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:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lucca, Italy to Zürich, Switzerland to Lörrach, Germany to Saint‐Julien‐en‐Genevois, France (July 20–22, 2013)

After spending a relaxing yet interesting day in Lucca, the God of Travel decided to offset joy with yet another long travel day: leave Lucca 6:48am, arrive Firenze (English: “Florence”) 8:06am; leave Firenze 9:00am, arrive Milano 10:40am; leave Milano 11:10am, arrive Zürich 2:51pm. Eight hours of travel in total, following an alarm clock assisted wakeup at 5:30am.

Woke up half asleep, which is all that was really needed: more than three months of travelling, I’m going through my morning routine like a robot. Not much brainpower needed to kick‐start the day.

It was too early for breakfast in the hotel, and Lucca’s central railway station doesn’t offer much in terms of dining, at least not that early on Saturdays. Hungry, arrived to the railway station about 15 minutes before the train’s departure, after walking through Lucca’s (mostly) empty old city center. The Piazza Napoleone, the venue for last night’s concert, was as empty as a post‐concert Piazza can be: completely devoid of people, except for a few city workers cleaning up the mess. So many plastic bottles and other sorts of litter, left behind by people who are, themselves, litter.

The two clocks I passed by in Lucca’s central railway station were both wrong: one was a few minutes ahead, one was about 10 minutes behind. It’s a sad world when you can’t even trust clocks in train stations: my mobile phone is my guide here, thank you very much. Short delay, train came by… short one hour ride to Firenze.

Firenze. Heard so much about this city. Had slightly less than hour layover there so exploring the city was out of the question, although I would have liked to do that at some point. Instead, ten minutes were spent looking for a proper place for a breakfast snack, and the search ended where it began—a nice cafe right inside the station.

Next train to Milano’s central railway station, Milano Centrale. It’s the fourth time this tour that I’m stopping in Milano Centrale, so it’s a familiar one. Saw a sign leading to a coffee bar at the upper level; never been there before so thought I should try it. Three elevators there, two were not working—of course, remind me again which country I’m in?—and the third one got me up for another sandwich bar offering mediocre sandwiches and terrible service.

I love Italy: it’s a beautiful country, people are generally warm‐hearted and nice… but having said that, for me, Italy is a great destination for a different kind of trip—certainly not for a trip involving being dependent on so many service providers and when time works against you. Service providers here seem to be cutting too many corners rendering things to go unpredictable at times—and predictability is key when you’re following such a busy travel schedule.

I wrote, in one of my earlier posts, that virtually my entire life consists of looking for inefficiencies, getting bothered by them and—to the extent possible—help fix them. Hell, that’s exactly what I do for living, and I’ve been in the same line of work (although in many different roles) for 18 years now. Now, if you are like me—getting irritated by inefficiencies—then Italy would be a very interesting experience for you: disorganization and inefficiencies are almost everywhere.

You may argue that “efficiency” is a subjective term, and what constitutes “efficient” for Italians may be considered “inefficient” in mine; but you’d be wrong. “Efficiency” means “doing more with less”, and that’s not subjective. For instance, having four people working in a ticket booth, when three of them are busy handling one client together at a time and a fourth one doing nothing—that’s inefficient, no matter where you’re from. Still, they do it. Why? because efficiency here is simply not appreciated. They don’t care about it at all, and for those of us who cherish efficiency—well, tough luck: we’re visitors here. Accept the Italian way of life, or suffer the consequences. Adjust your trip’s style to correspond with how things are done here.

Departed Milano on time and bid Italy goodbye: with all the challenges involved in following this concert tour in Italy, still, I’ll miss it. It’s a great country to be in and I’ll certainly be back.

The train ride from Milano to Zürich takes about four hours. As you approach Switzerland, the scenery becomes increasingly scenic, and once you’re in Switzerland, you just want to get off the train and walk. It’s such a beautiful country, and for me, it’s as close as Europe gets to British Columbia: a rare combination of stunning natural scenery, and polite, courteous people. I would consider the Swiss to be very lucky: of course, this consideration is purely subjective, but as it is me who is writing these lines, I am in the liberty to say that, if I were to rank European countries based on parameters that I consider “important”, Switzerland would rank first.

