After having almost no sleep at all last night due to the immense noise caused by youngsters who were raised & taught that “noisy = cool”, I “woke up” this morning with only one goal in mind: to get the hell out of this hellhole which is owned by people who provide a rather lax interpretation to the word “hotel”.
A quick shower; as I was drying myself I began feeling dirtier than I was before. Something about the ugly interior of the room… peeling wallpapers, dust everywhere. All basic basic basic. Bah.
Quickly packed whatever it was that had to be re‐packed and I was ready to go. Took me a few seconds to decide between the quick way of storming out of this place (jump through the window) or the polite way (take the stairs). As there are 52 concerts left to attend this tour, I figured that the “quick way” wasn’t going to serve me right; bummed, I went for the stairs.
Lovely, crisp sunny weather outside. Morning chill with the sun all over. Oh, what a nice way to start a day after this horrible night! The time was just about 9:00am, and I had a reservation for the 9:30am train, which I would have happily taken had I not been starving like a dog. Paid a visit to Coffee One, where I started writing the blog entry for yesterday (it’s hard to catch up, even for me; what can I do) over a cup of perfect cappuccino and some bites off a somewhat anaemic sandwich.
The 10:30am train leaving Cardiff was actually taking a longer route than the optimal. The shortest way from Cardiff to Brighton goes through London, for a total ride time of just under 4 hours. However, it requires two train changes, as well as dealing with London’s transit—all are factors that I just wasn’t in the mood for dealing with today. Therefore I decided to take Cardiff to Fareham, then change to Brighton—total time of about 5 hours but only one train change and London transit.
While on the train, I completed writing yesterday’s blog entry just as the train arrived at Fareham.
Imagine someone grabs you from behind, blindfolds you, loads you onto a car, drives you to an unknown desolate place, talks to you until you’re clinically depressed, then unloads you onto a desolate train station. Read this last paragraph again, then close your eyes and imagine it. Then read it again.
Done? Good. Now, that’s exactly what being in the Fareham train station felt like. “In the middle of nowhere” would imply that at least you’re at the centre of “things”; it wasn’t even that.
I took my camera out to take a picture; as I was squeezing the shutter, the camera displayed a message in red capital letters saying “SORRY, I JUST CANNOT TAKE THIS” and shut itself down.
Waiting 25 minutes for the train to take me to Brighton felt more like 25 years. Finally, the 1:56pm train arrived (on 1:57pm; I’m thinking about filing a law‐suit) and I boarded it with pleasure; another one hour ride for today and that’s it.
Arrived at Brighton’s train station right on time. Hunger began creeping in, but I decided to find my hotel first. UMI Hotel, conveniently located right by the beach, was a short 10 minutes walk down the main street.
I heard a few things about Brighton before I arrived here; mainly that it’s a beach town, a popular resort destination. I also heard that the beach here is spectacular and is a must‐see for visitors.
Walking down Queens Road, one cannot escape the feeling that this is a tourists’ place. Millions of small stores, restaurants and cafes of all sorts. The path I took was a straight path, downhill, towards the beach (was nice to see the ocean, at last); I couldn’t avoid getting the feeling that there is quite a lot to discover inside the millions of side streets and alleys; everything’s so compact in here.
Arrived at the hotel, hungry and tired. All I wanted was to unload my stuff and go eat somewhere. Lady Luck appeared to have been mocking me all along as the receptionist was dealing with a mature couple that asked her so many questions—mostly obvious, stupid ones—that I could notice she’s getting a little annoyed.
Finally, got the key to my room. Yes! now all I have to do is just go there, unload my stuff and go hunt for food.
… Remember Lady Luck from the paragraph above? What a bitch. You would probably not believe me if I told you that it took me 5 minutes to find my room once I arrived at my floor. Turns out that this hotel is situated in one of the oldest buildings in Brighton, and finding your room is task equivalent to finding your way out of a maze. I had to flip open no less than 10 doors (!) until I finally found my room.
Being that a beach‐side hotel, one would expect that there is good probability of getting a room that faces the ocean. Ah, well, not quite. Talking to the receptionist, she informed me that all single rooms are located at the back; so the question wasn’t how pretty my view is going to be, but how ugly. And, folks, I think I scored it big time; the view reflected through my room’s window made me think that I’m looking through a tent’s window in suburban Baghdad. Sort of like a miserable scene from the movie Borat, minus the goats.
