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, June 28, 2013

Paris to Caen, France (June 27, 2013)

After a wonderful evening in Paris, woke up feeling not much more than half rested. The hotel’s air conditioner didn’t seem to work during the night—only circulating air around, not cooling it. I have low tolerance to heat when I’m asleep, which is why I woke up a couple of times during the night.

Of course, the air conditioner started working wonderfully, cooling the room to the temperature of 17℃, as soon as I woke up.

The hotel, Corail Hotel, was centrally located and reasonably priced. Of course, you can’t have it all in this world, so the great ratio between price and location came on account of the room’s size. Two single beds, short gap between them, almost no room to walk around.

Jeroen’s headphones’ battery ran out, and he was sure he had some extra batteries lying around in his pack. The reason I’m telling you this has nothing to do with my level of interest in Jeroen’s portable energy reserves (which amounts to no interest at all), but has to do with the fact that there wasn’t enough room around to open the pack comfortably and mess around with it. That’s how small the room was.

Left the room feeling a tad claustrophobic, back to the railway station’s area for a glorious (and expensive) breakfast, watching Paris go by. Back to the hotel, grabbed the luggage and off to the metro station. A few stops to Paris Saint‐Lazare, arriving way, way too early.

The schedule: easy. From Paris, it is about two hours direct train ride west to Caen. It wasn’t the TGV, but still a fast train boasting an excellent 1st class experience. Split the ride between trying to catch up with sleep and writing: writing didn’t go well because I kept losing 3G signal along the way, and sleeping didn’t go to well because I can’t fall asleep for more than a minute in a rattling cabin.

Arrived at Caen right of schedule.

“Caen? hold on a second. Isn’t it where they have that famous film festival?”

—That’s what I thought to myself when I first read the Privateering tour’s schedule. Yes! The French Riviera. I only wish it would be for more than one day.

So, no.

Even Wikipedia, under the Caen entry, states—in the very first line:

Not to be confused with Cannes.

Caen is a small town located in France’s north west, a few kilometers south of the English Channel. The city is located in the region of Normandy: shortly after the Invasion of Normandy during World War II, much of this city was destroyed before being liberated by British and Canadian troops.

Its population count is around 120,000 and whoever I asked about this town said that there’s nothing really interesting to see or do there.

I still had quite a bit of writing to do, so I passed on the opportunity to explore the area and spent a couple of hours in the hotel room, writing and writing even more, as the Dutchman set off to see what this small town has to offer:


Finished writing in just about the time the Dutchman arrived back to the hotel. Post uploaded—it always feels good; some feeling of accomplishment—and stormed out looking for a pre‐concert meal.

During the 2010 Get Lucky tour, I often encountered serious trouble feeding myself in France and Spain. This is because restaurants there tend to follow certain opening hours throughout the day, and this problem is magnified the smaller the city you’re in. If you are to dine out, you better adjust your dining time to certain timeframes—which is not necessarily bad overall, but extremely problematic when you crisscross the country by train. Why? simple: often, train rides take place during the time when restaurants are open, and once you arrive at your destination, it’s too late for lunch and too early for dinner.

What do you do in that case? well, you have the obvious option to starve to death; but, assuming you are not a masochist, you simply have to find a place offering lighter fare—usually sandwiches, desserts and such. At times, you may come across proper restaurants offering food outside the normal dining hours: you are likely to run into those in the more tourist‐centric areas, and food there tends to be way overpriced considering its quality.

That’s exactly what happened in Caen. Looking for proper food had us walk through the (small) city center a few times to compare between the available options. There was no place that could offer what we were looking for, so ended up getting a small wrap in Big Apple Coffee, then heading to a nearby Paul shop where I was refused a cappuccino (again—second time in two days!) but allowed a proper sandwich, and then head back to Big Apple Coffee for… well… coffee.

That’s quite the effort to exert when you’re hungry.

A lesson was learned: in France, Italy and Spain, research will be done ahead of time to decide where to eat upon arrival.

Nevertheless, Caen’s town center area isn’t too cruel on the eyes. It is small, and maybe there’s not too much to see and do, but I wouldn’t call it a total failure. Took some photos myself.


Came across a restaurant that offered tartars made of lawyers:


I don’t have much against lawyers, but I still wouldn’t want to eat them.

Back to the hotel to grab a rain jacket—as weather forecast called for some drizzle later on—and out again, heading to the concert.


The venue, Zénith de Caen, is located about 2km away from the city center. It is a part of the Zénith “chain” of indoor arenas. It can seat about 7,000, and it did—as this show, like most other shows in France, was sold out.

First thing was first: collecting the tickets, quite expectedly going through French efficiency at its best. Long line to a small booth. Two people working inside, and still the line takes forever. The two seemed to not really understand what they were doing there in the first place. Are the tickets in this pile? no… let me look… maybe in this one? yes. Ah, no. Asking her colleague now. Meanwhile, it gets crowded inside, as the booth’s entrance also serves as an exit (otherwise people’s lives might be comfortable).