Arrived in Zürich and immediately went to the hotel, Hotel City Zürich, thinking I’ll get some rest after this long travel day. As soon as I exited the city’s central railway station and started walking towards the hotel, I already knew that I was going to love this city: in many ways, it reminded me a lot of Vancouver. It is far from being crowded (at least comparing to other major European cities); roads and sidewalks are relatively spacious; natural scenery is visible from virtually everywhere; and, contrary to Vancouver, it was evident that this city has very efficient public transport infrastructure: tram stations everywhere, with dedicated lanes and digital signage.

Switzerland is an expensive country to travel in, and Zürich, relative to other Swiss cities, is itself expensive. The hotel for the night was thus expensive as well, but it delivered: great spacious room, fantastic condition.

A few friends, including Philipp (who is local to Zürich) and Ingrid (who is not local to Zürich, but somehow makes herself local everywhere she’s at), had plans for a get‐together in a restaurant nearby, offering a great patio with excellent view of the water (we’ll get to the scenery soon, hold on). I had to do some writing and could definitely use some alone time after the last few stressful days so I decided to stay at the hotel for a while, catch up with things and get social a bit later.

After uploading the previous post, I headed out towards the meeting point, while checking out that restaurant’s offering via my mobile. Turned out to be German food, but I had the craving for something else. A bit more research and I decided to visit some Thai restaurant, located at the east bank of the river.

On my way there, I started realizing just how beautiful this city is.


Once crossing the bridge to the east bank, the terrain is no longer flat: various stairways provide opportunities to explore the city in different altitudes. Beautiful streets boasting clean, coloured buildings; strong attention is given here to clean looks—clean, but not boring: you won’t find cheap dirty metal sign here, even for a simple tobacco store. If you own a shop in Zürich, its exterior should better be clean and appealing, otherwise you won’t “belong”.

The Thai restaurant I had set my eyes on turned out to be closed, so I ended up in another spot—a Lebanese restaurant called Noon. Everything in this city is expensive, and this restaurant was no exception. Good food though, going for price that’s almost double what I’d pay for a similar meal in Canada.

I am not from Lebanon, but as Israeli cuisine is a fusion of many other cuisines (mainly Middle Eastern), Lebanese “elements” made it to the Israeli culinary world. In Lebanese restaurants, I can easily feel at home. That’s why, when I was given a home‐made lemonade, I could detect that they’ve put something else in there. Turned out to be rose water—used, in the Middle East, as a common addition to lemonade. The fact that I was able to recognize it prompted the restaurant’s owner to inquire about my origin, to which I answered fully and truthfully, which, to my knowledge, is something that many people with Israeli background refrain from doing in encounters such as this one due to… you know. “The situation”.

Excellent meal over, and I decided to pop for a visit in that restaurant where Philipp, Ingrid et al were sitting in. That provided for another pleasant walk in Zürich’s city center.


The last picture shows some sort of a bathing house (look closely, behind the boats on the right). I didn’t notice it when taking the picture. Turns out that this is a Frauenbad—an area designated for women only to bath and bask in the sun in. Although perfectly visible from outside (it was reported that the men’s room in a nearby restaurant has windows offering direct view of this particular Frauenbad), women here feel free to take their tops off.

Which is, of course, fine. But what I don’t understand is why Frauenbad’s exist to begin with. Unless the Swiss society is a chauvinistic one (and I don’t know enough about the Swiss to make a judgement on that), I don’t see the point in such women‐only establishments, just as I don’t see the point in men‐only establishments. You can’t strive for feminism on one hand, and segregate your gender on another. In a way, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

After touching base with folks at that restaurant overlooking the river and nearby lake, it was time to plan for transportation to the venue. Folks at the restaurant made arrangements to make their way to the venue by cars, but I decided to head to the hotel first and take public transport. On one hand, that was a bit of a careless step on my behalf as I knew that the venue is located somewhere on a nearby mountain; on the other hand, for some reason, I had complete trust in Switzerland’s public transport system, and took Google Maps’ public transport‐based route suggestion for granted. According to Google Maps, it should take about 25 minutes to get to the venue from the city center, involving a tram and a funicular.