At least the room itself appeared clean and tidy enough to accommodate humans.
I spent about 5 minutes in the room and left. Target—food.
The problem with highly touristic places such as Brighton is that, due to the fact that there are millions of restaurants, it is very hard to make a choice. Even after you filter out places that give you the chills just by looking at them, you’re still left with so many restaurants to pick from… and when competition is high, each such restaurant is doing whatever it can possibly do to attract the tiniest extra fraction of attention from you.
I had no time (or patience) to conduct thorough research so I just Googled something up and an Italian restaurant by the name “Al Duomo” came up, so I went there. The restaurant is located next to the Royal Pavilion, a popular tourist attraction in Brighton.
Once I was greeted by a rude host and sat down, I took the time to read the reviews of that restaurant and, folks, what can I tell you… judging by the reviews, that same old Lady Luck from above was obviously lurking at some corner with a baseball bat ready to hit me in the head. While some reviews were good, most reviews turned out so bad that for a second I thought that I’m reading reviews about McDonald’s.
But you know what? It wasn’t that bad. OK, so it wasn’t even close to Zeffirino’s at The Venetian, Las Vegas (I have yet to find an Italian restaurant that beats Zeffirino’s), but it wasn’t as rubbish as people described. For the price—£8 for a two course lunch—you couldn’t ask for more and not be considered a fool.
Once done eating, I became a bit tired so I started to walk around aimlessly looking for a coffee place. I was planning on meeting my American friends so I thought about having it at the Hilton where they were staying. Entering the Hilton I couldn’t find any hint for quality espresso being served on the premises, so I left towards the city centre (whatever is interesting in Brighton is within walking distance of the beach).
The Brighton Centre, where the concert was to take place, is located between the Hilton and my hotel.
Wandering around hoping to come across an inviting, sophistically‐looking cafe by the beach, I found nothing interesting. Resorting to the BlackBerry and looking for the best coffee in Brighton, I got the lead to a place called “Marwood Coffee Shop” on 52 Ship Street.
Entering the place, I thought that I entered a time machine and arrived at an espresso bar from the 1960’s. The place is decorated in quite the hippy style; ladies wearing long dresses (flowers, of course) make coffee and serve it. A guy with a shaved head and a tremendous beard sits at the corner sipping coffee and doing some puzzle.
“Where the hell am I”, I thought to myself.
So I’ll make a long story short: this place is damn brilliant. Excellent service and—sorry, Cardiff’s Coffee One—this place makes the best cup of cappuccino I have yet to wrap my lips around in the UK. Barista’s should come here to take lessons on how to make perfect coffee. Bravo! What a delight.
With the smooth taste of perfect coffee, I left the premises and made my way to the Hilton, to meet the Americans. Took some pictures around the narrow, winding alleys and streets… just for you.
Met the guys and we all went for some chatter in one of the suites. The view of the beach was too good to avoid pictures being taken.
A short walk from the hotel at around 7:15pm and we arrived at the venue, the Brighton Centre.
The Brighton Centre (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Brighton_Centre) is centrally located, facing the beach. It seats ~ 5,000 and hosts concerts, sports and other sorts of entertainment. Not too big, not too small; the reception area is spacious enough to contain a fair number of concertgoers, and offers the traditional entertainment hall cuisine (mostly garbage).
I came to realize that Knopfler’s concerts in Brighton often serve as a meeting point for Knopfler’s fans throughout Europe. As I am not an active member in Knopfler’s various fan forum (I did log in once or twice before, to publish the Website address of this blog), I learned this fact from having a few chats with friendly fans who came to introduce themselves. Sort of makes sense, you know, this being a resort town relatively close to London—with the latter being so easy to get to whenever British Airways isn’t on strike).
For this concert, the American gang took the four seats at the front row that were closer to the centre; I was seated next to them to the left. Here’s a picture with three members of the gang (Mike’s missing, as he’s the one taking the picture):
The concert started at 8:00pm, as planned.
