A Little Worse For The Wear, But Back For Day Two Of Groezrock Festival

We had a great time on the first day of Groezrock Festival.  I don’t think we were the only ones.  When we got off the bus for the second day, some people were looking a bit rough.  We missed the first band we really wanted to see… again.  We caught a bit of Zebrahead (great) and The Dangerous Summer before hitting the acoustic stage.

At the acoustic stage we saw Anti-Flag.  They said they were a were a bit nervous, because this was first time they were playing acoustically and their songs were not written to be played like that. They shouldn’t have worried.  Talent and hard work usually wins out.   They were fantastic and had the crowd eating out of their hands.

We know The Hard Lessons, who opened for and sang with Motion City Soundtrack.  The Hard Lessons are fantastic, fun-loving, musicians who put on a great show.  We wanted to see and support people they have toured with and so we went to see Motion City Soundtrack.  Doing so, we missed The Old Firm Casuals.   Curses.

After that we chilled in the sun listening to Hot Water Music.  There were lots of people outside soaking up the sun, enjoying the atmosphere and pulling shenanigans.

We ran into some Aussies that we’d met the day before at the Alkaline Trio show.  They had the tattoos and were pretty psyched for the show.  They weren’t the only ones.  We caught a glimpse of the guys from Anti-Flag checking out the show.  Love the Detroit Red Wings shirt too.  Way to represent.

We caught the tail end of The Bronx.   People were digging them, especially the kid in the viking helmet.

As expected, Anti-Flag put on a phenomenal show.  It was definitely one of the highlights of the festival.

 They weren’t afraid to mix it up and got out in the crowd.  The circle pit and crowd surfing were enthusiastic to say the least.  Groezrock seemed pretty prepared for it.  They must have had 20 big guys up there and were getting people over the barrier like they were working an assembly line.

We caught some of Against Me!’s Tommy Gabel on the acoustic stage.  It was pretty full and he sounded great.

We were also able to get a good spot for Simple Plan.  They were polished and had a lot of energy.

We tried to go see Chuck Ragan, but couldn’t get in the tent.  Disappointed, we consoled ourselves with some fries and called it a night.  Thanks for the great shows Groezrock.  We hope to be back next year.

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Mohawks Welcome But Not Required At The Groezrock Festival

We love to see live music and summer music festivals are big in Europe.  In January, we started looking at lineups and chose Groezrock Festival in Meerhout, Belgium as our first festival.  It had a fantastic lineup.  I am sure that many people don’t know these bands, but believe me when I tell you fans of punk rock are astounded by the sheer volume of great bands playing this festival.

Essentially, Groezrock is a giant music festival with four stages in the middle of fields in Flanders.  You bounce around between four stages (one of them acoustic) catching great music.  There were so many good bands that it was difficult to choose between several bands that were playing at the same time.

Arriving at the Main Stage where we saw the Menzingers. When you see the crowd surfing, you will understand why I didn’t bring my camera and only had my iPhone.

Unfortunately we arrived too late to catch Authority Zero.  The Menzingers had already taken the stage and were a great surprise.  We’d heard of them, but hadn’t seen them before.  Their music was strong and they sounded great.  We’ll definitely be buying their album now.

The Bouncing Souls on the acoustic stage

He is a huge Bouncing Souls fan.  We caught their acoustic set.  I think everyone tried to fit into the smaller acoustic tent to see them.  For good reason, they were great.

Reel Big Fish

The Bouncing Souls followed Reel Big Fish on the Main Stage.  I would have paid just to see them back to back!  They both put on great shows and had such a positive vibe. The crowd ate it up.  It was still relatively early and most people had tons of energy.

We didn’t have the best view of Reel Big Fish because we’d stopped to fortify ourselves.  Since we were in Belgium, that meant French Fries with special sauce.  So tasty.  We needed energy to keep from looking like this guy.

Set Your Goals

I’d heard some Set Your Goals on the Radio One Punk Show with Mike Davies.  After seeing them live, we became huge fans.  They were strong.  It was so crowded that I could only catch a glimpse of the stage by climbing the fence surrounding the sound booth.  It looked like joyful mayhem.  He saw guys in banana suits stage diving.

