First of all, let me mention that the heat in the last couple of cities has been the worst. It started in Belgrade where the temperature at the time the show started was 37 C. Now that we are on our way to Budapest it is intensifying. Being outside in 105 degree weather is very tiring. The poor fans are suffering to cue up in the quest of getting a superior position on the field to see the show. Remember that most of the venues here in Europe are still Festival seating.
Quint had an early flight, but we didn’t leave the hotel until 2:45. I made it to the gym before our departure and then we met everyone to head to Budapest. It was a routine travel day, and we arrived at the Four Seasons about 7pm. This is one of the most beautiful…and expensive…hotels in Europe. It faces the famous Chain Bridge that crosses the Danube (or Dona as the Hungarians call it) river. The Danube separates the city into it’s two parts…Buda on the western side….which has a number of hills on it…and Pest on the eastern side, which has a flat terrain to it.
Our room was on the second story of the hotel….but was high enough to offer an outstanding view of the Chain bridge, the Danube and the Buda side of the city. The room was nice and large…but only one room instead of the two that we often get that gives us more flexibility. No matter…it was a beautiful room and the view was truly wonderful. I called Quint and we agreed to make arrangements for dinner at 9.
I checked with the concierge to see about a good typical Hungarian restaurant and he suggested a place called Rezkakas which was just a few blocks from the Four Seasons, on the Pest side. Before walking there we tried out the hotel bar for 20 minutes or so, enjoying some drinks and conversation.
Rezkakas has a nice quiet atmosphere, and we settled into a comfortable table in a corner of the place. There was a trio of musicians that evidently have been there a long time….usually we are wary of music in restaurants, preferring quiet time. But these guys were all acoustic…violin, bass and some kind of hammered dulcimer type instrument…all talented players and the music was very relaxing and enjoyable. We ordered typical Hungarian food…goulash, pike perch, lamb and some side dishes to accompany. All very good. At some point in the evening the violinist reached back and pulled out a large manual saw…and played it with a special bow he had. I’ve heard guys play a saw before, but this fellow was definitely the best I’ve ever heard. He really made it sing, playing some beautiful ballads on it. At the end of our meal I complimented him and he invited me to come up and give it a try…I could make a noise on it, but not much more than that. He said his father had played and taught him how to do it. I think it’s neat that he wanted to carry on the tradition.
We finished up our dinner and walked back to the hotel. In our room we opened up the curtains and turned out the lights which gave us an extraordinary hypnotic view of the bridge and the Buda side of the city….with the huge Presidential palace all lit up high on one of the hills. Absolutely beautiful….we sat sipping wine and talking and just soaked in the incredible sight for a while, saying goodnight around midnight.
Today was “spa day” for Rose Lane and Chuck. Rosie had arranged for a manicure/pedicure at 2 and I had an 80 minute massage lined up at 5:30. We took it easy the first part of the day, but I did make it to the gym to walk on the treadmill. I don’t like to push weights on a day that I’m getting a massage. I also spent time on this journal as well as dealing with other issues….talking to Christian Raupach to get an update on my solo tour, doing tons of emails and such. Our friend Skoots had sent some more pictures of the construction on our house back home, and it looked like it was coming along nicely. It’s a little nerve-racking not to be there to supervise, but I could tell the guys had done quite a lot of work….the fireplaces (two of them) were beginning to go up, and they had framed in our kitchen addition area. There is still a lot to do, though. Rose Lane found a couple of small things in the photos that she wanted changed and wrote emails to our team to let them know. Seeing the house also made me a bit homesick….and I couldn’t help but think about all our animals….Lilly and the Collies; the horses; our cats Booker, Alberta and Jazbo and all our hunting dogs. Hopefully they are all doing ok and getting love and attention from Mike, Linda and Jacque.
Rose Lane went up to the spa for her treatments while I went to the gym, and when I got back I continued to fiddle around on the computer. When she returned to the room, she had one of her big toes bundled up in gauze. I asked what happened, and she said she had had a “bad day”. First, she had dropped a bottle of Diet Coke on the floor in our room and broken glass was everywhere….but that wasn’t the problem with the toe….she had taken a break during her pedicure and walked up some glass stairs to do something, and had not put on shoes as the pedicurist had suggested….and had jammed her foot on the edge of one of the glass stairs, cutting the skin just under the toe. She said it bleed for a long time, and caused a bit of an ordeal with the pedicurist and spa staff, as they had to report it to the hotel manager (for liability purposes, I guess). Anyway, she was ok but a bit rattled from all of that. I told her just to lay down and relax for a while and get off her feet while I went for my massage.
