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, July 27, 2013

Saint‐Julien‐en‐Genevois to Carcassonne, France to Barcelona, Spain (July 23–25, 2013)

July 23, morning. Woke up at the hotel’s exceptionally uninviting room, tired. 5:30am. How long have I been asleep? about five hours. Clearly not enough. Fortunately, the hotel was located a few minutes walk from the city’s central (and possibly only) railway station.

The itinerary: depart Saint‐Julien‐en‐Genevois 6:30am, arrive Lyon (yes, Lyon again) 8:22am; depart Lyon 9:10am, arrive Carcassonne 12:26pm. Six hours of travel. Not that bad, but it’s the short nights that are killers.

Saint‐Julien‐en‐Genevois doesn’t seem to offer much to do at all, let alone so early in the morning. Short snack at the railway station before departure? yeah, right. The station was closed: you could access the trains (of course) by following a sign leading you behind the station’s building. Heck, this station is so small you are even allowed to cross the tracks to reach the other platform (as there’s no underpass to get there).

Train arrived on time and I was happy to board it. 1st class cabin, and I was ready to embark on my usual attempts to fall asleep. Alas, two people seated a couple of rows ahead were in the middle of an important discussion; that is—important to them, and completely unimportant to me. They didn’t stop talking for even one minute throughout the entire ride.

Arrived at Lyon Part Dieu on time. This train station serves as Lyon’s main station and I think it was my third or fourth stop in this station so far this tour. Having skipped breakfast (as no breakfast was available anywhere in Saint‐Julien‐en‐Genevois), food was top priority. Got a sandwich from a Paul shop located inside the station, demolished it within two minutes and headed to the same coffee place I had been two only two weeks earlier, en route to Locarno. Fruit salad, croissant and excellent cappuccino and breakfast was over and done with.

Back to the platform and took the connecting train, the TGV, en route to Carcassonne. No chatty people on board, but that’s not to say that the cabin was quiet. Shortly into the ride, I was suddenly under the impression that the cabin was also moonlighting as a carpentry. Well, at least that was my initial impression; calculating the probability of the TGV carrying a carpentry on board, I arrived at pretty slim odds, which prompted me to resort to my second best guess: a snoring traveller.

So, yes. Two rows ahead of me, an exceptionally obese individual was squatting over one seat and a half—I pity the lady who was seated right next to him—snoring his lungs out.

Now, I’m not entirely sure what the etiquette is for such situations. Is it ethical to wake someone up because his snoring is a nuisance for more than two dozen other people? on one hand, you can look at it as if the person was talking loudly on the phone: in that case, it makes sense to ask him to keep things down (“makes sense” theoretically, but not practically. Who knows what kind of a maniac you’d be pissing off. You really can’t trust anyone these days). But on the other hand, snoring is a symptom of a medical problem: would you get pissed at someone because their handicap impedes on your peace?

At any rate, nobody woke the dude up. My noise‐cancelling headphones did much to eliminate the train’s low frequency noise, but not much to battle the snorer. The only way out of this mess was to listen to music through those headphones—once music is played, you hear almost nothing of your surroundings; Bose did a great job—and so I spent the entire ride listening to music that I had long forgotten about.

Arrived to Carcassonne at around 12:30pm.

I have never heard of Carcassonne before in my life. Mentioning this fact to people throughout the tour often yielded a look on their faces, as if implying “this person must be ignorant”. To an extent, they’d be right. Apparently, this city, located at the very south of France—close to the Spanish border—is quite famous.

When the name “Carcassonne” is mentioned in the context of tourism, a reference is usually made to Carcassonne’s medieval city area. When planning for the tour, hotels in the medieval city area turned out to be vastly overpriced, so it was decided to settle for a hotel in Carcassonne’s city center.

How bad could it really be, after all? here’s a hotel, costs less than half of the common prices in the medieval city area, and it’s located right at the city center, steps away from the railway station. Good reviews… can’t be that bad, can it?

