31 Oct 2007

Amsterdam Day 2

We both awake a little grumpy and drag ourselves out of bed and into the shower. Downstairs we are fed by the owner a traditional dutch breakfast (tea, crumpets, croissants,ham,cheese and a boiled egg). Its all very nice but don't try and do breakfast here in a hurry. First stop today after we get our bearings is to head over to the museum quarter and visit the Rijks. We decide to walk as it's a glorious day and we arrive by chance exactly at opening time. Highlights are the Vermeer's and Rembrandt's but there's also a lot more to see here including some fascinating dolls houses complete with miniature Delft pottery. We then walk back in the direction of the flower market looking for an area that will have decent restaurants in it for lunch. Once again we find either a lot of places to avoid, or a lot of decent places that don't serve lunch, or lastly plenty of places that think lunch is a Burger or a pastry and a coffee. The guide book keeps telling us we should at least try the Indonesian cuisine so in the flower market we settle on a small place called Sampurna. Something called Sale Siang for me as a starter which blows my head off and clears my airwaves but is quite tasty, followed by a platter consisting of fried rice with vegetables cooked in coconut milk, fried soya, fried nuts, pickled vegetables, prawn crackers and a boiled egg with a thick and spicy soya dressing. Alongside this are skewers of chicken in satay sauces. Its all delicious and fresh tasting and totally unlike the gunk normally served in Chinese and Cantonese restaurants. Jackie has a similar main platter with the addition of prawns and chili fried together and a saffron rice.

We then walk back from here along Singel Canal buying some bulbs from the flower market and head back to the room where we collapse and catch up on the sleep we missed last night. Later after a shower we head to DAM square which is hosting a rather sleazy looking fun fair. Its very easy in Amsterdam to loose all sense of direction. all the canals look the same and all the houses are the same as well. Eventually we end up back on Singel and start looking for somewhere for dinner.

We finally decide on Casa Di David, an Italian establishment of modest proportions but packed with locals. Food is excellent mixed grilled fish for me and perch for Jackie. Nicely washed down with a bottle of Pinot Grigio, suddenly life seems OK again.
Tomorrow it's finally time to head out to Rotterdam for the concert.

26 Oct 2007


"the evening plane rises up from the runway
over constellations of light"
Neil Peart 1989

The following morning I load the already packed suitcase into the car and we set off for John Lennon Airport, Liverpool. The flight leaves after two o clock so we have plenty of time to buy overpriced drinks and food whilst we wait. Have a quick chat in the lounge to a bunch of Dutch Rush fans who were here for the Manchester gig last night.

The flight is being shown as 20mins late departure though they announce us to go to the gate 10mins before the board says, herd us on quickly and then catch up the rest of the time in the air. Plenty of Rush t shirts all over the half empty flight, including a guy who has yet to tell his wife he's just got a ticket for the Tues night Rotterdam show off ebay; "I'll text her when I arrive!" , wonder how that went down?

Once we arrive in Schipol its straight down to the station to catch the train into Amsterdam central. Once there we follow some emailed instructions from the hotel that takes us down Singel canal until we finally arrive at the door. The hotel looks nice and seems to be in a nice area. Some of the local residents are even getting into the festive spirit a little early by putting little red lights in the doorways ;). Actually the hotel was chosen after quite a lot of searching. In the end we went for the number one choice on trip advisor which had a lot of good reviews. It's a traditional Canal House from the 18th century called Hotel Brouwer. Our room is on the 3rd floor which is accessed by a lift the size of a coffin. The room is nice and spacious and clean and has great views out over the canals and the bridge, where the tourist boats can be seen passing underneath. An English lady has been left in charge of the night desk so we ask her about finding somewhere to eat as we are famished. She says there are plenty of places around but I'm not sure what she has in mind. In our research we had already realised that food was going to be a bit of an issue in Amsterdam. They have little or no culinary heritage of there own, lots of Indonesian restaurants of varying standards. Lots and lots of tourist trap places, and plenty of basic Kebab shop establishments. Added to that was the fact that everywhere seemed to be shut tonight. We ended up near the New Church in an Argentine Beef House (there's lots of these as well). Pretty unmemorable apart from the fact it was way more expensive than it should have been.