Overall this was a great show, of the best I can recall. The audience tonight appeared to be more active than the usual UK crowd (from what I’ve seen so far), with the front rows standing against the stage all throughout the encore (one fan named Beth, who came from Bournemouth, somehow managed to get all the way from the upper balconies (!) all the way down to the stage, standing right behind me. How did she do that is beyond me; good job).
Still a seated show for Mark, who informed the audience of the improvement in his trapped nerve’s status. I would suggest, if I could, that he remains seated throughout the tour even once he’s healed, because he plays better this way, period (I strongly believe so; other people who have seen Knopfler perform both standing and seated during this tour, seem to agree).
The setlist started as similar to the one played last night, until it came the time for Done with Bonaparte when something unusual happened. Typically, the band’s introduction takes place right before Marbletown, but this time it took place just before Done with Bonaparte, which sort of gave me a hint that something’s different. And indeed, for the first time during this tour, Marbletown was skipped, as Done with Bonaparte was followed by Monteleone and Donegan’s Gone.
The greatest part of the show, however, was obviously the end as the audience did not follow the ass‐to‐chair paradigm and was standing all throughout the encore. Comfortably standing right at the centre of the stage, the American gang and I were having lots of fun connecting with this beautiful music very close to its source.
The show ended at around 10:15pm; a quick chat between Beth, her boyfriend, Steve and myself, and then the Americans and I were off the venue.
A quick bite at a Greek restaurant and a beer in a pub right behind the Hilton, somehow the tiredness got pushed away a little. That’s not surprising in the slightest, as spending time with these Americans often results in any trace of tiredness being completely pushed away, making room for more fun. Back at the Hilton’s lobby for more drinks (I had tea!), some more fun chatter and I left at around 2:00am, on my way to my hotel.
Tomorrow should be an easy day, about two and a half hours ride to Bournemouth. The show in Bournemouth is the last show before the band (and myself) travel to London for a week of rocking concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.
Unfortunately, tomorrow’s concert in Bournemouth is going to be the last concert for three of my four American friends. While Val is staying around for the first few shows in London, Jordan, Mike and Steve will be making their way back to California the morning after the show.
They say different people take out different things out of you; and people you call “friends” are people who take out those things that you deem as good and positive. Spending time with these guys—before concerts, during concerts, after concerts, whenever—has been nothing but an absolute thrill. We had so much fun together that seeing them go is very saddening.
Night after night in the UK, concert after concert, these guys—miraculously, always being seated next to me or very close to me—were rocking. Just looking at them react to the music, you could see that they are so much into the music that, had the whole world around them collapsed, they probably wouldn’t notice.
I can only hope that I can find, over the next 50+ concerts, people who rock the way these guys do. Completely averse to the ass‐to‐chair syndrome, fun to talk to, fun to hang out with.
So… Jordan, Mike and Steve—here’s one to you; safe travels back to California and we’ll get together soon. Pleasure to spend time with you!
I am finishing writing this post on 2:00am. I just bid my American friends goodbye at the Hilton’s lobby; started to make my way back to the hotel, as I noticed the gorgeous view of the moonlight reflecting from the sea’s waters. The sky is clear, the moon and the stars shine brightly. The moonlight, together with the brilliant orange‐ish lighting cast by the dozens of lamp posts around, make Brighton’s Beach’s pebbles shine in a brilliant color.
The occasional couple walks by every now and then; granted, this is a pretty romantic scene. Umbrellas and plastic sea chairs are all folded and tied, waiting to be deployed on the next sunny day, universally desired to be “tomorrow” (although that sometimes doesn’t work out).
This is one of the most beautiful sights I ever had the privilege to see. It’s cold, and yet I sat down by the beach and reached for my laptop; no better way to end a post than this.
“Something from the past just comes and stares into my soul” said a wise man holding a red Stratocaster. Something indeed pops; distant memories erupt out of my sleepiest brain cells, making their safe journey towards the conscious.
I have never been here before but something in this scenery around me casts a strong feeling of Deja‐Vu. Remote memories of different times; different places; different people who were once the centre of my life—friends; family members; lovers—and are now history, gone.
Life changes, circumstances change; people come and go, each one giving you something but always taking something when they leave.
But at the end, it’s all the same scene.
It’s just you and the sea.