Month: June 2016

Day 48, Vierzon FR to Amsterdam NL– 788km

Traffic jams suck. I spent most of today lane-splitting through them. Yes, it’s faster and less sweat-drenching than waiting them out, but it’s also very tiring,  because you really have to be very careful.

Anyway, long day today, but I’m home in Amsterdam, safe and sound, to enjoy my last couple of free days with as much relaxation as possible.

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Day 47, Andorra la Vella AND – Vierzon, FR — 655km

It’s been a while since I’ve done THAT. Was a really long day, and that’s about it. I drove through more of Andorra. There are no big highways there, but there’s a LOT of traffic. The roads would otherwise have been beautiful. Here’s a shot just after I nearly stopped traffic entirely and had to ride without my right glove on for a while, but then there was a turnoff with a nice view. (I was trying to take a panoramic while sitting on my motorcycle during a road blockage where one direction was allowed to go then the other. I misestimated how much more time I had.)
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Anyway, if anyone is still following this, you may know that I was planning on zigzagging back and forth through the Pyrenees on the way home, getting in around the 12th. Well, some things got in the way.

1. I am tired. I suspected I might be by this point, and I am.

2. It’s a BIG mountain range. I would really have to zigzag, because roads just stop in towns, and then you have to retrace your steps back. There are passes, so you can go through, but to go back through, you end up doing a lot outside the mountains to get to another pass.

3. I am tired. Oh wait, I said that.

So I’m heading home. At first, I thought I’d do the slow route. But there was a little bit on fast route so that I could plot a route, and I got kind of happy going fast, so I did a lot of kilometers today. I went past where I thought I should stop so that I could get close enough to cut the distance in half to home. So tomorrow I have about the same distance, but all of it is on fast roads, none on slow roads. Of course, I think I’m doing the Peripherique (Paris), and sometimes you get lucky there and sometimes not. Matt and I got lucky on the way south, but usually it’s stop and go traffic. So it may be quite late when I’m home tomorrow, and who knows what traffic on the A2 (NL) will be like. Traffic usually gets much denser once you hit the Netherlands, especially once past Den Bosch. So … it may be quite late, but I’ll be home. The alternative is calling friends along the route (more fun than camping if weather or traffic slows me down that much)… this close in, that becomes an option.

So anyway, I decided I would get off the road and look for a hotel/restaurant, because I thought I’d put it too late for camping, and something is wrong with my phone so I can’t access data to search for what I need. I found a lovely little hotel/restaurant with a really cute motorcycle parked out front. I think it belonged to the desk clerk, who was very nice. They were fully booked. He called another place nearby, but they were also fully booked. He suggested another direction, where he said many hotels were located. I went that direction, but there was also camping. I went for the camping.

Cheapest camping yet, plus decent food, nice location, and friendly neighbors. 😀
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So… I’m about to go to bed.

718km to go!

Day 46, Rasquera – Andorra la Vella, AND — 245km

Holy crap. My whole post is gone. I wonder what happened!

I tried to upload it last night, but it wouldn’t go. It should have been saved as a draft, though.

OK, I’ll try to recreate.

Jacq and Xenia were already up and about when I woke up. Even though we’d gone to bed quite late, they’d woken up around 07:30 and taken Chica for a walk up to the ermita (sp) and back. They made me a huge breakfast, and I hit the road.

I went to Andorra for the spa. I don’t feel like recreating my whole post about it, so here are the pictures. The Thai massage was adequate if uninspired. I felt better from it.

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Some youngish Czech bikers came into my campsite later on. I spoke to them in the morning. Super nice. They were on their way home from a 3 week trip. The only female was on the back, and didn’t talk to me. Could have as easily been language. I had a nice chat with the Ducati rider. Everyone else was on BMWs.

Here is my campsite before anyone else was camping in it (and the Czech ones did not – they used the hostel space).

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day 45, Barcelona – Rasquera, 186km

My intention today was to wake up early, have a swim, do some much-needed skincare, finish up the blogging from the last couple of days, then leave around noon for Jacqueline and Xenia’s new place a couple of hours south. This didn’t happen as planned.

