Our bus arrived in Burgos shortly after 2 in the afternoon. Although we were tired from getting up as early as we did, the ride was gorgeous through the mountains...brown sun-scorched hills with green irrigated fields and vineyards climbing all but the steepest portions. As we pulled into the bus station, we saw Michael and Patrick walking down the street, and followed them to our hotel.
The rest of our group that came from Barcelona all rented cars and arrived later in the day. The group that traveled with the bus through Italy and France however apparently had a wonderful time. The bus took the scenic route along the south of the Alps and then along the Riviera, where they spent their first night eating dinner right on the water. Unfortunately, one of the trucks was broken into that night, a lot of the personal effects of the crew were stolen as well as the drum kit used in the show (most of the drums were rented for the tour, but Todd also lost his cymbals and some of his bells, which were very expensive..I believe that he has been reimbursed for them at this point).
Burgos itself was a pleasant surprise for us...the outskirts of the town look ugly, modern and dirty. However, the city center is gorgeous. Built on the steep banks of a river, the town is watched over by a fortress on the top of the hill. The city gates are beautifully restored, and the cathedral is in the process of restoration now, with the outside freshly sandblasted, and interior work nearly completed. I had stopped going to most of the cathedrals in Germany because at a certain point they all began to look alike. The Spanish style is as lavish as any of the baroque cathedrals in Germany, but completely different.
The theater itself was also beautifully restored, and situated on the lushly planted promenade along the river. The house had three levels above the orchestra section, and all were completely sold out. The backstage area was large and modern. This would be our first taste of our performances in Spain and all have held true to this model. Our Spanish promoter (working independently from the idiot that handled our show in the rest of Europe) had booked our show fully and sold out every theater that we played.
The next day was a day of rest for me, to catch up on the sleep that I didn't get in Barcelona, and I only emerged from my room in time to get a quick bite for lunch with Patrick Bodd and Jamie and a walk along the river before the bus call that would take us up to a suburb of Bilbao for that evening's performance. (It was decided that it would be easier on us to let us sleep in rather than get up in the morning and change hotels for only an hour and a half travel distance). On the way, we passed through the mountains into the Basque country, which looks completely different from the rest of Spain...instead of the dry, semi-desert landscape, it was green and overgrown with vegetation, like the difference between Southern California and Oregon. As we drove through Bilbao, I was able to get a glimpse of the newly built Guggenheim museum along the river, Frank Gehry's architectural masterpiece, which I was happy about, though no one else on the bus seemed to care.
The next morning we loaded onto the bus for our drive to the outskirts of Madrid. About half way there, we were stopped by the police for erratic driving (which we had all been nervously noticing for weeks) who wanted to make sure that our bus driver had not gone over his allowed driving time for the day (He hadn't). Our driver gained a new nickname however, Swervin' Ervin.
That day, we got another taste of what would be another constant of our time in Spain: the bus getting lost. We first arrived in the wrong city. The only people on the bus who speak Spanish are two of the cast members, Christine Negherbon and Peter Humer. After asking directions to our hotel and receiving much gesturing and puzzled looks in return, we went backtracked for 45 minutes into the right city, where we promptly got lost again. Our hotel that night was on the campus of a university, and once we found it and checked in 2 hours later than planned, it was nearly time to leave for the theater. We then drove around the university (the wrong one) for half an hour before finally finding the theater in the next suburb over. None of us had eaten that day, but fortunately for us, there was a McDonalds in the shopping mall attached to the theater so we were able to grab some food after soundcheck. On the way home, we got lost leaving the city, and took nearly a hour to travel the 5 miles between the theater and the hotel.
Before we left the show that night, we were each handed envelopes with a new contract rider, stating that we would each be paid for the full balance of 120 shows, with a third of the unperformed shows being paid on each of the last three weeks. That made us all happier, and indicated that at least that part of our difficulties with this tour were over.
It was Saturday night, and I had planned on going into Madrid that night, but by the time we finally made it back to our hotel I was too irritable to go out, and so was everyone else that planned on going with me. David Calloway however did go out to a club recommended by some of our audience members that were waiting by the stage door. At the club, he wasn't allowed in because of his shoes (black work boots) and just at the moment he was turned away, he ran into a group of American basketball players, who invited him to join them for the evening, where they went to a different nightclub and traveled around the city in their limousine..he arrived back at the hotel with just enough time to repack his suitcases and get on the bus.
