A Travellerspoint blog

Frankfurt and London in a blink of an eye (Part 1)

Wild Nothing concert

Porto. Blink. Frankfurt. Blink. Porto. Blink. London. Blink. Porto.

This was how my week seemed to me. In a blink of an eye, I kept being somewhere else, discovering new cities, new places, new music, new people, new feelings. I have never lived such a week, interweaving short trips and work. Now the week passed and I am truly glad I took the impetuous decision to go see two concerts in Frankfurt and London.

Let's start with Frankfurt, where I went to see Wild Nothing, an American indie dream pop act created by Jack Tatum. I discovered this guy a couple of years ago, don't remember how and got his first album "Gemini" which was amazing to me. This year he released his second album, "Nocturne", which had very good reviews and which I also like immensely.

So last Saturday off I went to Frankfurt-Hahn on an early morning Ryanair flight. Alone, as often. I've done this flight lots of times in the past on my way to Berlin. This time, I was finally able to stay and go to Frankfurt Am Main, so I hopped on a bus that took me to the city center in almost two hours. Waiting for me would be a Chinese girl, friend of a friend, that was going to host me. So as soon as I arrived in the Hauptbanhof I was not alone anymore. Suddenly, I was walking around a new city, talking to a new and different person, feeling a mixture of different emotions. Young Cosmopolitan Adult Life 1 - Boring "Oh I'm getting old and responsible" life 0.

Later on the day we went to meet a portuguese guy and a friend of him that was visiting, that I had contacted through Couchsurfing and a Japanese girl that also wanted to come to the concert. So when we met, I realized that the friend of that guy, was a girl I knew from Porto, through common friends. A very funny and interesting coincidence, only to make me think that the world is really really small.

We had some drinks and some food before the concert and I was really feeling great and happy. Couldn't avoid to keep thinking in how fast I had changed environments and how cool that was. How lucky I felt to have the chance to break my routine, just like that.

Time went by and was time to go to the concert which was going to have place in a venue called Das Bett. I have to say I like the alternative scene in Germany (from what I know) and so Das Bett was this nice place with a cool and chilled atmosphere, stickers and posters all over, graffiti in the walls and cheap beer (and of course, one thing I had almost forgotten: the "pfand" LOL). In the middle of somewhere in Frankfurt, I was feeling at home and ready to enjoy live music.

The opening band was called Grey Television , a German band from Berlin. I didn't know them and I was really surprised and enjoyed their sound, which created the perfect mood for Wild Nothing. That and also the beers that I kept devouring to "warm up"! I was starting to enter this dreamy nostalgia about my past in Germany and all the enormous box of memories that it involves when Jack Tatum came to the stage. As soon as they started playing, I entered another world for a little bit more than an hour: the world of sweet dreamy pop, filled with a touch of naiveness. That what I like in Wild Nothing, the aesthetic of the melodies is what drives us to a beautiful imaginary world, not the lyrics, which are simple and direct. There's a kind of return to innocence feeling attached to it that charms me.

Lost in the middle of an unfamiliar crowd, in a whole different country, surrounded by a japanese and a chinese, I couldn't feel more in harmony with the world and perfectly happy. I danced freely and let the music invade me and I felt all and everything. I was ecstatic, in my own controlled and reserved way, when the concert ended and I took the chance to go to speak with Jack Tatum to congratulate him for the nice concert and also to tell him that he should consider visiting Portugal next time, as I was there on purpose just to see him. He seemed quite surprised with that and asked me if that was the closest destination. I told him that it was the best date for me and he told me that he heard nice things about Lisbon. He seemed a very down to earth guy, shy and accessible. I was glad to speak to him and left wishing him the best of luck. After all, he's just a 23 year old guy with two good albuns in his pocket making his way to success (or not)!

Later on the night we met the portuguese people again and went out to some bar/club, somewhere in the city. :)

Next day, I walked around the city with Lingli, saw the European Central Bank (in this day and age, an obligatory tourist attraction! LOL) and some nice cozy parts of the city, then we all met for dinner and that was it. If you seek for information about touristy things to do or see in Frankfurt, I'm not the right person. More and more I realize that I'm not interested in visiting all the monuments and museums and churches when I go to a new city. I prefer to feel the streets, the rush, observe the people, meet new people, talk with new people. I prefer to discover that cool hidden bar, where locals go. Or stay in someone's place, through Couchsurfing and live like a local, going to the supermarket, cooking, etc... That's how I travel and I don't imagine traveling in any other way.