Everything worked like clockwork, including tram #3 that departed about 20 seconds before I arrived at the station. No worries, though: public transport here is very efficient even in weekends. Seven minutes later—again, exactly at the prescribed time—another tram came by. A few stations, took off and followed the herd to the funicular station located right across the street.

This funicular system, taking you up to the mountain where the concert venue was, is called Dolderbahn. It’s based in the city center and travels up the mountain, with two or three stops along the way. During the Live at Sunset festival, of which Knopfler’s concert was a part, the funicular operates non‐stop until past midnight, departing every 10 minutes. That was nice to know, especially after the last experience with depending on cable cars to get to and from a venue, in Locarno.

The funicular on its way up was full of people cramped together like sardines. The ride up took about 5 minutes, at the end of which everyone left at once and started going to a direction well pointed to by this:


It’s a short 200–300 meters pleasant walk among pleasant greens, until you see a large white fence to your left, separating you from the venue which is located, actually, below you. ticket distribution for this concert worked differently from any other concert: while for all other concerts tickets had to be collected on site, the tickets for this particular concert were sent to the purchaser’s mailing address. That presented a problem, as the tickets were going to be mailed after the Dutchman and I were already on the road. Fortunately,’s ticketing office was sympathetic to the unique situation and agreed to arrange for our tickets to be picked up at the venue. These tickets were under the Dutchman’s name, which is why I found him in the ticketing office figuring things out with the attendant. Tickets weren’t there, and we were asked to inquire at the “info booth”, located a few meters away.

At the “info booth”, the Dutchman barely finished explaining the background to the two attendants there when one of them simply called out loud “Oh! You’re Gerrits!”. It was good to have had this settled well.

Why “good”? should it not be taken for granted?


It sounds simple: the ticket distribution agency from which you bought the tickets “made arrangements” for your tickets to be picked up at the venue. In many countries where organization and order are appreciated, you could safely assume that there’s a strong chance that everything indeed went according to plan, but that’s not the case for other countries following different social norms.

Between the ticket distribution agency to the actual people on site at the venue, from whom you get your tickets, there exists a line‐up of middlemen which is longer than you might think. I can think of the following entities and won’t be surprised if there are more along the way:

  • service representative.
  • ticket distribution service.
  • The actual ticket repository held by the main distributor of tickets (such as Ticketmaster or Eventim or Live Nation).
  • The concert’s promoter.
  • The venue’s ticketing office (as tickets to events can also be purchased on site).

All you need is one screw‐up along the chain and you can bid your tickets adieu.

I have been to concerts in other countries where ticket collection itself—with no special arrangements needed to take place—was hell: papers over papers containing lists of all sorts; envelopes everywhere, some of them open, some sealed; people looking frantically in multiple piles containing envelopes, unsorted. Italy and Spain “star” at the list of disorganization in that regards (although, believe it or not, things were also quite hectic at England’s Royal Albert Hall). I don’t even want to think what would happen if such an arrangement had to be made for a concert in Italy or Spain; might as well not even bother getting to the venue.

Once I got my ticket, I was considered taking a walk at the green nearby the venue, but then realized that much of that green was actually a golf course, and the other green looked as if it’s encompassing a hiking trail. Would love to, but not now. Headed to the venue instead.

This festival is called “Live in Sunset”, and I’m guessing this has something to do with being able to get a good sunset view during the concert.


The way the venue was organized, though, you could only see such sunset while being seated at the very back, or at the upper levels. Still, the scenery wasn’t quite bad.

Inside the venue, there were many dining options—much unlike most other venues in this tour, leaning towards serving garbage—including actual restaurants. You could, for instance, sit at a restaurant up above and consume a good meal while watching the concert. Good atmosphere: long gone is the mess and noise of Italy, for good or bad.


Concert started on time, usual set followed by a few bulls running towards the stage before the encore while I was trying to make the opposite way—away from the stage and up to the upper levels, to see what this concert looked like from above: better, I should say. A celebration of lights, sound and very appreciative audience. I took a few photographs but they all turned out to be terrible. Sorry.