Yellowcard on the acoustic stage

We also caught Yellowcard‘s acoustic set.  He thought they did a good job wanted to see their live set.  It was even better.  Yellowcard was clearly motivated to put on a great show and excited to be there.  They had tons of energy and the crowd got the crowd really into it.

Bouncing Souls

We had such a great spot for Yellowcard that we decided to stay there to catch Face to Face, Lagwagon and Rancid.  It’s easy to forget how many great songs Face to Face has.  Seeing them live reminded me.  We hadn’t bought the album they released last year and will definitely be doing so.  They delivered a solid performance.  I love punk concerts for the energy.  It’s great to be someplace where you are encouraged to feel and move with the music to such an extent.  Face to Face was about our 10th consecutive hour of rocking out and we’d started flagging a bit.  By that point, I was too tired to jump around.

Face To Face

Crowd surfing during Face to Face

Even though it was their second show of the day, Lagwagon had tons of energy.  People were downing energy drinks like water and it showed.  The circle pit was huge and people were definitely rocking out.

Lagwagon

We lost our key.  Oops  We went off in search of it and missed seeing Rancid…again.  Hopefully the third time will be the charm.  Given all the great music we saw, it is hard to be too bummed.

Here are some other acts we missed, but that got great reviews:

Interlaken, Your Starting Point For Canyoning, Base Jumping, Skiing or Hiking in the Bernese Oberland

Interlaken is a main town in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland.  It is conveniently located on some flat land between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. The best reason to go there isn’t the town itself, but its proximity to the lakes, storied mountains like the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, fabulous valleys (like Laterbrunnen) and stellar views like that from Schlithorn.  As such, it is a convenient starting point for many outdoor activities.

The town has been a tourist hub since early in the 19th century.  Interlaken has an assortment of cute old buildings. With a few exceptions, they have been able to keep many older buildings and retain their impressive mountain views (we find the views from areas further back town the mountains even better).

The Bernese Oberland Railway and the Jungfrau Railway made Interlaken a convenient transportation hub.  It remains one and Interlaken generally seems more diverse and cosmopolitan than most of the smaller mountain towns.  We saw Indian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and many other diverse restaurants.  At breakfast, we heard a plethora of languages.

Paragliding, base jumping, skiing, hiking, canyoning, whitewater rafting, kayaking, etc. are available from the area.  If they aren’t your speed, you can sit down at a café and watch others shop for supplies or land in the park at the center of town.  Although we didn’t pay them a visit, we walked past the casino and an adventure park.

 

Nursery Rhyme Time – Le Pont d’Avignon

Every child in France knows of Avignon.  It isn’t because it is a decent-sized town.  It isn’t because it has a bunch of history or housed the papacy.  It isn’t because the bridge stops in the middle of the Rhone River (it was washed away by floods and not rebuilt).  It is because of a nursery rhyme.

Just like “Ring Around the Rosie” or “London Bridge is Falling Down” it has a dance that goes with it.

The refrain goes:

Sur le pont d’Avignon (On the bridge of Avignon)

l’on y danse, l’on y danse  (we all dance there, we all dance there)

Sur le pont d’Avignon (On the bridge of Avignon)

l’on y danse tout en rond. (we all dance there in a circle)

1st Verse – Les beaux messieurs font comme ci 
et pui encore comme ca…. (The handsome young gentlemen do like this (bow)
 and then like that)

2nd Verse – Les belles dam’s font comme ci . . .
 (The beautiful young ladies do like this …(curtsying))

3rd Verse – Et les soldats font comme ci . . .
 (The brave soldiers do like this (salute)
)

4th Verse – Les cordonniers font comme ci . . .
 (The musicians do like this (play violin))

There are many more verses, but you get the idea.  Everyone is doing something with an accompanying gesture.  Someone who is a better scribe than I put them all down with instructions if you want to give it a go.

By the way, song was actually “Sous le Pont d’Avignon” (Under the Bridge of Avignon).  In medieval times, it was a happening place with cafés with dancing and other pleasure activities under the bridge’s arches of the bridge.  “Sur” means on and sounds a bit similar…

 

Wine Museum In Châteauneuf-du-Pape

When we visited the very rocky Châteauneuf-du-Pape, we stopped by the Brotte Wine Museum.  It was started in 1972 and updated in 2000.  It centers on the history of wine growing and AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée which guarantees the wines‘ origins).