We left Madrid around 10, and at 11:00 our driver spotted one of our truck drivers walking along the side of the road. We stopped, and discovered that Enrico had had an accident around 6:00 that morning, and had just regained consciousness and was walking back along the highway to look for help. He seemed unharmed, but very much in shock. We called our stage manager, who had no idea that there was a problem, he just knew that the truck wasn't there for load-in at 10. What angered us all was that the trucks, which should travel in tandem (and have on every other tour) were not together, and no one had any idea that there might be a problem until almost 5 hours later, when we just happened to spot him walking along the side of the highway.
Again, Peter and Christine went to the hospital with Enrico, who turned out to be fine, just in extreme shock. About half a mile further up the road, we passed our truck in a ditch, and at the next exit we got off the highway so our company manager could wait to figure out the next step, and wait for our cast members to return from the hospital. Our other truck driver got back on the road, to drive the 3 hours back from Alicante to pick up the set. Once the trailer was dragged out of the ditch, he was able to attach his cab to it, and drive the whole thing back to the theater. Our show was delayed for 45 minutes, but our crew was able to load the whole set onto the stage in an hour and a half, (the lights and sound equipment, the most time consuming portion of the load-in had arrived on time that morning). Once started, however, the show went flawlessly, and after the show our producer, Wolfgang and the Spanish promoter offered a champagne toast backstage to thank the cast and crew for their extra effort that day to make sure the show got up in time. Wolfgang also offered a toast that the bad luck of the tour would come to an end for the rest of our time in Spain.
That day we had gotten lost trying to find the hotel in Alicante, going in circles around the city until one of the band members who had stayed there on a previous tour went up to the front and gave directions. Our show was just outside Alicante in Villena, and we did manage to find the theater in a timely manner, but leaving for Alicante again, it took us nearly an hour to find the highway again, and involved the bus getting stuck going the wrong way down one-way streets too narrow for the bus.
The cast was split into two hotels, one of which was entirely unsatisfactory (a mile inland, dirty and directly across the street from "SexyLand Video Arcade") and the hotel where I was in, where my room had only one window (in the bathroom) that looked out on the elevator shaft. The main room itself was tiny, dark, hot, and claustrophobic, so I went to the front desk to exchange rooms and was told that I would have to spend one night in that room, but in the morning another large group was checking out. The next day, I was able to switch to a room with a window (my only request) and was given a much more spacious room with a balcony overlooking the wide avenue and with a glimpse of the Mediterranean sea off to one side. Everyone who was in the other hotel was moved to a cleaner hotel right on the beach, and those in our hotel with windowless rooms were moved to more suitable rooms. We had never complained about our hotels before (and most have been good to excellent for the whole tour) so when we did complain, our company manager along with us, the problem was resolved quickly.
Monday was a day of rest for us all, and a much needed break from the bus. I woke around noon, and walked around the city a little.. The weather had turned unseasonably cold and rainy, so I did a little shopping for necessities before returning to my hotel to nap. It always surprises me how much I sleep when we have days off, because I usually get at least 7 hours a night and then sleep again on the bus during the day, but apparently my body needs the break. After my nap it had at least stopped raining, and I met up with BA, Rob, Brad and Tim to try to find dinner. There is built up and recently redone marina, but we wanted to find a restaurant that had a little more of a 'local' feel, so we walked up into the hilly narrow streets of the old city. It was Monday night and many restaurants were closed, and after walking for nearly half an hour, Brad asked someone on the street where we could find a good Paella place, and he pointed at a dingy looking restaurant about a block away.
It didn't look like much, but since it was recommended to us, we thought we'd give it a try. That was our first mistake. I'm not sure what told me I shouldn't be eating there, the fluorescent lighting, the ancient TV set above the table, or the stray cats that crossed the street to not pass too close. I asked for the gazpacho soup and the grilled tuna, neither of which they had. The waiter said that there was tuna, just prepared a different way, so I asked for that, and was served several chunks of cold canned tuna with a glob of mayonnaise on the side. Rob and Tim tried the Paella, which seemed leftover from the day before. BA and Brad were braver and tried the shellfish, and so far they haven't come down with hepatitis, which seems fortunate. About halfway through or meal another customer wandered down the stairs from the restrooms where apparently he had forgotten to open his fly before using the facilities.
We left as quickly as possible, still somewhat hungry, and found the bar where we had agreed to meet the rest of the cast, and heard stories of all the wonderful dinners they had all had. A quick visit to Burger King did the trick for me, and almost the entire cast spent the evening out on the marina bar and disco hopping...I didn't fall asleep until after 6 in the morning.