Concert was over and it was time to figure out how to get back to the city center. I knew that the funicular presents one option, but there were also buses waiting around, each marked as “Live at Sunset Shuttle”. Good thing I inquired: those weren’t heading to the city center. Headed to the funicular, then, only to be met by a group of about 100–150 people already waiting there. We started debating whether we should simply walk down—it’s about 4km in a decline towards the city center, about an hour walk—but then decided to remain on site and let Swiss efficiency do its magic, which it did. Twenty minutes later, we were on the funicular heading down. Once touched the ground, tram #3 made its way through the station about one minute later; ten minutes after that, I was already at the hotel.

That’s how public transport should work!

Was a good day in Zürich. Headed to bed for a good night sleep—expecting very easy travel the next day.

July 21, woke up at around 9:30am, heading to breakfast at 10:00am. Good breakfast at the hotel—not extravagant as in, say, Italy, but still good—a nice opening for a relaxed day.

The original schedule was to take a train to Basel, and then a train to Lörrach (Germany)—about 20 minutes away—and spend the night in Lörrach after the concert; however, later it turned out that the hotel in Lörrach doesn’t offer air conditioning. That, plus the fact that Ingrid and Philipp were going to stay in Basel after the Lörrach concert (the cities are very close to each other), prompted us to change plans, spending the night in Basel instead.

What remained was a very simple schedule: depart Zürich whenever you want, as there are many trains going to Basel; then take the express bus to the airport, where our hotel was located (that airport hotel simplified things with regards to logistics)—about 10 minutes away.

Checked out, left luggage with the hotel staff and headed to see some more of this beautiful city. Sunday morning, very few living souls outside—perfect for a walk. Once you cross the river to the east bank and head south, almost every moment is worthy of a picture.


Noticed this cafe, and memorized it as a place to have coffee in later.


Kept walking almost completely randomly:


Eventually, found myself overlooking the river again, as well as the city’s beautiful churches, with the Fraumünster trapping your eyes with its beauty; you can’t look away.


More views of the water… can’t have enough of those:


Looking over the water, it was time to do some calculations about train times, bus times and other logistics: turned out that it’d be best to leave before 2:00pm. Went back to the hotel, grabbed the luggage, then off to the central railway station located minutes away. This city is so convenient getting around in, it’s amazing. Arrived at the station about 25 minutes before our train’s scheduled departure time, only to find that there’s an earlier train departing in just about 3 minutes. Good. Boarded into a 1st class cabin that was almost entirely empty, and it was a good, beautiful ride to Basel.

Arrived Basel’s central railway station (“Basel SBB”); a quick look at the clock (well, not really a clock. Smartphone’s clock. Not sure if that qualifies as “looking at the clock” anymore) showed that the bus, heading towards the airport, is leaving in about 8 minutes. Time to hurry.

More often than not, trains’ 1st class cabins are located at the train’s tail; thus, you earn a convenient ride but are punished by having to walk quite the distance on the platform, to exit the station.

OK, here’s the bus… now, how do you buy tickets for this thing? oh, here’s a machine; found one.

– “No, this machine says ‘SBB’ on it; it’s probably only selling tickets to regular trains”, said someone who claims to be understanding German and happens to be following this tour as well.

Instead of listening to my own intuition, I decided to defer to the German‐speaking “authority”. The end result? bus went away 5 seconds before tickets were purchased… right: in that same machine. Those automated ticketing machines, apparently, can sell you many types of transport tickets.

Another bus showed up 10 minutes later, and was quickly loaded to capacity. The ten minutes bus ride felt much longer—the bus’ air conditioner couldn’t keep up with the body heat generated by so many people—and at its end, the hotel for the night, Airport Hotel Basel, was right in front.

Ingrid was there at the entrance, having a smoke. Always good to see this lovely woman. When Ingrid is around, you know that things simply can’t go wrong: reality seems to bend itself backward to align with Ingrid’s expectations, rather than the other way around.

Went inside to check in, and noticed this:


Naturally, I was instinctively looking for the Hebrew writing which turned out to be nonsense. “בהך הבא” means nothing. The correct writing is “ברוך הבא”, and I can see why they got it wrong. Of course I notified them; turns out that each and every Israeli stepping into this hotel for the last five years have been telling them exactly the same thing, but management doesn’t seem to care much about it.

