Saturday, 3 October 2009
Amsterdam and Brugge
Firstly, if you want to drive in to Amsterdam - don't! The streets are flooded with bicycles, and it doesn't welcome cars. Due to being hungover from our Hamburg gig, photo above, we left Germany late after a very nice lunch with Christina (I hope your door is ok!) and it was already dark by the time we entered Amsterdam. We must have spent around two hours hunting for a space, ALL of which you have to pay for, even in the suburbs. Not only that, but the road signs are either non-existant or tiny tiny tiny...by the time we found our space (it cost 45 Euro to park there for the day) it was about 10pm, and a long walk to the station to meet my old school mate Rich, who owns a lovely flat in the heart of Amsterdam, and the red light district.
Rich's flat, which he's renovating, is awesome and has lovely original wooden beams (see, I pay attention!) and a more awesome view of "The Sex Palace" across the street (as you can see from the photo). I'd never been to Amsterdam before, but of course had heard about the women in the windows...it was still a bit of a shock to see it in reality though. The thought of paying for sex (other than emotionally) has never entered my head, and this only flickered for the briefest of moments when looking at some truly beautiful girls trying to get our attention from their windows. It seems like ALL tastes are catered for however, and some of the ladies on other streets had...um...a bit more to love, and on one street, more penises. It's a good place to people watch, especially seeing the sheepish look on guys faces as they leave the brothels, and sneaky, slightly shadly look of those selecting their lady pick 'n' mix...
You really don't need to smoke in Amsterdam to get high, as a huge number of streets have "coffee shops" with chilled, happy people in, and the sweet smell is unavoidable when you're outside. Thought of Bill Hicks, and how he wanted to make pot not only legal, but mandatory ("Shut up and smoke this.." "Woah, cheers dude. For a moment there I was taking life seriously!")
There is another side to Amsterdam however, which is one of incredibly beautiful and well preserved old buidings, quiant little art shops, elegant boats on the canal and a generally friendly, welcoming atmosphere. By total chance, we parked our car on Prinsengracht street, which, at number 267, also happens to be the street where Anne Frank went in to hiding in 1942. I'd only read her diary for the first time last year, and it had a big effect on me - so Jonno and I went to her house, and it was an incredibly moving experience. On one hand, it made me thoughtful and sad about how many millions of innocent people suffered and died during the war, but also filled me with a kind of happiness in seeing so many people queuing to visit her hiding place, and the thought that her greatest wish was to become a famous writer and how happy and amazed she'd be at how big an impact her diaries have had, and how positive their influence has been. If you've never read her diary, I'd really strongly recommend it. There are few other books of any kind which will make you want to sieze the day and follow your dreams, in a way Anne sadly was never able to.
Long ago, my Dad wrote a song called "Call Girl" which I always knew I'd have to play in Amsterdam, the video for which is below. I don't get stage fright, but it was a little unnerving playing this song in the heart of the red light district not only because of the lyrics, but because I'd no idea if an attack from a brothel house bouncer was on the way...I guess the girls aren't really used to being entertained themselves....
The drive out of Amserdam and along to Brugge in Belgium was the worst we'd encountered on the trip - lots of traffic and big delays. It was worth it though for Brugge, perhaps the most beautiful city we'd visited on the trip and on par with Stockholm in that if I had someone special, I'd want to take them there! It's a town entirely surrounded by a moat, and you have to go through a castle gate to enter it, a theme which continues throughout as it's like a medieval town, with virtually no modern buildings, and the most wonderful cobbled squares where you can relax by the fountains and watch horse drawn carriages clip clop by.
We only had a few hours there sadly, but I'm definitely going back one day. The little photo I've uploaded on the right really doesn't do it justice - I'm going to upload a whole feast of photos from the trip over the next few days, but for now I suggest you google Brugge, and you'll see exactly what I mean. Disney can only dream of making somewhere this fairytale, special and real.
Due to picking the wrong lane in Calais at customs we missed our ferry by 3 minutes, and had to wait an hour for the 11.15pm one. Jonno's war cry of "I HATE YOU....YOU C**T" a few seconds after a polite "thank you" to the ticket man will remain in my memory for a long time.
We're back in England now, and I'm having to slowly buy all the things which were stolen when our car was broken in to. I used to live out of a suitcase, now I'm just living out of a plastic bag - pretty cool, eh?! We really did have quite an adventure, and I'm sure I've missed loads out in these little blogs, but you get a general idea, and will have more when I upload the pictures and videos.
Total distance driven over the last ten days: 4,040 miles (to put that in perspective, if there was a bridge across the atlantic, we could have easily reached Austin in America).
Countries visited: England, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands.
I'm thinking of keeping this blog going to talk about all the things going on with The Foxes, our new manager, recording the debut album, touring etc....what do you think? Oh, and I think it'll need a new name too - can you suggest one? (be nice now...)
Thank you for reading, and for all your kind messages, either here or on Facebook, which really meant a lot when we were on the road. Thanks to Jonno too, for being a great travel companion.
They say travel changes you, and I think this is true. I feel good....better. In the words of Anne Frank, "I know what I want, I have a goal. I have opinons, religion and love."
I'll leave you with video of "Get Me" recorded next to a huge and beautiful lake in Sweden. The acoustic recording is here on my myspace.
P.S. If you're close to the Isle of Wight, I'm playing a solo acoustic gig there on Sunday - details here. Blog will follow...