The AOC designation is very important to them.  It makes their wines more recognizable and promotable (and more expensive) abroad.  For educated consumers, it makes it easier to understand what they are getting.  It also means that producers have tons of rules.  The museum had just about everything used it to work the vines or in wine making, except the AOC rule book.  I want to get my hands on a copy because I hear that they have some pretty stringent rules.  For example, the lengths of the vines are measured repeatedly during the year to ensure they don’t exceed particular lengths at different points in the year.  Some are easier to follow.  You aren’t allowed to land a flying saucer in your field…um, okay.  I think I could manage that one.

The museum displays of barrels from the Middle Ages, wine presses, old tools, baskets, equipment, old photos, plows, bottling apparatus and many other items.

People always note that they have a 4,000 litre chestnut wine barrel from the 14th century and a 16th century wine-press.  We liked some of the more us usual items, like a chain maille glove for removing insects.

We also snuck a peek through the window at their bottling operation.  It looks remarkably like a brewery’s bottling operation.

While the museum isn’t as much fun as a wine tour with Jean-Michel, it is free, informative (if you read the English pamphlets) and the old implements are pretty cool.  At the end, you are invited to taste Maison Brotte’s wines.  I think our visitors (Magglio, the Luger and Sneaky Pete) had fun and came away a bit wiser.

 

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rocked Us…Literally

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a historic town in France’s Rhone Valley, near Avignon in the Provence region. It is known for its history and for its rich, full-bodied, spicy red wines.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape translates into ‘New Castle of the Pope‘.  When the French popes moved to Avignon during a turbulent period for Rome, they wanted to source their fine wines locally (they were already huge fans of the wines produced by monks in the Burugundy Region). Chateauneuf-du-Pape (near Avignon) was a perfect place for the Pope’s court in the early 14th century and vineyards.

After the popes left Avignon, winemaking continued despite the loss of an illustrious, monied local patron.  Believe it or not, around a hundred years ago the bulk of Châteauneuf-du-Pape was sold to Burgundy to add to their local wines to boost the strength and alcohol levels. In 1923, it got its own Appellation Contrôlée (AOC).  These regulations set the minimum alcohol level of the wines and set limits on yields as well as which types of grapes could be grown in which area.

We drive through Chateauneuf-du-Pape with a few farmers.  They were astonished to see the soil filled with rocks, pebbles and sand.  Locals explained poor farmland is usually good for something else, like growing grapes.

At a tasting, the leader explained that grapes like people, are not interesting if they are not challenged.  In Chateauneuf-du-Pape, like Burgundy, the grapes are challenged.  Not only is the soil lacking in organic matter, the climate is hot, dry and windy.  Irrigation is forbidden.  Viticulturalists must apply for special permission from the French government to water.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape’s local rocks (galets roulés), retain the sun’s heat and release it at night.  Locals believe that this permits the grapes t ripen more quickly and work as a mulch to prevent too much evaporation from the soil.  The strong winds (the mistral) carry away moisture, intensifying the grape’s flavor.

There are different ways of pruning plants.  Before leaving the US, I left very specific instructions on how I wanted my Crepe Myrtles pruned.  Winemakers are equally fussy about pruning.  Bushvines are common even though yields are limited.

We learned that in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, they often use cement tanks instead of barrels.  Their main grape is Grenache, which is prone to oxidation.  Wood barrels allow more oxidation and so these grapes often sit in cement tanks while their Pinot friends from the next row over get to age in wood barrels.

Grenache is the most common variety; it produces a sweet juice. It is frequently mixed with Syrah or Mourvèdre. I had a picture of Grenache labels at the end of rows of vines, but this one came out better.  Although the town is known for its reds, this is one of the varieties of grape that is used in making whites.

 

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow…Or Just In Time To For It To Set

After a morning’s aborted hike in the mountains and the drive in a snowstorm, we’d lost hope that the weather would turn around or that we would be able to fit in a decent hike.

The weather in Switzerland is changeable  By mid afternoon, the weather Grindelwald had begun to clear.  By late afternoon, we’d taken our coats off.  What’s not to love?