Upon checking in, it turned out that when you reserve a room in this hotel, you get public transport in all of Basel for free. How could we know about it? it’s written right there in the booking confirmation email. Oh well, this tour involves reservations for almost 60 different hotels, can’t expect to thoroughly read each and every one of them.

Got set up in this beautiful room, and did some last‐minute adjustments to the hotel reservation in Madrid. I tell you, folks—no matter how much time and efforts you put upfront planning such a tour, you’d always have to revisit things as you go along. When the Madrid hotel was booked about five or six months ago, it was perfectly valid to and sensible to book a hotel located about a kilometer from the station to save a few bucks; but once you’re past 90% of the tour, spending some of it in scorching weather, you start seeing things in a different light.

Left the hotel late afternoon, for a short drive to Lörrach.

I have never heard of Lörrach before. It’s a small city—about 50,000 people live there—located very close to the Swiss‐French‐German border. Philipp, who was born and raised in Basel, says that many Swiss people used to (and probably still) visit Lörrach for the sole purpose of doing shopping, as price differences are significant enough to justify this.

Lörrach is a short 20 minutes car ride from Basel, but still, once you cross to the German side, you somehow feel that you’re not in Switzerland anymore. The cityscape becomes more and more “typical German”. It’s interesting to witness this, given the fact that there is no real border between the two countries (as both countries are signed on the Schengen Agreement).

Arrived at Lörrach, getting the feel that this is a city where nothing particularly interesting is going on, except for the Stimmen Festival that takes place here annually. There isn’t much to see or do here; either that, or I have been looking in the wrong places (which is quite possible, as I wasn’t really spending much time looking around).

A few minutes walk from the parking lot and we arrived at where the festival was taking place: a square right in the heart of the city center.


Same concept as in Lucca: the area surrounding the square is being evicted a few hours before the concert’s kick‐off, so only people with tickets can be present at the area once the concert starts. What was weird about this square was its size and its shape: the area in the square, from which you could actually see much of the stage, was very small. Technically, the square consisted of a few areas that didn’t even offer direct line view of the stage; and even factoring those areas in, the total size of the venue was relatively small.

Sat down in a restaurant at the square for some dinner before the show. Typical simple German pub menu, with Flammkuchen being the only reasonable option. That consumed, we went outside to collect the tickets and see how to go about actually entering the venue: these procedures are usually different when the concert takes place in a city square, and better figure things out earlier than later.

Turned out to be a wise decision.

The ticket collection office, located about 50m away from one of the entrances, was virtually empty when we got there. The Dutchman, seeing that the entrance queues were pretty vacant, decided to go there and catch a spot while I was picking up the tickets. I usually pass on the opportunity to queue anywhere, including concerts, but decided to make an exception this time as I wasn’t expecting to find any other, more useful ways, to spend my time in this seemingly boring city.

Gates were opened about 10 minutes ahead of schedule and bulls started running amok towards the stage from the three entrances. As I wasn’t going to risk breaking another wrist, I decided to avoid running; fortunately, the two Dutch people I was with agreed to save a little space for me at the front.

Upon settling in, I ran a little survey and went ahead to buy some water for a few friends who were present. The weather was hot, humid… terrible. I made a grave mistake and brought myself only one cup of water—forcing me to spend almost the entire concert dreaming about the next time I’ll ever get to feel the sensation of good drinking water on my tongue.

Short toilet break before the concert began—luckily, not much resistance at all in my voyage back to where I started, but I’d attribute it to the fact that I knew most of the people who were in the front: many good, familiar people made it from neighbouring countries for this concert, including Amann (who saved the day after the concert in Napoli), and Marco—a guy from Switzerland who I am sure is the most positive‐thinking individual on the face of the earth: he could make people happy even if he was to live‐broadcast an asteroid impact on earth.


Concert started and, for the first time in quite a while, I felt how it was to enjoy watching and listening to this band perform from the very front in a general admission venue: it is definitely a different experience altogether from a seated show. Even though you’re standing for the entire duration of the concert, still you can lean against the fence, drastically reducing the pressure on your feet so it’s actually manageable. The band‐audience energy loop works differently in a standing show, and when you’re right at the front, you fell it each and every second.

