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:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Stuttgart, Germany to Paris, France (June 26, 2013)

Wednesday, June 26, was a day I was really looking forward to: this tour around, that would be the first concert in France. Five concerts in a row in various places across this beautiful country, before heading back to Germany for a week (and returning to France for a few more dates, some time in July).

Not sure how many of you, who are reading this, had the chance to read my 2010 Get Lucky tour blog. If you did, then you should already know my feelings towards France: I love it.

My first time ever in France was during that tour in 2010, and I approached it with care, as I was told more than a few things about the French people: that they’re arrogant; that they’re snobbish; that they won’t help tourists if they need help.

This is all complete rubbish.

Arrogant and snobbish? give me a break. The fact that they’re not as polite as people in many other countries (notably Canada and the United States, where politeness is, more often than not, artificial), doesn’t make them rude. They’re direct, they’re passionate about what they say and do—which is precisely why I think I can connect with the French mentality more than I can connect with many others. I myself am direct, upfront and passionate about what I say and do—a trait that I preserved rather well through ten years living in Canada, even though it closed a few doors for me (but opened a few others, probably better ones).

Combine this with the fact that the French cuisine is of the best that this planet has to offer, and you should understand why I was looking forward to visit France again; and what would be the best place to start, if it’s not for the country’s capital city?

From Stuttgart, there are a few high speed trains (TGV) headed to Paris every day. The ride takes about 3.5 hours, during which the train reaches speeds in excess of 300km/h. TGV rides that span multiple countries are usually very expensive: even EURail and Interrail pass holders are required to pay a hefty supplement fee to ride these trains. This particular train, for example, resulted in a supplement of €30. Without a rail pass, the price would be much more.

Having said that, the TGV’s 1st class cabins are more comfortable to ride than the 1st class cabins of, say, the ICE trains. Seats are wider and more comfortable, and they also recline (slightly) better.

For international travellers—those who pay that extra fee—a light meal is also served on board. I can’t remember whether I took an international TGV train during the 2010 Get Lucky tour; anyway, neither of us knew of the coming meal which is why we bothered consuming breakfast at the hotel as well as buy sandwiches from Le Crobag. Most of that meal, then, was left untouched.


It was an uneventful ride to Paris, as I spent the time partly for attempting to doze off and partly for writing the previous post. These posts are surprisingly difficult to complete without proper internet connection—best I can do is to bring them into “almost finished” state, and finish them off once I have access to a hotspot. TGV, unfortunately, doesn’t offer on‐board Wi‐Fi (other railway carriers, such as Thalys, do).

Train arrived to Paris‐Est (“Paris East”) railway station on time. Leaving the train, I took note of the weather: not too cold, not too warm, a bit cloudy but not too much—in other words, this should be a good day to spend outside.

The hotel for the night, Corail Hotel, was chosen for its location: a short walking distance from the concert’s venue, as well as from Gare de Lyon—a major railway station in Paris. It takes two metro rides to get to Gare de Lyon from Paris‐Est, which took a bit of time to figure out as I don’t have much experience (read: I hardly have any experience) riding Paris’ metro system. It was around 2:00pm, and the metro was flooded with people. Much like a sardine, I got cramped up in a cabin on the M7 line, then changed in Châtelet to the M14. One more station… done. Off the train, up to the platform and exited Gare de Lyon onto the street.

Welcome to Paris.

From the station, it’s a five minutes walk to the hotel. Checked in, and instead of heading straight out, I decided to sit down and complete the previous post. Believe you me, that was a tough decision to make. Weather outside was fantastic for a walk in the city, and the hotel’s central location made it seem all to easy to just forget about writing any blog and head outside, being sucked into the rush that is Paris.

I hate deadlines (although I do insist to meet them, especially in my profession), and when I’m writing, I hate to be reminded that my time is up. Therefore, uncertain as to how long it would take, I informed the Dutchman that he should not wait for me. He didn’t. Took me about 15 minutes to finish that post. Took a quick shower and headed to the streets.

A short walk north, there’s the Place de la Bastille:


When the 2011 joint Knopfler‐Dylan tour arrived at Lille, I remember going to an amazing desserts shop there called Meert. Those sweet memories (pun intended) prompted me to search whether there’s a Meert store in Paris: Google Maps found two. Went to the closest one of them, but it turned out to be a very small store, offering mostly candy. Still, I earned about 10–15 minutes of walking around, taking photographs of this beautiful city.


