You’re probably reading this expecting to hear about the magnificent week I had at home, resting from the 14,000+ kilometres of driving over the prior 5 weeks, attending 28 Mark Knopfler concerts across North America. True, such a voyage does deserve a good rest at its end; even myself, looking at the numbers (14,000+ kilometres, 21 states… see previous post), can’t really fathom the fact that, hey, I did it. And hell, do I deserve some rest.
Well, it has been a magnificent week; however “restful” is pretty much the most inappropriate way to describe it. Surprising? well, whoever survived reading this blog up until now should have concluded already that, when I travel, many things seem to just “happen”; and the Get Lucky tour’s intermission week wasn’t different in that respect. Had it been a restful week, I would probably not write anything about it.
So, buckle up… here we go.
The last Get Lucky concert in North America took place in Albany on May 9. Right after the concert, we drove 5 hours in the dark all the way to Buffalo, NY. We had to stay there because we were scheduled to return the rental car in Buffalo airport on the morning of May 10.
Waking up on May 10 felt very weird. Lo and behold, there’s no concert to look forward to! Eh, bizarre.
Well I’m lying. There actually was a concert to look forward to that night… A‐Ha were going to perform in Toronto on May 10, as part of their “Ending on a High Note” farewell tour. I had a pair of second row centre seats, and invited my friend Robin to join me.
The bus ride from Buffalo airport to downtown Toronto took about 4.5 hours which felt like 45. I was very tired, unable to fall asleep, and the day hadn’t even started yet. After forever and a day, we finally made it to Toronto’s main bus terminal where Jeroen and I split up—him taking the “express bus” to Toronto airport (that express bus ended up taking close to two hours, as per Jeroen; hence the quotes) and myself walking up Yonge Street to unload my belongings in Jonathan’s apartment.
Was good to get together with Jonathan again—the same Jonathan that joined us for Knopfler’s concert in Toronto just the week before. Chit‐chat, lunch, more chit‐chat and I was ready to take the outrageously short 5 minute walk from Jonathan’s apartment to Massey Hall.
I was excited for the concert. Truth be told, there was a period at the beginning of the 2000’s when I listened to a lot of A‐Ha’s music, particularly Minor Earth, Major Sky which (if I recall correctly, that was their comeback album). Also, contrary to Mark Knopfler’s concerts, here I didn’t even know what to expect! Is it a long concert? how many songs? what is going to be played? what is the audience going to be like? Imagine… watching one artist’s concerts on an almost daily basis for a whole month, and then watching a completely different, totally unrelated concert the day after.
The concert was great, and quite frankly, if A‐Ha had any reason to break up, it certainly had nothing to do with stage performance, because, folks, they still have it. Very dynamic show, something’s always happening; and I maintain my opinion that Morten Harket’s voice is way up there at the top male voices in the industry.
It may be interesting for you to know that Morten Harket holds the European record for the longest note held in a song; in “Summer Moved On”, he sings the word “Ask” (“… Left to ask”) for 20.2 seconds. When the band performed this song during the concert, the audience appeared to be very curious to see whether Harket can still do this during a live performance. I vividly recall him taking a deep breath and scoring it perfectly, making the audience go berserk with cheers.
A‐Ha performed just around 20 songs, maybe more. The last time A‐Ha performed in Toronto was in 1986—that’s 24 years ago! the audience was ecstatic. In fact, the entire audience was standing throughout the entire concert; you couldn’t possibly enjoy that concert while being seated. People of all ages clapping their hands, singing, dancing… what a party in Massey Hall.
No major A‐Ha hit has been left behind. Stay on These Roads, Hunting High & Low and The Sun Always Shines on TV rocked the audience beyond belief—what a wonderful performance. As powerful as these songs sound on the stereo, watching them being performed live was an absolute privilege.
I know I’ll be hunting high & low, high…
Watch me tearing myself to pieces
Hunting high & low…
A‐Ha bid the audience goodbye but it was clear that the show isn’t over. No way in hell that A‐Ha leaves Toronto forever without playing Take On Me, and you should have seen the audience when that song started playing.
Throughout the entire show, the band members were rather audience‐friendly, making the audience a part of the show. Band members also didn’t think twice before approaching the audience, shaking hands between songs… and one lucky lady got Morten Harket’s signature on her Scoundrel Days (pretty sure it was it) LP cover.
Too bad… bands like A‐Ha are breaking up while all sorts of junk “music” is being injected into people’s brains through the mass media. FAIL.
I went to sleep after this super‐long yet super‐enjoyable day… very excited for what was going to happen the very next day, May 11. In fact I was so excited that I found it hard to fall asleep.
Most of you probably aren’t familiar with Canadian immigration laws… to make a long story short, I filed for a sponsorship application for my father about four years ago and if my father was to ever immigrate to Canada, it absolutely had to take place during the Get Lucky intermission week. Funny how these things collide, huh. And so, May 11 was the day when my dad was scheduled to arrive to Canada.
You didn’t see it coming, did you.
I was so happy and excited to meet my father at Toronto airport; the number 1 man in my world, an individual I admire and adore more than anyone else on this planet. You can only imagine the mixed feelings I had, having to bid him farewell again after less than a week together.
