|Living A Dream
© Copyright 2007 by Robin Ruddy
The following stories are from a magical mystery tour that I got the privilege to do this summer. I was asked to be the pedal steel and acoustic dobro, banjo, guitar player for the Rod Stewart 2007 tour. These stories come from the European leg of the tour. We spent 6 weeks in Europe, primarily in the UK. We did 18 shows in 16 different cities. The tour went from June 22nd through July 30th. We traveled with 13 band members, and a total of 55 crewmembers. In each city roughly 100 local people were hired to help the crew with set up and tear down of the staging. There were 6 buses, and 11 tractor-trailer trucks. European drivers drove the buses and trucks.
Rod did not travel with us. He flew home each night on a chartered private jet. He was usually home each night before the last guitar was packed away.
Private Show For Patrons of Prince Charles
June, 27, 2007
The show at the Windsor Castle was extremely surreal. We had to bring two forms of photo ID to get our credentials to be able to be in the Castle. Once we got our credentials, we began following the castle guards traipsing through the ancient paintings, and the unbelievable commissioned sculptures, and the priceless carvings in stone and wood, and they lead us up several winding staircases, through endless hallways into a relatively ordinary little area that we decided was probably either where the maids slept or worse, that was where they stored the concessions. Ha! It was the least adorned area of the castle that we had for our green room. I guess they were thinking…”You know those musicians, you can’t trust them”. They might break something. Lets put them in the storage room” Of course that is where most of my pictures are from because they kept telling us we could not take any pictures in the castle. I took some shots down in the main castle but they did not turn out because I had to have the flash off.
When we were on stage at sound check we were treated to the dog search. It was one of the highlights of the sound check. There were four different dog/dog handler teams scouring the room for contraband. We had a cocker spaniel, a Springer spaniel, a lab and a sooner (sooner this that that). They were waging their tails and sniffing up a storm. Of course the girls were going “aww cute puppies” “come to mama” “smooch smooch” and the handlers were surprisingly cool about it and once the dogs did their job, they let us play with them.
When it came time for the show everyone got dressed in his or her tuxes and gowns. We all looked dashing. No one was comfortable especially the crew. They were working, hauling stuff around and were used to being able to wear what ever was comfortable to got the job done. But it was all over in a blink of an eye. They survived.
Joan Rivers was the MC and she was so funny. She came up to the microphone and started her spiel and said she had been doing this annual dinner event for 13 years now and how much she just loved it. Then she talked about the fancy china and crystal and started pulling salt shakers and wine glasses out of her garments somehow to insinuate that she was finally completing her set after all these years. She brought the house down. It was hilarious. It really loosened up a potentially STIFF crowd.
Then after the show, we were whisked away to take photos. What that that turned out to be, was similar to a receiving line at a wedding. Prince Charles of Wales and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall were on hand to meet and greet each and every one of us individually. They served champagne in really fine crystal glasses. It tasted regal. Near the end of the event one of the guys in the crew accidentally broke one of the delicate glasses, which was a real party foul, but hey, #$%@ happens. I bet it wasn’t the first Royal Champagne glass that’s been broken. I am just glad it wasn’t me!!!!
Anyway, the prince and duchess were just delightful. They actually acted like they were interested in the whole thing when I am sure it was just another boring day in paradise for them. “Ho hum. Rod Stewart and his merry men and women… I can’t wait to get this tie off and these shoes off”.
When the duchess came up to me, I was standing next to Janna who plays fiddle in the band and is totally mesmerizing on stage. The Duchess really wanted to talk to her about the violin and what not. But she did shake my hand and say hi and was friendly and polite. Her skin was the softest skin I have ever touched. I felt like I was touching velvet.
When Prince Charles came along, he was chipper and dashing and engaging. He is amazing. He was curious about the sound that I got out of my “Zither”. I had to break the news to him that it was a pedal steel, but he just wanted to name it something that sounded like zzzpppzzzrrrzzz. It was really cute. He made me laugh and somehow I ended up with a photo of that famous monumental moment.
And so it goes….living a dream.
Concert for DI
July 1st 2007
What a day that was. It is now the next morning and we have a day off today. I am going to go explore London today, but before I go out I want to write about yesterday.