At the spa I saw Darryl who was also getting a massage…and soon we were both taken to the treatment rooms. It was funny, because afterwards we both saw each other….having that “zoned out” looks about us that comes with a really good treatment….we were both walking around like Zombies, but man….it had been fantastic!
Back in the room I checked on Rosie who was doing better….and called to arrange a restaurant for the three of us again. This time we tried a place called Mokka which was also on the Pest side, not far from the place we had gone the previous night. Mokka was suggested by my friend Larry Wiseman and his wife Robin who had been in Budapest some six weeks prior. Larry had sent me the name of it, saying they had really enjoyed it. The concierge confirmed that it was a good choice, so we confirmed reservations and went there about 9. It was indeed a good place. More modern and trendy….and lively….but we were up for that, and it was a winner. Great food…typical Hungarian but with a more modern flair to it. Very nice.
Afterwards, on our way back to the hotel, we came to the big square in front of a large church where we turn to go back to the Four Seasons….and in the square they had set up a symphony orchestra who were playing. We saw Kent Smith and his daughter Nikki there…and we all lingered for a while enjoying the music before heading back to our rooms. That was a very pleasant way to end a fine day.
I slept a bit restlessly which was somewhat of a surprise….I usually sleep like a baby the night after a good massage. But no matter….after laying in bed and floating in and out of dreams in the morning, I got up around 10 and made coffee. Rosie was up not long after and we piddled with emails. Her computer is still being repaired back in the States, so we’ve been sharing mine. It works out fine….the only inconvenience is that we can’t do stuff at the same time. I passed on the gym today, and took it easy for most of the first part of the day. Soon it was time to go to the gig….Quint again went with me in the early afternoon, about 4:30. We got there and scoped out the stadium before going to the Rattlesnake to hang. He promised to make some notes on tonight’s show and tell me his opinion of the sound and the gig in general.
I did the set list with Mick and then just killed time with Quint and Rose Lane (she came later) before time to hit the stage. We had another huge crowd…I’d guess at least 60,000. And while the set list is still not very adventurous, the band played well and the audience gave us their approval.
After the show I was pretty tired….I called Quint to see if he wanted to hang some, but he was tired as well and so Rose Lane and I just stayed in the room watching tv in the bed until we crashed.
Quint had checked into getting us a tour guide for today….as it was yet another day off in Budapest for us. He did well….lining up not only a private tour of the city, but managing to book us a boat ride later in the day about sunset so we could cruise the Danube and watch the sun go down. Caroline Clements, our “make up” girl had expressed interest in going and Quint had said the car and boat would accommodate four as well as three, so we invited her along. The first part of the day was easy for us, and the tour didn’t start until 3pm. So I made my way to the gym and worked out before we left. At 3 we all gathered in the lobby and met Christina, our tour guide. She seemed to be a very nice person and we piled into her car and headed out. We first rode over the bridge into the Buda side….and were taken up the hill to the Citadel where a beautiful view of the entire city can be enjoyed. She gave us some history along the way. On top of the Citadel we took some pictures and walked around…the girls had found some things they wanted to buy from some venders there, and we took our time before loading up again and going into Pest. Christina explained more of the history as we tooled around….telling us of the various countries that have occupied Hungary through the centuries and showing us some important landmarks. We stopped at Heroes Square and took some pictures, then continued on. Eventually we went back on the Buda side to visit what is known as the “Castle Area”. There is an older part of the town there and we strolled around for a while, enjoying the shops and other aspects of the place. We didn’t get to go to the Presidential Palace during the tour, but we had seen it every day from the outside, so that wasn’t a total loss. We wound up the tour and Christina dropped us off back at the hotel a little after 6. Quint had the boat lined up for 7, but suggested we back it up to 7:30 which suited all of us fine. That gave us a bit of down time in our rooms.