The answer didn’t take long to become apparent. Walking from Carcassonne’s central railway station towards the hotel, about ten minutes under the mean scorching sun, I didn’t see anything that I could possibly relate to positively. Seemed like an old, dusty, grey, boring city center. “No wonder I had never heard of it before”, I muttered to myself; and in my head, I already started counting down: as it was a day‐off, I was going to spend two nights in this city. Two nights? here? why?

Arrived at the hotel, Hotel Central, located… well… centrally. Carcassonne’s city center isn’t that big, and the hotel is located on one of the main streets surrounding the city center. The minute I set foot in this place, I was already getting the idea that the stay here wasn’t going to be pleasant: essentially a very old building converted to a hotel without really putting much effort into making it comfortable. Up a crooked flight of stairs, and you need to open two doors to get to the room.

What a lousy room. Uneven, carpeted floor—so uneven that you couldn’t possibly open the bathroom’s door all the way: it would simply get stuck at some point. Only two power sockets in the entire room, one of them located at the very corner of the room, almost hidden, behind the pillow of one of the two sad single beds. Beds? HA. You could feel each and every spring in the mattress separately.

Tiny desk with a crack along its width, making it uneven and thus unsuitable for placing a laptop on. Old metal “chairs” grossly painted purple. And the shower… don’t get me started.

In short: it was one of those rooms that motivate you to stay outside the hotel for as long as you can. This room clearly didn’t want me there. I grew to dislike that room within a couple of minutes… realizing that I’m going to be spending two nights there.

Two nights.

At least the air conditioning worked well.

As this is France, you really want to get through feeding yourself within the standard French dining hours, or you’re in the risk of starving. As we arrived to the hotel just in time for lunch, it was decided to head directly to the city center: it’s one thing to be in a miserable hotel room, and a totally other thing to be in a miserable hotel room when you’re starving. TripAdvisor recommended a place called Le Saint Roch, located in that La Fontaine de Neptune—a large square in the heart of the city center, with lots of shops, restaurants and cafes around. Four minutes walk. Good—though not great—food, for affordable prices.


Weather… hot, humid, disastrous. Forecasts called for a storm later on, and you could feel it by the high level of humidity in the air. Walking through the boring streets of Carcassonne’s city center felt almost like swimming. The combination of heat and humidity causes tiredness, which is why I headed straight back to the hotel afterwards for a good nap.

While I was twisting and turning in bed, I was sure I heard thunders. Was I dreaming? apparently I wasn’t. Later on that afternoon, a thunderstorm hit the area and rain poured. I woke up after it was all over; still light outside, it was decided to go see what’s this “Carcassonne medieval city” thing is all about.

It’s a short five minutes walk south of the hotel until you get to a large square featuring a huge wheel—no, not a car wheel; an amusement park wheel—so huge that it really seems a bit out of place. Heading east, you come across a bridge.

It doesn’t take more than a few meters walk on that bridge to see something magical in the horizon. It appears all of a sudden, and gives you the feeling that you are about to experience something very special. The medieval city is right there in your face, as well as a beautiful pedestrians bridge leading to it.


If you look closely at the river flowing by the city, you’ll see that it has a light brown margin. This, actually, is not sand: what you see is the meeting of two different waterways—what appears to be sand is actually water (possibly brownish due to high sand content). This is a very peculiar phenomenon to witness.


The medieval city is located upon a hill. Once off the bridge, you enter the lower part of the old city—still not the medieval one.


It’s another 10 minutes walk, mostly on an incline, as you get closer to the medieval city’s walls.


Beautiful scenery. Shortly after, a flight of stairs leads you into the medieval city, where virtually each and every corner begs for a photograph to be taken.


Decided to have a small dinner at the cafe shown in the last picture: mediocre sandwich. Asked for a baguette with “steak”, ended up receiving a dry baguette with two pieces of microwave‐thawed hamburgers. Half eaten, half thrown away.

Continued to walk randomly. The medieval city is very small, and the best way to explore it is to simply walk aimlessly in it. As you walk towards the city’s surrounding walls and then walk by them, you get fantastic views over the city of Carcassonne and beyond.


Many pictures were taken (as you can see), and quite frankly, it’s very hard for me to decide which ones are worthy of posting so I’ll just post most of them.


