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Valencia..  gorgeous town on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.  It’s the third largest city in Spain, but honestly didn’t feel like it..  It has a much more relaxed, non-urban, old-world feel to it.  Which was a nice contrast having just arrived from Barcelona and Madrid, back to back.  We had one day off there and I didn’t get to see some of the more prominent attractions like the Town Hall or the “Ciudad de las Arts y las Ciencias”, but here are a few from around town..

Above: A nice cold Alhambra, one of the more common Spanish beers.  Below: A local specialty: marinated crab cocktail, served in its own shell..

Spain defeated Germany Sunday night 1-0 to win their first Euro Cup Championship in 44 years..

We had a show in Madrid last week at the Palacio de Deportes when Spain won against Russia, they showed the match on the big screens inside the arena before Juanes played. Here’s the crowd, intensely watching the match..

And some crappy video taken after the 3rd goal..

I’m admittedly not the biggest soccer fan, but it’s easy to catch Euro Cup fever. People were partying in the streets in Valencia on Sunday well into the night..

La Sagrada Familia is a huge, wildly ornate Roman Catholic church designed by the Catalonian architect Antoni Gaudi, who was a driving force in the Art Nouveau movement. Construction on the temple began in 1882 and continues today.. and when you actually visit it, you can understand why it’s been 125 years in the making. You come up out of the Metro station, turn around, and almost fall over when you see it. It’s a truly stunning experience..

I’ve actually seen Sagrada Familia before, when I was in Barcelona for the first time in 2005. But our visit was rushed and I didn’t get to really spend enough time exploring.. Didn’t get to go to the top either, not to mention a completely new section of the temple has been built since then.

Exterior

The Passion facade..

The Nativity facade..

So much detail. You could stand and stare for a long, long time..

Interior

A “work in progress”, they fill this drawing in as they go. Scheduled completion date is 2026..

For 2 Euros you can ride an elevator about 65 meters up to a high point of the towers. This sign, just outside of the elevators, made me laugh a bit. Read the print after “Elderly persons”..

Barcelona from up high

Walking back down..

The spiral staircase from the top. When you look through the spiral you can see all the way to the ground floor. 426 steps down.. (I didn’t count, I read that somewhere..)

Apparently, when asked about the extremely long construction period, Gaudi replied “My client is not in a hurry”.

I like that.

Two spectacular days off in Barcelona! That was exactly what we needed after doing 10 shows in 13 days..

Monday was a decompression day, but it was out for tapas and local beer after some rest. I am a big fan of the tapas style thing (small plates served a la carte), especially if you plan to go out afterwards. You don’t stuff yourself silly, and there is never anything gone to waste. Marinated calamari, Spanish olives, smoked chorizo, manchego cheese and, my favorite from this particular set, a mini venison hamburger with sauteed onions.. all washed down with some San Miguel pilsners. Yes!

We got lucky again with some gorgeous weather, here’s some of the sights throughout the night..

port olimpic

Monday was Festival de San Juan, which is a city-wide celebration of the summer solstice. We ended up right on the coast for the rest of the night, this is what it looked like..

Hard to tell from the photo, but half of the city was on the beach!

This is myself, Eva, Dania, Jordan and Rob

It was a much needed break. Perfect timing.. Definitely one of my favorite cities!

A little late getting to this one, but the pics were definitely worth posting.

We were in Bordeaux, France not long ago, and what a beautiful town it is.. We arrived mid-afternoon and it was actually raining when we checked into the hotel, which pretty much ruined any chances of visiting a vineyard (not to mention the late check-in). It was shaping up to be a pretty dismal day. But after lunch at the hotel however, the skies cleared up and it was suddenly gorgeous outside. So here are some pics from our excursion into and around Bordeaux..

Bordeaux Cathedral

Monument aux Girondins

Check out the entrance to this hotel..

Wine shopping in Bordeaux is no joke..
wine shop

The Bordeaux Opera House..

I think it bears repeating that Amsterdam is amazing.

There is a vibe there that is indescribable.. A super liberal melting pot of interesting people, cultures and communities. I posted a pic in an early blog of all the bikes, but it is truly impressive how many people get around this way. Literally everyone owns a bike there.. And all the roads in the whole town are accommodating, with dedicated bike lanes (attn: Philly).. It really is a beautiful thing.

We didn’t have strict plans for the day, except for one thing: to visit the Heineken Brewery for a tour. After stopping into a coffee shop early in the afternoon and learning that space shakes had been banned (gasp!), we ventured to our first destination spot only to find this:

A double whammy. The rest of the day proved to be gorgeous though, and so we checked out the sights..

One of the “grachts”.. not sure which

The National Monument in Dam Square

Dam Square

In front of The Royal Palace

At one point in our wandering, we came across a corner hotel / cafe that I immediately recognized.. I had stayed here, at the Hotel International, 7 years ago, the first time I visited Amsterdam with some friends..

hotel international

What a blast from the past.. And, to complete the weirdness, the same woman was behind the bar at the cafe.

