August 8 -14: The Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, & Germany

Since I joined Barrage three summers ago, the best tour I’ve been on was the one we did this past August in Europe. I say this not only because of the places we went (after all Guatemala, Taiwan, and Hawaii were certainly exciting places), but because of overall stress levels and the activities that we squeezed into the time we had. Let me explain:

The tour started off in Amsterdam, but before we get there, I just have to recount the hellish trip I had to get over there. The group was all joining up at JFK airport to fly to Amsterdam together, but we were all coming from our respective homes, and thus I was starting in Williamsport. Rather than have me drive the 4½ hours to JFK from home, management had very kindly booked me flights to get there; however, in an ironic twist, the three flights from Williamsport to Philly, Philly to Rochester, and Rochester to JFK were actually going to end up more than doubling the travel time required to get from the Port to JFK. The situation worsened during the flight from Philly to Rochester when the pilot came on the PA to tell us that due to weather in Rochester, we were going to have to circle for a little bit, but didn’t have enough fuel to do that so we were going to land in Albany to refuel and then hopefully take off quickly. So, we landed in Albany and after sitting on the runway for about 15 minutes, the head flight attendant came on and told us that actually, we weren’t going to be taking back off and that there was going to be a bus coming to take us to JFK. Now, the flight from JFK to Amsterdam was taking off at 8:50 pm, the bus ride was approximately 4 hours, and it was already after 4 pm when I found all this out.

Needless to say, I was quite stressed and spent the next 30 minutes impatiently waiting for the bus and talking with many different airline representatives unsuccessfully trying to get them to re-book me. Finally the bus arrived, everyone got on, and we started driving. A few really self-centered people were trying to get the bus driver to drive by their houses to just drop them at home, but luckily he refused them (which thoroughly pissed them off). (I also have to mention that my phone was almost completely out of battery by this point, so I was barely able to stay in contact with anyone to let them know where I was). We got within 20 minutes of JFK and of course hit traffic. Had it not been for the traffic, I would’ve made my flight, but thanks to New York traffic, I arrived at the airport 20 minutes after my flight had taken off.

After standing in line to get a new flight over to Amsterdam, I was re-booked on a different airline for about 50 minutes late. I had to drag my bags and gear over to another terminal, at which point I found out that the airline representative who had re-booked me had put me as standby on the Paris to Amsterdam flight. Ugh. So, I flew over to Paris at which point I had to wait until 5 minutes before the flight left before finding out if I was on the flight – I was. And then I arrived in Amsterdam, about 5 hours after everyone else, but at least I made it! As I was rolling up to the hotel in the suburb of Amsterdam, called Alkmaar, the rest of the group was meeting to go get dinner, so I quickly dropped my stuff in the room, and then went back out to join them for dinner.

The following day we played our show in Alkmaar, and it was really well received. The stage actually folded out of the trailer part of an 18 wheeler, and they had flown the sound system in from another country. We performed in this little town’s central square in front of an old church, and the crowd was really into it. We had a great time performing there, and the word right now is that next January Barrage will be doing a full tour of The Netherlands and Belgium because this specific show went over so well. I almost wrote “Cool,” but I’m thinking it’ll actually be rather “Cold” (bah dum ching!)

The stage we performed on
The stage we performed on
The stage, folded back up into the truck
The stage, folded back up into the truck

That night, after the show, we rode the train into Amsterdam and took our own little tour. Sadly, the Anne Frank house was closed because we got there late, but there were plenty of other interesting parts that were most definitely open. It was quite the experience, and happily, we all made it home that night.

The weird van we rode in the entire European tour
The weird van we rode in the entire European tour
A cool highway in Germany lined with trees
A cool highway in Germany lined with trees

The Performers' HouseThe next day we left for another stint in Denmark, where this time we spent all eight days in Silkeborg, performing and doing rehearsals to finish training Taylor and Annette into the show. We were staying at a place called the Performers’ House, a school focused mostly on the performing arts, though, of course, it teaches all the core subjects as well. It was actually a great place to stay, except for the spiders. Those damn spiders – they were everywhere. It was quite literally the most spiders I have ever seen in one place. I HATE SPIDERS. I think they were there mostly because the pattern on the outside of the building was perfect for them: lots of small holes (think of the holes in Swiss cheese) which were perfectly sized for spider webs. Luckily, the weather was not hot so we didn’t have to open the windows at night; unfortunately, spiders still got in. (Pardon the rude interruption: I have to note that I am writing this part of my blog while I am in Silkeborg … again … 6 months after what I’m writing about. Talk about deja-vu: we’re staying in a hotel right next to the Performers’ House. You’ll know why we are back here when I get to the blog about Barrage’s Christmas tour with Stig Rossen)

Stig Rossen giving a concert on the same stage upon which we performed in Silkeborg, DenmarkDuring this time, we did four thirty minute performances as the opening act on a huge outdoor stage that had been built over a traffic circle on the edge of the water as part of the Silkeborg Ildfestregatta (Fire Festival Regatta – http://www.ildregatta.dk/). On the last day of the festival, we opened for Stig Rossen, the man who we’re doing the Christmas tour with in December. He came up early to rehearse with us, and the tunes sounded great. For those of you who don’t know him (basically anyone outside of Denmark), he’s one of the most famous people in Denmark – actor, performer, singer. He’s probably best known for his thousands of performances as Jean Valjean from the musical “Les Misérables.”