After almost a couple of hours walking in the beautiful medieval city, it was time to head back to the hotel. After thunderstorms, temperatures usually drop but even then, temperatures were too high and humidity was insane—and all energy I gathered during the afternoon nap was gone as if never existed.

One last photograph, walking down the hill away from the medieval city…


… and back to that miserable hotel room. Tried to do some writing but couldn’t; the room was that depressing. Caught up with all other things happening in the world and then off to bed.

Terrible hotel room… but surprisingly, a good night sleep. Woke up fresh and hungry. The day prior, upon checking in, we were informed that we need to make up our minds about the following day’s breakfast in advance, because breakfast is ordered from an external vendor; that’s usually a sign that breakfast in the hotel is going to cost you way more than it should, and quality is going to be terrible. Hotel’s breakfast was skipped, then, and off we went back to the city center, to that same square, looking for some breakfast.

Found a place offering sandwiches and coffee. Sat in the patio, enjoying the great weather (it was too early for the sun to start burning people around) and watching the people of Carcassonne go about their day. Sitting in that patio was so lovely, that I considered going back to the hotel to bring my laptop so I can do some writing—clearly, I wasn’t going to do any writing in that sad hotel room I was staying in.

What else was there to do? no idea. Heading back to the medieval city didn’t sound like a good plan: it’s a long walk there, meaning that it’d be best to go there a couple of hours before the concert rather than now.

Back to the hotel and decided to just lie down doing nothing. My friend Nelly was already on her way to Carcassonne to attend the concert, and plans were to meet at around 1:00pm to have lunch together. Was good to see Nelly again. Lunch was consumed at the same place as yesterday… back to the hotel for a rest… woke up, checked on what’s going on in the world and then got really upset with a particular news item involving Roger Waters and a floating balloon.

At around 5:30pm, Nelly showed up and the group headed together towards the medieval city.

The medieval city, as beautiful as it is, is also extremely touristic. Not only millions of tourists seem to be flocking the medieval city every second of the day, it is evident that some of the medieval city’s “charm” was lost as, at times, it appears as if the God of Tourism threw up on the entire area. There are way too many shops here, to the point of ridiculous redundancy: you can’t swing a cat without hitting two ice cream parlours, three creperies and one fashion store.

The preceding paragraph should not be considered an encouragement for anyone to swing any cat, for any purpose, either within or outside Carcassonne’s medieval city. It’s just an expression.

In a related subject, I like cats in much the same way I like most other types of pets, that is—none at all.

After scouring the medieval city for what seemed to be the third or fourth time overall, it was decided to sit down for a pre‐concert dinner. In a small square, there were a few restaurants with patios, one of them boasting a sign claiming that their pizzas were ranked #4 in the entire world. Ranked by whom? who knows, who cares. Challenge accepted. Was indeed good, but I wouldn’t rank it #4 in any world.

That restaurant also featured two youngsters, male and female, who were sitting side by side at the patio, singing together. The male held a guitar. They were not a good duo: guitar playing was tasteless and their duets just didn’t work. At some point, after the performance of a particular song, one of the waitresses told them (in English) “hey, I’m the only one applauding to you”. Ouch, but a well‐deserved one. That didn’t stop them from playing.

As had a few flops this tour already regarding concert start times, it was decided to head to the venue’s box office early, grab the tickets and verify the concert’s start time.

The venue’s setup allowed for reserved seating in the first five or six rows, and general admission seating (first comes first served) elsewhere. Those who bought general admission tickets were already queuing behind the venue’s doors, under the brutal sun. The tickets we were going to collect were for the reserved seating section, so there wasn’t even a hint of rush there.

As this is France, the box office opened about 20 minutes after its scheduled opening time. People were queued against the box office as well—these were people who were waiting to collect general admission tickets, and wanted to rush towards the entrance’s queue as soon as tickets were picked up. What for, really? the entrance’s queues were already ridiculously loaded (with people who had their tickets printed at home, or purchased ahead of time).