Coffee time. A quick search in TripAdvisor brought up La Cafeotheque as a potential provider of coffee. It’s currently ranked #563 in Paris… out of 9,774. Approximately 94% of all dining places in Paris are worse than this place, and in a city like Paris, that means a lot. Headed there…


Not a regular coffee shop. This place is divided into several “parts”, a couple of which have dining tables and chairs, while one particular room—pictured below—was organized differently. A few random seats, plus one long cushion along the inner wall, and a few small tables (more like stands. They were very small) scattered around. Gives you the feeling that people here come to sit back and sip some coffee over a good book or something. I appreciated it.


The atmosphere there was so nice and charming that I didn’t even pay attention that I spent about a full hour (!) there, sipping coffee and enjoying a delicious cheese cake while… well… hard to admit here, but yes: playing online chess. I lost more than I won.

Back on the streets, I just wandered around aimlessly. Crossed Pont Louis Philippe (Pont = Bridge), taking a few photographs of the Seine.


I couldn’t possibly take good enough photographs to capture just how breathtaking this city is. You could easily spend a couple of weeks here and still have a few things left to see and do. Merely walking in these streets—even without any predetermined destination—is itself an enjoyable experience.


South on Rue Jean du Bellay, crossed Pont Saint‐Louis, leading to Île de la Cité—one of the two remaining natural islands on the Seine within the city of Paris.


Accidentally, I entered a street that was flooded with tourists. Headed there. To the side, a beautiful square—Square Jean‐XXIII, named after Pope John XXIII.


Right behind it, even more tourists were rambling around like maniacs. Turned out that, incidentally, the world famous Notre Dame de Paris is right there.


I could have kept on wandering around for hours; however, it was time to head back to the hotel and figure out technical issues such as… well… you know… dinner.


The Dutchman was already at the hotel when I arrived. He had his fair share of nice walks around the city as well. Of course, he took a few interesting photographs. I chose these two to include here: pictures from Pont de l’Archevêché—also called the “Padlock Bridge” because… well…


An attempt to look for a place online didn’t go well. Well, that’s the thing about using something like TripAdvisor or Yelp in a city with about 10,000 restaurants (that is, about 10,000 restaurants known to those search engines. Who knows how many more are there): the variety is so huge that you really don’t know what to pick anymore. It’s much easier to use such engines in smaller places, showing you 10–15 top places to pick from: in a city like Paris—especially in a central location such as the one where the hotel was located—you could easily sift through hundreds of restaurants, completely losing track over things.

One of my all‐time favourite books was written specifically about this subject: The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. This book is a must read for anyone with the slightest interest in what motivates people to behave the way they do. Truly an eye‐opening book. Read it.

Completely unwilling to spend too much time looking for a place, we decided on a place called Cafe Aux Cadrans located very close to the hotel and the railway station. Grilled salmon with pesto and wild rice, drinks and I was good to go.


The venue, Palais Omnisport de Paris‐Bercy (often referred to as simply “Bercy”; “Bercy” is the name of a neighbourhood in Paris), is an indoor arena and concert hall in Paris. I am no stranger here, as I was here twice before: once during the 2010 Get Lucky tour and once during the 2011 joint Knopfler‐Dylan tour. The Bercy is located a short walk from Gare de Lyon, even though there’s a metro station (perhaps not coincidentally named “Bercy”) steps away from it. The venue is surrounded by a myriad of dining places—cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants… really, endless. I’m pretty sure that this venue doesn’t make a lot of money selling food: you need to be particularly negligent to arrive hungry to a Bercy concert (unless you were rushing or something).


Tickets pick‐up took place in the regular place, through one of the side gates. As usual in the Bercy, an exceptionally long line‐up for ticket collection (note: this is ticket collection, not ticket purchase. When you’re in that line‐up, you already have a ticket purchased: all you need to do is display some ID and get your tickets. Not rocket science). My friend Laurent joined a few minutes later and informed me that this is French efficiency at its best. I couldn’t believe it when I was told that there were actually three people working inside, handing tickets to people. It really took forever. That’s about 45 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.

