Didn’t get much sleep in Willits. I blame the beds.
After a day off, time has come to get back into routine. Staying at Willits, CA meant that we have an entire day to drive 200km—not much, really.
Woke up into a superbly beautiful morning. While scouring Willits for decent food, I realized how beautiful this little town is. It calls itself “The Gateway to Redwood”, and justifiably so—the Redwood National Park is right across the curve. There are hills and millions of trees around; quiet little town.
BUT WHERE IS THE FOOD? Puzzling. After consulting the GPS a few times—each time finding the place inadequate for breakfast—we decided to resort to the roots and went to Safeway, which had a sandwich bar and a Starbucks in it. Not bad; but when you’re hungry, I guess you can find good taste in just about anything.
Convertible‐perfect day again:
Following Alex Flagg’s recommendation (this guy’s pretty knowledgeable about his surroundings. I appreciate people like that. Cheers Alex, see you tomorrow @ Santa Rosa), we decided to stop over in a small city named Healdsburg, in Northern California.
I’m sure it was hard to just pick Healdsburg; folks, Northern California is a gorgeous place. Laid‐back atmosphere, amazing nature all around you and people are very, very nice. You could easily pick a town in random and wander around it, and you’d be fine.
Anyway, back to Healdsburg. The city is located in Sonoma County, a county in Northern California well‐known for its wineries. Healdsburg itself is considered a major “wine capital” in California—it’s hard to swing a samurai sword without accidentally hitting some vines.
We started our Healdsburg visit with some beverages—I had to had some relaxing espresso break before I can go on with my day, so we hit a local place called “Bean Affair” just off the downtown area. Very relaxing 30 minutes of basking at the sun having tea (Jeroen) and espresso (myself).
The downtown area is the major touristic area of the city. It boasts wine‐tasting opportunities in literally every block—and each block has at least two or three of those, offering the best of Sonoma County’s wines. Being a Canadian (I guess nobody’s perfect), I am only allowed to bring 1.5L of alcohol once I’m back in Canada in a couple of weeks, so instead of loading the car with boxes of wine (as I would have), I had to suffice with two bottles. Shame.
Also noticed (correction: Jeroen noticed) a restaurant there carrying two Michelin stars, but we weren’t hungry. Also a shame. Mental note to self: hire a jet and come here once for lunch when hungry.
Some photos were taken as well:
I realized that driving in the sun is kind‐of tricky with nothing blocking the sun from reaching your eyes (sunglasses not always enough), so… yes, now I am “one of those”:
(Got the hat at a local winery, along with a bottle of wine)
Continued to drive towards Oakland, our next destination: Oakland is neighbouring with San Francisco; and also (coincidentally) the location of the concert tonight. Booked a hotel within walking distance to the venue, to make life simple.
Approaching the San Francisco area from the north is a somewhat thrilling experience. Rather pretty drive, however most of the beauty is gone once you cross the Richmond Bridge (?) and start driving toward Oakland. The venue—Paramount Theatre of the Arts—is within walking distance from our hotel at the Jack London Square area, which is considered to be rather safe. We made a decision, though, to not spend too much time in Oakland itself anyway. There’s much worth seeing around.
With that in mind, we left the hotel about 5 minutes after checking‐in, as I was starving and looking forward to see some of San Francisco’s downtown area. A short 10 minutes walk took us to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station on Broadway & 12th, and from there a 15 minutes train ride took us straight to Powell Street station, at the core of San Francisco’s downtown area.
San Francisco’s downtown area appears to be rather compelling to those having the shopping bug in their veins. Very busy, too. We only had two hours to spend there before going back to Oakland for the concert, so we didn’t get to see much:
Spent about an hour in a bookstore there (“Borders”) to answer the dozens of emails I have, then back to Oakland. Concert soon.
It’s a short, 10 minutes walk from the hotel to the venue. Going to collect the concert tickets, I was spotted by Wannee, who has been following my blog, as well as Jerry, who flew‐in from San Diego for the concert (also found me using this blog. Interesting; this blog is a great way to get to know interesting people). Wannee took a few pictures which I would post now had she sent them to me on time…
Then we entered the venue.
The Paramount Theatre of the Arts, located in Broadway & 21st, was built in 1931 and seats ~ 3,500 people. It boasts great facilities (although the lack of possibility to buy food on the premises really ticked me off as I was starving during the entire show), and it is gorgeous in the interior (sorry, due to lighting issues, I couldn’t take good pictures of it).
Our tickets showed Orchestra Row A, seats 101 & 103. But of course, someone in the venue thought it’d be a neat idea to also create an Orchestra Pit (two rows, separated from the orchestra level with a short barrier and mean‐looking ushers). It was weird to suddenly not be at the front row, hopefully that’s not going to happen too often. Our guess is that the pit was created for people specifically invited by the venue, such as subscribers who won some sort of a lottery. Who knows, and who cares. The view was great anyway.
Pieta Brown changed her setlist a bit tonight, good performance as always so far this tour. While listening to the last song, Jeroen decided to get his hands on Pieta’s latest CD. We’ll buy it at the Albany concert, the last one in the North American leg (preferable over carrying stuff around in the car).
Contrary to whatever was posted in emails, Mark’s show was scheduled to start at 9:00pm and not 8:00pm. Also, due to some technical problems (lighting?), the show started about 10 minutes late, with the band showing up to some severe audience cheering noise.
I guess a lot of things could be said about today’s concert (setlist pretty similar to the last one, except for “So Far Away” replacing “Shangri La” at the encore), however one thing is particularly worth mentioning simply because it was unavoidable for me to notice, having followed the tour so far, and it is Mark himself.
I can’t recall Mark looking so… how to say… upbeat and lively. I don’t know whether he simply had a good day off, a tremendously good night sleep, or somebody put something in whatever it is that he drinks, but he appeared to be very cheerful: smiling a lot, dancing (!)… heck, if he reached to his back pocket and pulled‐out that famous headband and put it over his head, I don’t think anybody would be surprised.
He even kept his optimism and overall good spirit once he located someone video‐shooting the concert. Even a little bit of dancing at the beginning of “Piper to the End”.
Puzzling, but hey, what do you know. One thing is sure though, when Mark is upbeat and happy, he is daring. I heard some interesting things being performed on a Pensa guitar (during Telegraph Road’s outro solo). There was also a rather funny moment during Donegan’s Gone when you could literally see (& hear) Mark and Tim having a musical dialog. A funny one, I have to say—Mark’s and Tim’s body language complemented the musical dialog quite beautifully.
Another thing I think I was a bit different today is Richard Bennett taking on a slightly louder rhythm‐guitar playing during Remembrance Day. I’m all for it.
Concert was over at around 11:15pm—very late. I starved but couldn’t find anything open for food. Weird. At the end, we noticed an open burger place named “National Hamburger Place”. Stepped inside and ordered food. Then I realized some mega‐strange people wandering around the store. It just didn’t feel right, so we made the order “to go” and fled the scene.
Something in Oakland gave me a rather annoying vibe. Don’t know what it is.
Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day for me. I am going to meet with a person whom I haven’t seen in about 10 years and who has been my mentor during my first few years as an information technologist. He now lives about 30 miles south of San Francisco, so we agreed to get together and catch‐up.
Later tomorrow we’ll have to drive an hour or so north, to Santa Rosa, for the next concert.
Stay tuned for updates.