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:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Newcastle upon Tyne to Liverpool, UK (May 19, 2013)

Having gone to bed very late on Saturday night, I woke up early feeling very tired. Schedule: take the 9:33am train from Newcastle to Liverpool, arriving 12:58pm. Direct train. What can go wrong?

7:30am wake up. Yawn, twice or thrice. Breakfast? what breakfast? no. Deferred that until we get to the central railway station area. Checked out of the hotel, and by 8:10am I found myself hungry, thirsty, 90% asleep waiting for the Q‐Link bus to take me to the central station.

The plan was to find a place to sit down for breakfast in the central station itself. However, once entering the station, it turned out to be very cold: nothing to keep cold air from outside to enter the station, and nothing to heat it up. Highly preferring a covered, warm place for breakfast, I had no choice but to suffice with the Starbucks across the street. Nothing else seemed open so early in the morning; on the other hand, it’s not like I dedicated much effort to even looking for an alternative.

You wouldn’t catch me dead drinking Starbucks’ disgusting coffee, but their sandwiches are acceptable. Sandwich, yogurt, tea… and I was ready for the 3.5 hours ride to Liverpool.

Well, not quite.

As I mentioned before, I’ll be travelling mostly in 2nd class during the UK leg of the tour, in an attempt to cut costs. All travel has been booked already and is non‐refundable. Little did I know that trains can be so crowded on Sunday mornings. The lucky Dutchman went off to enjoy his ride in 1st class (Interrail passes, applicable only to EU residents, are valid in the UK), while I was cramped into a corner seat in 2nd class.

That was hell. In front of me, two youngsters decided to feast on croissants and ham, making the immediate surrounding area stink. Tried to stretch my legs a few time, each attempt ending in someone in front of me being kicked.

As the train approached York, the two youngsters left the train and were replaced by a mature nice looking couple. The guy started coughing and didn’t stop until the end of the ride. By the sound of it, he was in possession of some sort of a bug. I definitely hope I didn’t catch anything. During the ride, he asked his companion to check on him whether he might have fever.

My take on it? if you’re sick, either don’t board a train full of people, or put on one of those filter masks. You’ll look a little odd, but at least you won’t make an entire coach sick.

I tried to catch some sleep, to no avail. 3.5 hours of torture, plus—of course—the inevitable delay at around Manchester; finally, arrived to Liverpool 20 minutes past schedule. Stretching my legs never felt better.

When I’m ignorant about something, I’m usually not shy about admitting it. Here is a summary of what I knew about Liverpool:

  • It has two soccer teams that were successful back in the 1980’s, when I was a child and actually cared about soccer at all. Maybe they’re OK now as well, I don’t know.
  • The Beatles were born here.

Upon arriving at Liverpool Lime Street station—not the central station but definitely an important one in Liverpool—the immediate feeling I got about the city is that it is old, not very exciting, mainly catering to the middle working class.


The city seemed to be more bustling with action than Newcastle. Young people abound. The atmosphere reminded me of Toronto, not exactly sure why.

As we checked into the hotel—Printworks Hotel located right at the city center—and realized that the room’s price is only £48, I started thinking. This either is a crappy hotel, or a crappy area in Liverpool, or the economy in Liverpool sucks the behinds of many goats. The hotel room turned out to be fine. Something’s wrong in here. £48 for a hotel room in such location? what am I missing?

Once finding a proper place to sit down for lunch—Leaf on Bold Street—I fired up Wikipedia and started reading about the city. Much like in Luxembourg’s case, it turned out that I may have missed something.

Liverpool is the home for just under 500,000 people, out of 2,000,000 people living in the Liverpool City Region. The city owes its development mainly to its port: by the early 19th century, 40% of the world’s trade passed through its docks. It was unavoidable, then, for Liverpool to become a powerful, important city.

The Guinness World Records labelled Liverpool as the “World Capital City of Pop”: if you were to group all number 1 hit singles by the artists’ origin, Liverpool would come first. Not surprisingly, the fact that The Beatles were born and raised in Liverpool is a major contributor to that.

Music is not all, though: Art aficionados who happen to find themselves in Liverpool are unlikely to want to leave too quickly. Liverpool ranks second in the UK with respect to the number of important art galleries and museums (London being the the first). Nightlife? TripAdvisor’s poll in 2011 yielded Liverpool as #1 in the UK for nightlife (London came as #3).

On paper, then, Liverpool has it all. For young people at least, Liverpool may as well be considered paradise.

But £48 for a decent hotel room?