As the concert started before sunset, Ian and Guy made it to the stage wearing sunglasses. Temperatures were very high—I’m sure these folks would have loved the opportunity to go on stage wearing shorts (why don’t they, really?). At some point, the floor‐mounted fan aimed at Mark stopped working, prompting him to ask the crew to turn that thing on.

Sometimes, when in the front, you need to face a few challenges. In this concert, the challenge was the lighting. As it happened, the lights positioned at the back of the stage were aimed directly at the faces of those standing in the front: now, these are strong lights. There were times that I had to duck or look away; others, fortunate enough to carry their sunglasses, had to wear them and take them off repeatedly. Of course, this was more of a problem at the later parts of the concert, as the sun set.

Adjacent to the square are a couple of buildings—at least one of which was a hotel—which prompted guests (or residents) to watch the concert from their own balconies.


Took a while for the square to clear once the concert was over. Back to the car, short ride to the hotel and a few snacks at the hotel’s lobby before heading to bed.

July 22 was originally carrying one of the most difficult itineraries in the tour: depart Lörrach (as the original plan was to stay in Lörrach) 7:31am, arrive Basel 7:50am; depart Basel 8:31am, arrive Bern 9:27am; depart Bern 9:34am, arrive Geneve 11:15am; depart Geneve 11:29am, arrive Bellegarde 11:57am; depart Bellegarde 12:09pm, arrive Saint‐Julien‐en‐Genevois 12:29pm. That’s a total of five hours ride over five (!) different trains. Why? well, what can you do. That’s life.

A few weeks ago, Ingrid decided that she will be attending the concert in Saint‐Julien‐en‐Genevois as well, and offered a ride. Needless to say, it didn’t take long to ponder before responding with a resounding “yes, please”. Once again, Ingrid saved the day; and instead of spending five hours in the morning hopping from one train to another, we had the luxury of being driven in the Van‐de‐Maat‐Mobile—a convertible ride in perfect weather, allowing for a scenic detour off the main highway.


If you were to drive directly from Basel to Saint‐Julien‐en‐Genevois, you’d be driving around 260km, which takes mere mortals about two hours and a half. The direct route heads south to Bern; however, following Philipp’s advice, we set the city of Delémont as a via point, as that would allow for a more scenic route along Lake Neuchâtel and Lake Geneva. Good call: the ride was nothing short of breathtaking, featuring beautiful Swiss scenery of mountains, lakes, rivers, green… whatever it takes to make for a good, relaxing ride.


Needless to say, the roof was tucked away for the entire ride, much thanks to the weatherman’s cooperation. Beautiful sunny day, would be a total waste to spend in trains.


It was decided to have lunch somewhere before crossing the border to France. Came across a place called Terrasse du Lac, located a few meters away from Lake Geneva.


We were all happy for finding this place: the view from the restaurant’s terrace was second to none, offering direct view of the lake, which was there, a stone‐throw away.


Grabbed an empty table, and realized that nobody’s serving us. Headed to the counter, where we were told that the kitchen is closed, and they only serve drinks now.

This part of Switzerland is the “French” part: there’s strong French influence in Switzerland’s southwest, close to the French border, and apparently the French’s typical dining hours’ restrictions crept through the non‐existent border into the paradise that is Switzerland. Attempts to find other places around, with an active kitchen, failed—even after visiting a tourist information center nearby. We therefore had no choice but to proceed. Fortunately, a few minutes down the road, we arrived at Nyon’s touristic parts where a few restaurants were open. Good (and expensive!) food, followed by a magnificent ice cream, and we went on our way to the final destination: Saint‐Julien‐en‐Genevois.


—That was my initial reaction when I read the tour’s itinerary. Never heard of this place before in my life, and I’m pretty sure that it was because there’s nothing really going on in there.

Saint‐Julien‐en‐Genevois is located in France, right on the Swiss border. I’m therefore led to believe that the tour made a stop here simply because it’s so close to a big city—Geneva is about 10km away (although in Switzerland). You could therefore think of Saint‐Julien‐en‐Genevois as a suburb of Geneva, but don’t say it out loud as some French may take offense.