Monday morning I left Frankfurt and in the afternoon I was already back to my normal reality, working in my club. Young Cosmopolitan Adult Life 1 - Boring "Oh I'm getting old and responsible" life 1.

(to be continued...Part 2 - London calling)

Posted by ZackMeursault 13:57 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Away we went. Away we are. Away we go.

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about many things to write about. Here are some of the topics:

- the aftermath of my trip to the USA;

- my move to Porto and all the positive impacts it had in my life;

- my own perception of Porto, looking back more than a decade, when I moved here as a 18 year old boy;

- the crisis in Portugal and in Europe and how that is affecting the social relations between the european countries;

- my thoughts on how we, the Portuguese, should embrace this chance to revolutionize our way of living and our position in the world, while establishing our own identity based on our strong and influential heritage;

- babble about love and life and happiness and beauty and all that emotional paraphernalia that surrounds my life;

However, it seems that lately I am too lazy to write or maybe I'm just too busy living life instead of reflecting about it. Over the years, I noticed that I'm more prolific when I'm sad or when I feel that something is missing. On the other hand, when I'm happy I don't tend to write about it, to immortalize feelings and visions and thoughts and all through words. Those moments of happiness stay in my memory and become part of me, but I would like to make something bodily out of it. Because it's good to look back and revive both sadness and happiness, peacefulness and uneasiness, smiles and tears...

So why am I writing today?

Yesterday, I saw for the second time the movie "Away We Go", a 2009 movie from Sam Mendes. When I watched it for the first time, a couple of years ago, this movie represented a demonstration of how true love could overcome everything. Now, my life is totally different and yet, watching the movie last night was equally inspiring and reminded me to set my priorities straight and never stop reaching for the sky.

I seriously recommend the film and also the soundtrack, which is mostly from Alexi Murdoch. I leave you with one of my favourites, promising (to the few people that actually might read whatever I have to say) that I will do my best to register as much of my life as I can.

Posted by ZackMeursault 08:19 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

August 17 to 23 - San Francisco. The mecca of the beats.

Vesuvio Cafe. City Lights Bookstore. Kerouac. Golden Gate Bridge. Divisadero. Amoeba.

These are two entries I wrote in my small notebook while sitting in the historical Vesuvio Cafe, in San Francisco and decided to post now, together with some pictures of my stay in San Fran.

"20.08.2012

As always, I almost missed important things in my trip. If I wouldn't have commented with Jenny that I love Jack Kerouac, she would never have told me to go visit the City Lights Bookstore and the neighbour Vesuvio Cafe, iconic place to the Beat Generation. Luckly, here I am now, enjoying a beer, where some of my idols used to spend time, 50 years ago.

I'm in the final stretch of my trip. I'm also for the first time totally alone and ready for the last 9 days of my trip. I feel something I can't describe. I don't know if it's tiredness, if I miss my normal life, if it's that sadness for knowing that the end of this adventure is near and to know that I lived unimaginable, unforgettable things, maybe able to change my life forever. I hope I will never forget all the fantastic people that I've met. I feel like my memory is flooded with names and moments, so I can only see a smoke curtain, all blended in a difuse amalgam. However, I believe that over time I'll be able to distinguish the people and the moments.

I feel like I want to live several lives at the same time. But I also feel like I end up choosing the easiest of ways, which is to stay in Portugal. Well, always the same complications.

I will just drink some more beers and enjoy the feeling of being tipsy during the day!

22.08.2012

I can't help but feel a vastness of feelings all together, creating a perfect canvas, filled with colors and love.

Today I wondered around the coastal area of San Francisco, riding a bike. I felt like the Pedro of 20 years ago, pedaling around the streets of Souto, going to visit my grandmother or my great aunt. Today, San Francisco was my "village", as I felt so good here, in perfect harmony with people and space around me.

I hope I won't forget the epic return from Sausalito, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in the middle of a deep misty weather and strong winds. All I felt was an unbearable sensation of pure freedom, while listening to epic songs on my ipod. The fact I spent the day alone and with my ipod always blasting music made my day much more special.

Now I'm back to Vesuvio. I keep being drawn to this place and I feel incredibly comfortable here. Maybe it's because of Kerouac represents to me. An idealism, an innocence, a constant search for the "béau" and intense, but fleeting pleasure.