First off, I had planned on taking a taxi home from the music to save time, but ended up taking the night bus. As I certainly know, night buses always take longer than any other time/transportation, and I was already nowhere near my hotel. So I didn’t get home until nearly 03:00 (again). I set the alarm.

I woke up at 11:00 and barely had enough time to have some coffee and leftover cookies and pack my explosion of stuff up before noon check-out. Instead of the nice route I had planned, I took the tollway (which honestly was still nice). Of course, off the tollway became even nicer.

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I arrived in the village of Rasquera just as my awesome hostesses were returning from a grocery shopping trip with their new dog Chica. We drank cava and ate olives while Xenia cooked a delicious gnocchi with mushrooms and chorizo and Jacqueline made a delicious salad. There was also bread and pork chops. Altogether yummy and filling. We took a siesta!

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After a rest, they took me up to see their property in the hills, where they are planning a wonderful resort/retreat. I won’t go into details, but wow. I am super impressed and very very jealous. It’s really perfect. I can’t wait to come back and see progress or the finished result!

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There were also beautiful views all around.

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After all that, there was still more to see. Because they had unexpectedly adopted Chica, a rescue dog they found, they needed to rent a new apartment immediately, so they had a meeting with their new landlords at a cafe in the next village. This other village is one of those ones built into rocks, so their place is amazing. Here are the only photos I took of it (at 01:00, seriously), one of the 3 bedrooms:

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When we got back to their place, I was dead on my feet. I took a shower and went right to sleep.

Day 44, Barcelona –3km

let’s just call today Sharon Day. All of my friends left the festival today, although Laura and Deniz had a late flight out and Steve was around for the first band. And everyone else missed out. Today’s music was all fabulous. I loved most of it.

It was also a day of Adventures in Dumbassery. I stupidly booked my hotel at the site of the festival, not noticing that the last day was all taking place all the way across town. Oh well.

• Redthread (1:00 PM)
festival find! excellent local 3-piece. it started with a girl on drums, a girl on bass, and a boy on guitar. the bassist and guitarist traded off singing, both with good voices that fit well with the music and each other. The lyrics were good, the music smoothly transitioned smooth, haunting, energetic, in a way that fit. The drummer grinned and grinned. Then, surprise: the drummer left the kit during a slow instrumental bit, came to the mic and moaned out  gorgeous low poem. When she was finished, I honestly thought it was the end, because the other two were taking off their instruments. But no, they were just switching. They played on. Steve and I were super impressed, and if there’d been a merch stand, we would have dropped some cash on it.

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• Twin Drama (1:45 PM)
terrible

• Altre Di B (2:30 PM)
unspectacular

• Ran Ran Ran (2:30 PM)
whiny vocals, looks like Muppet

• Power Burkas (3:15 PM)
basic 90s rock. fine, better than some.

• Aldo The Band (4:00 PM)
dumb name but I really liked!! funk, rock, a nice mixture. it was getting packed fast, drawing people in. pic before that.

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However, I really needed some down time, so I went back to my hotel for a swim and a rest.

• Mudhoney (7:30 PM)
Finally. And it was as awesome as I’d hoped.

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• Water Rats (8:30 PM)
Fuck yeah. My first impression wasn’t so good. Long scraggly hair, sort of metal look, but their version of punk was perfectly what I was in the mood for. Super fun.

Silly lyric: “hey we are 2 man whores/ all we wanna do is sleep.”

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• Siberian Wolves (10:00 PM)
drummer singing, nice voice, I like. reminds me of something… Jane’s Addiction?!?
would be improved by real musicians on other instruments

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• Cadena (10:15 PM)
another kind of perfect.
can’t make out a word he’s saying, but the screaming is perfect.

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• +++ (11:00 PM)
other festival find!!!
so so good. need CD. Matt would love this 2-piece. They are very weird. I need to listen to their stuff a lot, later.

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The members of Mueran Humanos were there, so I told them they had been fabulous. 😀

-last band: Wind Atlas.
Decent goth band, female vocalist did a good job, played well with her voice.