Tickets collected, show time verified… great. Two more hours to kill. What do you do in a small medieval city that you had already seen four times, and you have two hours to kill?

Of course: you have coffee. Nelly’s desire for a sandwich led us all to a small cafe that seemed to have a proper espresso machine in there. Mentioned what I wanted, and went with Nelly to grab a table in the patio, as the Dutchman was put in charge of paying and bringing goods to the table.

Now, just like Italy… I love France, but there are some things that I just don’t understand about how they go about doing things. In Paris, for example, I was refused a cappuccino because “it takes too long to make”. And now, the Dutchman ended up joining the table holding a wonderful sandwich for Nelly and a paper cup for me.

No espresso‐based drink is to be consumed from a paper cup.

I can’t stress this enough.

The story? well, apparently they had mugs there but “they couldn’t use them”. Why? who knows. Also, the way that this place makes a cappuccino is add warm milk to “coffee”, and add whipped cream on top. Without whipped cream, they call it “cafe au lait”—which means “coffee with milk” in French. Which is really what I got, except that I didn’t ask for it (a cappuccino is made with steamed milk).

The end result was something that failed to please any sense. But what can you do, really? you’re in the middle of one of the most touristic places in France; would you start explaining to idiots how to make a proper cup? no. You just bite the bullet and leave; which is what I did.

Another round in the medieval city and I already had it. Yes, it’s nice and beautiful, but there’s a limit to how many times I can walk through it. Headed to the venue, with plenty of time left for the concert to start.

The venue, Théâtre Jean Deschamps, is a theater located inside the medieval city. The theater wasn’t there in medieval times: it was built in 1908, on the ruins of a monastery. The venue is used to host an annual summer festival.

As I was completely stunned with the Ancient Theater of Taormina—to the point that I nominated it as the best outdoors venue I had ever been to in Europe—some claimed that I should hold my horses and not rush to determining such things before seeing the Théâtre Jean Deschamps; therefore, I was rather curious to see what this place is all about. I found it hard to believe that anything could beat Taormina’s ancient theater’s stunning setting, but was willing to give it a chance.


No doubt, this is a tasty looking venue. The sight of the medieval walls around clearly gives you the feeling as if you were stepping back in time.


Impressive, yes, but… still. Taormina’s ancient theatre is in a different league altogether.

Can’t complain much, really. The Théâtre Jean Deschamps is of the most beautiful ones out there.

The French audience is known for its vicious Running of the Bulls sessions, but no bulls were to run anywhere this time. The distance between the front row and the stage was less than one meter: I could lean my feat against the stage and my knees would still be bent.


The stage was low as well, enabling excellent view of the performance.

The concert started on time, and the French audience didn’t let anybody down—loud cheers, as usual here. Good concert, well‐enjoyed.

Speedway at Nazareth was skipped this time. Nelly, seated somewhere at the sixth row, quickly made her way to the front and took advantage of the best seat in the house: my lap. Some things, I guess, I’m not trained to say “no” to. It was, after all, the last concert for Nelly to attend this tour around, so it was prudent to ensure that she ends her part of the tour on a high note… and watching the performance from the front row was an added bonus.

Concert ended and it took the audience forever to leave through the exits. Two other ladies from the USA joined us for a walk back to the city center, which took longer than anticipated as the medieval city looks beautiful at night.


Back to the city center…


… and once at the room, I decided to take a shower after this long, hot, humid day. Waited a few minutes in the shower for the water to warm up—nada. Cold water.

What a lousy hotel; easily nominated to be of the worst hotels for the tour so far.


July 25, woke up very early for the last early morning travel itinerary for the tour: depart Carcassonne 6:47am, arrive Narbonne 7:19am; depart Narbonne 8:23am, arrive Barcelona 11:48am. Five hours of travel over two trains. There were other routes available, but they all included a large number of connections; when planning for the tour, it was decided to keep things simple and just bite the early morning bullet.

Walked like a zombie towards Carcassonne’s central railway station. Took a small detour to see if there’s anything open in the city center to grab some breakfast from—nada. Headed to the station, waited patiently for the train, boarded… good.