Job number one tomorrow has to be to work out where on earth all the decent restaurants hide in this city. Surely the locals want to eat decent food at some stage.

After dinner we return back to the hotel and get to bed. Nobody on trip advisor seems to have mentioned that those nice views of the canal come with a price. With no double glazing and 18th century window frames that barely fit into the walls, the hotels location is not the most restful of areas. Finally get to sleep dreaming of scooters, motorbikes and people falling into the canals.

24 Oct 2007

"Celebrate the moment"

" A certain degree of imagination
A measure of make-believe"
Neil Peart 2002

It's Sunday 14th October and that can only mean one thing; the day of the concert at Manchester. Months of waiting are finally over and we can begin our own personnel tour. Its a short one granted, but it's twice as long as the last time we saw them. Last time on the R30 tour we set off into Manchester rather early and ate some utter rubbish before the concert. This time we take it easy and have a fantastic meal of monkfish in a garlic and borlotti bean sauce cooked by yours truly with a friend whose coming with us. All set to a background of music from various Rush albums, utter bliss. An absolute ridiculously expensive bottle of Sauvignon Blanc helps as well. Finally we set off and within 40mins are parked up outside the arena with time for a visit to a couple of bars before the gig. One beauty of Rush is they can be guaranteed to come on stage exactly when they say and theirs never a support, just a full 3 hour show from them.

Finally we take our seats, the lights dim and the pre show film begins. Then we are straight into a non stop show that never lets up. People had moaned for various reasons about this set list. There are too many new songs in it (you don't say! they are touring for a new album) and it's killing the atmosphere. Well once again Manchester showed that when Rush come to town you can't sit down and there are no dull moments.

I have to admit I was slightly worried about the tickets we had for this gig. Last time we were only 6 or 7 rows from the center of the stage and it was fantastic but this time we find ourselves half way up a side, 1 block back from Alex. Reading gig reports on forums and speaking to a friend on the phone the previous night had not helped either. He had mentioned how the sides of the arenas were looking dead and everyone was just sat like zombies. In the end I resigned myself to thinking "well at least when we get to Rotterdam we have floor tickets" though Jackie didn't seem to be worried saying that Manchester would be different. Boy was she right, In fact I think blocks 102 and 103 were rocking more than anywhere else in the arena and you could see the guys noticing this all night.

Too many highlights to mention but Natural Science has to sit up there. But I have to mention how brilliant I thought songs like "Far Cry", "The Way the Wind Blows", in fact all the new tracks came across. Alex really looks like he's having a blast ripping out the raw energy in these songs. Other delights were "Mission", a song I find works so much better live without its over precise and clinical guitar mix from the album.

Came out with the biggest smile on my face, the inability to string a sentence together properly due to having lost my voice and knowing we have to get some sleep as we have a flight to catch tomorrow. Wonder if Rush travel on Easyjet?

13 Oct 2007

"We are Young"

"Wandering the face of the Earth
Wondering what our dreams might be worth"

Neil Peart 1991

I can't believe the weekend is finally here but as usual these things spring up out of nowhere and surprise you. Tomorrow we will watch Rush perform on the Snakes and Arrows tour at the MEN Arena Manchester. These tickets were booked eons ago and in the meantime the band have been touring constantly since June 13 where it all kicked off in Atlanta Georgia. On Monday following the Manchester gig it's time to take a flight to Amsterdam to follow the three piece across the North Sea to the Netherlands. Basing ourselves in Amsterdam we will take a short break sampling the hospitality of the dutch T.N.M.S members (a forum of Rush supporters) the culture of Amsterdam, the concert in Rotterdam, and of course lovely food and drink.
See you later