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Day 43, Barcelona –0km

Lunch with the crowd, then siesta.

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• Angel Witch (6:45 PM)
metal… I went poster shopping. I found the music normal, as metal goes, and the few lyrics just dumb.

• Current 93 (8:15 PM)
fabulous, which was a surprise. Matt and I both fully expected this to be awful, but then, what do you know? Absolutely riveting performance and musical quality, surreal vivid lyrics… yes, oh yes!

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• Money For Rope (9:00 PM)
Well, I don’t even remember them. Either they were super forgettable, or we just missed them.

• Deerhunter (9:25 PM)
We were surprised to really enjoy this. We only went because the name rang a bell and they were on one of the biggest stages, but they were really engaging. I’m writing this the next day, though, after my big festival find and before Mudhoney, so… I can’t remember enough to say.

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• Drive Like Jehu (9:35 PM)
boring 90s garage/grunge. vocals mimicked every other singer of period, genre. Blah. We saw a bit of them before heading to Mordor (the furthest stages) for Deerhunter, and I’m glad we left them soon.

• Wolves As Friends (10:00 PM)
kind of adorable, but not gripping. I keep trying with these young Brazilian bands, but they’re just not working out.

• PJ Harvey (10:35 PM)
perfect. Except that she didn’t talk to us at all, so I felt sad and lonely. But hero-worship I did. Current stuff is very much music with a message, and I heartily approve.

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• Sigur Rós (12:00 AM)
really good! We needed a break after Ms Polly Jean, so we wandered off instead of waiting the couple of minutes for SR to start. I’m glad we made it back before they were done, because it was lovely.

• Julia Holter (12:50 AM)
sounded nice, but we would have to give it a non-gig listen, and know what the lyrics are, to like her. We only listened for a few minutes before going back to Mordor for SR.

• Moderat (1:40 AM)
sigh. I’d heard SO much about them, but no. the first song was positively awful, poppy croony nonsense. the second seemed promising, and everyone got really excited, but it just didn’t go anywhere at all. matt asked if I needed to hear more, and I said no, and we left.

Day 42, Barcelona –0km

Primavera Sound festival, day 3.

A couple of notes about this festival, because it is not, in general, the type of festival I go to. As Laura put it, it’s a bit too “normal” for me. As a result, I’m finding that I lean more heavily to the instrumental stuff. Maybe that’s less to do with the festival… I have been to see a few things with friends in the past year (see Caverns of Anti-Matter, for example, below), which are instrumental, not my usual style, and which I’ve really enjoyed. Anyway, those are my comments: too normal, and I guess I like instrumental stuff.

• Mahmed (7:00 PM)
I wasn’t expecting much from our first band of the day, but these guys were actually really good, relaxed instrumental stuff. The venue where they were at was good for that, as it had all these seats at an angle to the stage, so we mostly sat and looked out at sea while listening.

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• Titus Andronicus (7:05 PM)
After a few songs from Mahmed, we went to the next stage over to hear Titus Andronicus, but it just seemed kind of boring, and then they covered Blitzkrieg Bop, which was their best song yet, and we decided that Mahmed was more worth our time, and returned there.

• Quarto Negro (8:00 PM)
I really wanted to like Quarto Negro, who are from Brazil but spent some time in the Pacific Northwest and are on SubPop. They were at the same stage as Mahmet, so we waited there for them. Unfortunately, I don’t think an outdoor space with seating at an angle was good for them. I think they need a small club atmosphere, or at least people near the stage. The music seemed ok, but… we just weren’t that interested. So after a few songs, we left for…

• Savages (8:00 PM)
This is the 3rd time I’ve seen the Savages, and the biggest venue, as they played the biggest stage at the festival. Wow. I saw them just a couple of months ago in Amsterdam, at Paradiso, and it was wonderful, but it’s hard to pull off such a big venue, and they rocked it. We were WAY WAY back, but it was fabulous. They have really become rock stars. Good for them. They are fabulous.

• Nuven (9:00 PM)
Nuven was a guy with a bunch of tech onstage, and it was very good, very danceable, but we were no longer in the mood. Needed it later in the evening, or darker, or inside… something. The audience was happy, though. But we were hungry, so we headed onwards.