The end of the trip is near. I'm going to spend the next days alone, alone. I look forward to it. I feel like this trip has filled my heart with love and compassion."

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Posted by ZackMeursault 05:09 Comments (0)

July 26th to August 1st 2012 - Chicago

Damen. The 'L'. Skyline. Lake Michigan. Friends. Wicker Park Fest. Music. Heaven on Seaven.

"Chi-town". "Windy City". Home of the Chicago Bulls. Blues. Hometown of my favourite band of all time, The Smashing Pumpkins. These were roughly the very few things I knew about Chicago when I arrived there, on a very early flight coming from Washington D.C., on a foggy thursday morning, July 26th 2012.

Months passed and now Chicago is in my memories as this heavenly place, full of smiles, happiness, good moments, good people. As I write these words, I see myself riding the 'L' (urban train but elevated), on the Blue Line going back home at dusk, sitting alone with my music and feeling the last rays of sun in my face. In that moment, I was so overwhelmed and feeling so happy, so connected with the world around me, watching the beautiful neighborhoods with Victorian-era houses, passing in the window and hearing the voice on the speaker announcing the stops, which sounded almost mythical: Division, Damen, Western, California, Logan Square... The way back home was long but I couldn't care less! I WAS IN CHICAGOOOO and it felt like I was part of a movie! Little did I know, while experiencing all these feelings at once, that this friday would represent the beginning of a change in my trip. So far, the trip was being amazing. From that day on, the trip became unforgettable, magical, unique and filled with moments that will be a part of me till the end of my time on earth.

I met wonderful people in Chicago. People that I call friends and that I miss in my daily life. Guido, this German guy living in Switzerland and working in the city for a few months was the first one I've met and one that I got along very well from the very first second. He took me for lunch in downtown, to a place called Heaven on Seven, a New Orleans style restaurant, but on the 7th floor of a huge modern skyscrapper. Food was delicious and after he showed me around: Millennium Park, the beautiful Lake Michigan and finally we took a water taxi through the Chicago River, that runs along the city and it was impressive to ride a boat in the middle of such a huge city, with enormous buildings standing almost at my side. I recall this boat trip with a smile, as we found this beautiful blonde women sitting in front of us and I remember to be completely astonished by her beauty and such peaceful look. But back to reality. Guido was this intelligent and crazy guy, speaking his mind without any blocking and always ready to drink and have fun, despite having a serious and somehow demanding job. He had his doubts about life, but he was quite practical about it and I admired that in him. Or I can talk about Manny, this friendly but ambitious Guatemalan guy making his way through the success ladder. We had enless talks and although quite different, we found a common approach to life and bonded quite well.

Oh, and there's Aldi, this full of life Bosnian girl, that drove me around Chicago's downtown at night. The empty streets coloured with the traffic lights, the illuminated skyline, with thousands of lights sparkling in each little office room of those gigantic buildings. The feeling of freedom driving along the Lake Shore Drive. And then, laying down on the ground near the Lake, with the John Hancock Tower shinning above everything else in the horizon and looking to the stars while thinking of the future. Few days from then, I would be renting a car and head west, towards the unkown. Only people that have been in such situation know this feeling. Inquietude mixed with desire and excitment. All this shared with Aldi, an easy smiling girl and with an inspiring positive attitude towards life! I'm glad to have met her, while hanging out with Guido, Manny and other Couchsurfers in some sleazy karaoke place owned by Polish or Ukrainian emigrants on what ended up being an epic night (where I learned the wrong way how difficult it is to sing Beck's song "Loser"!!!!)

Chicago is the city of music. During summer there are music festivals in every corner. I was lucky enough to be there while Wicker Park Fest happened, so for an afternoon, I could feel the vibrant atmosphere of one of the coolest areas in Chicago. Although I'm not a true hipster and despize the "hipstermania" that is spreading everywhere, I think I could live in Wicker Park. Such a beautiful neighborhood, full of red brick houses and cool places to hang out, records stores, bookshops, cozy cafes. On such a beautiful summer day, the streets were packed with youngsters, dividing their attentions between 3 stages and walking past food stands or handcrafted things. Mélody wanted to see this band called Exitmusic and that was one of the best things she could have said. Another image in my head: end of day orange sun rays reflecting on the red brick houses, loud guitars and a beautiful dark haired woman shouting her soul out to the song "Passage". "Hold back the curse of life / Hold back the curse of life / You're so incredible but why can't I touch you / Hold back the pain of life". That was one of those epiphany moments where I felt all and nothing, empty and overwhelmed, extremely happy and terribly sad, all at the same time. Just beautiful.

