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:

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg to Glasgow, UK (May 16–17, 2013)

Thursday morning. Flight from Luxembourg to Glasgow, through London Heathrow, is scheduled to depart at around 11:45am. I opened my eyes. Time: around 8:00am. No, please, let me rest some more.

Opened them again. Time: around 8:40am. Sprang out of bed as if my ass was on fire. “We need to go”.

The Dutchman looks at me. “We have time”.

Which we did. Luxembourg’s airport is located around 10km from the city center. But I don’t know why, I was rather stressed that morning. I don’t know what I wanted more: to get out of Luxembourg, or to arrive to Glasgow—a city I am very fond with.

I think it was more about my deep desire to leave Luxembourg.

Quick morning routine, down to the hotel’s dining room for a mediocre breakfast that failed to deliver, mostly because it didn’t even try.

Stress. Rush. “Let’s get out of here already”. Unusual for me to be so stressed in the morning, and I didn’t even have my coffee yet.

The hotel’s receptionist, which I believe is also the owner who also lends a hand to preparing breakfast, explained to us that taking a bus to the airport is probably the best approach, considering the fact that for the price of a taxi ride to the airport we might be able to purchase Bulgaria’s stock market in its entirety. Upstairs to grab the luggage, and within 10 minutes we were at the central station, wandering through the bus platforms to find bus number 16 heading to the airport.

It rained.

Do you know what it feels to be stressed out, outside, in the cold, 30 minutes after you wake up, and feel the drizzle on your face?


The bus took 20–30 minutes to ride 10km. During that ride, I got to see some pretty sights of the city center (around the City Hall area) as well as its surrounding areas, offering pleasant views of hills, trees and much greenery.

But I just wanted out; and once arrived at the airport, I felt as if some weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Luxembourg’s airport is small and is the only international airport in the country. It is also the only airport in the country having a paved runway.

Rushed into the terminal building and stood in the check‐in line. A minute later I realized that we’re surrounded by most of the band’s crew: The two guitar technicians (Mark’s and Richard’s), plus various familiar faces—some of which I spoke with before but they all seemed very happy with the company of each other so I didn’t quite feel like interfering. Turned out, though, that we were all booked on the same two‐legged flight to Glasgow.

Check in—done. Security—done. Down to passport control, and there’s a line‐up. Three passport control booths, zero of which are active. Fifteen minutes passed until someone bothered to operate a booth, not before I realized that the flight was postponed by an hour.

These were not good news. Connection time in London’s Heathrow airport was about 2 hours, which had to allow for switching terminals and going through passport control and security again (as you’re switching between international & domestic travel).

“Well, that’s fine. Let’s just settle at the gate area, have a coffee or something”, I said.

Well, what do you know. Once you’re past passport control in Luxembourg’s airport, there’s nothing there except for a couple of vending machines, one selling candy and the other selling “coffee” and “coffee”‐based products.

No Wi‐Fi.


Ended up waiting for a couple of hours there, slightly cheered up by knowing that if I’m stuck in Luxembourg, then it means that the crew is stuck in Luxembourg as well and, without some of these guys, a concert simply can’t happen. So let time pass; today is a day off, anyway.

Flight ended up being delayed by an hour and a half. As we arrived in Heathrow, we were told (by “we”, I’m referring to Jeroen, myself, and most of the band’s crew) that we missed our flight and we should go upstairs to customer service to see what the next steps are.

Whatever. I was really too tired to get pissed, and really, even if I was to get pissed, how could it help?

However, I must say that I was very impressed with how British Airways handled this. Customer service at the airport was fantastic. As the crew occupied the rest of the available seats on the 6:05pm flight, we had to suffice with the 6:50pm one. Got a £10 compensation voucher each, as well as free access to British Airways’ Business Lounge.

Passport control… and now they take your picture here, too. It’s a new system: they scan your boarding pass and take your picture. Upon boarding the aircraft, you have to look at a camera again so it can compare your face to whatever data it has about you in the system, in order to ensure that the person boarding the aircraft is indeed the person who went through passport control.

Security screening… again. Got all these procedures out of the way and then had to find a way to kill about four hours.

First order of business: lunch. Raised my head, looked around and what do I see? Wagamama. If you happen to be in the UK and come across a Wagamama, just go there. Been there many times before and was never disappointed: good, healthy, delicious and reasonably priced food.