• Cavern Of Anti-Matter (9:35 PM)
After a bite to eat, we continued on to Cavern of Anti-Matter. The name was ringing a bell. I had gone with Dave, Liz and Steve to see them in the tiny upstairs room at Paradiso a few months back (Steve told me, while we were there). Atmospheric interesting instrumental music, really good. I liked them again.

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• Dinosaur Jr. (10:15 PM)
The first song had the vocals a little too low, and I panicked that J Mascis had lost his voice and they were trying to cover it up by turning him so low, but they got it fixed for the second song and the rest of the show was awesome. Lots of oldies, everything well played. I finally saw Dinosaur Jr. Hurray!

• Shellac (11:15 PM)
This was my find for the day. I tried to find a t-shirt later, but couldn’t. Will have a closer look at the CDs as well. Apparently, Shellac are festival favorites and play every year. They were super fun, good music, very silly, sometimes really interesting lyrics, but often very surreal. I liked them very very much!

• Tortoise (11:25 PM)
We only caught the end of the last song, because we were too happy at Shellac to leave. Sounded good, but… I don’t really remember.

• Royal Headache (11:35 PM)
We wanted to see them while we were at Shellac, and since they were playing the next stage over, it was easy to skip over there for a peek. Boring, boring… we went back to Shellac.

• Animal Collective (12:35 AM)
As we lay on the grass where we’d missed seeing Tortoise, Animal Collective started up at a nearby stage and we could hear them pretty well. It sounded good from where we were. I would check them out again sometime.

• Black Devil Disco Club (live) (1:00 AM)
A legend, and the music was excellent. I couldn’t see the stage at all, so no idea how the show was, but the music was wonderful. However, I was tired, my feet hurt, and I announced time to go. Actually, it helped that the song playing when that announcement came was NOT one I really was liking. 😀

When Matt and I got back to the apartment, we found Laura, Deniz and Gian all sitting around in the living room eating olives. A consensus was formed to open a bottle of wine and make some trays of cheese, sausages, jamon, olives, and whatnot. The Swedish guys came in during this, but when all the food and wine was gone, which was fast, we all went to bed. It was after 03:00, so good enough.

That was Friday. 😀

Day 41, Barcelona –0km

Day 2 of Primavera Sound festival

The day started slowly. Gianluca had arrived in the wee hours, so we were all slowly getting up and about. Eventually, we went to Poblanou (a neighborhood) for a tapas and sangria lunch. Yum. Matt’s two Swedish colleagues, Marcus and Dan, joined us there. Matt stayed a while with them while the rest of us headed off for the festival.

* Alessandro Cortini (4:00 PM)
Moody atmospheric, an awesome way to take a siesta (after a big lunch, sitting in the lovely auditorium)

• Mueran Humanos (5:40 PM)
My favorite for the day, two Argentinians living in Berlin, making angry dark music. I bought a t-shirt and a CD at the merch stand (which is HELL to navigate), then we all took a break in the shade.

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• BEAK> (7:30 PM)
One of the guys from Portishead. It was nice. We caught up with Dave finally (Liz and Steve were further forward in the audience), but it wasn’t really grabbing me, so I was happy to move on to see…

• Daughter (8:00 PM)
This was much poppier than I would usually listen to, but so charming and ethereal and decent lyrics and everything, that I may very well buy a CD later. The singer’s face was really enthralling to watch, and she can really sing. It’s really not my usual style, but I really liked it.

• El Último Vecino (9:00 PM)
We caught this in passing, and I would like to have a better listen. I liked the sounds enough that I jotted them down for later, but we were on our way from Air to Suuns, so just walked on by.

• Air (9:10 PM)
I don’t know this band at all, but the first song as we walked up sounded promising. Unfortunately, the next song made my soul hurt. I strongly suggested we head back towards the main area to catch Suuns, and I wasn’t alone in this.

• Suuns (9:35 PM)
From Montreal, pretty good, I have to say. I quite enjoyed it. Some songs more than others. Good energy, good everything. I will give them another listen at some point.