I fell like I am living in a dream world right now.
We played three songs at the Concert for Di.
1. Maggie May
2. Baby Jane
The concert was aired in 140 countries. They said that it was going out to 500 million homes. According to the papers there were 63,000 people in the crowd. I had a camera guy right next to me, right on the headstock of my steel so I am guessing I got some airtime. I haven’t seen the footage yet.
We had a local choir sing with us on Sailing, so these young kids got to sing at this once in a lifetime show. The same choir also got to do the show at Twickenham the night before with us. There were about 50,000 people standing in the pouring rain at that concert.
But … back to the Concert for Di. The weather was perfect. Not raining, not cold, just perfect, (which has been a rare commodity on this tour so far). We all believe that Di was watching over us and blowing the storm clouds elsewhere.
We started the day with a 7:30am lobby call for a sound check at 8:00am, which was the worst part about the whole day, but it was understandable. There were so many acts that had to go through the process. By the time we got to our sound check there was no food or coffee left in the green room, which tells me that there were a lot of people ahead of us that had much earlier sound checks than ours. It was such a long day for the people who were working in the crews. I really felt for them.
There is Wembley Stadium and then Wembley Arena. The dressing rooms and catering were at the arena. The show was at the Stadium. They had drivers who constantly shuttled all the bands and crew back and forth between the two places.
Our dressing room was all-inclusive, meaning the guys, the girls and Rod and his people were all together in one room. There was a curtained off area for the girls to change clothes in which was nice, but there was very little time to get ready and the situation was not what the girls were used to, meaning, we didn’t have 2 hours to put on make-up. That did not affect me as much as some of the other girls. I still don’t know how it can take 2 hours to put on make-up. I guess I will always be a country girl. Low maintenance. Get up and go.
Catering was really good. All I ate was the sushi. What else would you need? But they had all kinds of delectable meats and veggies and salads and deserts. They also had a TV screen in the catering room so that you could watch the concert. The catering hall was the only place you could see the concert from in the arena.
I watched some of it in my room before we left the hotel. That is where I saw some great footage of the stadium from the air with thousands and thousands of people. That was also when I started to get the picture of how big this event really was. It was truly an amazing thought that I was packing up my stuff to go play at this event that I was watching on TV! How did I ever get here? And I guess I should ask why not? I have worked hard all my life for it. It is what I have always wanted to do, never taking my eye off the ball, and finally, here I am. And I appreciate everyone’s help and encouragement along the way.
When we played sailing it was such a powerful moment. The back-up singers got everybody in the audience to wave their arms in the air to the beat of the music and it was such a beautiful sight. All those arms, 63,000 arms swaying to the music. 63,000 voices singing every word to this Rod Stewart song that I am not sure that I had ever heard before I got this gig. Wow. It was so powerful.
I wish that I had gotten a picture of that. The whole thing just went by so fast. It was over in a blink of an eye. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to play longer. What a crowd! We went after some act that was a bit “slow” so by the time we came on, they were ready to rock.
Then, after the show, back in the dressing room, we were all sitting around talking, waiting to get our rides back to the hotel, and Rod and Penny came in. Rod told us “well done blokes” and Penny handed out invitations to the “after party”. So 7 of us stayed behind to go to the after party. Di, Tasha, Katja, Matt Beck, Conrad, Peter and me.
This party was a “no expenses spared” party. One of the coolest things was the Circus De Sole acrobats that were hanging above the bar. There were 4 girls that had hoops suspended from the ceiling and 4 girls that had fabric suspended from the ceiling. With provocative movements, they climbed on their respective rings and curtains and did acrobatic tricks all night long. It was mesmerizing to watch.
They had a couple of DJ’s, which is not my favorite form of music at a party, but very typical of this type of party. It was pumping loud for dancing. And we danced. Yes they got me dancing. I got swept up in it and I learned how to do the electric slide (even though we were listening to disco beats). Di one of the background singers taught me the country line dance.
The alcohol and food was flowing. They had drinks of all kinds lined up at the bar for the taking. The food was everywhere on silver platters being carried around by attendants and in buffet areas on each side of the gigantic room.