Chicago was the "energy bar" that I needed to start the road trip west. I fell in love with the city and to make this "love story" perfect it was the city where I spent my last night in the USA, on the rooftop of a hostel near Damen, drinking beer and sharing stories with other travellers.
When I went to bed, around 3am, I thought: Fuck, it's over. Luckly I was too inebriated so I fell asleep like a stone.

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Posted by ZackMeursault 07:20 Comments (0)

August 6th 2012 - a trip into beauty

Montrose, Million Dollar Highway, Four Corners, Monument Valley and Grand Canyon.

Throughout our lives, some days are meant to become unforgettable. To me, August 6th 2012 is one of those days. It started like most of my days in the trip, waking up early in some small town called Montrose, in Colorado, with a little more than 15000 inhabitants. There's only two things I recall from this city: the modern, clean and comfortable Super 8 Motel, managed by a guy called Guy (a very cool and charming french man in his 50's) and the fact that US 550, the famous Million Dollar Highway starts (or ends) precisely there.

It was a nice and sunny morning. After having a very nice continental breakfast and doing my laundry in the motel, Mélody and I started our drive. Our first objective was to drive the US 550 to Durango, take the US 160 towards Cortez and stop by the Four Corners, drive back a few miles to catch US 162, heading north and entering in Utah to Bluff and then head south along US 163, towards the mindblowing Monument Valley. We were planning to watch the sunset there, sleep in the car and be dazzled with the sunrise next morning!

The first miles towards Ouray were mostly flat and easy to drive. I remember I was making videos explaning to future me what we were going to do that day. Somehow I sensed that day was going to be epic. Mélody was on the wheel and at some point, I jumped to the back seat to be able to take pictures from both sides of the car.

Ouray is a cozy little town, surrounded by three steep mountains. It marks also the beggining of the famous stretch of the US 550, called Million Dollar Highway. All this area and towns were establish originally by silver and gold miners. As soon as we drove by this town, the road starts to go up the mountains and that's when the magic starts. The two lane road is narrow and swirls around the mountains, offering a mixture of feelings. In one hand I was delighted with the natural scenery, on the other I thought I was going to die that day, as we were driving side by side with incredibly steep cliffs. For 25 miles, I was amazed constantly, feeling overwhelmed by so much beauty around me. I was listening to my ipod and I remember that at some point, "Mogwai Fear Satan", a 15 minute epic song by the scottish post rock band Mogwai, played and I felt all and everything that is possible to feel. Truly memorable.

We passed through Silverton (I love this name for a town) and then headed to Durango, where we arrived at lunch time. I'm sad we didn't spend more time in Durango, it seemed like a really nice town. Durango will also be reminded as the place where I turned on my portuguese phone and received a text message sent on the previous day by Violet, congratulating me for my birthday and wishing me a good trip. After months and months with no contact between us, I remember that all I felt was inner peace. Such a good feeling to have in such a wonderful day.

After Durango, the landscape started to change from mountains, green trees and red rocks to endless desert plains with nothing around but arid rocks. Miles and miles of it, that we drove along the straight blacktop roads. At some point we stop to take some pictures and one thing I'll never forget was the silence and the void. We could see cars approaching us, as we were stopped by the side of the road, but we wouldn't be able to hear it until they would be quite close to us. And it was quite hot.

Next stop was this landmark called Four Corners. Basically, it's the junction point between 4 US states: Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico and it's the only place in the US where that happens. It's run by the Navajo Nation and we had to pay like 3dollars to go and see the exact point where the intersection is. Didn't change my life, but now I can say I was there once. Highlight of it was laughing at the turists taking pictures to it, standing with each leg and each arm in each of the 4 states.