And what a week it was, during which I had to set my father up with everything required for living in Canada—social insurance, health, phone, bank, credit‐card… and finding a place to live (he preferred living closer to the big city). Not easy.
Oh, and… by the way… here’s another nugget. When that week started, I had nothing planned for the European leg of the Get Lucky tour other than a hotel in London for a week.
Talk about pressure; my saviour, however, came from three sources: A reader of this blog who answers the name James Morris; my friend Daria Cadonna from Italy; and a reader of this blog, Julio Bricio, from Spain.
James has volunteered to plan‐out the entire train connection schedule for me, plus some accommodations. He did an amazing job and, I’m telling you, knowing now what I didn’t know then, doing the European leg of the Get Lucky tour would be immensely hard, if at all possible, without James’ help.
Daria helped me plan the Italian part of the tour, as the tour crosses Italy for about a week.
Julio & James, at different times, helped me realize that using Spain’s train system, I would most likely miss at least one show; therefore I will be renting a car in Spain.
James, Daria, Julio—thank you very much for your help!
“With a little help from my friends” I was able to plan much of the European travel by the time I left, planning more and more each day.
Then came Sunday, May 16. I woke up to a beautiful, gorgeous Sunday morning (OK, noon); breakfast was ready, cappuccino brewing, really nothing more that I could ask for.
Gling!, went my BlackBerry. An email from Jeroen, asking how things are going, and “by the way, the ash‐hole is back in business”.
Turns out that the Icelandic ash‐hole had yet to say its final words. Brilliant, I thought. That’s just what I need now, worrying about whether I’ll get to fly to Europe on time at all. News about the ash‐hole kept coming in; Heathrow and Gatwick were shutting down for a few hours, along with all airports in Northern Ireland. Later, it was announced that Amsterdam’s and Rotterdam’s airports were closing.
Air Canada flight 848 from Toronto to London, that was scheduled to depart Sunday evening (24 hours before my flight by the same name) was cancelled, along with a few other flights from Toronto to the UK. I could literally see, in my mind, how I’m going to miss the Dublin show, and started coming up with alternatives.
(Well, to be more precise, James did.)
I was quite nervous all day Monday, even though reports came in saying that the ash‐hole is not expected to be an issue for the time I’m intended to be airborne. As I have pre‐set some email‐based flight change notifications, each Gling! produced by my BlackBerry made me think “OK that’s it, that must be the email from Air Canada saying that the flight has been cancelled”.
But such email never came; the flight to Heathrow—the critical one—left on time and arrived on time. I was happy; but I became even happier (and significantly surprised) to find out that Terminal 3 (to which I arrived) and Terminal 1 (to which I went for the connecting flight) had so little traffic in them that, for a minute, I thought that I’m in London, Ontario instead of London, England. Folks, Heathrow Airport is the busiest airport in Europe. I have been here before when it was moderately busy, and take my word for it—it’s painful at best. Guess I got lucky: no security check line‐ups, no passport control line‐ups.
The only reasonable explanation I can find for this is that the ash‐hole made 99% of the travelers to find alternate plans, and people occupying Heathrow Airport are exactly those who had absolutely no other choice.
Delicious scrambled eggs & smoked salmon breakfast, along with a great cappuccino, were consumed with passion:
The continuing flight to Dublin left 5 minutes later than planned and I can’t remember anything from it as I was asleep during most of it. The stewardess had to wake me up to ask me to take my headphones off for landing.
Baggage pickup, then the AirLink shuttle directly to the city centre. Got a private room in Jacob’s Inn Hostel right across the road from the bus station; not bad for €30 a night. Unloaded my stuff and went to explore the city by foot.
Dublin is my first stop during this tour and, really, a good starter. I have been here only once before, for less than two days—flown from Toronto to Dublin for a high‐profile job interview with IBM.
(I didn’t get it)
Cloudy day but very good for strolling down the streets. Dublin has a great atmosphere; in sharp contrast to most of the places I’ve been to in North America, people here broadcast a more “open” approach. They talk louder (in that Irish accent I find hard to understand) and altogether make much less effort to stay away from you, than people in North America. That’s very typical of Europe, by the way; people are closer.
I took quite the lengthy walk, from the hostel to Henry Street (where that famous spear is, see pictures below), then south to the Temple Bar area. Lovely walk, there’s really much to see and do here.
At the Temple Bar area, I became very hungry. Decided to have something a little out of the ordinary, so I stepped into Quays Irish Restaurant and ordered some slow cooked beef & Guinness stew, next to a pint of Guinness beer to wash things down with. I’m not a big fan of beer (I prefer wine) however people told me that Guinness beer sold in Ireland tastes different than whatever they import into North America—which is true. It is indeed better, but not much.
I don’t think dinner can get any more Irish than this…
Became very tired after all of this and got back to the hostel. Went to bed at around 7:00pm (!) and woke up 3 hours later. Bluetooth earphones, listening to Get Lucky while walking down the misty streets and alleys of Dublin, light drizzle from above…
Yes, I’m in Europe. It’s good to be here.
Finishing this post on 1:45am from the hostel’s lobby (no Wi‐Fi in rooms). Will try get some sleep now; tomorrow I’ll take the DART train to Howth for a short visit, prior to the first concert in the European leg of the Get Lucky tour, tomorrow at the O₂ Dublin.