Weather was unbelievably hot. Ingrid decided to drop us off at the hotel and head directly to the venue, as this was a general admission concert. The city seeming to be completely devoid of any other action, we headed ourselves to the venue shortly after checking in at the hotel for the night—Hotel Savoie.

Finding a hotel in Saint‐Julien‐en‐Genevois was very difficult. There’s only a handful of hotels in the area, most of them were booked months in advance, and the rest didn’t even offer twin rooms. We found this one by complete luck.

In hindsight, though, it might have been a better option to stay in Geneva instead.

The hotel—one of those family‐run old houses turned into hotels—was far from providing a lovely experience. As this tour nears its end, I become less and less patient towards old, out‐dated accommodations, and this one was just it. Huge step down comparing to the wonderful hotels in Switzerland enjoyed in the preceding two nights. That explained why I wasn’t even hesitating whether to head to the venue more than two hours before the concert: not only Saint‐Julien‐en‐Genevois seemed to offer nothing interesting, but the hotel room itself begged to be left alone.

From the hotel, it’s about a kilometer walk to the venue; and after spending two days in Switzerland, enjoying the Swiss’ perfect organization and tidiness in events management, it was time to experience the other end of the scale… and what a “treat” it was.

The instructions for this concert were simple: box office opens at 5:30pm; ticket holders get an “early entry” privilege at 6:00pm; doors are open to the general public at 6:30pm; and the concert begins at 7:30pm. For the “early entry” privilege, there should have been a separate entrance located right by the venue’s main entrance.


Arrived to the venue at around 5:00pm, to find piles of people waiting by the main entrance. Now, by the instructions quoted above, a reasonable individual (I hope) would expect that the box office is located outside the venue, so you can collect your tickets before entering.

That, however, would be too efficient; and the French, much like Italians, consider “efficiency” to be a bad word. The box office for the venue was actually inside, behind the venue’s locked doors.

5:30pm arrived and passed; no doors were open, no ticket collection, nothing. I believe it was around 6:00pm when the main venue’s doors finally opened, and piles of people stepped on each other to get to the box office, located less than 10 steps away. There, again, the French sense of (dis)organization shone in its brightest lights: there were five people working at the box office; four of them selling merchandise and only one handing out tickets. Yes: one person had to give out tickets to dozens and dozens of people who were instructed to collect their tickets at the venue.

Line‐up? HA. What line‐up? people were climbing on each other begging the tickets’ God for attention. Jungle’s rule: the strongest you were, the earlier you got your ticket. ticket holders were given a shiny yellow wristband. Once past the venue’s main entrance, wristband wearers were instructed to gather in a particular fenced location, where they’ll be allowed early entry to the venue at 6:45pm.

Of course, 6:45pm came by and passed as if nothing. So did 6:46pm and 6:47pm. It was more or less 7:15pm when the fences were pulled away and dozens of shiny wristbands went running amok towards what looked like a huge tent. Again, I chose to walk instead, and was happy to find out that a spot was saved for me somewhere at the front.

Weather just became worse on everyone. As I arrived at the stage, I asked people if they wanted any water. The conclusion was to simply bring as much water as I possibly could. Sure, no problem: went outside that tent, exchanged some money for festival monetary equivalent notes, and use those notes to buy bottles of water. Surprisingly cheap—€1 each—but of course, they need to take the cap off.

Took eight bottles, placed them on a cardboard tray, and headed back to the tent. People set their eyes on the cold, cold water bottles as if we were cast away on a remote island with no running water anywhere. Some people thought that I was working for the venue, and asked me for a bottle—alas, these were all accounted for. Dropped those eight bottles and went back for another round.

This time, I decided to be enterprising: 10 bottles. Sure, why not, pile them up. Got those bottles, barely maintaining my balance (reminder: they took off the caps) and started marching back towards the stage.

Suddenly, I heard noise. You know those animated movies where they have scenes taking place in a jungle, and then, at some point, you see the entire jungle population running by insanely, as if there was a big forest fire behind them? you know that rumbling sound you hear in those scenes? you do? good, because that what it sounded like. As I approached the tent—less than 30 meters for me to go—the venue’s gates opened to the general public and hundreds of people ran towards the stage; and there stands your truly, with an injured wrist, holding a cardboard tray carrying ten open bottles of water.

