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The Show Must Go On: From The Isle of Wight to Brussels p. 1

After the Isle Of Wight festival was over, I was still in the clouds! The festival, overall, was an incredible experience that ended with seeing Queen + Adam Lambert on stage that Sunday.

goodbye Seaview!

I kind of felt like we were on tour too, because that same night, we had to quickly rush to our temporary home at Seaview, pack our bags, and get ready for the next morning, as we had to get off the Isle of Wight and take several trains to Belgium. A country that, once again, I’ve never seen before.

The initial goal when planning the trip was going to Brussels to see another Queen + Adam Lambert concert, which was another dream-come-true for me, because it was the first time I could ever follow a band this big on tour.

But my friends came up, at the beginning of the year, with this plan to go see another city in Belgium before heading to Brussels. That city is Brugge (Bruges).

In the past, I’ve only heard about Brugge listening to my mum and sister talking about this beautiful city that seems to come from a fairy tale, and how they would like to see it some day. In Spanish, the name of the city is “Brujas,” which means “Witches”.

leaving on the ferry

So I’d decided I was on it, because who wouldn’t want to see a city called “Witches”?!

So, we had a few days before the next concert in Brussels, and our next step was heading to Brugge.

We got up early that morning in Seaview. With sadness, I took the last pictures and videos to remember the Island forever, and we went in the rental car for the last time across the confusing roads to the East Cowes pier to take the ferry back to Southampton. It was the end of the “Wight” adventure for us, but the beginning of the brand new “Belgium” experience.

Once we got on the ferry and crossed the English Channel for the last time, we returned the rental car at the Southampton pier, and took a taxi to the St. Pancras railway station in London.

The St. Pancras Railway Station  (known as “London St. Pancras”) is a big railway terminal where you can take local English trains or international trains going to France, Belgium and Germany. It has this big Victorian architecture and it holds people in transit from all over Europe. In the waiting areas, there are many stores and eating places.

There are also two public upright pianos, which anyone can play (one of them was donated by Elton John!). So I couldn’t resist, and once I saw one of the pianos free, I had to play a little. For me, it was like “wow, I’m actually in London, in one of the most important train stations in Europe. Playing a piano!

That was one of the things I would never, ever have imagined I would be able to do.

St Pancras Upright Piano

So after that little recess, we were ready to pass through Customs and Immigration, and we boarded the Eurostar train heading to Brussels.

Inside Eurostar train

There wasn’t any direct train from London to Brugge, so we had to take the international train to Brussels first, and then take another one to Brugge.

It was all planned out, and there were so many things that could have gone wrong that day! But as magic happens, everything went well and we didn’t lose any train connections, bags, or people. It all went very smoothly.

Our first train from London St Pancras was the most impressive one: the Eurostar is a train that goes up to 300Km/hr and goes into a tunnel across the sea, to finally arrive at some train stations in the South of France, and then to the Brussels station called Bruxelles-Midi, which, as I recall, is the international Belgium train terminal.  Once we got there, we had little time to get onboard a domestic Belgium train at the same station that would get us to Brugge.

At that time, everything was about French. And it was very difficult for me to understand people speaking in English with French accents. So, I was happy and felt very safe with my friends doing all the talking for me.

I learned that in Europe, (besides the UK), the most common language is French. People politely speak English if you don’t know French, but certainly no one knows Spanish here!, which was a surprise, because I thought Spain was a big deal in Europe.  From my experience, I saw that you get to speak Spanish just in Spain, and nowhere else. So that instantly made my native language useless. (Which was actually good, as I had to force myself to keep practicing my English skills!).

As with with what I saw on the train, that part of Europe is so beautiful, a lot of green that reminds me of the roads from the south of Chile (Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas, Frutillar). It looked very familiar. I guess we really live on the same planet after all! On one of the stops on the train, we passed through a French city calle Lille, which is the birthplace of a very successful singer in Chile (Anita Tijoux). It looks like the kind of place that can get very cold and harsh on bad days, but rewards you with one of the most “green” and beautiful sights I’ve ever seen during the whole year. Pretty much like it is for the people living in the south of Chile.