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• Explosions In The Sky (10:20 PM)
Matt left with Liz, Steve and Dave to see Floating Points, which he later said was mostly not his thing, while I went with Deniz and Laura to see Explosions in the Sky, instrumental rock from Austin. It was excellent. I think we found Gianluca again at this point.

• John Carpenter (11:50 PM)
And this was really really excellent. John Carpenter was there, actually playing some of his compositions, with the films playing in the background. Really really good. All of us (minus the Swedes) were there together for this one, then Liz and Dave and Steve left for LCD Soundsystem and the rest of us took a little break before checking out miscellaneous things while we waited for a couple in particular later.

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• Mbongwana Star (12:55 AM)
Excellent energy, a Congolese group, playing rock mixed with drumming and traditional rhythms. I really got into this, which was excellent energy set-up for…

• Thee Oh Sees (1:50 AM)
I may have been the only one of us who enjoyed this. I liked the faster, harder punk sounds and loved to watch the two drummers up there. The singer had really intense energy, but the drummers were fascinating. You never really saw the bassist from where I was at. Far side of the stage and the cameras almost never picked him up.

• Fasenuova (2:20 AM)
Rather disappointing. Industrial from Asturias, but pretty boring. We walked away.

• Battles (2:50 AM)
This was really interesting, but not what Deniz had expected from them, and Matt and Gian were asleep with their faces in their hands. I was really taken with how complicated the music seemed to be, and fascinated watching the guitarist. But alas – it was time to go.

We headed out for taxis, and Matt and Gian and I got home really quickly, but Laura and Deniz got unlucky, and didn’t make it for more than an hour. I don’t know what time the Swedes got home. They weren’t there when we got home, and only one has poked his head out of his room (in his whitey-tighty’s) while I’ve been working on this.

Day 40, Barcelona –10km

Primavera Sound Festival, Day 1.

Before going into that, great news: my bike is running great, thanks to the mechanics at this fab shop:
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I took it on a little jaunt around town, also filling up the tank, which was a lot. They put in 4 liters to get me going. I put in 27 more. Holy crap! Do I have a 30L tank?!? I never put in nearly so much, so I guess I could go much further between stops.

After, we 4 went for a picnic in the park, and a little wander.
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We had naps before going over to the music festival location.

Matt and I have never been to this festival before, but Laura, Deniz, Dave & Liz have all raved about it so much that we are giving it a try.

Tonight we saw two bands.

Goat reminded me very much of Sky Cries Mary. Not exactly, but very theatrical and similar atmosphere. This was just before they started.
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Suede was up next, and was one of those examples of a band that maybe didn’t get as big on our side of the pond. The entire crowd was singing along in ecstasy, but neither Matt not I recognized even one song. They were very good performers, though, so we enjoyed it.

As we left, we posed for photos.
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We had burgers at the nice little place downstairs from our apartment, and were planning on seeing Suun at 02:00, but Gianluca’s flight was delayed, so we are waiting for him instead. Oh well. They play tomorrow as well.

Day 39, Barcelona –0km

We took our time getting out of the hotel today, but finally it was time to go try and start the bike.

Sadly, it was a no go. Matt helped me navigate pedestrian traffic around the corner, pushing it to the mechanic I’d spoken to yesterday.

He will drain the tank, replace the fuel, and have it done either today or tomorrow. So Matt and I continued to hang out in the hotel lobby until lunch.

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We ate at a nearby vegetarian restaurant for lunch, which was perfect. After lunch, I took a walk while Matt continued to work in the hotel lobby. At 15:15 we took a taxi over to meet Laura and Deniz at our holiday apartment, arriving just as they did.

Matt continued to work, but the 3 of us went by tram over to Deniz’ favorite supermarket, where we spent a lot of money on delicious things and ran into some of his former colleagues.

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Back at the apartment, Matt was already gone to give a talk somewhere, so the 3 of us had a living room picnic with lots of cava. At 21:30 we left for a great tapas place they’ve been to before, and Matt joined us there. Food and wine galore, home to bed around 02:00.