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 4, 2013

Torino to Milano, Italy (May 3, 2013)

Only one day after leaving Milano to the beautiful city Torino, I had to bid Torino adieu and head back to Milano for Friday’s concert. Same train ride as the day before, only in the opposite direction—quite the uneventful ride, with very little to offer in terms of scenery—two hours well spent resting.

The hotel booked for the second night in Milano was the Carlyle Brera Hotel, located in the trendy, pretty district of Brera in Milano’s city center. This hotel turned out to be significantly better than the disappointing Hotel Marconi in which I had stayed just two nights before, which is not a huge surprise—it was me who booked it rather than the Flying Dutchman.

Upon arriving at Milano Centrale, hunger struck so the plan was to get to the hotel as soon as physically possible and head to lunch. The Dutchman took it upon himself to plan the route from Milano Centrale to the hotel, located some 2.5km away.

“Taking the subway isn’t going to help us much”, he concluded, thus sentencing us to walk 2.5km through Milano’s busy streets, carrying luggage and “enjoying” the sun and humidity. I would not wish such a walk on you, whether I like you or not: you know the paddle of sweat you get on your back, when you’re walking for 45 minutes in sunny, humid weather, carrying a backpack? oh, you know it? good. Just checking.

It was very nice to discover, once we arrived at the hotel, that there is a subway station less than 30 meters away from it. 3 stops from Milano Centrale, 5 minutes ride.

I looked at the Dutchman, the Dutchman looked back at me, with an apologetic facial expression that did very little to soften the frustration and very much to aggravate it.

“You have just lost your navigation privileges for this tour”, I said.

Well, look at the bright side: I did lose a lot of calories during that walk.

First order of business upon arriving at the hotel was to look for a place for lunch. That had to be done quickly before restaurants close (most restaurants here are only open for certain hours around common dining times—lunch and dinner; if you’d like to eat something outside normal dining hours, you’d have to settle for a cafe, or a snack bar, serving sandwiches and other light foods).

A quick search in TripAdvisor’s immensely slow mobile app revealed a proper restaurant by the name of La Rosa Nera—of course, an Italian restaurant (yes, smartass. I know. All restaurants in Italy are “Italian restaurants” as they are located in Italy. Work with me here), because who would even bother considering consuming non‐Italian food in the very heart of Milano? The restaurant, located a few minutes walk from the hotel, in the heart of Brera district, offers superb Italian food, all made on the spot (including the pasta).


Italians appear to be very specific regarding how and where they want their Wi‐Fi access. I didn’t quite understand this sign:


Kept on walking around Brera…


Time for some after‐meal meal. Still in Brera, there’s a place called Panarello. The ordering process was quite frustrating (interestingly, almost nobody there speaks English even though this district is a major tourist area), but the food, desserts & drinks are good; €7.50 for snacks and drinks for two people, you can’t go wrong.


Then back to the hotel, to catch up with some work.

Daria and Valeria, sisters, living in northern Italy, made their way to Milano for the concert. Two super nice ladies whom I had met a few years ago in past Knopfler tours. During the Get Lucky tour, I arrived at Italy being rather ill after catching some bug in Budapest; the two sisters were kind enough to host me for a few days and help me out with arranging a doctor visit, making my stay in northern Italy in 2010 quite the memorable experience. For that, I am grateful to them for eternity.

As the venue for Milano’s concert was rather far from the city center, we agreed to meet in Navigli for a pre‐show dinner. I knew nothing of Navigli district before, which goes to show how helpful it is to hang out with people who are familiar with the area you’re in. This area in Milano is very pretty, boasting colourful buildings on both sides of a canal going through the district—and of course, millions of spots to enjoy good food, drinks and desserts.


The Navigli was a system of artificial canals constructed in the middle ages in order to make Milano accessible from the sea. Leonardo da Vinci, upon arriving to Milano in 1482, was commissioned with the task of designing a system that would make it possible to navigate, by sea, from Lake Como to Milano. The Navigli continued to be developed over the following generations, until it was deserted in the 19th century.