The next day was also a little too cool and windy for the beach, but at least sunny. Enrico was much better, although we were told that he would be leaving the tour (sad for all of us, because we liked him so much). Apparently he had fallen asleep at the wheel that morning, and his company was replacing him. Unlike in the United States, the truck drivers are not free to sleep during the day, but drive all night, load out, catch what sleep they can before running the spotlights during the show, then load out and drive all night again...A schedule that just invites disaster. His replacement was supposed to drive down from Germany that night (the same replacement that had driven the truck down a flight of stairs when Enrico was out with pneumonia) but was arrested for extreme speed in France and was spending the night in jail. Fortunately, that night, our theater was only 2 blocks from the hotel. After the show, Rob and I grabbed a sandwich and then we and Brad invited our company manager for a drink...he had only been with us for 10 days or so, but every day a new crisis had arisen.
On Wednesday, BA, Tim, Rob and I went out to the harbor to have a good Spanish lunch to make up for our failure the two days before (On the second day, we tried to eat lunch at 4, but it was siesta time and none of the restaurants would reopen until 8 that night), and finally our efforts were rewarded...an excellent lunch in the sun overlooking the boats, with a truly flavorful Paella that Tim and I split, and a charming and witty waiter who spoke English very well. Christine Negherbon wandered out onto the pier after attempting the beach and freezing and joined us for dessert and coffee. When we left, she stayed on the water to read for a while in the sun.
The other truck driver had still not arrived from France the next day, so Enrico again had to drive the truck to the theater in Elce (where we had one of the most beautiful theaters that I have ever had the privilege of playing in). But came back with us on the bus, since his airplane was leaving at noon the next day. Almost the entire cast went out that night with Enrico to say goodbye, first at a Cuban restaurant, and shifting to the Irish pub out on the marina around three in the morning, where a very serious dart competition started, won by Jan. Around 5 and several gin&tonics later, Rob, Enrico and I left to find the 24 hour Paella & Pizza restaurant to line our stomachs with some food before we went back to our various hotels to sleep...as we said goodbye to Enrico, the sky began to get lighter, and it was again after 6 by the time I finally crawled into my bed.
Thursday was another day off and this time the weather had improved and thought windy, it was warmer. I met BA, Rob and Tim for lunch at the Mexican restaurant right across the street from the beach. It was a little windy still for the beach for us, so instead we decided to go up to the small mountain to the Castille Santa Barbara, which looks out over the harbor and city. There is now an elevator dug up through the center of the mountain, which saved us all from a lot of steep stairs, which was a relief especially to BA, who had gone to the doctor that morning with Thomas (who has gone to the doctor with one cast member or another almost every day since arriving) because of a cough that had been lingering for almost a week. She got off lighter than many in the cast, as four of the cast members got either a flu or food poisoning, and never really got to see any of Alicante during our entire time there.
The views from the castle were spectacular, and again, it was a very different feel from the German castles we had been to, most of which were intended as lavish residences for the ruling party, whereas this one was definitely a fortress designed to protect the city and harbor below. We spent about 2 hours up there, relaxing and enjoying the sun and the view before heading back to the hotel. I had some banking business to take care of both in Alicante and online, which took up most of my time before dinner.
Also that day, Patrick, Michael, Christine Negherbon and Aaron had gone up the coast to Benidorm to go to the beach there (which wasn't windy at all) and then the casino that evening, and Amanda and Mark took our advice and went a little further up to Calpe, where Brad, Rob, BA and I had spent our week vacation after Christmas, and had a wonderful day climbing the rock up there.
For dinner, Christine Nevins, Thomas, Brad, Rob, BA, Tim and I all headed back out to the restaurant where the rest of the cast had eaten on the first night, and had our best meal to date...an expertly prepared, long lingering meal overlooking the water, moving in just for dessert when the wind came up. BA spent the day and dinner writing on a pad of paper to save her voice for the show the following night, and the waiter refused to speak to her, but also insisted on writing on the paper back to her in Spanish, and spent most of the evening flirting with her. At the end of the evening, we all had coffee with bailey's, except for BA who ordered a small glass of Cointreau for dessert, and a bottle of water on the side. We all watched her, while gesturing and not talking, pour her water into her glass of Cointreau, turning it a milky white and ruining it. True to form, she wrote a rather colorful word on her pad and passed it around...which the waiter grabbed and announced that it was the only word she had written all evening that he understood. He then brought a new glass to BA and one to Christine on the house, and we tipped him well when we left.
Back at the hotel, I ran into Michael Danek, who invited me out to the beach where some of the cast was preparing a bonfire, but by that point I was exhausted from my late night the night before and went to sleep before midnight, for the first time since arriving in Spain.