We met back in the lobby at 7:30 to meet up with our guide for the boat, a young girl named Georgina. She escorted us a couple of blocks down to where there was a “boat restaurant”….a boat that was permanently docked on the Danube that had been made into a restaurant/museum, and there our smaller boat….an inboard cruiser that could accommodate 5 people…met us. Caroline had bought us a bottle of white wine to enjoy on our adventure…..and we all climbed in and floated out into the river. It was a fun ride…but as the inboard engine was quite loud….especially when our “driver” gunned it up…it was difficult to hear what Georgina was telling us. We finally got him to go slower after a few requests, which made the trip more enjoyable. It was nice to hear some more history, but it was still difficult to hear her descriptions. We didn’t mind, as all we wanted to do was cruise around and enjoy the scenery. We went by Margaret Island, a large island in the middle of the Danube and went past there to an area on the outskirts of Budapest where there were some nice restaurants and folks hanging out. We didn’t stop though….making our way back down to the main part of the city getting special views of their Parliament, the Palace and other landmarks. The sun was setting as we finished up the ride and made it back to shore. Thanking our guides, we walked back to the hotel for some more down time before going out to dinner with all of us.
We all wanted to take some time to get cleaned up and re-dressed….and around 9 we met up again to go over to the Castle Area for dinner at a place called Peirot that was yet another recommendation from the concierge. When we got there Caroline said “…oh, I had passed by this place before and had wanted to go in…so this is perfect!”. Indeed we had a fine dinner in great company….recounting the events of the day and just having a grand time. That wound up yet another wonderful day….even though it was still well over 100 degrees.
Today we do a “hit and run” to Brno, Czech Republic. Quint had an early flight to Vienna where he was hiring a car and driver to take him to the show. The Entourage would fly our plane directly to Brno, do the show and then fly afterwards to Warsaw. I had given Quint Dennis Griffin’s cell phone number so he would have a contact to drive into the backstage area and he had his passes for credentials. So all was set and after settling up our tab at the Four Seasons (…remember I said this was one of the most expensive hotels in Europe…and it was proven correct!) we all gathered for the departure. It was an uneventful and routine flight into Brno, taking only about an hour. Looking down on the territory as we descended towards the Brno airport, we saw lots of agriculture and forests. Obviously this would be a provincial area and out in the countryside. Too bad we won’t get to stay here a bit and see some of it. It looked really interesting to me…anyway, we landed and were escorted by the local police into Brno and to the venue. It was not a stadium…more of a makeshift place for a concert in a large open area. But it had been put together nicely and while it was smaller than our last few shows, it looked like it would be a good one. Quint had made his way in ok, and we met in the Rattlesnake. Rose Lane was helping out in the backstage area, so Quint and I had time to talk. He gave me his thoughts on the previous show as promised, making some good points. It was not surprising to hear him say that the keyboards were way low in the mix except for two or three times when there was a feature…such as Ruby Tuesday and my solo on Honky Tonk. It’s frustrating to hear this, but I get it all the time from people that come to our gigs. He also complained that the bass was low in the mix in general, and put forth a few other specific comments. None of them were things I’ve not heard before, so no real surprises.
I got ready for the gig and said goodbye to him…promising to stay in touch. The show went fine, but perhaps a notch or two below the last few. Afterwards we were hustled off to the airport and flew on to Warsaw, arriving about 2am at the Hyatt Regency hotel. We were pretty beat up by then and had no trouble slipping away into our dreams.
7 23, 24
The accommodations at the Hyatt were ok, if not brilliant. The good news was that we had two rooms in a corner of the hotel, giving us a bit of space. The bad news was that (as is often the case in some of these hotels), the furniture in the sitting room was not terribly functional. It always amazes us to get to some of these supposedly 4 and 5 star digs and have a sofa that is either too small to lay fully out on (and thus make good use of) or that is shaped in a way that makes it uncomfortable….like bad pillows or cushions, or sharp features on the arms that disallow a reasonable position for real relaxation. And often times the tables are not what they should be, or the accompanying chairs. Or the curtains perhaps not heavy enough to keep the sunlight out of the room when you want to sleep late. Our beds and pillows also often leave something to be desired. It makes you wonder if the people that design these things ever really travel and live the kind of lives that we do. Actually, they should hire us to give them advice….we could no doubt shed some light on these matters for them! It doesn’t take a whole lot to figure most of it out, but apparently they either don’t get it or don’t care. In any case, this was perhaps not one of the worst offending rooms that we’ve stayed in, but certainly not one of the better thought out either.