That same night, we went out to celebrate Tim’s birthday and found an awesome restaurant right next to the school (which was also located right next to the restaurant where we ate during the final game of the World Cup – when that French guy head butted the other guy – the first time I was in Silkeborg during my first summer in Barrage). Oh, and Matt’s mom was also with us for a few days, and came out to dinner. We had a great time, and then went over to the big lake bordering the town to watch the huge fireworks display celebrating the end of the regatta. Post-fireworks, we went to bar in a large tent – it travels to different festivals and carnivals around Denmark – and had a great time finishing our night there.

This was my third time in Denmark in as many summers, a fact that is due to our Danish agent, John Christophersen, liking us so much. He is the biggest talent agent in Denmark, and is responsible for bringing acts such as D.A.D. (Disneyland After Dark), Tower of Power, and Britney Spears. He lives in Silkeborg, so one night during our stint there, he had us over to his house for a BBQ. He also invited a friend of his who is the chef at a great restaurant in Silkeborg, and this friend cooked all the food at the BBQ. There was far too much food, and it was all so good! We stayed at his house quite late, enjoying the food and drinks.

John Christophersen himself
John Christophersen himself
Enjoying the party
Everyone enjoying John’s party

The hotel at which we were guests for a wonderful dessert breakThe following day, we set up our rehearsal room at the school for an impromptu photo shoot. We had a great time, and so far, I haven’t seen any of the pictures from it … hopefully I will someday! We interrupted the photo shoot to go for a dessert break at the restaurant/hotel of the guy who cooked for us the night before. Turns out that the restaurant holds a lot of history for the area and Denmark because during World War II, the leader of the Danish underground resistance was shot by the Nazis while eating lunch there.

After our days in Denmark, it was time to move on to southern Europe. Our first day of driving took us to our hotel in Speyer, Germany. The town of Speyer is known for its huge cathedral, and so, the following day, before leaving to complete our journey, we decided to hang out in town for a little while to see the sights. Matt and Alicia went to see a historical display about Samurai in an old castle-type building, while Tim, Kristina, Taylor, and myself went for lunch and then to see the cathedral. We found a great little restaurant and sat at a table along the street with a view down the street that ended with the facade of the cathedral – not a bad way to dine. We realized that if Matt and Alicia wanted to join us, they wouldn’t know where to look, so, having no cell phones, I offered to go tell them. I went back to where the Samurai exhibit was, walked into the building past the front desk from behind which a woman smiled at me, then smiled and said hello as I walked past the security guard at the entrance to the actual exhibit, and then proceeded to walk quickly through the entire exhibit not stopping until I had found Matt and Alicia. When I found them, they were quite surprised that I had paid to enter the exhibit just to tell them where we were eating … even more surprised were they to find out that I hadn’t paid at all! Whoops – I really didn’t know it was a pay-to-enter exhibit, so luckily it’s true that if you walk with a purpose, not even security will stop you!

Outside of the building where the Samurai exhibit was located
Outside of the building where the Samurai exhibit was located
The Speyer Cathedral facade at night
The Speyer Cathedral facade at night
The Cathedral spires rising above the trees
The Cathedral spires rising above the trees
The Cathedral's facade during the day
The Cathedral’s facade during the day
Inside the Cathedral
Inside the Cathedral
Looking from the restaurant where we ate to the Cathedral
Looking from the restaurant where we ate to the Cathedral

After a lunch of spaghetti bolognese, we went to the Cathedral, a stunning building, and one of many we would explore during the rest of the tour. Then, it was off to Chamonix, France, where the first of our Celtic festival shows was to take place. On the way, we went through Switzerland, where the van I was in took a pit stop in Gruyères – the place where the cheese of the same name comes from! We sampled the cheese at the stop, and then took a really gorgeous walk down to a pristine lake surrounded by green fields, a quaint town, and our first glimpses of the Alps.

Driving along
Driving along
The cheese line-up at the rest stop in Gruyere
The cheese line-up at the rest stop in GruyPre
The view from the rest stop in Gruyere
The view from the rest stop in GruyPre. Definitely the prettiest rest stop I’ve ever been to in my life
The lush grass on the walk down to the lake
The lush grass on the walk down to the lake
The lake!
One of the most beautiful and serene places I’ve ever been: the lake in GruyPre
So steep!
This picture is here just to show how steep the climb back from the lake to the rest stop actually was (sorry for ending that sentence with a prepositional phrase)
Italian vineyards
The first Italian vineyards we saw!
It's me at an overlook in Italy
It’s me at a quick overlook stop in Italy toward the end of our drive to Chamonix, France

The France and Italy/Celtic blog will be the next post … coming soon (haha, who am I kidding – I don’t update this thing NEARLY enough anymore).

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