I sprang out of bed after 4 hours of sleep as if I was sleeping for twice as much. Don’t know why. Something’s telling me that my body is going through all sorts of changes as a result of this trip; I hope it’s for the better.
We left Montréal early morning, at around 8:30am or so. A long drive was ahead of us, approximately 600km south to Mashantucket, CT. Kind of a pain, you know, leaving Montréal’s splendid variety of brilliant food for… well, you know; so a food stop was very much in order.
In the previous post I wrote (perhaps too much) about Schwartz’s Deli. As much as I love that sandwich, there’s no way I would start a day with it, so we went to another place that no visit to Montréal is complete without: Fairmount Bagel, in Fairmount Avenue (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairmount_Bagel). Write it down.
Just as there is a “Montréal‐style smoked meat”, there also is a “Montréal‐style bagel”. While there are many stores in Montréal selling good bagels, Fairmount Bagel is considered the place to go.
It is not a large store by any measure: most of the store’s area is occupied by the kitchen, which boasts a huge wood burning oven. The amounts of dough going into (and out of) that oven is simply ridiculous. Bagels that haven’t been sold at the day they were baked, are packaged and put aside on a designated shelf and are sold for a discount; their “yesterday’s” bagels are typically just as good as the “today’s” bagels you’d buy elsewhere.
The store‐front, where people actually enter in order to buy bagels, is surprisingly small. There are at most two cashiers there serving orders, and a line‐up is almost certain to form even in early mornings. The store offers a variety of bagels, each costing up to about 70 cents while a dozen is sold for between $6 and $12, depending on what exactly you had ordered.
Also, depending on what you ordered, you may receive bagels that have just left the oven, or bagels that spent an hour or so on the shelf. Always aim at the freshest bagels; even though their 1‐hour‐old bagel is delicious, their fresh, right‐out‐of‐the‐oven bagels are so tasty that it makes you feel sorry for every bagel you had so far in your life. I remember once visiting Montréal with Karen; we bought one dozen of bagels for the ride home; 10 of them were gone by the time we arrived (I was responsible for the disappearance of 9 of them).
And so this morning started with a fresh batch of 12 delicious bagels, some of which warm right out of the oven. I was chewing on that sesame bagel as if my enthusiasm was going to bring world peace; what a great way to start a cold, cloudy Montréal day.
Before leaving the city, I felt the obvious urge to consume some caffeine. Finding good coffee in Montréal is much simpler than in anywhere else, as coffee houses serving sub‐standard coffee simply go bankrupt due to the abundance of great coffee places in the area. Really hard to miss, so we picked one in random. Espresso & steamed milk and I was ready to start the day.
No traffic whatsoever while leaving Montréal—in fact we didn’t have any traffic at all, all the way to Mashantucket. It’s about an hour drive south from Montréal until you hit the USA border crossing—the last time we’re going to enter the USA for this tour. The “following a concert tour” response, courteously given by Jeroen to the outstandingly gorgeous officer, seemed to have worked just fine. No further questions, please go and spare me of your unusual stories.
I was expecting a boring drive down to Mashantucket; however I was wrong. OK, this is neither British Columbia nor northern California, but there is some considerable greenery along the way, many lakes—few of which are rather impressive. Weather got warmer and warmer as we approached Mashantucket—at some point it had hit 90℉. Sunny skies, hardly any trace of clouds. Perfect.
A hotel room at the Foxwoods in Mashantucket went for about $250/night when I was booking hotels for this trip, so I ended up booking the Hampton Inn in Groton instead. Groton is located at the New London area, and it’s about 20 minutes drive to the Foxwoods resort from where we were staying.
We left for the venue at 6:00pm, two hours before the show. Punched in the Foxwoods into the GPS, it ended up taking us through a myriad of side‐roads, valleys, ponds, hills, trees—a 20 minutes drive through the expressway turned into a 40 minutes drive in nature. Clearly something was wrong in how the GPS calculated the route; we later concluded that it has something to do with the fact that the GPS was set to automatically avoid traffic; but anyhow, that was a nice experience as it showed me how beautiful that area is. I particularly remember houses on green hills, surrounded by trees in many colors… the town of Mystic, CT. The place reminded me much of Nova Scotia’s Margaree Valley in Cape‐Breton Island.
(I think it’s about time I visit Nova Scotia again. It’s been almost 4 years since the last visit)
After 40 minutes of driving through stunning side‐roads, we finally saw the Foxwoods Resort at the horizon.
Folks, the Foxwoods Resort is by no means small, unless you’re an extremely tall individual. It is huge. After being to Las Vegas quite a few times and thinking I have seen the largest of resorts in North America, came yesterday and showed me that I was wrong. I haven’t looked into it yet but I suspect that this resort is actually a combination of a few resorts, adjacent to each other, while the MGM Grand is one of those resorts.