Us…in front of some mountains

A Snowstorm…On Easter?!?

Two weeks ago, we woke up to a snowstorm.  We took the chairlift down so that we wouldn’t get stuck on the mountain.  We went for a drive to on the way to our next stop and saw lots of snowy farms.  Oddly, driving in a snowstorm wasn’t stressful.  It was peaceful and almost calming.

In case you were wondering, we headed from the Interlaken area to Meringen.

Tomorrow, I’ll post pictures from our hike a few hours later.  You’d never know it’d been this grey.

Check out the waterfall

I’m writing this from Lugano with the window open and palm trees in the yard.  Oh, what a difference two weeks make!  

Hey Hey Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town

Stockholm is one of the prettiest cities we have ever seen.  Lots of European cities have old towns (Fribourg, MalmöGeneva, Prague, Annecy).  Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town, charming.  It is an island connected to the rest of the city by bridges.  The buildings date from the 13th century.  We loved strolling Västerlånggatan in Gamla Stan.  There are lots of boutiques, cafés and restaurants.

It is enchanting with cobblestone streets, narrow alleys, old architecture, lanterns, boutiques, antique shops and cafés.   Parts of it are filled
 with souvenir shops and restaurants, and the like.  Yeah, they are a bit of a tourist trap (especially Västerlånggatan), but they don’t make the old town worth writing off.

Wander the side narrow streets.  Look for the signs above doors that indicate the building has paid its fire insurance (thanks Rick Steves).  Notice tons of other period details.  Find places with some Swedes.  Trust me when I tell you, it’s great fun.

For those who get bored after their 20th (or 2nd) palace, Stockholm has some swingin’ history.  Loads of writers and artists pickled themselves here.  It also has some gory history.  In 1520, the bloodbath of Stockholm took place here.  80-90 people were executed in this square (near the Nobel Museum).

Plus, you never know who you might run into at the palace…

Prince Charles leaving Sweden’s Royal Palace

 

Neuchâtel, As Cute As Any French Town…But Swiss

Last weekend, we stopped for a peak at Neuchâtel.  I’d heard it was cute, so we had to check it out.  From the French influenced architecture to the cafes that spill out onto squares, it looks and feels more French than the rest of Switzerland.

People have lived there since about 13,000 B.C., but a castle was built on the site in 1011.  From the name Neuchâtel, it’s assumed that it replaced an older one on the site (In French, Neuf = New and Chateau = Castle).  A town soon followed.  Needless to say, it’s been around long enough to develop some cool, quirky features.

The Seyon River  used to flow through the town (where Rue Seyon is now located).  It’s flooding was devastating and a tunnel was built diverting the river a few blocs.   To mark where the river once flowed, there is a little water feature running through the street.

Footbridge across castle moat.  Pretty sweet.  The best part is that it connects to a park.  How much would you like to play capture the fort here?

Empress Josephine slept here.

The Swiss officials drained millions of cubic feet from Lake Neuchâtel, in 1870, lowering the lake level by 10 feet.  As a result, formerly lakeside chateaus  and their stone banks now sit inland.  A good amount of Neuchatel’s lakeside is now lined with elegant promenades.  The Promenade Noir was urban infill on the new lakefront property.  The buildings on one side of the street date from the 1600’s and the other side date from the 1800’s.  The building above is across the street from the building below!

Nice looking post office on new lakefront property.

Many of Neuchâtel’s older buildings are made from the local, yellow sandstone.  It’s an amazing, rich, color.

It’s even got its own cheese.  I prefer Neuchâtel to Philadelphia Cream Cheese on a bagel.  It healthier too.  Heck, it may even be healthier than Philly light.  You can blow the calories you saved on some Swiss chocolate.

Although the lakeside had a pretty view of the Alps and Jura, we like the views from our lake (Lac Leman/Lake Geneva) better.  The views get better as you get higher.  Some of the surrounding areas have stunning views.  Sorry I couldn’t get any decent ones from the car window.

Neuchâtel watchmakers made delightful little mechanical figurines that are displayed in the Musée d’Art.  We visited on a holiday morning so it was closed.  We hear it’s worth a peek if you get the chance to visit though.