But I think that I really should be talking about the end of the summer and the idea that one of these wonderful corporate gigs landed us in Barcelona, Spain, in a 5 star hotel for 5 days, with one show in front of a hundred traveling Canadians, who we got to meet after the show, and all week, really, as we were all in the same hotel. Scott Brown and I got familiar with the local transit train and we found our way around the big city, and for these days it was free-form tourism, Mediterranean swimming and shopping.
Lighting guy Craig Jager is the best tourist, of course, and a level-headed companion on any expedition. He is very well informed, has in built in GPS in his brain, and has great taste in architecture.
Richard Nott is a hoot as well, (no kidding!) and I hit the La Ramble at midnight with him, and we split up for an hour while I looked at chocolate and he got his chin pierced. We get back to the hotel later, and Richard goes back on the train, into town and sits up all night talking to some Monks in a Monastery. That’s Richard. There was an international music festival in the city, and more people than I have ever seen assembled anywhere. Literally thousands of people through the medieval stone walkways well into the night. I got lost a few time in the labyrinth of walls. It was like one big outdoor castle that you have to navigate your way through.
The first night we all went into La Rambla for pizza and snacks with the super drunk guy who got mugged, in the big cowboy boots. He was yelling at people on the street, which I thought wasn’t very good.
We all settled into the Spanish scene, I had a 88-key Korg Triton delivered to the ultra-grand hotel ballroom where the few thousand had gathered for our set, with gourmet food and jug after jug after real orange juice………
After our show, we went out and chatted with the people, which was a magical vibe, everyone so excited to be there in Europe and after a couple more days of touristing around great cathedrals, everyone went their own way, with the idea that we all meet-up again in Vancouver a month later. Ask any one of us what we did, and you would get some varied answers.
Craig went all over Europe, Ra all over Spain, Smitty all over Europe, Randy back home to Germany, Clayton has spent so much time overseas that I think he went back to Vancouver…Scott and I went North to Roses, a sea-side Spanish town, missing Richard at the train station, I dunno why, he just wasn’t there. Richard got lost on a Spanish mountain and ended up having a wonderful time in a beautiful village. Scott and I mellowed out on a beach, until I jumped on a train and drifted through France for a while.
Even after I got back home, I still felt like I was on a trip when I was sleeping. Kinda neat, I miss that now.
The corporate people, LORDCO, (an auto-parts distributorship in BC and Alberta,) all went on a cruise ship into Italy…….
I didn’t know that there was a train strike on in France, and I don’t speak any language very well, but I did manage to buy enough tickets to sleep on train seats and wake up in really neat places. All by myself. Not in a sleeper car, mind you, but on a seat, a regular train seat. The whole thing was cinematic.
One place I fell in love with, of course, the South of France, indescribably beautiful. All the hype I have endured over the years, all just a touch of what this place really adds up to. The colours are all soft pastels, no metallic hues, I didn’t need to wear my glasses. The people are so fun, funny, loving and gracious. The buildings so grand,and the sea so cultured somehow, not the rugged BC coast that I hold so close to my heart.
It was a beauty that I had never imagined. There is no natural sand there, you know, in the Mediterranean at all. Any sandy beaches have trucks bringing the sand in. Nice has small smooth stones. It was the month of September and the water was warm and lovely. Nobody gawks at each other, like they do in Canada, and everyone wears whatever, or not whatever they want.
There are fresh water showers for the public, and this beach is HUGE, goes on forever. I took a break from the beach only to hop on a city bus to Monaco, to see the yachts and cliff-side seascapes. And then back to the beach. Yeah, could live there, for sure. South of France, cool.
My big dream was to have a violin lesson in France, and I walked around playing my intermediate scales in every town and village. I was finally approached on the beach after getting back into my civvies, from my skivvies, and lifting my backpack (I traveled with one backpack and one violin case).