There were some side areas that had comfy couches and some drapes to create a more intimate private atmosphere, which is where we ultimately seized the opportunity to get a photo taken with Prince Harry and Prince William. How fun is that?
When we finally felt like we had had enough we went out to the “Artist Liaison” tent and asked for a ride back to the hotel. They had cars to take us all back to the hotel with no charge (which would have been about a $30 cab ride for each cab), which we thought was really nice since we abandoned our original ride in order to go to the party.
Thank you William and Harry!!!!!!
July 5th, 2007
We have been battling the weather ever since this tour began and today it was sunny when we arrived at our sound check at 3:00pm so we were hopeful that the weather would hold out for the first time on the tour.
All of the shows that we have done so far have been in outdoor venues where we are slightly protected from the rain unless it is raining sideways, but the audience is totally vulnerable to it.
When we played in Ipswitch, we had such a violent storm during the sound check that we had to quit playing and cover all the equipment with plastic tarps and anchor them down to keep from everything being destroyed by the wind and water. The Wimbledon Tennis pros are also dealing with the same weather issues.
Some people say that it is always this way, and some people say it has never, ever, been this bad. Who knows? We just go along day by day and try to do the shows in what ever conditions that the universe wants to provide for us and somehow, it works out. The people still come, the show still goes on and everybody walks away soggy and happy.
The show in Glasgow was a very special show. I knew it was going to be from the moment we played the first note of the first song. The people in the audience were particularly electrified. They were manic in their adoration for Rod Stewart. After all, this is Scotland, this is his true homeland even though he was raised in England, he was actually born in Scotland and these people cling to that fact.
The first song we played was “You Wear it Well”. The screams were thunderous. The excitement was evident in their faces. They were sporting tartan plaid banners, plaid scarves, Celtic garb and the ever-present rain gear.
The air was damp but not raining yet, maybe a little drizzle. The Pretenders have been opening for us on this summer tour. They go on at 6:30-7:30 and we end up going on about 8:00 or 8:15. It is still bright light out at that time up here in the high country. It doesn’t get dark until the end of the second half of the show. We have a new set list that is different from the show we did on the North American Tour. This set includes songs that may be obscure to our American palettes but to the UK people, they know them and can sing along to every word as was evidenced in the rendition of “Sailing” in the Concert for Di.
From my perspective, it is harder for me. This set has me playing on one song, then off for one song, and playing on the next song then off for the next song…. etc. I never get a chance to really dig in and get into a groove and get warmed up. The instrument is always cold (or wet) and so are my fingers.
But it is what it is, and there is no changing it, so we all just go with the flow and do it without much comment, knowing that there is a warm bunk and food waiting for us on the bus when the show is done. And the one thing I have learned about this show is that it never stays the same. Rod changes the set almost every night. I like that because it keeps it from becoming stale and rote. It keeps us on our toes. Keeps us awake.
The temperature has been cold enough that I have had long johns and jeans, boots, a camisole and a sweater all beneath my costume of my red tartan vest and black velvet jacket and I am still freezing. And this is June 5th? I hate to see winter around here.
But the crowd is what made this evening so special. Rod felt it and expressed it several times during the show. Penny came out and brought the baby out for Rod to carry around on one song, which they loved.
The sing-alongs, which usually start in the second half of the show started straight away on the first song. When I say sing-along, I mean that Rod signals to the band to stop playing, he stops singing, and the audience takes over. Imagine 36,000 people singing along together, everybody knowing the words to every song. It is one of the most powerful things you can imagine. I just drink it in every time we get to hear it. I want to at some point figure out how to sample it without losing my gig. I would love to have it on tape, and camera.
I guess all I have to do is go to You Tube. I am sure someone has already taken care of that for me.