We did a terrible mistake and entered at the first entrance to the resort, straight into a parking garage called Rainmaker Garage. Very shortly after, we realized that Rainmaker is one section of this huge resort which is located almost entirely opposite to the MGM Grand. We had to walk for about 20 minutes (!) to get into the MGM Grand area.
Oh, and one more thing: we were starving, and show time approached. Our plan was to eat dinner in a normal restaurant prior to the show, but with all the hassle, we found ourselves eating a gross chicken salad sandwich in a deli.
Picked up our tickets—as almost always, best seats in the house; then we split, as Jeroen went to catch the opening act and I went to complete my dinner somewhere, as well as to write for a bit. Ten minutes later I was sitting for a Tiramisu and cappuccino somewhere in this huge resort.
It was Saturday night and the resort was jam‐packed with people of all sorts and all ages. There are a few nightclubs in the resort, most of which having those funny line‐ups outside, artificially created by the bouncers to create the impression that the place is in demand. I myself never understood why I should be waiting to get into a restaurant or a club—I know there are people who sometimes wait 2–3 hours in line just to get into a club—isn’t it a bit ridiculous? OK, whatever.
Went inside the theatre a few minutes before Pieta Brown finished her set. The reception area was the busiest reception area I have yet to encounter; took me about one minute to make ten steps. Alcohol was flowing, people were drunken. Lots of noise.
Unfortunately, the last sentence described not just what I encountered at the reception, but also what happened during the concert. I will get to that shortly.
Being seated at the front row, I had an interesting couple of chats with my loyal readers, which also involved tips with regards to where to find good cheesecakes in NYC. At 8:50pm, the band took the stage and the concert started.
The concert last night had a few things worth noting.
At the leftmost two seats of the front row, there were seated two individuals—a man and a woman—who appeared to be working for some newspaper. The woman held a professional camera and took photos during the concert, some with flash (thank you very much for that); the other kept taking notes during the performance, although I did notice him dance every now and then.
Next to them, there was a guy seated, rather passionate about the show however what was interesting about him was what he carried. He appeared to have in‐ear headphones, and he carried some sort of a black box with wires coming in and out of it—audio recording equipment? Maybe; I don’t know what those look like so I can’t tell. But some LED light was turned on there, for sure. He didn’t really make any effort to hide it.
This huge theatre also featured something I haven’t seen yet in any show so far this tour: large screens on both sides, showing a close‐up of the concert from various angles. Probably for helping people in higher atmospheres to enjoy the show better. Video‐recording of the show is also a possible explanation.
The sound in the theatre was very good. Mark appeared to still be in a lot of pain, but played very well regardless. The entire band actually had a very good run. Guy appeared to have something gone horribly wrong in his keyboard just before Romeo and Juliet started, but I didn’t really notice any interruption during the show.
Also turned out that some medications that Mark is taking cause him to sweat‐out some “sticky stuff” out of his palms. He felt the need to share this information with the audience, I remember that was an extremely funny moment.
When I said that the band had a very good run, I should have written “considering”. And that’s where my rants begin—please skip the forthcoming if you don’t have the heart for it.
A small minority in the audience gave really bad name to the rest. It doesn’t take much to ruin a concert—a few jackasses, stupid, brainless, dumb individuals is all you really need. Then again, the concert took place in a resort, so I could have predicted what was going to happen; it still doesn’t make it right, though.
I wasn’t present at the opening act, however Jeroen later informed me that people kept on walking by, talking—between themselves and on the phone and altogether ruining it for everybody—during the actual show.
And if you thought that the disgusting behaviour was featured only during the opening act, then you should think again. There was constant chatter in the crowd; I got distracted so many times by drunken people walking in and out of the venue, usually carrying more alcohol with them on their way back.
During the performance, there was a period of about one minute that Mark was completely and utterly distracted, staring at a guy who was seated right behind me to the left. I couldn’t figure what was going on, until I turned around and noticed a particularly stupid‐looking individual, who appeared to have had his intelligence stopped developing in approximately the same age he started attending the gym (probably when he was five years old)—engaged with an intense finger‐driven intercourse with his smart‐phone. He didn’t even make any effort to hide it—well, he had to raise his cell‐phone to about his head’s level so he can see better.
That same idiot later started making phone calls, right from his seat, during the show!
But I guess that wasn’t the worst. The worst came at the end. Piper to the End was playing, I noticed some people looking back. Now imagine that, folks… a brawl, during Piper to the End. I actually felt terrible for Mark, playing such a beautiful and personal song commemorating his uncle, while a couple of brainless women started a fight, which (of course) prompted their accompanying not‐so‐intelligent men to use the splendid opportunity and develop a physical fight of their own.
How the band could play so well under these conditions? That I don’t know. All I can say is hats off to them.
Took quite some time to find the parking garage after the show, but at the end we managed and made our way back to Groton. Turning off the automatic avoidance of traffic seemed to have fixed the GPS’ route‐determination problem.
Went to sleep at around 1:30am—Sunday’s going to be a long day driving south to Washington DC.