Leaf on Bold Street offers a communal‐style dining experience. You order at the bar, tell the cashier where you’re sitting, and they bring everything to you. While 2‐ and 4‐people seating areas exist, most seats are lined against long tables so you’re likely to find yourself dining right next to people you don’t know. Great way to meet new people, I’d say. Also a great way to be exposed to offensively disgusting body odours, though Food is reasonably priced and good. The coffee would be decent as well had they learned how to take that milk steaming wand out of the milk before it reaches earth’s core temperature.

What Leaf do specialize in, however, is tea. All sorts of delicious(ly sounding) teas. Mint tea—my favourite refresher—and things started to feel better.


I then headed back to the hotel so I can keep up with blogging, as the Dutchman went ahead to explore some of the city.


The inconsistent diet of the preceding few days, as well as the stressful cramped train ride to Liverpool, started to get to me late afternoon. I also decided that all my future train travel in the UK (past this tour) will be 1st class, regardless of costs. A little weird how I can survive 18 hours flights in economy class but find it irritating to take a 3 hours train ride in the UK’s 2nd class trains.

Close to 6:00pm, I left the hotel and started walking towards the venue. It was a bit cold, but sunny and beautiful outside.

Bold Street provides for a pleasant walk in Liverpool and is an excellent starting point for exploring the city center area. At its top there’s the Church of St. Luke, dating back to the early 19th century until it was severely damaged in Liverpool Blitz during World War II. Down the street, cafes, restaurants and other entertainment establishments abound.


The venue, Echo Arena, is beautifully situated next to River Mersey, on what used to be the King’s Dock.


It seats 12,000 and is considered environmentally sustainable, leveraging all sorts of features to conserve energy, including using rainwater for toilet flushing and the using turbines, operating on the nearby river, for power generation.

Ticket collection, however, presented a hassle. For a minute I thought I’m still in Poland. After standing in a never‐ending line for 15 minutes, patiently awaiting my turn, I was informed by the attendant that ticket pickup is actually inside the venue, next door.

– “How about putting up a sign?”, I advised.

I didn’t get the response but I had a feeling that it wasn’t pretty.

That “next door” was, indeed, a door; however it was completely unsigned. There was no way for anyone to know that beyond that door there’s yet another line up for ticket collection. That took another five minutes that were lost forever.

Before entering the venue, I took some time to walk around the venue to see River Mersey. It was good to have some sun rays meet my skin, if only for a few minutes. Beautiful area to take a walk in, including at night (see below).

Time in the sun is up—concert starting in a few minutes.


Not much out of the ordinary happened during this concert, until some time in the middle of Telegraph Road. The usual set except for the beautiful Seattle coming back to life and… well… yes, Sultans of Swing is back after being in absentia for four concerts. Relatively reserved audience, comparing to what I would expect in such a young city that has seen a concert or two before.


This time I failed to solve Ian’s daily riddle at the beginning of Corned Beef City. Guy didn’t. But I was close. Here’s a tip for Ian: I’m betting this will be much harder to guess once you introduce triplets to the beat… or try a true sextuplet. I really want to see this happening.


After a long Marbletown performance that saw John and Glenn pretty much making things up during their interchange and a very funny incident at the end as Mark made Mike run completely out of air, prompting Mike to bark at him with the flute and causing an uproar of laughter in the audience, there came the usual dose of noise with Speedway at Nazareth, and then Telegraph Road.


That must have been one of the best outros of Telegraph Road that I had ever encountered before. As it happened, I found myself moving my upper body in entirely random directions according to the beat. Was it just me? was it the performance? I don’t know. Can’t tell you. Remarkable.

Not much Running of the Bulls this time around as the seating structure didn’t allow for people to run sideways (although I’m sure that in Italy or Spain it wouldn’t matter at all). Still, it became crowded against the stage. So Far Away, and then another good performance of Going Home only that the saxophone wasn’t very well heard.

Good concert, stabilizing an otherwise rather rattling day.

After the concert, I decided to head back to the hotel immediately to regain some strength. It was very cold. The view of the dock at night is fantastic—unfortunately, pictures came out a bit blurry but that’s all I have for you.


Walked back to the city center…


And back to the hotel, very tired. I feel bad for not having the chance to see more of Liverpool—clearly, there’s much more to it than can be covered in a few hours. I will be back.

Signing off this post from the hotel room in Bournemouth. It’s been quite hectic recently; will use the rest of today & tomorrow to rest. Got many other things to catch up with, so the next post will be published after the Cardiff concert.



  1. Why didn't you hire a car and see the great British Isles that way rather than going on the train.I can tell you first class isn't worth the money although on a sunday I think its just £15 to upgrade.
    Enjoying the blog.Maybe i will see you next Thurs at the RAH .
    Very interesting that you ended up in Gateshead.

  2. On UK trains you can pay to upgrade to first pay the conducter.