Then off to British Airways’ Business Lounge. Took a while to find that place—Heathrow Terminal 5 is huge, and all airlines’ lounges are concentrated together in one part of the terminal. Turns out that British Airways has a few lounges in that terminal: one for first‐class passengers, one for business passengers, one for other passengers… heck, they also have a travel spa there, on site. Oh, and a club, too. What do they do in that club? I should find out.

Entered the lounge… what can I say? no words. Fantastic. If you ever have an itinerary that includes a few hours’ stop in Heathrow, buy access to that lounge. Free Wi‐Fi, comfortable chairs, free (tasty!) food—including hot meals, cold meals, drinks, the works. I was impressed.


Used the time to catch up with things (as usual). Time passed quickly. Left to the gate about forty minutes before departure, which was good because Jeroen has misread “gates closing time” as “boarding time” (good one, mate. Good one). Boarded… taxi… take‐off! on my way to Glasgow.

As soon as I left the aircraft in Glasgow airport, I already felt better. The familiar bus #500 to the city center…


As Jeroen was trying to chart the bus’ route from the airport to the city center, we came across something weird. Now, we all know that one axiom in Euclidian geometry says that the shortest distance between two points (on a plane) is always a straight line, but this was a bit troubling:


(the light blue line is supposedly the route that the super‐bus, which apparently drives above vertical obstacles, is taking.)

Thirty minutes later we arrived at the hotel, Premier Inn, located on West Nile Street just steps away from Buchanan Street and George Square, both are major touristic spots in the city of Glasgow. Unloaded everything and, as it was still light outside, rushed back to the streets to get some fresh air.

Glasgow is the largest city of Scotland (though not the capital; Edinburgh is). It is located right on River Clyde, the third longest river in Scotland—the same river mentioned in one particular song that, to my dismay, isn’t very likely to be performed live during this tour. It is home to about 600,000 people, while the metro Glasgow area is home to about 2.8 million—about half of Scotland’s population.

It is rather intriguing to realize that some cities can cause you, somehow, to feel good about yourself while other cities can cause you feel anxious to leave. Of course, this is purely subjective: what makes my boat float might drown someone else’s, and vice versa. Still, I’m wondering what is it, in a particular setting, that makes me feel comfortable in it?

Glasgow, in that regards, presents a sharp contrast to Luxembourg, as far as I’m concerned. This was my third time here, and the more I’m here, the more I want to stay.

For once, the city center area is beautiful, with massive old buildings looking brilliant at night time and fantastic in daytime.


It was Thursday night: most businesses were closed. Cloudy, cold, but still, walking in Glasgow’s city center felt special.

As my EURail pass doesn’t cover the UK, I had to pre‐book all UK travel and collect the tickets in any UK train station. As I was walking past Glasgow’s Central Station anyway, I figured I might as well just get it over with. The way UK train travel ticketing works is extremely inefficient (more on that in the next post, on which I’m working at the same time at the moment), and the ticket collection from the automated terminal also leaves some to be desired.


For once, I understand that our older generation may not be fully aware of the QWERTY keyboard layout which is found in each and every English keyboard on the planet (well, almost: some use a layout called Dvorak, which was patented in 1936 by Dr. August Dvorak while claiming that it reduces errors, improving typing speed and reduces fingers strain—all claims that were repeatedly proven wrong, leading to Dvorak’s complete and utter market failure). But still, at least provide an option to change this ABCDE layout to QWERTY for those of us who are familiar (to some extent) with a keyboard.

For twice, if you have multiple itineraries to collect, you have to go through the entire process (credit card verification) for each itinerary separately. That turned a process, that could have taken one minute, into a ten minutes ordeal.

I would have designed it differently.

Ended up collecting 26 (!) stubs for 6 itineraries. An average of 4.33 stubs per itinerary. Here’s a bright idea: how about one?


The Premier Inn hotel chain has it in its main slogan that it guarantees a good night sleep. I didn’t get one, but not because of the hotel and its facilities, but mostly because of being overly stressed.

The next morning, the sun was shining. When the sun is shining, Glasgow is even prettier. A decision was made to obliterate morning hunger and then set out for a walk.

A look on the net brought up Martha’s as the provider of a potentially good breakfast:


Martha’s breakfast menu doesn’t focus on selection, but instead focuses on simplicity and, well, taste. Porridge is a typical Scottish breakfast, and together with granola, flax seeds and all sorts of other healthy goodies, provides for a rather filling and healthy breakfast. Recommended. Go there.