Fifteen minutes in line to collect the tickets, then trying to enter the venue through the wrong gate. Forget the fact that entrances’ lines were pretty much vacant: still, no, you have to enter through that gate. Yes, Sir: please, control me. Correct me. Lead me. I will learn an awful lot about life if I am redirected from one empty queue to another.

Entered the venue and headed to the hall itself. Approaching the hall, I noticed yet another long, long line‐up of people standing on some reddish carpet. OK, that’s a first: I can’t recall seeing a line‐up in such a strange location and in such a strange context—not even in Canada, the mother land of all queues, where people fight for their right to queue anywhere, anytime, for any reason.

What is that queue for? I didn’t know. Now, the entrance to the hall was very wide, and the queue was very narrow, so we just entered the hall. An usher came over and mumbled something in French. At that point I already lost patience towards any sort of bureaucracy or protocol: really, screw this. Just headed to my seat completely ignoring my surroundings.

I can’t speak French to save my life, but the Dutchman can (to some extent). Turns out that we were asked whether we were “already seated”. According to this venue’s protocol, you need to be seated by staff upon your first entry to the venue.

Excuse moi? no, I wasn’t “already seated”. Here’s my seat, right in front of me. It’s two meters away. Are you really expecting me to wait in line just so your colleague can peek at my ticket and prove to me that they know how this venue is organized—let alone that the line is huge and the concert starts in just about three minutes?

Don’t think so, but really, thanks anyway.

Apparently, though, I was a minority in my line of thinking. That queue just kept growing.

Ruth Moody and her band, the opening act for Mark et al in France, showed up on the stage performing their usual set. Apparently, her parents were in the audience. That didn’t do much to affect the performance, which was, as usual, lovely.


Of course, ten minutes into Ruth’s performance, people were still being “seated” by the courteous staff. Now, what happens once an usher seats a person? they have to go back to the line‐up, to collect the next victim. How do they go about doing so? AH. Good question. They do so by running through the aisles. Imagine that, staff running through the venue through the first 10–15 minutes of the show.

Ruth’s act concluded: about 20–25 minutes break and Paul Crockford arrived at the stage, asking the audience to welcome Mark back to Caen, setting of a stellar concert, not at all less impressive than the one performed just 24 hours prior in Paris. I was expecting a shorter set (as the band had to fly back to Paris), but no: a good 17 songs set, including the “Golden Moody Trio”—I Dug Up a Diamond, Seattle and—performed with Ruth for the first time since the Amsterdam show—the mighty Kingdom of Gold.

During Marbletown, certain people decided it’d be a great idea to applaud during the performance’s more subtle part, prompting someone from the audience to emit a rather strong shushing sound, stopping the applause but starting a wave of laughter instead.

For the first time in quite a while, Speedway at Nazareth was skipped, triggering a rush of enthusiastic bulls towards the stage. Learning my lesson from the night before, I walked forward very carefully. No injury this time. Let a short nice girl in front of me (she seemed to be way overly ecstatic of whatever was happening on the stage); joy, happiness and peace for all.

Looking at the stage, I noticed a large piece of paper, on which there was written—

I was at the Royal Albert Hall. Please play Sultans tonight!

—which made me wonder perhaps I should bring my own piece of paper to the stage, with something like the following written on it:

I have been to all concerts so far in this tour, please skip Sultans tonight as well. Thank you.

(Unfortunately, I don’t have a photograph of that paper to share here, but I will in a few days.)

After the concert, a light drizzle through the 20 minutes walk back to the hotel. I was planning on doing some writing but was so tired I decided to skip.

Signing off this post from my hotel room in Rennes. Will try to take a nap before heading to the venue. Need to catch up with some sleep.



  1. That short nice girl might have responded to "Excuse me I think your gorgeous" "my name is Isaac" 35 years ago I could say that in French, but I am guessing you could get a translation of your mobile tablet device these days. In fact I bet you could talk for hours if you both had a tablet thing.

  2. I was in Paris-Bercy and the bell rang, sultans went home, now there are no cannibals any more and Napoleon is done... so sad sad...

  3. Hello Isaac
    About the drums in the streets in Clermont-Ferrand : these dances happened during the celebration the Saint-Jean (St John ?). Culturally very popular across all parts of France.
    Sorry to ask but you might have forgotten to mention what the winning prize is ... ;-)

    1. Hi Benoit, thank you for the info. I updated that post with the details, and gave you credit for it. The winning prize will be a coupon for buying Wi-Fi access in the Holiday Inn Express hotel in Dresden. I'm sure you'll like it.

  4. Hi Isaac. I was at this gig (and I attended an Elton John concert at the same venue, six days ago) and I remember feeling a little disappointed at the end of the show. I thought it was a little too "laid back" to my taste and Dire Straits' songs were reduced to the strict minimum which amounted to a concert lacking of strength. But when I watch videos tapped during this gig, nostalgia overwhelms me and I end up saying: "it was a rather sweet night!