So, after traveling all day, we finally arrived at about 9PM at the Brugge train station. Suprisingly, it wasn’t night yet, and the station seemed to be located outside of the more tourist area. It was all good, and we took a taxi to our hotel, located in the middle of the town.

Then, I started to see what everyone talked about. This was a big doll house! At least, the central tourist area looks like it is locked in the ancient time of witch stories, princesses, and knights. Everything looks and feels like it comes from a fairy tale. Of course, I know that’s the main attraction and they work hard to give the tourists that illusion. But we only had that night, and the next day to enjoy Brugge.

It was night when we arrived,very tired, to the hotel, so we had some drinks and snacks in our room (including a Chilean drink called pisco that I saved from all the way from Santiago!) and we went to sleep.  In our cozy little hotel, we dreamed of castles and fairy tales still to come…

Click HERE for the second part of this journey!

London Daze, Part 2: All You Need Is Love

This is the second part of my series of post about the London part of my trip. You can read the first part HERE.
abbey road entrance

abbey road entrance

So, after seeing Buckingham Palace, Westminster  Abbey, and having a traditional English tea, we caught the tube again, and went to another historical landmark….. for musicians… the world famous recording studio Abbey Road.

This is the place where every Beatles album was recorded, as well as those of countless other artists, movie soundtracks, tv shows, and documentaries. This is like  heaven for every sound engineer. I’m not such a big Beatles fan, but this was truly another place I’d never ever thought I would see.

It’s not that impressive from the outside; it’s a big building that would be confused for any company building if it wasn’t for the name outside saying “Abbey Road Studios”. It’s impressive that after all this years, it is still a working recording studio, so tourists are not allowed inside. And I kept watching all these musicians going in there for recording sessions. It was so cool!

Abbey Road wall messages

On the outside you can see the walls completely
painted with graffiti and messages from Beatles fan. This was the moment I figured out that this is a temple for Beatles fans (in the same way as Freddie
Mercury’s house is for me). There were lots of message for John Lennon and George Harrison (most of them very touching tributes), and you could really see on people’s faces that being there was a dream come true. I mean, if I would have listened to the Beatles all my life, and had a chance to go there, I’m sure I would have pissed my pants (again).

Abbey Road glory!!

At one side of the actual recording studio building, there was this Gift Shop, where tourists could go and buy overpriced memorabilia (tourist trap alert!!). At a very high price, you could get audio equipment, every vinyl that was recorded there, and gifts so your family and friends can believe that you were actually there.

multitrack tape box

Inside the Gift Shop,  you could also see some historical memorabilia that were hanging in the wall as art pieces. The coolest thing I remember seeing there was the box of the multitrack tape of the Beatles songs “Hey Jude” and “Revolution n. 9“. I remember thinking to myself: Anyone who sells this box on ebay will get so rich!.

Then, the other historical landmark there, is the world famous crosswalk from The Beatles album cover “Abbey Road“.
This is an actual road where real cars pass through. So tourists should be really careful when trying to recreate the picture. I once read that the most clichéd and overdone picture in history made by tourists, was the recreation of the world famous Beatles cover. But I was already there, and I won’t go back anytime soon. So, what the hell? Here is my picture crossing the Abbey Road!!

just like the Beatles

Overall, it was another excellent experience. Not personally as emotional as other places, but still really cool. I imagine that the only disapointment for any Beatles fan who goes there is that you can’t actually see the real studio from the inside. There are no tours available and entrance is prohibited unless you work there. Also, there isn’t a museum like other places I went to. The only place you can go inside is the Gift Shop. (obviously!).

After that cool site, there were many other Queen (the band) related places like The Rainbow Theatre, The Hammersmith Odeon, and The Marquee. But since the day was quickly passing and it was tricky to get to those other places that were planned, we decided to do one more tourist place that was conveniently near to another tube station. So, we went to the world famous wax museum Madame Tussauds.

