and I think was the fancy one. The other one—where I ended up staying in—is nearby and provides a typical English hotel experience: thick carpets in the hallway, hardwood (or laminate; not sure, didn’t bother to check) flooring that makes sounds whenever more than one pound of weight is exerted on it. Aromatically, the room reminded me of my childhood as it smelled like old, cheap toothpaste.


Many hotels in Bournemouth are made up of very old buildings. You are unlikely to run into state‐of‐the‐art modern architecture here. I am not sure whether this is due to some sort of a municipal bylaw or something else, but one thing is for sure—it helps (for the most part) maintain Bournemouth’s authentic look. Unfortunately, some of them are both old and inconvenient to stay in. I mean, I’m OK with “roughing it up” but there’s a limit. In comparison to my previous visit to Bournemouth (during the joint Knopfler‐Dylan tour), though, this present hotel was certainly an upgrade.

Bournemouth’s streets seemed to be rather vacant on Monday as we set out looking for food and drinks. It was a lovely walk in a sleepy beach town.


The city center is not far from the beach.


It was evening, and businesses around were surprisingly closed. Holiday? maybe. That, however, interfered with my goal of finding some coffee. Eventually I came across a Costa Coffee shop (they’re everywhere) five minutes before closing time.

Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero are two major UK coffee chains. They both are everywhere, and often you’ll run into situations when a Costa and a Nero are facing each other. Their coffee is OK. Not terrible like Starbucks, but not great. If you can’t find any local, independent coffee shop, either a Costa or a Nero would do.

This particular one had a deal: balance a twenty pence coin on a lemon floating in water, and get a free drink.


I failed to deliver, and so did the coffee.

Back at the hotel, I decided to be enterprising and take advantage of the hotel’s spa facilities. They have an 18 meters pool there, a Jacuzzi tub, a steam room and a sauna. A few short laps in the pool did much for cardio work alright, but at some point—I don’t know why, perhaps it was the general look of the place which was quite depressing—I had a mysophobia attack and decided to imminently stop swimming in other people’s urine. Hopped to the hot tub for a few minutes—realizing that the only difference between it and a swimming pool was that, in a hot tub, I’m sitting in other people’s germs, whereas in a swimming pool I’m in motion—and then into the steam room.

I don’t exactly remember when was the last time I was in a steam room. I think it was about 20 years ago when I visited a country club to which my family was subscribed. This particular one chose to add some eucalyptus extract to the steam, which was nice. Ten minutes later I was out.

It felt like Tel Aviv in June.

Next up: the sauna. The dry sauna’s goal (as far as I understood) is to make you sweat, thereby cleaning your skins from all sorts of toxins.

It felt like Tel Aviv in August.

You know what? it worked, I did sweat. Unbearable heat, couldn’t stand it for more than 5 minutes and I stormed out of there gasping for air—directly into the pool area which, quite frankly, stank.

The overall impression I got is that I possibly am not a big fan of swimming pools anymore—at least not ones that seem to be run down and not quite hygienic. The steam room & sauna, though, were an interesting experience. I shall make use of those more often.

The next morning was the morning of an easy day: the hotel, the city center and the venue were all located within a relatively short walk from each other.


The first order of business was to find some breakfast. One of the highest ranked places in Bournemouth for breakfast is Frieda’s Tearoom, offering good breakfasts. Altogether a nice place for a quiet breakfast, really. However, it did get a bit annoying that we had to sit there for about 20 minutes before realizing that you will never get the bill to your table in this place—payment is at the cashier. During that time, I have seen the waitress there texting, talking on her mobile phone, hooking up her phone to a laptop to synchronize some tunes, reading the news… anything but divert her looks towards an impatient arse in a table nearby dying to pay the bill and go on with his life.

Kept walking through the city center area…


Came across this, and penned it down as the spot for a pre‐show snack.


Came across Camera Obscura, which, at the time of checking, was the #301 restaurant in all of Bournemouth… out of 301.


Then, finally, arrived to this place:


Espresso Kitchen in Bournemouth is locally owned by an exceptionally cool lady by the name of Francesca. Provide me with an establishment like this one for every day during the tour, and I’m a happy camper. It takes guts to set up an independent, local coffee shop steps away from Starbucks, Costa and Nero, and it takes talent to bring this place to be #2 in TripAdvisor within two months. Delicious healthy cakes baked on site, and the coffee—hell, that’s what I’ve been looking for.

Kept on wandering around…


Pre‐concert snack in Patisserie Valerie and back to the beach area, where the venue is located.


The venue, Bournemouth International Center (usually referred to as simply “The BIC”) is a general purpose arena—a boring one, but not more boring than most other general purpose arenas previously played in this tour—and is a major venue in southern England. It seats 6,500.