We got up around 10:30 and I made coffee. Rose Lane was up just a little bit after I was and joined me in the sitting room. We did the usual for a while…emails and watching the news. Then we decided to go out and explore some. We were in Warsaw back in ‘98 on the “…Babylon” tour and we had Ashley with us at the time. We didn’t play in the city that time….but stayed here to play in Katowice, a couple of hours away. We remembered going to the old town which we liked…and decided we’d start by going there. Of course Warsaw is one of the cities that has been bombed and otherwise destroyed several times throughout it’s history….and even though the call the area “Old Town”, it has been largely rebuilt to recreate the original look.
Still, they have done quite a good job of it, and it has a wonderful look and vibe to it. In the center is a very large square with lots of shops and restaurants. The streets are all stone, and there are lots of tables with umbrellas scattered around that are part of various restaurants, so you can sit and enjoy the outdoors. We chose one of these and ordered lunch, enjoying the scene while we tried a couple of different local soups. There is a fountain in the center and a few vendors here and there…mostly selling art….and there was on guy with a big musical grinder cart all dressed up in historic garb doing his thing. We walked around and popped in and out of some of the shops….Amber jewelry is one of the things that Poland is known for, and there are many shops dedicated to that. We wound up buying a necklace for Rose Lane and a present for my sister Judy, who has a birthday in August. We recognized a restaurant that we had been to when we were here before that we liked…and took cards from it so we could try it out again during the next couple of days. It’s called ???
We piddled around for a good couple of hours, then walked out of the Old Town to a street that the concierge had told us about that had more contemporary shops. Again we popped in and out of several places, but other than a few scarves that Rose Lane bought in an Indian store, we only looked. We did stop for a cappuccino at a cafe, and eventually caught a cab back to the hotel. In the room we took some down time, reading and getting back on the computer some. Finally we called to make reservations for dinner…not in the Old City, but at a place called Belvederen which was in the big park just opposite our hotel.
The concierge gave us some sketchy directions how to walk there….and while it sounded simple, it was a bit nebulous and we wound up walking way out of the way to get there….it should have taken us about 7 minutes or so, but we walked for about 35 or 40. Anyway, we finally found it. It was a beautiful place, and we were seated in a glass extension of the main building. The food and service were very good, and the setting relaxing and soothing. The sun was setting as we dined, making it even more enjoyable. We noticed that Ronnie Wood and his group were there on the inside of the place, and no doubt they enjoyed their experience there as well.
We asked and were told the proper way to get back to the hotel, and it was a much shorter walk back! That closed out the day…
The next day was also a day off, and we took advantage to rest and not hurry anywhere. After a lazy morning I finally went out for a run in the big park across from our hotel. It started out fine, but just as I had done a week or so ago, I again strained a muscle in my left calf. I stopped as soon as I felt it, knowing that I had screwed up by trying to run before it healed up properly. But it wasn’t too bad, and I walked back to the hotel before I aggravated it any further.
Time to get back to our jobs today….a couple of days off were fine, but I think we were all ready to get back on the stage. I spent time on communications and went to the gym to do some weight work before going down to the venue. We were playing at a place called the Slizewiec Hippodrome, which is an old horse racing track. I don’t know if they still have races there or not, but it seemed that the track was somewhat kept in tact. It was a huge facility, and we only took up about a fourth or so of it, even though we were to have a very large crowd of about forty thousand or so. I had noticed in the past couple of days that the flags all around town were at half mast and wondered why. I found out when I went to do the set list with Mick. He looked at it and saw “Sympathy…” in the usual place and said…“…Oh, no one told you?”….“About what?”, I replied. He proceeded to tell me that there had been a terrible accident in the Alps of France where some 26 Polish people were killed in a bus crash. They were on some sort of holy pilgrimage….and were returning from the shrine of Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Grenoble.
Officials from Poland’s Foreign Ministry said there were 51 people on board the bus. French media was reporting that between 50-60 people were on board. So someone in authority had spoken to Michael Cohl and had requested that we not play “Sympathy…” as it had some connotations about death and they asked us to respect the period of mourning they were observing. Of course we complied and took it out of the set. It still wound up being a fairly standard offering….and while I understand Mick’s feelings that when we play these places that we never or rarely have played before we should play a lot of well known songs, I and many other members of the band are growing weary of the repetitive presentations. Anyway, we put on a good show and even though it rained a bit, no one was bothered by it.
Rosie and I dealt with the inevitable packing back at the hotel as we were leaving for St. Petersburg the next day. We had enjoyed our stay in Warsaw…it’s really a beautiful and unique city…but we also have been really looking forward to St. Petersburg. So we packed up and set our bags near the door for the morning collection and headed to bed.