Time was flying, sun was going down, so we drove as fast as we could towards Monument Valley, stopping in Bluff only for a drink and I also took the chance to buy a mexican hat, which made me look kind of ridiculous, but who cares? :)

I was pretty ecstatic at this point, feeling I was close to an amazing view and reaching one of the guiding objectives for this trip. The landscape started to look like what I had previously seen about that region, arid but with red rocks and red sand, plus some green small bushes. And suddenly, there it was, the impressive, the outstanding, the unimaginable sight of Monument Valley. And yes, the best view is when you approach it by North, so you see the rock formation down in the landscape and you drive along the two lane road towards it.
We stopped near some bikers that were taking pictures. As soon as I heard them speaking, I recognized the language. They were brazilians, so I engaged in a conversation with some of them. They were a big group of guys that were traveling by motorcycle across that region for a couple of weeks or so. They had seen the sunrise that day in Grand Canyon and drove all the way here. They also told me that all the little towns around were booked. In Bluff, someone also told me that maybe sleeping in the car wouldn't be so safe. So I told that to the brazilians and they told me to think in driving some more hours to Grand Canyon, sleep in the car and be there for the sunrise!

We had been in the car for more than 10h that day already, but I was feeling so restless and full of energy. I wanted to absorb more, I was overwhelmed. So I spoke with Mélody about that new plan and she agreed. We stayed there for some time, taking pictures, enjoying the view and I put the song Mayonaise, from Smashing Pumpkins, playing in the car. That song has been a guiding light in the past 15 years. And the lyrics are deep and heartfelt, perceived by me as a kind of liberating scream coming straight from the soul, about a man with a feeling that he doesn't belong, wanting to run away, to go and chase his dreams, but still looking back to the past and feeling some kind of sorrow and sadness. Society sees that man as a fool, but he doesn't give up ("when your life is so so dreary, dream") and he shouts out loud that he just wants to be himself ("can anybody hear me, I just want to be me, when I can, I will"). Obviously, this song is quite inspirational to me as I keep following my path, making my own decisions, sometimes against family or friends, but never giving up believing in me and in what I want.

Pseudo-deep thoughts aside, the end of the day in this area was marvelous. There were some clouds, but that helped creating incredible light for the pictures. Heading to Kayenta at dusk, drinking beer in the passenger seat, listening to great music ( the ambience songs from M83), fitting the atmosphere was just perfect.

In Kayenta we took US 160 towards Grand Canyon. I started to feel tired and sleepy (beer effect!!!), so luckly Mélody was doing most of the driving. Then at some point we switched and I drove the last stretch till Grand Canyon. I remember when we saw the sign to the right saying Grand Canyon. it was pitch dark all over, and I felt curious with the unknown yet a little bit concerned with the fact that we were isolated in the middle of nowhere and we didn't even know how was the landscape around us. I didn't know if I was driving near steep cliffs or vast plains (the day after, while returning, we could see that in some parts the view of the Canyon was breathtaking). Like the brazilians told me, there was no one at the entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park, so we entered the park for free (saved 25dl) and started trying to find a place to sleep. The moon was out and the sky seemed clear so as soon as I could, I parked the car in some view point of the canyon and got off. Once again, absolute silence and the moon enlighting the canyon. I wished I would be with someone in the same wave lenght, able to feel the intensity of such moment.

So we left and drove a bit more to the visitor center area, with most of the parking lots and where there were some cars already, probably doing the same as us, sleeping in the car to see the sunrise. So I parked, we reclined the seats and finally slept. It was around 2am and I set the alarm to 5.30am (fun story: we didn't even realized that the time zone was different there, so I put the alarm one hour too soon!!!). As soon as I felt the day getting brighter, I left the car and went to the Mather Point. Lots of people were doing the same, but all in silence, all kind of respecting the night and the grandiosity of the moment. Another day was about to born, a new start, a new beginning, renewed hopes and dreams. I remember to think, while observing the people around, that everyone, even shitty people, are drawn to the beauty of a sunrise or a sunset. That's how powerful and beautiful nature is. In that moment, I didn't think in nationalities, in differences, in hate. I thought that we were all the same kind, all uniting for a moment of beauty, all in silence, all taking a moment to reflect in their own lives. To me, that was an opportunity to reflect, to process all that I've lived in the previous hours and also a moment to analyze the last weeks and prepare and gain new energy for the weeks ahead.

Slowly, the sun started going up the canyon, as the sky was filled with different colors. It was beautiful and unforgettable. As soon I felt the first rays in my face, I closed my eyes and once again, felt happy. The last 24h had been some of the most amazing hours of my life.

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Posted by ZackMeursault 08:31 Comments (2)

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