Friday morning, we drove back to Madrid and only got lost three times (once finding the hotel to pick us up in the morning, once finding the highway after our lunch stop and once finding the hotel). The hotel was about 10 miles out from the center, and 5 miles from each of the two suburbs that we were to play. We again got lost finding the theater that night, turning a 10 minute drive into 45 minutes...we were all tired of the lack of decent directions or map reading skills by this point.
After the show, Patrick Bodd, Jamie and I left directly from the theater to spend the night out in Madrid, the city being having some of the wildest nightlife in the world. We grabbed a cab from in front of the theater (to skip any more time on the bus) and headed downtown. Brad had been planning on joining us for the evening, but bowed out at the last minute, but gave us the name of a French restaurant in the center of the city that would be open late. When we got to the restaurant at one, we were startled when they asked us if we had reservations, as the place was packed. Fortunately for us, just as we entered, another table of three got up and left so we were able to sit down and have a wonderful meal and bottle of Spanish wine. We asked our waiter (obviously a party boy) where we could go dancing after dinner, and he told us to wait a minute. He came back with a map of Madrid and a list of bars and nightclubs, and proceeded to mark the map with an elaborate series of circles and symbols. He told us that we shouldn't go to the discos before 4, as they would be empty. So we first went to a bar, LiQuiD that was packed to the gills with attractive and trendy young Spanish men and women, where we had a drink and danced a little until around 4:00, when suddenly everyone was in the line for the coat check to leave.
Within 15 minutes the place was almost entirely empty, so we assumed that it must be the magic hour to go to the disco. Just as in Barcelona, we noticed that the streets were packed at that late hour, but no one seemed drunk or out of control, just happy, well dressed, and out for the night. Nor was the crowd on the street exclusively young; there were many middle aged and older couples out walking. We tried the closest one on the map that our waiter suggested, but once we arrived on the square where the address was listed, we couldn't find the club at all. So we walked a little farther into the center of the city (through streets with beautiful Spanish-baroque architecture all lit up for the night), and ended up at Refugio, another disco in the basement of an opera house. We walked in, paid our $6 cover charge (which included our first drink) and descended the stairs into the cave. The entire disco had been done up to look like a grotto, complete with stalactites and stalagmites hanging from the ceiling and disguising the poles on the floor that supported the various dance platforms, DJ booth and bars.
Because the drinks in Spain are so strong (they fill a highball glass to the halfway point with gin, then splash in some ice cubes and tonic on the top), by the time we finished the one included with our entry, after having one at the bar before hand, we were done for the night. We took the dance floor and didn't leave until 7 in the morning, when we watched the sunrise from our taxi window as we headed home to our hotel in the suburbs. I slept the next day from 8-4, at which point it was nearly time to get up and go to the next theater.
This time we got lost again along the way, but our stage manager (who had also been sick the day before) was riding with us, and after circling the same few blocks several times came to the front, looked at the map our driver was using, turned it right-side-up and then proceeded to navigate us to the theater. The floor of the stage that night was raked 2% towards the audience, so BA had to figure out how to jam her foot in the wheel of her wheelchair during her final scene so as to not roll into the orchestra pit.
After the show, a larger group that had heard about our night the night before wanted to go into the city, and I offered to show them the same circuit that we had traveled the night before. So Aaron, Brad, Patrick, Michael, Kim, Christine, Brian, and I ordered two cabs as soon as we arrived at the hotel, and Brad called the restaurant for a reservation.
This time, our waiter from the night before was in a dress and had on a boa, much to the delight of the bachelorette party dining in the corner. I seem to conjure up drag queens everywhere I go in Europe. Again the food was delicious, but with our larger party and later show time, we didn't finish eating until after 3..so we all had coffee for dessert, before heading our to LiQuiD, which was much more crowded than it had been even the night before, to the point of discomfort, so we only stayed for a few minutes before leaving to the dance club.
The club was even more fun the second night, and with a larger group of friends. We ended up taking over the platform in the center, as well as the cages off to the sides and all danced for hours until we were exhausted. When we emerged, it was daylight, and we caught our cabs back to the hotel, with about an hour and a half to spare to shower and grab breakfast before getting on the bus. Or so we thought. Taped to the front door of the hotel was a notice that European daylight savings time had begun that night (A week before the US) and no one in the company had known until midnight. I ran up to my room, showered, threw on whatever was on the top of my suitcase, then ran back down to the bus. Surprisingly, everyone who had gone our that night (there were several other all-night parties out in Madrid) made it back in time, even without knowing of the time change.
I crawled into my seat, and as soon as the bus pulled away from the hotel, I stretched out on the (packed that day) aisle floor and slept the entire way to Gijon, our next city.
Next: Lost and cranky in the Spanish outback...