It happened that a virtuoso violinist was also on the beach, a nice old fellow that I had heard of when I was a kid, and he showed me bowing technique and stressed the importance of that. You know that all is well on earth when this kinda thing happens.
So now, yeah, I studied in France. ;)d
But what I really wanted to do was see the site of Saint Bernadette’s Vision of Mother Mary in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains at Lourdes France.
So another train station, another overnight sleep and good-bye South of France. Hello small village with 250 hotels (I got a room at a youth hostel) at the second largest Catholic attraction on earth, what, 5 million people a year visit this town. What a trip, what shopping, I bought a ton of rosaries…….
……and there is nothing I like better than a pilgrimage, and a good procession, of course, so with my pink plexiglass violin in hand, I follow a mob with banners and signs stating all points of destinations. This was a truly international crowd. And where we were going, I don’t know, but it was underground. Hallways……..Oh wow, this is the world’s largest underground cathedral, seating for 25 000 people, it was like a football game. And it is high mass, there is a swarm of priests, a huge pipe organ, choir, brass band, video screen, buckets of Lourdes water, thousands of wheelchairs, clouds of incense smoke…I love ritual.
But I got out, into the pouring rain, cause I wanted to go to the Grotto, the place of the vision, and the source of Lourdes healing waters,before this mob gets there. And because it was raining, I got a good photograph of the grotto with no huge crowd. You walk through, touch the stone walls, people are weeping, the vibe is electric. There is a pipe that disperses Lourdes water, french Spring water with miraculous healing properties, to dozens of faucets, I drank a ton of it,blessed my electric violin and yes it is a miracle that the thing still works.
This is about the coolest place I have ever seen, and the thickest spiritual vibe I have ever been a part of. It changed my life really. This water, I brought a liter of it home, and it sits here in my ‘fridge, frozen into a solid block. Nothing else in the fridge is frozen, mind you.
And then the candlelight procession, with thousands of flames around the sanctuary, me in tow, with an immaculate PA system and really cool live choir music. These people do this every night. The city FULL of wheel chairs, so much hope, so much faith. This is the real thing. And the walk back to the Hostel was steep twisty dark wet, cold and long.
By the time I got back to this wild little retreat, I was soaked soaked soaked. I had sent all my stage clothes and anything un-Mediterranean back to Vancouver with the crew. So I had 3 black stage T-shirts on, all soaked right through. No problem I take a shower…no towel…..no heat in the tiny room as I sort through the dozens of little bottles of Lourdes water, and I go to bed with a small tiny thin blanket and listen to the rain. And then it occurred to me, “Hey, Pilgrimages are not supposed to be easy!”
I had planned on going back to the grotto at 3am to see if the party goes all night, but I felt I need a break from that rain………
I think I should also mention that the whole time I was there, nobody asked me what I was doing there, or hit me up for money. I could see the security, serious security, big scrappin’ Italian dudes, but they were all very casual and hidden in the crowds. These people know their stuff. Very cool.
With the french train strike, and being sold the wrong tickets, and general bullshit, it was a miracle in itself to get out of there the next day, and I was told that there was NO WAY that I was going to get back to Barcelona in time for my flight back to Vancouver, despite it being only 140 kms and about 2 days away. So OK, time to think……..as opposed to drift.
Easy, I got a train, a bus, another bus, to Toulouse, to an airport, and a flight to Amsterdam.
Wow is Holland ever cool! I just walked around eating beautiful cheese, playing violin , talking to everyone, laughing. I don’t smoke pot, or hash but if I did this was the best time to do so, but no, I just walked into cafes and jammed with their music. What a dream, and yeah I connected to Richard and Scott at the Amsterdam airport and went on the next 9 hours back to Vancouver with them. They were happy to see me, because I was kinda lost for a bit there.
I made a neat scrapbook of photos from this trip that I will bring out on the summer tour to show who ever likes to see holiday pix.
The last page had a huge THANK YOU to Trooper and while we are at it, thank you to LORDCO, for the gig.
Had a gas.