Good concert—nothing unusual except for Our Shangri La making its debut in the UK. As Nigel Hitchcock joins the band in the UK, he was involved in this song’s performance, which added an entire layer of beauty to it. Well done.

Having gained some rest in Bournemouth, it was time to leave England’s wonderful coast area for a few days (should be back here for the Brighton concert soon) and head north west to Cardiff, Wales. Easy wake up: nobody was in the mood for walking 30 minutes to the train station. Instead, (mediocre) breakfast was consumed at the hotel and a taxi was hailed to take us to the central railway station. Half an hour ride to Southampton, then change to a 2nd class only train heading to Cardiff Central. Not as cramped as my previous few experiences with 2nd class coaches, but still, I wouldn’t classify the ride as being extraordinarily pleasant.

Now, here is something you need to know when you ride the trains in the UK, especially when you travel 2nd class: most train routes give you the option to reserve a seat. The fact that you hold a train ticket, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be seated (there are a few trains for which seat reservations are mandatory, in which case, everybody is seated). The pleasure of ensuring that your ass will be met with a seat (other than a toilet) while the train is moving usually costs an extra few pounds, on top of what you paid for the ride.

Seats are only possible to reserve up to a certain amount of time before departure (I think one hour). That’s because the train’s staff need to print seating stubs—a stub for each seat on the train, containing information about which sections of the train ride this seat is in a “reserved” status.

For example, if the train’s origin is in point A, its destination is point F, and it stops in B, C, D and E along the way, it is definitely possible that seat number 23 will be reserved in the sections BC and EF. It can also be reserved in the sections C⇒D and D⇒E, by two different people.

All of these details are printed on the seat’s stub and the stub is placed on the seat’s headrest.

Now, the fun thing is that, more often than not, people boarding the train initially seat themselves wherever the hell they feel like, which is not necessarily the exact seat that they were reserving. For example, if you reserved seat 23, which happens to be adjacent to seat number 24; seat number 24 is occupied by an individual with an exceptionally offensive body odour and all sorts of swastika‐shaped tattoos on their skin (this is not a random example); and there are fifty other vacant seats available in the coach—you are very likely to seat yourself somewhere else, preferably far away from the smelly Neo Nazi, say seat number 51. If the “true” owner of seat number 51 boards the train at some point and insists to take his seat, you would get up and find another vacant seat, or—if you have no other choice—return to your beloved and reserved seat number 23, next to the charming war monger.

This sort of arrangement is harmless in cases when the coach is sparsely occupied. However, the more people board the coach, the more probable it is for someone to insist on their reserved seat. The result: a few dozens of people shuffling around inside the coach (while the train is moving, mind you), along with their luggage.

The reason I’m telling you all of that is, that during the ride from Southampton to Cardiff, such mess ensued that took about 10 minutes to sort out. Naturally, luck had it and the coach was filled with old (yet charming. Well, mostly) English ladies carrying suitcases back and forth in the cabin (I helped some of them). Not one foot remained unharmed.

It was a fun morning exercise. I wish I could do it more often, but I don’t want to.

Finally arrived to Cardiff. Sun! I don’t think I ever got to see Cardiff in the sun.

Luggage placed in the hotel (can’t check in yet; too early) and off to find some place to eat.

Cardiff is the capital city of Wales. In Welsh, “Cardiff” (spelled “Caerdydd”) means “The Fort of Taff”, where “Taff” refers to River Taff that runs through Wales. I have been here twice before—in 2010 and 2011—and there’s something in this city that makes me… I don’t know… makes me like it.


A glance in TripAdvisor showed up Cafe Citta as a promising Italian restaurant. Ranked #2 out of 572, expectations were high. The restaurant is owned and operated by Italian folks; the menu is simple and food is delicious. I have been to a few Italian restaurants in Cardiff before and this one ranks high. Go there.

But if you’re going there and expecting to pay with cash, make sure you have enough change. For whatever reason, this place found it appropriate to take payment that was approximately 20% higher than the cost, never returning any change. At some point, while we were sitting there waiting for some change, the restaurant’s owner looked at me and said “thank you”. I didn’t quite understand why; it only registered with me once I realized we’re sitting there for 15 minutes waiting for something that is unlikely to happen.

One of the good things about money is that it helps you avoid dealing with awkward situations, especially when you have something more important to do with your life. A decision was made to leave the premises rather than getting into a deep discussion about ethical restaurateur‐ship with the owners.


In the previous times when I was here, I skipped entering the Cardiff Castle and wanted to go for it this time around. Unfortunately it was closed. Still, it looks lovely from outside. It dates back to the 11th century and serves no purpose nowadays other than being a major tourist attraction.


Back for coffee in my favourite Cardiff coffee spot—Coffee #1, right by the central railway station—and back to the hotel.