The night ended with an encore of a song that we have never done before except at sound check, and according to J’Anna the fiddle player, we will never do again until the next Glasgow concert. It is called Purple Heather. I get to get out from behind the steel for three minutes and play acoustic guitar on it so it frees me up to move around. At the end of the song, Rod motioned for us to move up to the front of the stage and all the back ground singers and the band members were standing together up front swaying along to the audience singing Purple Heather. It was a moving and tender moment that I will never forget. Then when we ended that encore, we did an unprecedented second encore. Since it was not on the set list everybody was scrambling to get the right instrument on and make sure we all still had our ear monitors on and everything but it was just so much fun, we did not want it to end, even though by that time these people had endured several torrential downpours throughout the evening. They call that a tip down here. By the end of the show, the crowd was soaking wet. We were damp and soggy and cold. But all in all everyone was feeling good!
And so it goes, my summer vacation in Glasgow. I feel like the luckiest girl in the whole wide world.
I am looking for a coin laundry place and it seems to be quite elusive. I have been on the road for about 3 weeks and washing my skivvies in the sink so far, but man I just wish I could throw my jeans in a washing machine somewhere.
I am in Birmingham England (not Alabama) with 2 days off. I thought, perfect, I can get my laundry done and rock on. But it is Sunday. No laundry on Sunday. Tomorrow is a possibility, but there is no coin laundry downtown. It looks like there is only a dry Cleaners here in Birmingham. Call me strange, but I just don’t like the thought of getting my jeans and socks and underwear dry cleaned. My next stop is Dublin. I wonder if they have coin laundry there? Ahh, so this is the life of a rock star.
Meanwhile, I will just survive with hand washed skivvies and dirty jeans. I bought some cool new jeans today in Birmingham so at least I have a clean pair of jeans for now.
Pedestrians beware in the UK
July 12th, 2007
In the UK they drive on the left side of the road. I thought that this would not be a problem for me since I am not doing any driving over here, but how wrong I was.
The fist day that I was in England I was taking a walk around the city of Newcastle looking for a music store because my luggage had not arrived yet and we had a sound check the next day. I was a bit panicked because I had a lot of gear in the suitcases that had not arrived yet. I needed to find a music store, the kind of music store that sells acoustic instruments, not CDs! Without my finger picks and bar, I was dead in the water. There would be no way that I could play the steel.
So I asked the concierge where I might find such a thing on a Sunday, and they Google searched and scoured the city, made phone calls for me and miraculously, there was actually a music store within walking distance that said that they had what I needed (which they didn’t but that is another story altogether).
So as I was walking along with my “Newcastle Visitors Map” in hand, in my raincoat fending off the chilly drizzle of rain, I was trying to figure out where in the world I was and where in the heck I was going. I came upon an intersection that looked nothing like the map. I was trying to figure out what street I was on, looking up at the street signs which were not actually street signs, they were just pointers to things you might want to go to like, St Charles’ Chapel and stuff like that.
Meanwhile the traffic is whizzing by. I was a little bit close to the road because there is no margin between the sidewalk and the road, but did not feel in danger because I did not see any traffic coming on my side of the road. Then all of a sudden, a big bus comes out of nowhere, from behind me, from the right, and it came so close that it blew my hair in my face and moved my entire body a few inches and I could feel the heat of the metal as it passed by. I was completely blindsided by the fact that the traffic was coming from that direction on my side of the street. It just isn’t natural. I was truly lucky that I didn’t clumsily take a step into the street at that moment in time or some other lucky steel player who has a current passport would be working out the steel parts to Maggie May right about now.
I have learned to be much more careful and I am starting to realize that the traffic is never coming from where I think it is and to stay away from the edge of the sidewalk and always look both ways, then look both ways again before crossing the street! The drivers here are very aggressive and it is not like in the US where the pedestrian always has the right of way, and yielding to the pedestrian even if they are doing something dumb, is the rule of the road. If you get in their way here, they speed up to try to teach you a lesson. It is really a dog eat dog world over here.
Speaking of pedestrians, the foot traffic on these sidewalks is extremely thick. There are so many people downtown in every city that we have visited so far. It is quite exhausting sometimes to just walk around to see what is out there. One of the weird things is that not only do they drive on the left side of the road, but they also walk on the left side of the sidewalks. Of course they do. That totally makes sense given the circumstances, but it took me a little while to catch on to that. I couldn’t figure out why everybody was coming right at me all the time and always getting in my way.