Tickets collected, a group of friends decided to head to a nearby bar for a drink. As I had my annual third litre of beer just the preceding night, I opted out of alcohol. Everyone was ordering beers and other alcoholic beverages, and this stuck‐up snob asked for a cappuccino. Laurent, communicating with the bartender, informed me that I can’t get my cappuccino. Why? because the bartender doesn’t have time to make it, he’s too busy.

I still don’t know whether Laurent was joking or not.

A minute later, I spotted a couple of familiar faces outside. My friends Jordan and Steve, from California, flew in for a few shows in France. Mike joined a couple of minutes later. Was good to see these good folks three years after we had a lot of fun getting together before, during and after concerts in North America and the UK.

Time ran out: headed to the venue. Entering through the gate, you are being checked by three different people. One checks that you’re at the right gate, another checks your belongings (if any), and another scans your ticket. Again, French efficiency at its best.

The Bercy, while not too sophisticated a venue, is still impressive to look at.


Ruth Moody and her band are back to the opening act spot for Knopfler in France. Was good to see these folks again. As the Bercy was sold out for this concert, I’m gathering that close to 12,000 people watched Ruth perform—which is, if I recall right, the largest audience she performed in front of during this tour. Must have been quite an experience for her, but she and her band did very well.


Half an hour break after Ruth’s opening act, and the lights went out again. Immensely loud cheers all over as the band was introduced: Mark’s music is, and has always been, very popular in France, and the typical French audience isn’t particularly known for it being of the laid back, quiet ones.

Of course, the audience and the band work in some sort of a feedback loop. Stronger audience reaction triggers better performances, and vice versa. This concert would definitely be considered of the top ones so far this tour, and Ruth joining for I Dug Up a Diamond and Seattle was a major push forward.


The audience… well, the audience went nuts. That, again, wasn’t unexpected. That’s one of the reasons why I like attending concerts in France: just being a part of the audience is already exciting. There’s a lot of passion flying everywhere.

The Running of the Bulls commenced very early, as someone from the back decided to head to the stage way, way, before the encore. That triggered a major rush. I tried to avoid it, walking slowly towards the stage, when I was pushed by someone. I instinctively pushed back as my sore right wrist was hit, only to find out that it was my friend Vincent standing there. Apparently he was pushed by someone else right onto me. Sorry again Vincent… that was instinctive. Perhaps, with my wrist’s condition, I shouldn’t even have got up from my seat.

Beautiful encore played in front of a standing audience. As Piper to the End started playing, I was sure I heard some sobbing behind me. Turned around and noticed a guy who was obviously extremely excited and obviously emotional by whatever was going on (I wouldn’t be surprised if this had something to do with the actual song, rather than the event itself: Piper to the End is a very touching farewell song, written by Mark about his uncle—a piper in the Scottish infantry, who carried his pipes into the battlefield, where he eventually died). I realized that his view of the stage was rather blocked, so I offered my spot to him—an offer that he appeared to be very happy to take. Glad to have been of help.

After the concert, a group of friends decided to head to that same pub for drinks. Sure, why not. Vincent was there as well with a few friends for a while—thanks for the drink, pal, and sorry again for that push!—and it was already after midnight when Nelly and I bid everyone else goodbye and headed back to Gare de Lyon, where our hotels were located.

Great, fantastic day in the gorgeous city of Paris. Hell, it’s about time I head there for a proper vacation. A day is far from being anywhere close to enough.

Signing off this post from my hotel room in Caen. Will head for dinner now, and then to tonight’s concert.



  1. Dear Isaac,
    Of course you don't know me and I don't know you in person but through your blog posts about this Privateering Tour. And I really enjoy reading it ! On top you helped me a lot waiting for the Bercy show I attended yesterday evening (row 8 on the right of the scene) like you and your friends.
    I just finished reading your nice post on your stay in Paris. Thank you for being so direct (as you describe yourself). This is really enriching to read about us all running-bull Frenchies ! - note at this point : I was among those who just stood up when all these bulls ran toward the stage. Is it to say I'm not a bull but just a cow watching the train ?
    Before coming to Bercy I thought bringing my brand new Nikon D600 with an appropriate 70-200mm f2.8 to shoot the event. But decided not to take any risk of being spotted by security asking me to leave my artilery at the cloakroom... So no picture ... In case you made some pictures of the band, may I ask you to send me some ?
    Have a nice evening in Caen (hope you'll find some nice places for typical seafood and cider from Normandie) and tomorrow in Rennes, gates of my loved Brittany ! this is a region, not a girl ;-)
    Hope to meet you once on this small planet !