There’s a specific type of risotto dish that Milano is famous for—risotto allo zafferano (risotto with saffron)—and the two sisters insisted that we all give it a shot. Not much convincing was needed—I am very easy to be convinced to consume Italian food of any sort, let alone local specialties. It was still rather early for dinner time (around 6:30pm) so most restaurants weren’t ready for serving dinner yet, but eventually, we found one that was—Alzaia 26, which also happens to be the restaurant’s address. Soft, delicious risotto, pleasantly consumed on the restaurant’s patio looking at the canal and having conversation.

Of course, it didn’t end there. Before heading back to the metro and to the venue, a quick stop for desserts was in place. Stopped by in a nearby gelateria called Amorino for amazing Italian‐style ice cream. Salted pistachio. Can you imagine it? I couldn’t. Yet, I tried it, and it was delicious.

A few more metro stations and we all arrived at the venue.



The venue, Mediolanum Forum, is located in Assago which is a small suburb of Milano. It is a sports arena with the capacity of 11,500.

We arrived early, so I used the time to do some thinking.


The concert started at 9:00pm sharp, featuring a similar set to the one in Torino: more on the rocking side, with Gator Blood making a second appearance in a row. Unfortunately for me, I suffer from some sensitivity in my left ear, and as I was seated at the left hand side of the stage by the speakers, I had to cover my left ear for much of the show in order to avoid sharp ear pain resulting from high frequencies. That undermined my own enjoyment of the concert, but still, it was a very good one.


(By the way, can someone provide sufficient proof to Jim Cox having no more than ten fingers?)

Knopfler appears to be in the habit of introducing a new song to the set in every show so far (knock on wood; that’s one thing we don’t want to jinx). Yesterday it was a superb live arrangement of Back to Tupelo, from Shangri La (2004), telling the story of a truck driver by the name of Elvis Presley who also aspired to be a movie star, other than being one of the iconic, most popular singers of the 20th century. The warm, fat guitar tone used on the studio version was replaced with a more conventional Gibson tone configuration (I prefer the former, particularly for this song) and it was evident that the guitar solo work for this song can be elaborated in many ways and wear many different shapes and forms.

Again, we’re in Italy, and wherever there are Italians, there is the Running of the Bulls, which ensued in full force at the concert, well before the encore. While in Torino people at least made an effort to appear courteous, in Milano things looked totally different. Not wanting to take a part of this mess, I chose to remain behind and let those, who are not fortunate enough to be attending 70 shows this tour, get as close as they can to the stage.

Telegraph Road, the last song before the encore, was played with the entire audience on its feet, massive cheers from all over. Piper to the End concluded the concert, as it did 86 times during 2010.

Altogether a very good concert, that was somewhat ruined for me due to an event that took place shortly after the Bulls started roaming free.

Next to me, a nice quiet family consisting of a mature woman, young lady and a guy who I believe was the young lady’s husband, were trying to catch a glimpse at the stage while the Bulls were standing up against it. The problem was that the mature woman was short, which meant that she couldn’t see anything due to a relatively tall guy standing right in front of her. She asked him a few times to either move aside or do something to allow her to also enjoy the show—to no avail. Instead, the jackass was quite rude, dismissing her with sarcastic, cruel remarks.

That triggered a young man in the bunch to prepare for a fist fight, which was just about to break before the jackass’ friend meddled and convinced his friend to move 10cm to the right.

You see, that I don’t get. Not meaning to sound righteous or anything—as I am not—but for me, if a person with smaller physique than mine is having their concert enjoyment tampered with due to my presence in front of them, I do everything I can to help them out, by either moving away altogether, ducking, or have them switch places with me.

Seems elementary to me. Guys, yes, it’s a great concert; but it is JUST A FUCKING CONCERT. You, yes—you, jackass; in front of you, there’s a stage with eight musicians playing music. Behind you, there is a human, a person, who is asking for your help so they can enjoy the show as well—not to enjoy it more than you do, and not less; just to enjoy it. Will you not make the absolute minimum sacrifice to help them out?

Signing off this post from the hotel room in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Long travel day today, but not as long as the one coming up in a couple of days: 12 hours train ride from Zagreb to Prague. Aaaarrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhh!


1 comment:

  1. You're a good person, Isaac. Wish all were as tolerant and humanistic as you are.