In Dublin people are not nearly so orderly, and there are even more people on the sidewalks. Some people move to the left and some people move to the right. So when you are passing a big group of people on the sidewalk, who are not necessarily together, there is no telling how that mass of humanity will part. It takes constant navigation skills to just walk around and not get trampled by people or run over by cars and busses.
July 13th, July 14th, 2007
The stadium in Dublin was called the RDS Simmonscourt. It was very outdoors. Not protected from the harsh elements at all except for the very back where some of the people in the nose bleed sections would have the consolation prize of not getting soaked in the inevitable downpour that would ensue at some point during the concert.
We played in Dublin for two nights in a row. That was great, especially for the crew. They called the first night a “walk away” for obvious reasons. They were able to leave as quickly as the band. We are lucky, every night is a walk away for us but the crew stays behind and works hard for several more hours taking down the rigging, the staging, all the catering, and all the instruments. Everything has to be put away into the respective road case, to eventually end up in one of the 11 tractor-trailer trucks that move this tour around, before their workday is done. Then they have to negotiate and direct about 100 local laborers to get all 11 trucks loaded. It is quite a sight to see.
The audience was approximately 25,000 people each night. I saw some familiar faces. I am beginning to have flashbacks from playing at Opryland where you see some of the same faces at each and every show, no matter how far we travel. It is insane. And the other Opryland flashback is that you play in the elements, no matter how awful the weather is, “The Show Must Go On”!
I feel very distanced from the audience on my little riser, which sits next to the drummer at the back of the stage. The only time I can really connect with them is when I get to play a song on a mobile instrument, which happens very rarely in this show.
I just love connecting with the audience. The one thing that I used to love at Opryland was talking to the audience after every show. You really got to feel the love then. After each show here we are whisked away through backstage private tunnels in true rock and roll fashion, never really being allowed by the tour manager to stop and chat with the people.
After the last show in Dublin, I was standing in the wings, watching the encore (since I don’t play on the two songs that we did for that particular night’s encore), and after the last song, Rod comes off the stage and down into the area underneath that is where everything goes on, they put a winter parka on him with a fur lined hoodie, I think to help disguise him, and within less than 30 seconds, he is escorted to the limo that is waiting behind the stage with the engine running and the door open for him to step into, and they take off. Whoosh! He is on his way to his private airplane which, I can only imagine is also waiting with the engine running and the door open for him ready to take off. As he walks by me, he is bent over to insure that he does not hit his head on the metal staging that we have to walk under to exit the stage, and he says to me “Good job tonight”, and then, like the wind, he is gone.
On The Road Again!
Travel day after Dublin
July 15th, 2007
Here we are traveling in style going down the road in our European Tour busses. For the most part we really have a great time on the busses. The trip from Dublin to Antwerp Belgium was a bit of bear.
We started the trip by sitting in a parking lot until 7:30am at which time Graham our bus driver started up the engines and drove us to Dun Laoghaire Port to board the ferry to cross the St Georges Channel. We slept on the bus, and took showers at the venue.
This time we had a 3-hour ferry ride. I guess this vessel was not as fast as the one that we took over to Ireland, or maybe there is a current that slows us down going in the opposite direction but it was noon before we got off the ferry and actually started getting on the road. We ended up in Wales, and started driving across the island. So far we had spent 12 hours traveling and had not made a whole lot of progress.
Wales was absolutely beautiful. We snaked around a road that hugs the coast for a while, going through areas that had ornately beautiful old buildings, and cute little tunnels cut through the rocks. I tried to get some pictures from the bus, but I don’t think it worked out too well. After awhile we got on what is the equivalent to our interstates except that the lanes are going the opposite direction during which time we passed lots of cows and sheep and farmland and rolling hills. It rained of course. I finally got tired of watching to road through windshield wipers, and ended up going in the back lounge to watch movies with Katja. We watched Harry Potter, Meet the Fockers, and Analyze That. That is a long day of movies for me.