I must confess that before this trip, I’ve never even heard of this place. It’s a big museum featuring wax replicas of famous people from different areas: music, arts, politic, sports, fashion, etc. And it’s supposed to be so realistic, that when you see them in front of you, you
are supposed to feel that you are seeing the real person. I heard there was a Freddie Mercury real scale replica there, so I thought it was a cool place to see, and I would also get pictures with all these other celebrities.

selfie with my old Kardashian friend

I was warned by my friends that not all of the real scale wax figures were as realistic as they try to sell them. And for what I saw with my eyes there, it’s true. Some of them are very real, but some of them look like dolls. Anyway, it was a lot of fun for me, because I was able to see  how
these celebrities will be if I ever get to see them in real life.

One of the great ones for me was the Kim Kardashian wax doll: She was very realistic, and you could take a selfie with her, with Kanye West looking jealously at you!

I also took my mandatory picture with the Freddie Mercury real scale replica, which created a kind of a mixed feeling because Ifound that his face didn’t look that realistic. Other highlights for me were the Michael Jackson and Jimmi Hendrix wax figures — all of them very cool.

Jimi Hendrix
Audrey Hepburn

 

The Beatles

So that was the finish of our Queen tour all over London. Lots of places left that I wish to see on a future trip to London. So definitely, I’m looking forward to the day I come back to this big city.

The same night, my friends and I went to see the world famous musical “Wicked” at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. That was another experience that meant lots to me. It meant so much that I will write a separate post about it. But now, it’s time to leave London and head to my next adventure: the Isle Of Wight


 

London Daze, Part 1: Royal Beginnings

This is my follow up post to my experience visiting Freddie Mercury’s house, you can read it HERE.
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Following up our “Queen” tour, after visiting Garden Lodge, we visited Freddie Mercury’s friends’ house (just at the side of his main house) and his old flat where he lived in the 70’s.
ne of the sides of Garden Lodge on the street where his friends lived

one of the sides of Garden Lodge on the street where his friends lived

Next we took the tube and went to the “Playhouse Theatre” where the “A Kind Of Magic” music video was filmed. (you can see the outside of the theater at the beginning and ending of the video). Such an historic place!  I loved it!.
It’s a Kind Of Magic!
Later, we took the tube again and went to the Imperial College (where Brian May and Roger Taylor met for the first time), and the amazing Royal Albert Hall, where Brian May performed several times in solo concerts and with the singer Kerry Ellis.
Imperial College
Later, we took the tube again, heading to the world famous Buckingham Palace. This place isn’t really “Queen”- related, but it is related to the other “Queen”
and is actually something almost mandatory to see if you are visiting London as a tourist.
Guards close up

My friends wanted to see the Changing of the Guard that happens every morning at 11:30. The place is huge and was packed with tourists, but we still made it just in time and could take a place near the fence to see it.  I can say it was more impressive on TV than seeing it live. The guards form in military positions and there’s a military band playing marches and arrangements of pop songs, like “Thriller” and tunes from “Grease.” It’s very evident that it’s made to appeal to tourists. And I figured out that the military in Chile imitates the same style of guard change, including the marching band playing pop songs. All for the tourists and curious locals and to be “closer” to “regular people”. We all know that it will never be true, but it’s fun to see how at least they try!

Changing of the Guard

Another place worth seeing is Westminster Abbey, which is mainly a big Gothic church where all the “royal events” happen, like weddings, funerals, and burials. And it’s also a place where the
most important British characters are buried, including ancient kings, queens, writers, poets and musicians. It’s a very important historic landmark in the UK and it serves as a museum when no “royal” activities are taking place there (The last Royal Wedding there was the Prince William and Catherine Middleton one in 2011).

I found it to be very beautiful, very solid construction considering how old it is (construction of the church began in the year 1245). You can only try to imagine how many things happened inside there, and you can breath peace and respect for the dead while you are inside.

Follow up to the last part of my “London Queen Tour” coming on the next post!.
 

london glory big

London glory

Ode To Freddie – My visit to Garden Lodge

Hello everyone. It’s been quite a long time! I guess I decided to just live, watch, be amazed and then write my feelings later, when I was ready…

 This was one of the most exciting parts of my trip, as it was in the city of my favorite rock band of all time, Queen, and I couldn’t wait to see it all!

 After a very long flight from LosIMG_6567
Angeles
, crossing the Atlantic Ocean over the North Pole, we finally arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport. I was so glad that the Customs part to enter the U.K. wasn’t as traumatic as it was in Miami.  But my friends helped me a lot, talking to the Customs officer, making him smile, and most important — they were taking care of me!