I thought this was hilarious..

Dam Square at night

A beautiful town with an intoxicating atmosphere..

Saw a couple of things during the day that made me laugh, including this sign:

This word is eight thousand points in Scrabble.

And this one, from my hotel bathroom, is just pure comedy:

I guess they must have had a serious problem with that kind of thing at some point..

After a trio of consecutive shows (Lisbon, Porto and Caceres), we are now here in the town of Santiago de Compostela, in the northwestern part of Spain..

It is very old-world here, lots of well-preserved buildings and roads.  We had the chance to walk around the town last night and to visit the Central Plaza..

The Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, the city’s main attraction..

The photo doesn’t do it justice, the detail in the facade is amazing.  At the gate, on the flight of steps leading to the door, are statues of David and Solomon..

Unfortunately it was too late to see the interior, so we went for dinner..

Tonight’s menu:

Spain really doesn’t mess around when it comes to food.

So we are doing a show here tonight, in Salamanca tomorrow, and in Pamplona on Sunday.  And then two days off in Barcelona..

More to come!

 

We are in Lisbon, Portugal right now, my first time in this country. We arrived on the bus last night at about 7:30, when we actually should have been here much earlier in the afternoon. That’s right.. more bus problems. Ironically, after an estimated 14-hour drive (which would have gotten us there at around 3:30), the bus started chugging and hiccuping less than 15 kilometers from our hotel. That’s less than 10 miles in metric-speak.. Anyway, with our late arrival and general annoyance at the whole situation, I decided to take the night off and relax at the hotel, since I won’t see one until Thursday..

On another note, check this out:

This was how much it cost to fill the tank on the bus, which I don’t think was even anywhere near empty. To put it in perspective, 150 liters is about 39 gallons (not much larger than a Hummer’s tank), and 193,60 euros converts to 42 cents shy of $300.00. Spain’s fuel prices have risen an insane 300% in the last 5 years, and just this past week there were hundreds of truckers and fishermen protesting.. I learned this when I was told we had to plan a strategic route to Portugal, to try and avoid running into the mess. By numbers, the price of regular unleaded gas in Spain is around $7.56 a gallon right now.. And we figured out that in Lyon, France, it’s almost (are you ready?) $13.00 a gallon..

A little food for thought, in case you’re unfamiliar with what’s going on in Europe right now. Just remember when you’re getting boned at the pump that the US is, all things considered, on the lower end of the fuel price surge spectrum.

Amsterdam’s got the right idea..

At The Hammersmith Apollo in London. Just the band messing around before sound check..

SO.  

It has been exactly a week and a day since we embarked on our European road tour (we flew from London to Berlin and picked up our tour buses there) and to put it mildly, the buses are having a rough start.  Our drivers, one who speaks very limited English and one who speaks none at all, have been lost en route to a destination three times so far.  Our driver (the one who speaks no English) actually pulled over to ask pedestrians for directions over the weekend..  Not a good sign.  We collectively long for the days on the US tour bus, which was like a palace on wheels compared to what we have at the moment, and our driver, Whitey, who had a bad-ass GPS system that basically made it impossible for us to get lost.  

Anyway, aside from that, one of the drivers (again, sadly, ours) backed his bus into the other one yesterday in Paris in the parking lot.  He didn’t see one of the cargo bays wide open and backed up into it, causing not only a broken cargo door on that bus but some nasty lacerations to the rear driver’s side to ours.  “Ahem.. Hands at 10 and 2, check your mirrors, proceed with caution”..  Guess this guy never got those lessons.  

And finally, on our way from Paris to Lyon last night, our bus straight up broke down.  It was an estimated 7-hour drive and we pulled over and stopped about an hour and a half into it.  I had just fallen asleep in my bunk, so I woke up easily when I noticed that we weren’t rolling anymore and that the engine had been turned off (which happens quite frequently, ask anyone who has had experience with life on a bus).  At first I thought we were stopping to refuel and tried to fall back asleep, but after 15 minutes of symphonic snoring from the adjacent bunks and mounting curiosity I wandered downstairs and up to the front of the bus, where I saw this:

 

Not what you want to see out in the middle of nowhere at 4:00 in the morning.  What really kind of frightened me a little was when the driver who spoke a little bit of English asked me if i had a “how do you say..  the top for ze wine?  in ze bottle?”  Hmm.  “A cork?”  I asked.  “Yes!  Ze cork..  do you have one?”  Unfortunately, I did not have one of these on my person..  and was thus unable to help them uh..  repair the tour bus.  They are at the mechanics today, hopefully they are all drinking tons of wine over there and have plenty of corks to fix the problem.  We’ll see..