We got to England around 5:00 and hit a lot of traffic. Graham said that it is always that bad. It looked like rush hour traffic to me, but it was Sunday. We finally mad it to Folkstone Kent, where we literally drove the bus inside a train car and turned the engine off. The attendants chalked the tires so we would not roll anywhere and they closed up the train cars and off we went on this very strange ride underneath the river. We felt like we were in one of those Disneyland rides, a motion simulator kind of thing. I had to close the curtains in the bus because it was messing with my equilibrium to feel the motion but to see a different motion between the interior walls of the train and the bus. That was a first for me. It is called the Chunnel.
The Chunnel train took us to Calais France. When we drove off the train car the sun was shining, and the cars were driving on the right side of the road. What a transformation!
By that time it was around 9:00pm. We still had several hours to go on this journey. From there on out it was smooth sailing and we were about one movie away from being there.
We finally got to the hotel in Antwerp Belgium somewhere around midnight on the day after the Dublin show.
Larvik Norway /Gdansk Poland
July 22nd, 2007
We played in Larvik Norway on Sunday Night for a Cancer Benefit. We played in a potato field that the crew transformed into a huge rock concert venue. Amazing. They started with nothing, and in one day, built an entire rock-n-roll complex complete with dressing rooms and catering tents and Speaker towers attached to scaffolding that reached up into the overcast Norwegian sky. The show was well attended, 28,000 blonde, strong Norwegian customers.
There was an opening act on before us, the winners of the Pop Idol. That would be similar to our American Idol winners. They were really good. Very enjoyable and they even had a steel player! His style was more like a lap steel style similar to the slide sound in the old Jackson Browne albums. It was nice to see a fellow steel player out there, even though we could not communicate with each other because of the language barrier.
The crowd really loved this Pop Artist who I am sad to say, I don’t have the name of. They were doing all the talking in between songs in Norwegian/Swedish? The MCs were speaking in Norwegian. And then here we come along. I am not sure that they even understood us. We were speaking and singing in English. I guess some people could understand it, but I don’t think these were the typical Rod Stewart die-hard fans that we have grown accustomed to. They were not singing along with every word of every song like we are used to. And to top it all off, as soon as Rod Stewart took the stage, the rains started to come down. It was so sad to see all those people out in the pouring rain, again…. even though it has been a regular common occurrence on nearly every show we have done this summer. Despite the rain, they got involved and clapped and enjoyed in their reserved Norwegian kind of way. Rod cut out the intermission and went straight through to the second half of the show. He cut out a few of the songs too, which was crazy, because nobody in the band or crew knew what the hell was going on or what song was next and why. We are all wearing in ear monitors and when someone talks to you on stage, you cant hear a word they say to you. The guitar techs were going crazy. But we got through it and didn’t crash and burn so I guess nobody but us sensed the chaos.
They told us before the show that we were going to do a “runner” after the show because if we didn’t we would be stuck in the traffic and mud forever. Doing a runner after the show means, in true rock and roll style, you go straight from the stage to the limo, or in our case, the bus. The motors are running and you take off before the fireworks are done and beat the crowd out of the parking lot. That takes a lot of planning on everyone’s part. You have to have all your stuff together packed on the bus, no time to do the traditional “idiot check” or as I have been re-trained by my eloquent friend Miss Di, to call it the “final sweep”. You just have to do all that stuff before the show begins.
The problem with this evening was, they shot off the fireworks after the last song, and then Rod went back on stage for an encore. Some of the people had already started to leave by the time we all got off the stage and gathered up into the bus. Therefore, we crept along for about 12 kilometers (about 45 minutes) while masses of people where ambling down the only dirt road that lead us out of the potato field and led them to their cars. Nice effort, but it didn’t work.
Then after the show, we drove from Larvik Norway to Copenhagen Denmark (a 12 hour drive) straight to the airport, to get on a plane to fly from Copenhagen to Gdansk Poland. When we were sitting in the airport in Copenhagen the next day, dirty, no showers, hungry and tired, we found out that the show in Poland was canceled or actually postponed from Tuesday night to Thursday night. The reason for that decision was that there was a horrible bus accident in the French Alps with 50 people from Poland on the bus. There were many deaths, a few survivors and several still missing.
Now there is an official 3 days of mourning in Poland. The Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart honored the period of mourning and canceled the scheduled concerts.