Short ride, about half an hour, and arrived to Narbonne. Narbonne? yes, Narbonne. Have I ever heard about it before? no, I didn’t. But there I was, 7:20am in a railway station in the middle of nowhere, seeking breakfast. Surprisingly, there was a restaurant inside the station offering all sorts of goods. Took a sandwich and was glad to receive a mug that seemed to contain a proper cappuccino… until I tasted it.

That was, I’m pretty sure, one of the worst cup of coffee I have ever had—not only in France, but anywhere. It was so terrible I wanted to spit it out and vomit at the same time. Whoever serves such coffee should be tried at The Hague for war crimes. Hey Frenchies, what the hell is your problem with coffee? how can you be so brilliant, coming up with all sorts of amazing foods, but you just keep screwing coffee up?

Of course, very little can be done to ruin a morning further once it was ruined by a disgusting beverage. Kept sitting in that restaurant, killing time. Finally, it was time to head to the platform to get the connecting train.

Cabin’s door open, a mature couple boarded ahead of me. Now, they were trying to fit a large suitcase—one of a few that they were carrying—into the coach’s luggage rack, without success. They kept trying, and as the luggage rack was located right at the entrance to the cabin, others couldn’t board.

And they kept trying and retrying, for about a minute.

I was already inside the train, at the entrance (waiting for the couple to be done with their luggage limbo), and so was the Dutchman; others, however, were still on the platform. A staff worker called me and gestured that I should move forward; I pointed at the couple (who were still trying to shove that suitcase in), gesturing back that I am myself stuck and can’t really do anything. I wasn’t in the mood to start arguing with people—not even to ask these people to move away and let others board. The Dutchman, however, took a different approach and informed the selfish couple that there were people trying to board. Only then, the Royal Couple remembered that they’re not the only passengers on that train, and cleared the way.

Train went on its way… and I realized that I won’t be visiting France again this tour. Moreover, I realized that I’m entering Spain, and will remain there until the end of the tour.


Distant, sour memories from the last tour crept in. I “vividly” recall the Spanish leg of the 2010 Get Lucky tour as being the hardest of them all: tough travel, insane heat, and inability to eat properly as the Spanish, like the French, have their own dining hours. I also remember being very close to a breakdown when my luggage was lost en route to Santiago de Compostela. And that bus ride to Córdoba

I went through hell in Spain in the last tour, which explains why I started feeling anxious during the train ride to Barcelona. Yet, I had hope.

Please, Spain; I come in peace. I’m ready to make amends. Let’s work on our relationship together.

Half an hour delay along the way, and finally made it to Barcelona’s main railway station, Barcelona Sants.

Barcelona Sants is a big station, serving as a hub to many train services in Spain; and just as big and central this station is, it is also inefficient way beyond the point of ridicule.

Just to give you an example of how stupidly things are done here: for train reservations and ticketing, there are about 20 different counters. The counters are grouped as follows:

  • First group of counters serves passengers who are interested to buy a ticket to a train leaving “soon”. What is “soon”? well, I couldn’t find an answer to this question by looking at any sign, either because this information wasn’t available on any sign or because the information wasn’t available in English.
  • Second group of counters serves passengers who are interested in “advance purchase” for long‐distance trains only; I suppose that “advance purchase” pertains to trains that are not leaving “soon” (see bullet above). Also, it raises the question: what constitutes “long‐distance trains”? is this some sort of elementary knowledge that tourists are supposed to already know?
  • Third group of counters serves passengers who are interested in buying tickets for medium‐distance trains only.

Now: for the first and third groups of counters, you have to wait in line: that is, physically stand in a line‐up—a separate line‐up per group of counters. For the second group of counters, you need to take a number: standing doesn’t really grant you any precedence.

In other words: if you’re a tourist, new to Barcelona or to Spain in general, and you can’t communicate in Spanish—good luck trying to figure things out. Such a scheme is so inefficient, that the very thought that there are people out there who deem this “acceptable” makes me not want to belong in this planet anymore.