The hotel, Royal Hotel Cardiff, was picked because I stayed there before and liked it. It is conveniently located right at the city center, and is spacious, comfortable and well‐maintained.

Well, at least it was. The hotel was going through renovations over the last couple of years; the renovations have just ended two weeks ago so, if at all, I was expecting a better experience than last time’s.

Hell, what a miserable experience, starting right from the beginning with a rather obnoxious receptionist. Room was at the 7th floor, and I’ll leave you to guess which floor button didn’t work in the (only) elevator. Windows were locked shut, expecting you to use the air conditioning system instead; guess what, it’s turned on “heat” mode and you can’t change it.

But you know what? fine. I have stayed in crappier places before. But what I really can’t forgive any hotel for is poor Wi‐Fi connectivity. We’re in the 21st century already. Dear hotel owner: if you can’t have proper Wi‐Fi infrastructure in your hotel, then I don’t want to stay there.

It was the first time ever that I had to manually set my network adapter’s DNS settings to a custom DNS address, as the hotel’s DHCP server provided me with a wrong one.

(If you don’t understand anything in the preceding paragraph, that’s OK.)

Internet connection was still slow despite all my attempts to remedy the situation. Couldn’t even do proper lookups for the purpose of writing this blog entry, so we went for another walk outside. Weather became cooler, which might be explained by Iceman’s decision to take a crap on Cardiff’s sidewalk.


Back to the hotel, got ready and off to the venue, located a few minutes walk away.

The venue, Motorpoint Arena, used to be called “CIA”—Cardiff International Arena—until a car sales company by the name of “Motorpoint” purchased the arena’s naming rights. Again, a general purpose arena used for exhibitions and conferences, with a full seating capacity of about 5,000.


A shorter, 16 songs set, was played featuring a beautiful performance of Back to Tupelo as well as another saxophone‐accompanied rendition of Our Shangri La. An occurrence worth noting took place before the encore, when people started gathering close to the stage. Security staff started instructing people to go back to their seats. Mark noticed, referred to the security worker through the microphone saying “No, don’t spoil it”. The security worker didn’t hear it at first, which prompted Mark to step towards the front of the stage, in order to gain his attention. Before that happened, the security worker finally understood what he was supposed to allow people to do and fled the scene.


Arrived to Birmingham on Friday, around noon time, very tired due to all sorts of events that took place in the preceding few days. Accidentally, we took the wrong train from London to Birmingham—the slow one that makes stops all throughout the UK before arriving to Birmingham New Street station.

I can hardly remember when was the last time I was that tired, but I surely recognize the symptoms: feeling as if your brain turns into some sort of a mush; inability to form a proper coherent sentence without it taking a hell of a lot of effort. I tried to pass out on the train, but couldn’t.

Luckily, the Holiday Inn hotel in the city center is very close to the railway station. Not exactly sure how I made it safe and sound to the hotel, given the fact that I was only 10% awake. As I was just as hungry as I was tired, I had to resolve the more urgent problem first: Minmin is a Vietnamese restaurant nearby. Been a while since I had Vietnamese food. I ate it but was too tired to appreciate the taste.

Off to the hotel and I had one of the best two hour naps in mankind’s history. The story of that nap will be taught in schools in years to come. Naps like that one, if left unattended, could cause you to wake up and not understand why everyone around you grew older by a couple of years.

Woke up and immediately headed to the train station, to get to the venue.

The LG Arena is a part of Birmingham’s National Exhibition Center (NEC). The NEC is the largest exhibition center in the UK and the seventh largest in Europe, and inside the NEC, the LG Arena is where concerts take place. It is quite large, and can seat up to 16,000. I have been here before, too.

The NEC is located nearby Birmingham’s airport. Access to it from the city center is best done using trains: most trains departing from, or arriving to, Birmingham city center, also make a stop in Birmingham International railway station, which serves both the NEC and the airport.

The concert started close to 8:00pm—almost half an hour past schedule. About 15 minutes prior, Paul Crockford took the microphone and explained that the reason for the delay is the terrible traffic outside the venue, which meant that lots of people are still on their way.

Good concert, ended shortly before 10:00pm. Train back to the hotel, not before having to walk outside for a bit (it takes a few minutes to walk from the LG Arena to the main NEC area). If it wasn’t clear so far, I should tell you that England is going through one of its worst springs recently. Weather is actually winter‐like: this isn’t typical to the end of May. Hell, June is right around the corner!

While some might say that a long period of travelling is an excellent way to disconnect yourself from the everyday life, I hold a different theory: if you are looking forward to disconnect yourself from your everyday life, perhaps you should make some changes in it. The more I travel, the more I realize that I have my life right where I want it.

Sort of.

I miss home; well, both of them.