8 Oct 2007

Shula's review added and new links

I spent today going through some photo files from the last trip because as I mentioned previously, I discovered that some restaurant reviews are missing. The first one to be added is for Shulas at the Swan and Dolphin and the link is on the right as usual. Also in the Favourite Links section is a new link to Alain Littayes excellent site. Alain is the Co-Author with Didier Ghez of the Disneyland Paris "From sketch to reality" book and a theme park lover since he discovered Walt Disney World in 1975. The site is packed full of behind the scenes information from all the parks but what really caught my eye was his latest DLP entry regarding the opening date for ToT. This has now changed and looks like being Dec 22nd so today has been spent booking flights and hotels to organise this years Christmas break. which will begin on the 24th. Time to get those Dream Annual Passes renewed and more restaurants booked.

3 Oct 2007

Tidying Up

I took a look at the blog the other day and thought, where has that restaurant review from Catal gone; where is that video from EPCOT? That's the problem with this blog, every time you add something to the top something has to drop off the bottom into the archive. You could find them eventually if you keep clicking the "older posts" button or know the date and how to use the archive links over there on the right; but it was not an easy procedure.

So I have been housekeeping the blog for a couple of days and made some simple links that take you directly to the reviews and videos. Oddly I found some of the links could not be reached at all as they had a different address so that's been fixed. I also notice that some very recent reviews did not even make it onto the blog at all so I will fix that as soon as I can find the notes for the restaurants.

Over the last couple of days we have been reading reviews and deciding which restaurants are going onto the itinerary this time for the DL California trip and the Vegas Weekend. Catal was a great place to visit, despite being semi jetlagged, when we arrived last time so its the same again for the night we arrive. Jazz Kitchen perhaps in DTD for lunch and music the following day and then a drive out to Park Avenue in Stanton. Not too sure about the following days lunch but its Napa Rose that evening. In Vegas we're not fully decided but the shortlist is; Seablue at MGM, Lawrys, Olives at Bellagio, Emerils at MGM, Rosemarys Restaurant and one of the better restaurants at Wynn (problem is there's a few and they all look good).

Lastly a little teaser for the weekend at Vegas. Can't wait

1 Oct 2007

Kosheen September Manchester Academy

The weeked we returned from Newquay, Kosheen took to the road again to promote the new album "Damage". This in itself was quite strange as the album was released all over Europe earlier in the year just before the previous tour. However due to frustrating legal reasons they could not release in the UK, though most people just imported a copy anyway. At the end of the last gig, in the smaller Academy 3, Sian announced they would be back in the autumn, so it was a real treat to have them for Academy seconds, this time in the larger hall 2. A longer set list, a much better support band called Rochelle and a stage with more room for the band and Sian to move all added up to an electric atmosphere. As usual a fantastic mix of songs, with more tracks now coming from the new album yet with room for all the classics. The band were as tight and polished as ever despite this being the opening show of the tour, with Sians voice being on top form and the better sound and acoustics of this larger room really helping us to hear Markees guitar playing with a clarity I had not heard on any previous show. Then again we were leaning on the monitors at the front of the stage.

It was a typical Kosheen crowd, excited and energetic giving back nothing but positive signals to the band throughout every song. Sian seems to lap up this energy and be totally inspired by it, always comfortable with her audience. My only criticsm is that after the Kokopelli tour we have lost the sight of Darren playing bass and now have him stuck at the rear of the stage on keyboard duties, which seems to detach him and the crowd from seeing his input into the music.

I'll leave you with the last video Kosheen produced earlier this year and the title track from the new album. Its time to go and start seriously planning the Amsterdam/Rotterdam trips where rock music will mix with culture and where unfortunately we will just miss Kosheen by a few days as they head into the European leg of this tour.

overkill directed by marcus sternberg:
shot in argentina & bristol dec 2006

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