You don’t need to be a genius in mathematics, or have any background in the mathematics branch of queuing theory (indeed, there is a branch in mathematics that deals specifically with queues, how they’re formed and what’s the best way to manage them) to realize that they way ticket reservations are executed in Barcelona Sants makes absolutely no sense at all. It’s just ridiculously inefficient.

Then again… just like in France… some cultures are perfectly fine with inefficiencies. “That’s how it is, so shut the hell up”. They prefer the familiar disorganization over any sort of change. Disorganization and inefficiencies don’t bother them enough to trigger a drive for change for the better. How can that be? beats the hell out of me.

Really, hats off to all those who are capable of subjecting themselves to such a lifestyle. Shows a lot of mental strength; I’d lose my sanity in such a place a million times over already.

Luckily, I already suffered in this station before so I had some background knowledge about how to find my way around. We had to do some travel arrangements:

  • Reserve seats for travel from Madrid to Gijón, as these seats couldn’t be purchased anywhere else, including Renfe’s website (Renfe is the name of the Spanish railway company. Don’t even get me started talking about their website: complete and total garbage); and
  • Buy a train ticket for Ingrid, who decided, as a last minute thing, to catch the concerts in Madrid and Malaga.

Took a number… #444. Counters currently serving #340 or something. Great. 100 people in front of us. What do you do? you use the time efficiently, to simplify your life later:

  • Find the metro route to the hotel.
  • Find the actual entrance to the metro system.
  • Calculate whether metro day passes should be purchased, rather than individual tickets.
  • Figure out how to use the metro’s ticketing machines.

Oh, ticketing machines. Here’s another example why Barcelona Sants is a stupid, obnoxious railway station: this station serves many types of regional trains, and each such regional train system carries its own ticket format. Now, in an efficient culture, you’d expect someone to come up with the bright idea of constructing a machine that will simply ask you what train you’d like to take, where from and where to—and will simply print a ticket for you. Simple, easy. Right?

Right. I mean—right, unless you’re in Spain. Over‐complicating things is key. Each train system has its own type of ticket and is served by its own type of machine.

And if you thought that wasn’t enough… there’s a particular regional train system called Rodalies, offering many stations labelled as R1, R2, R3 and so forth. Now, as it turns out, there are two types of ticketing machines to purchase tickets for the Rodalies system: one type serves all “R” trains except for a few, and the other type of machine serves those few remaining “R” trains. Why? I don’t know, just thinking about it makes me want to cry.

Of course, there’s a sign nearby telling you all of that, including how to distinguish between the two types of machines (which are very similar, externally)…

… and the sign is in Spanish only.

The time it took to do all of the above was enough to get us about 50–60 people closer to the start of the line. Another 20 minutes wait and finally, #444 came up on the screen and two travellers found themselves storming towards the counter.

Thought the mess was over? think again. Now came the language barrier between the traveller and the staff. Asking for 1st class seats for the train from Madrid to Gijón, we were told that the train we were asking for—pretty much the only train we could take in order to keep the schedule manageable—was full. It was rather unbelievable, and upon inquiring again, the guy simply turned his computer screen at us to demonstrate. It was in Spanish, but even I could notice that there are still seats available. Turned out that, somehow, he neglected to hear the expression “1st class”; 2nd class cabins were indeed full.

What a relief.

Ticket for Ingrid—done, and then decided to have lunch right in the station. A nice buffet‐style restaurant provided acceptable food for acceptable prices. That done, went to the metro; a few stops to the Catalunya station, located in Barcelona’s famous La Rambla, and then a few minutes walk to the hotel for the night, Hotel Turin.

I have been to Barcelona before, during the 2010 Get Lucky tour: not only was I in Barcelona for the concert back then, but I also chose to spend a few days in Barcelona after the tour to unwind. During those few post‐tour days, I have seen much of Barcelona; thus, I really wasn’t too enthusiastic about seeing it again. At a glance, it seemed as if nothing was different in La Rambla: still, piles over piles of tourists, street merchants selling nonsense… very crowded. As it was close to 3:00pm, weather was hitting hard, and Barcelona being located on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, humidity kicked in pushing weather further up the ladder of intolerability. Altogether, that didn’t provide for much motivation to see much of the city anyway.