Soooo, what that means to me is, instead of wrapping up the tour by spending the two days off plus the two show days for a total of 4 days in Monte Carlo as originally planned, we are spending our two days off in Gdansk Poland. I feel like I have completely missed the summer. I have been in long johns, sweaters and raincoats all summer. I was REALLY looking forward to being in sunny Monaco for 4 days. Oh well.
That is life.
I am just grateful I wasn't on that bus that crashed.
Oh it’s not so bad... I’m in Gdansk Poland! I would have never in my life come to Poland had it not been for this tour. It has been a fun little town to hang out in. One of the perks of being here in Poland as opposed to being in Monte Carlo is that the dollar is very strong. Right now you get about 2.7 polish dollars for every US dollar. That is pretty good. So when you go out and have a few drinks and a meal and the bill comes to $20 you are really only spending about $7.50. That is really nice
There is an area called Old Town, which is where all the action is. It is right on the river. It is where all the old buildings were restored from the devastation of WWII. There is a lot of history in this very old town. I have taken a ton of pictures. I wanted to take a tour that they have that takes place on a wooden schooner and takes you on a 90 minute river ride, and explains the different sites that evidently would appeal to WWII buffs, but I discovered that all of the narration was in Polish and all the people around here speak Polish and I would not have been able to get much out of it so, I decided to skip that little adventure. I guess if I had had someone to do it with, or if it had not been raining it would have been fun to do. It would have at least been nice to take the boat ride (in the rain), but when you are alone, it is hard to navigate your way into stranger’s conversations and be friendly when you can’t understand a word anyone is saying. My first question to anyone that I speak to is “Do you speak English?” because nobody is naturally speaking English and if they look at me quizzically, then I know I have to just smile and move on.
I have been challenged by not being able to read the signs or the menus or the directions to things. In one place I had to wait outside the bathrooms until someone came out to figure out which one was the ladies room. They did not have a little picture on the door. They only had gobbledygook words that I did not understand.
Then I went to the grocery store (after getting lost and looking for it for a half a day) and when I finally found it, I could not figure out what I was buying. I wanted to get some water. Simple you say. Oh contraire, I finally found the section that had water and there were 30 different kinds of bottles of water on the shelf! They were all clear and had foreign words on the bottles. Some bottles were big, some bottles were small. Some had pictures of mountains, some had pictures of pieces of fruit, and so I picked one out that didn’t have a picture of any fruit because I just wanted plain water. Got a nice big bottle so that it would last me for a while. And when I got back to the hotel, I cracked it open to pour a big glass of water and the thing exploded all over the hotel room. It was carbonated water! I had no idea. Fortunately I had also picked up a smaller bottle of plain water and that one turned out to be “still” water. So I analyzed the words on the two different bottles and I now I’ve decided that “Gazowana” means, “Got fizz” and “Niegazowana” means “No fizz”.
Same thing happened with the hummus. I was trying to get some healthy snacks for my hotel room so I bought some veggies and hummus dip to take back to the room. Or at least I thought I was buying hummus. It looked like it in the picture and it was in the area of the store that you would find hummus dips. But when I got ready to try some, I opened up the container and it turned out to be something like cream cheese with red pepper and paprika. Not exactly what I had in mind. That is the same sort of thing that happens when I order things on the menus too. I never know what I am going to get when I order something. It’s a total adventure. There is a surprise around every corner.
July 30 2007
I had a 5:30am Lobby call to catch my flight home to United States on July 30. I was in Monte Carlo that night and I had a balcony overlooking the rose gardens with a waterfront view of the Mediterranean. It was marvelous. As an added bonus, there was a full moon that night, which was still shining bright when I woke up at 4:30 to get ready to leave. There was a fabulous balcony in my room where I could go out and sit at a little table and enjoy the only tropical breezes that we encountered on the entire trip.
I caught my flight, which transferred through Heathrow airport again. This time I made a successful connection. I got home in one piece. My luggage was not so lucky. My steel arrived home 5 days later. I was sweating it since I had a gig that weekend, but it all worked out as everything always does.
Robin is a professional musician and lives in Nashville,
Tennessee, with her husband Larry, who is a hoot in his own right.
He was extremely glad to have her home safe and sound.
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