So, as soon as my passport was stamped, we caught a taxi and went to our “base camp” in London: the beautiful Kensington area, just a few feetlondon street from the Earls Court Tube station (by the way, local people call the subway as “The Tube” Even though the name you see on every station is “UNDERGROUND“).

London is a huge city.  It’s impossible to see it all in just a couple of days, so my friends and I planned a “Queen” tour for the very next day, in which we would visit “Queen”- related places.  We stayed in a hotel near Freddie Mercury’s house “Garden Lodge“. So, the same night we arrived in London, the first thing we did was to visit his famous house. I was so happy that it was a very small walk from our hotel to Freddie’s home, so it quickly became my favorite place to visit.

Garden Lodge

Garden Lodge at night

For me, encountering Freddie’s former house, where he lived, passed through his sickness, and died, was like visiting a temple. I heard so many touching stories and saw so many pictures of it in the past, that finding his street, house, and seeing it with my very own eyes was a surreal experience. It was very emotional for me.

 

It is a big house with a big garden. But you can’t see inside of it because it is surrounded by tall walls. Every wall is protected by electric fences, so no crazy fan can climb over it and go inside.

But the most important thing for fans is the wall on both sides of the main entrance. You can see acrylic dashboards completely written with messages to Freddie by fans from all over the world.
It was late at night, so we left the place without writing any message at the wall (because I didn’t have an appropriate pen), but the next day we would start our “Queen” tour at the same place, write a loving message, and then move on to different London places.

 

 

failed attempt 1

failed attempt 1

failed attempt 2

failed attempt 2

 

So as planned, we woke up very early the next morning and started our “Queen” tour at Freddie’s house again. It looked beautiful in daylight, and I wrote a message in Spanish for the greatest rock singer ever. I took a big look at the walls, house, and street. This was truly something I wanted to keep forever in my memory. So finally, another dream come true.

But I didn’t want that to be my final visit to Freddie’s house, so the very next day before leaving our hotel and heading to our next adventure on the Isle of Wight, I woke up at 6:30, got my things ready, and at 7am, started walking (this time by myself), heading to Garden Lodge. It was a beautiful day, the sun was already shining, and I felt good.

I walked very slowly down our main Street, and after ten minutes, I arrived at the street of the Garden Lodge. I grabbed my tablet and started making a video, walking all the way from the beginning of the street until Freddie’s home. Just to help me preserve this memory.

The street is called Logan’s Place and is a very nice, small residential Street, with many houses and apartments. As you can see on the video, there were very few people on the street then, because it was too early. It was all quiet, and I could only hear the birds singing and the cars passing on other nearby streets. One of my concerns was not to upset the people living there, so I tried to walk slowly and not make much noise.

 

Then finally I arrived at Garden Lodge (2:22 on the video above) and its brick walls. I started touching it as I was walking, just so hopefully, I could keep the feeling in my brain.
Then I got to the acrylic dashboards and there, in the middle, I could see, once again and for the last time, the iconic green door: the main entrance, with the big words “Garden Lodge”.
doorI could see flowers that someone put there the day before (probably another emotional fan like me). No people around, no other fans. I had this amazing view just to myself and I was already getting emotional. I looked again at my message in Spanish that I wrote the day
before, and I couldn’t believe my eyes… once again.

I took pictures, and put in them a Chilean flag I had for a while, just to remind myself how far I traveled, and how long I waited for this very moment. I walked all the way to the end of the brick walls, and tried to make a mental image of every possible corner of that place.
With a tear in my eye, I stared across the street, feeling calmer, and with respect, said a little prayer at this place that was like a temple for me.

I took some more pictures, some moresmall videos, and then said goodbye to Freddie’s Garden Lodge, praying to God and Freddie to help me a little on my musical career.

 

Then I walked away, looking constantly back behind me, as I was leaving the beautiful Logan’s Place Street, and I promised myself that someday, I would return when I would be in another step of my life.
so I pledge than in my life too, The Show Must Go On

 

 

my message to Freddie

my message to Freddie

Cherry Tree?

Cherry Tree?