Kept on walking, taking many pictures of this lovely city. The destination was River Clyde—for once, it’d be nice to see it in the sunshine.


Along the way, I made a disconcerting discovery: KFC is now in the business of serving espresso‐based products.



Crossed the Glasgow Bridge as the grass looked greener there (well, there wasn’t any grass on the city center’s side), and then the South Portland Street Suspension Bridge back to the city center. The views were amazing.


Here’s optimism at its best: “Thanks for Nothing Friday”.


Back on Argyle Street…


Walking on Buchanan Street again, I noticed a familiar place: The Willow Tea Rooms. I have been there once before, during the joint Knopfler/Dylan tour in 2011. That place made a long lasting impression. We’ll be back here soon for lunch.


I’ll just dump most pictures here as I can’t pick which ones to use.


Afternoon tea at The Willow:


And back to the hotel, as I had to catch up with a few things.

At around 5:00pm, James Morris, who had helped me planning some parts of the 2010 Get Lucky tour, made his way to the hotel for a get‐together. A quick snack at Pret a Manger downstairs and we headed to the venue—an easy 25 minutes walk.


The venue—S.E.C.C (shorthand for Scottish Exhibition and Conference Center)—is located right next to the famous Clyde Auditorium (AKA “The Armadillo”. Guess why):


It is the largest exhibition center in Scotland. A few halls inside are regularly used to host concerts, with the capacity of up to 12,500.


The S.E.C.C and the Clyde Auditorium and the nearby Crowne Plaza hotel are interconnected through a myriad of pathways. The Crowne Plaza there is ridiculously expensive to stay in, let alone in concert nights; however, its bar area is very popular among concertgoers for food & drinks before the show. Matt Duncan and his friend Chris were there, and we passed the time chatting for about an hour before it was time to head back to the venue. The concert started early—a few minutes past 7:30pm.

This tour around, the UK concerts are featuring Nigel Hitchcock, an English jazz saxophonist. He started collaborating with musicians when he was 18 years old, and had the chance to play with many glorious and famous.

After the regular opening, Nigel was invited to the stage. I wasn’t quite sure what’s going to be played next, as not many songs in Mark’s recent repertoire seem to be accommodating of a saxophone. I was betting on Your Latest Trick from the Dire Straits days—actually, of the few Dire Straits tunes that I’m happy to listen to.

The band, however, had other plans. Nigel ended up performing I Used to Could in a rather minor capacity, and then, right after, Romeo and Juliet.


The first time I ever listened to a saxophone‐featured version of Romeo and Juliet was when I bought On The Night some time in the beginning of the 2000’s. I liked On the Night’s version of this song particularly because I thought that a saxophone fit the scene well. Therefore, it felt refreshing listening to Romeo and Juliet performed live yesterday featuring a saxophone.


Kingdom of Gold was certainly the evening’s highlight—as it usually is (when it is played, that is). A lot of power at the outro, and it seems that Mark is getting less shy about squeezing every last breath out of that light blue Pensa.

A quick bathroom break at the beginning of Marbletown (that is, myself taking the break; the band stayed on stage), but when I returned, I realized that a few people are waiting to return to their seats as well, deciding to remain at the back in order to not interrupt other people with more efficient bladders. During the part when John & Glenn exchange notes between themselves, I noticed that the audience was laughing but couldn’t figure out why. Later, I was informed that it was because John (who had just turned 40 the day before. Congratulations) decided to play Scotland the Brave for a brief few seconds during the exchange.

Nigel Hitchcock returned later on for the last encore, the (much expected, I should say; we are in Glasgow, after all) theme from Local Hero. Now here’s a song where a saxophone adds a huge value. Very good—I certainly approve. Looking forward to more of these as the UK tour progresses.


After the concert, a walk back to the city center and a short late night meal in Wagamama, then back to the hotel for a good night sleep before traveling to Newcastle the next day.

Signing off this post from the hotel room in Newcastle. Heading for dinner and the concert tonight begins in about 3.5 hours.


1 comment:

  1. Great to read your account of Glasgow. It hasn't always looked line this! I studied there 30 years ago just as the city was beginning its transformation from shithole to the gleaming city you have captured so well in your photos. You got lucky with the weather though! Happy travelling. JM