    1. Hi Benoit, thank you for your comment. I usually refrain from calling people "cows"... at least until I get to know them. :-)

      I don't take pictures during concerts because it distracts me. My friend Jeroen, however, usually takes pictures and you can find them in his online Picasa gallery. You can find the link at the right hand side of my blog (under "Links").

      P.S. Jeroen asked me to inform you that he is way behind updating his gallery... so it may take a while before the pictures are there.

      Cheers, and see you soon

  2. Isaac may I ask you a personal question? Are you happy in "your own skin" or put that another you think that you have found your place in life? Now much of this is wrapped up in finding the right female soul mate I know cannot be understated in importance. Do you feel dispossessed. I mean like you got off at the "wrong railway station" by chance in life and you keep getting on trains seeking the right place to call home. Our planet has never been as connected and as small as it is today. I once hired a car in a European City, the young girl on the desk was a nice person and we chatted..when I saw her name badge I said I know your dad..and went on about a few things that he did..she almost fainted...haha..all this through the internet. We got VERY well looked after by that company. Our planet is small and so precious, I love the way you sieze each day and move on. I am not surprised "Piper to the End" affected a grown man to tears. The Scots regiments held the first invasion that failed. My wifes family lossed an uncle. Many soldies in that regiment were from Durham and Northumberland. We have been to sacred pace, in Sterling I belive, where all the names are written. His group defended a church untill all were killed..lawfully murdered I call it.

    1. DERG, well, you know what Voltaire said... "It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets".

      Whether I am happy in my own skin... that's a very good question. In a way, I believe I am still searching. One thing is for sure: I didn't start in the "wrong railway station" - given the circumstances, my childhood wasn't such that I have any privilege to complain about - the contrary is true. I did grow up to be very strong minded, which prompted me to set off looking for... well, something. Much of this will be explained in this blog's concluding post, I believe (nothing like the end of a Knopfler tour for some reflections).

      About finding a female life mate - well, I'm just about giving up hope on that. Not searching anymore. If she's anywhere here, she knows where to find me.

    2. Thanks for the reply. I share several personal qualities with you. Finding a mate is a fricken nightmare. In Europe (not the UK) I find that they find you or do stuff that you are supposed to know about..great but most young guys are clueless or just plain shy and insecure. I always found they had a least 10 years lead on me in matters of social skills. I would certainly spend some time in Japan.. Not SE Asia...Japan. A 10 year lead in age over a woman is a good balance.

  3. Hey Isaac,

    Thanks for your nice comments... So sorry again about the incident ! I really hope you hand gets better. See you today in Clermont :)



  4. Hi Isaac
    Very lately I can recall what could have happened the second before the Bercy bulls ran to the front of the stage. Let me give you detailed explanations about the two parts of this sentence, and the possible act that led to this so-early-in-the-concert flood of two-legged mammals. On top of some sort of explanation, it helps me writing in english. On this either it could strenghten your opinion about the poor ability of French people to communicate with the other side of the Channel and Atlantic, or more positively helps in giving you an alternative to what you experienced here. Let me know :-)
    Well know about why I recall this moment of the show but now. Surely because I've been really moved by being in the same place as Mark, Guy, Richard, Jim, Michael, John, Ian and Glenn. From the day after, I've thought about this evening each and every day. Some minutes of every hour that passes. Moved, often to tears, like having realized a dream : having my ears and brain filled by Mark's live music and vocals.
    Now I have images coming to my mind any time during the day. I will recall these positive images for the rest of my life when living difficult moments for example to have a look at the bright side of life set in music by Sir Knopfler. One image that recently came to my mind was when Mark played the crescendo solo of Speedway at Nazareth. He waved his wright hand (as he does it when playing like a rockstar eyes closed ! Very theatrical !) in a manner that might have been interpreted as "Now guys come to the stage ! I know you French bulls can't bear being seated anymore !". And we all know what happened the very next second.
    On Youtube, someone recorded the song and I tried to verify my assumption. But ... this moment was not tapped because during 12 seconds, including that fateful second, the camera turned to Richard coming back to the stage and into the music with his LesPaul. Great moment of course, but unability for eternity to prove my version of why the bulls charged so early !
    But I have this image in my head for eternity now.
    Cheers !