Checked into the hotel—brilliant room, compensating for the ugly room I was forced to spend two nights in while in Carcassonne—and decided that the best place for me in Barcelona would be to stay in that room for as long as possible. This plan, of doing nothing, was carried out perfectly: didn’t even bother to leave the hotel until it was time to get some pre‐concert dinner.

The venue, Poble Espanyol, was located about half an hour by foot from the hotel… hand half an hour by public transit. Walking it is, then. Half an hour later, arrived at the venue, sweaty, sticky, thirsty… as sweaty, sticky and thirsty that half an hour walk through insane humidity could turn you.


The venue was already full when I got there, about 30 minutes before the concert’s scheduled start time. It’s a beautiful venue: “Poble Espanyol” means “Spanish Town”, and the goal behind its design was to aggregate various Spanish architectural styles in one location. It was constructed in 1929 and was kept, ever since, as a museum.


The venue, shaped as a square, is surrounded by many shops, mostly restaurants and cafes, most of which were very active well into the concert. I spent my time watching the concert from the very back, often walking around the venue to get a sense of the atmosphere here—and didn’t even begin to think about the mere possibility of even trying to find a way to the front: it was very crowded, and audiences in Spain are a tad crazier than their French and Italian counterparts: an “excuse me” isn’t likely to grant you access anywhere.


Concert ended around midnight. Watched the encore while standing close to the exit, as I predicted that leaving the venue with the masses would be a terrible experience. Less than half an hour walk back to the hotel, and the streets of Barcelona appeared rather active: cafes and bars open all over the place. It’s a city that seems to rarely be sleeping, much like Tel Aviv (although Tel Aviv, really, never sleeps).


I, on the contrary, prefer to be sleeping as much as possible nowadays. Up to the hotel and was very happy to call it a night.

Signing off this post while on board the train from Madrid to Malaga. I’m a little behind with posting, but tomorrow will be a great opportunity to catch up with everything: the longest train travel day in the tour, crossing Spain from south to north, about 11 hours of travel.



  1. "They prefer the familiar disorganization over any sort of change. Disorganization and inefficiencies don’t bother them enough to trigger a drive for change for the better. How can that be? beats the hell out of me."

    When I was your age I can remember I too was impatient. In 25 years time you will look back and realise that you were not really accepting another culture. Much the same with the current RusFed and ex Comecon Bloc..there are a bunch of folks your age presnted with a bunch of folks my age who really cannot be bothered to change. Take that example of the folks trying to get the suitcase into the train. If you went up to help them maybe they thought you were trying to steal it..or maybe they were too proud to accept help. There is no way that you will realise this despite your experience of many tours in Europe. When it comes to people nothing is predictable. As one banker said to an ex pal of mine "banking would be great if we could just get rid of people". A widget is a widget.

  2. IL est grand temps que tu rentres chez toi. Peut-être es-tu fatigué par ce long voyage mais ton arrogance et ton mépris pour les cultures latines sont absolument incroyables!!! Que de jugement de valeur!

    1. Not sure how "hats off to those who can stand it" can be taken as an insult. I'm just pointing out that, efficiency-wise, some European cultures still have a long way to go. It's only an "insult" if you choose to interpret it that way. Apparently, that's what you chose to do, so... Your problem, not mine.

    2. If your travel schedule was less demanding would you get annoyed so much? As this tour nears the end are you less patient than when it started?

    3. Going back to an earlier post, the next time you are at a concert I would be grateful if you could look around at the people who are attending. Study them and see if you can pick up any clues as to what social background they have tatoos for instance...are they mainly all Eurasian. Why do I want to know? For a long time here in the UK MK attracted your A B and C classes mainly A and B. Now I realise that you are computer geek and this social science stuff may not be your particular speciality, and the other hand, you are a public commercial player so a little of this stuff can help to target a market.

  3. Isaac if you don't want to answer these questions please tell me directly at You have adoped the Vancouver culture of assuming everyone is telepathic, a bit like the UK culture where you are assumed to know certain stuff.