Trying to protect the transparent liquid gold I was carrying, I lost my balance and a couple of bottles dropped (still inside the cardboard container) and started to spill. Treaded carefully towards the front, asking people to move away so I can get to my destination. I was very proud to find out that I made it to the finish line with eight intact bottles, and only two bottles half full.

An ad‐hoc repository of cold, chilled water was organized along the fence separating the audience from the stage. I drank two full bottles without even noticing, and was very happy about not being thirsty again…

… But I wasn’t thinking of the consequences. Twenty minutes before the concert, I was dying for a toilet break. Around me there were approximately two million enthusiastic French people who, apparently, never before heard the term “personal space” (or heard about it and decided that it’s not a useful concept to pay attention to). I had to choose between staying in my place and suffering through the entire concert, or go ahead and answer Mother Nature’s call and risk not being able to get back to my spot.

My bladder won. Bid everyone goodbye in advance—as I knew that there wasn’t much chance we’ll be watching the concert together—and went to do what had to be done. Coming back, the pre‐concert playlist was already played on the speakers; there was really no chance for me to get back to where I was, and I wasn’t in the mood for starting to beg for people’s acceptance of my situation. When the band took the stage, it was already too late.

Still, I got a nice experience out of it. I ended up watching the concert on one of the big screens located in the festival’s area. Also, the venue offered many interesting dining options of which I was happy to take advantage.

People seemed to be as condensed as sardines inside that tent. There wasn’t enough room for everyone; many were standing outside the tent, trying to catch a glimpse of the stage.


I was perfectly fine with enjoying the concert in a different way.


Walking to get some food, I ran into Bap Kennedy. Bap and another guitar player, Gordon McAllister, were the opening act for the concert in Nîmes, as well as for tonight’s.

As you may remember from my post about the Nîmes concert, I was wondering, back then, what guitar Gordon McAllister was playing; I was sure it was a Taylor, but didn’t know the exact model: must have been one of the high‐end ones. So, after introducing myself to Bap—nice fellow—I asked him for Gordon’s guitar’s details. He said he didn’t know, and suggested that I look for Gordon who was supposedly nearby, inside one of the small tents surrounding the venue.

Took a while to track him, but eventually I did. Turned out that I was right: the guitar indeed belonged to the x14CE series, and as I had imagined, it was the 914CE. This guitar is as high‐end as Taylor’s x14 series goes; you can’t go wrong on that one. I considered buying one myself back in the days, but couldn’t afford it so I settled for a lesser model instead (which, still, emits beautiful sound). Gordon and I ended up chatting for about 20 minutes or so, about all sorts of things. Very nice fellow; was happy to have run into him.


Went back to watch the concert, sitting on the lawn. I suppose this following picture would be best to describe the magical atmosphere outside that crowded tent:


Concert ended, bid everyone I knew goodbye and headed back to the hotel. After a couple of easy travel days, the next morning was going to be an early one.

Signing off this post from my hotel room in Carcassonne. Took a while to complete this post as I wasn’t in the best of moods over the last few days. Let’s all hope for better times. Will get some rest now and head for tonight’s concert in Carcassonne’s breathtaking medieval city.



  1. Took a while, but finally here it is the new entry. LoL with the stampede, Imagining myself there. Hope to see you in Madrid, will be the personal tourist assistant of Ingrid here.

  2. It was an excellent drive indeed. And I love the company of you and the dutchman, who both became dear friends of mine, made it even better. See you friday!

    The world is full of nice MK-fans. I already got an itinery from another fan to guide me through Madrid. And today Alberto wanted to be my private guide. Looking forward to it and thanks!

    1. Had to laugh at the translation..not that I understand Hebrew.. I grew up as a first gen immigrant child and am well used comical errors. The worst I experienced was in academia on the island here. A bunch of academics had spent 30 years developing theories from an original German text. They got a noun and a verb the wrong way round. As it happens one of family records are with Yad Vashem in Tel Aviv. Isaac I know that you have mentioned that the audiences this tour are somewhat unruly...but would you say that the majority are in the upper income bracket? That most of them are clean hands workers or white collar?