July 9 – 19 Europe/Fat Freddy

Fat Freddy’s Drop – Why we went to Europe in 2022

I love Fat Freddy’s Drop.  Who?  They are a band from New Zealand and they jam. Trying to encapsulate their music is not easy because they don’t follow any consistent pattern except for a great beat, great horns, and a velvet voiced singer.  They are a reggae, electronic dance, chill band with some jazz thrown in. Did I mention horns?  The awesome DJ Fitchie is the master of the beat.  The horn section is even awesomer.  I love them.  I can’t stress this enough.  

We discovered them when we were on vacation to New Zealand in 2005.  That was quite a trip—bungy jumping from the Kawarau Bridge (changed my life), a plane ride to walk on the Mount Cook glacier, black water rafting (through a cave), abseiling into a sink hole.  It was an incredible trip.  

With all that, I still remember first hearing FFD—we were having breakfast in a café in Rotorua and we heard this music that perked me right up.  Oh waiter, who is that playing?  Fat Freddy’s Drop ma’am.  They were a new band at the time, but I came home and bought up everything they had released.  My favorite song.  Go here.

In all these years, we have never seen them live because they do not tour the U.S.  We have heard various reasons why but, no matter.  To see them live we had two choices—go to New Zealand or go to Europe.  As COVID kept us locked up, and Fat Freddy kept dropping music, I turned to Matt and I said, “When this is all over, we are going to Europe to see Fat Freddy.”  I watched and waited.  When would the covid restrictions end and they would announce a tour?  Finally, at the end of 2021, they announced a tour and I got to work.  I bought tickets for three different cities—Paris, Lisbon and Zurich.  The dates were close together and it seemed like we could make that work.  

Matt’s job is to figure out the travel schedule and it became clear that we had to jettison Lisbon.  There was no way to get to the next stop without plane hopping.  So we cut it down to Zurich and Paris.  Neither of us had been to Switzerland and Matt had never been to Paris.  We were up for it.  

On July 9, off we went.  First stop—Zurich.  Switzerland has never been on my list of places to go.  It’s a hard place to pin down.  There are three different areas of influence and language–German, French and Italian.  They are known for neutrality and secrecy.  You’ve got the Alps and chocolate and watches.  Tina Turner lives there.  So we had no expectations.  We were just focused on seeing FFD.  

Turns out, Zurich is a pretty nice place, located on Lake Zurich, a large and lovely body of water, surrounded by the Swiss Alps.  

This is the German part of Switzerland and the town built around the lake is made up of an array cuckoo clock houses—painted stucco and wood with slanted roofs and gingerbread wood embellishments.  The very hilly old town has cobblestone streets lined with quaint buildings and old churches. Zurich is also a very rich town with lots of boutique shops.  Being well-educated Europeans, most everyone spoke German and English.  

 We spent one day wandering around the old town and on a boat ride around the lake.  It was a warm sunny day, nearly perfect weather.  Zurich is a very pedestrian-centric city.  People walk everywhere.  The town is also quite hilly.  But because of Matt’s medical limitations, Matt has a mile in him for the day.  That is it.  We have to figure out how to see what we want to see without walking for miles.  Boat tours are good.  For Zurich, we had to Uber to where we needed to be and then walk a bit.  No big deal.  We do a lot in our own way.

Our hotel had a roof top spa pool. (No cameras allowed.) This was just crazy wonderful.  The pool had calm waters and raging white water.  We went back and forth between bursting bubbles, then calm waters as we looked out over town with the green hills and mountains behind.  We also had a spa day, because why not?  

Then came Fat Freddy’s Drop day.  We have traveled for concerts in different cities in the U.S.  But now we were dealing with a concert in Europe. Would it be different?  At dinner, we asked our waitress whether concerts started on time.  She said, “If it says 7:30, it starts at 7:30.  Not 7:29, not 7:31.”   They are Swiss right? Watches and all? So we got there on time.  She was wrong—this was Fat Freddy’s Drop.  They don’t know what on time means.  

 When they finally took the stage, we were pumped.  It was standing room only, but we had accessible seating which meant we were on a platform and could see over everyone.  For a short person like me, that was perfect.  We jammed for two hours.  Good Lord, we were both grooving into nirvana.  And then the trombone player, Joe, who is just a mad man, came out in his underwear playing a tuba.  We nearly lost our minds with joy.  Look at this!  

 

Oh man, great show!  These are two people who just had a great time and you know what? Everyone there had the same glow.

After the show, I had Matt post on FFD’s Facebook page.  We got a “chur,” New Zealand’s way of saying “cheers.”  

Now it was time to head to Paris.  We were going to do the whole Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Versailles, Musee d’Orsay thing.  Plus, working our way around to restaurants we wanted to try.  By coincidence we were also going to be there on Bastille Day.  So we did some planning around that.  The schedule was just packed.  

Bastille Day was a bit of a bust.  There is a Bastille Day parade down the Champs Elysees that is a bit like the military parades you see in Russia or China.  No offense France but do you really need tanks, jets, Humvees and marching troops to celebrate your day of independence? Okay, the jets are cool.  Everyone loves a good flyover.  I guess it shows some restraint that they kept the missiles in their silos.  (After Trump attended Bastille Day, he wanted  to have tanks roll down Pennsylvania Avenue on the 4th of July.  The response was unanimous.  Everyone said, not in D.C.  We don’t do that weird military thing.  We know what kind of military we have without marching it down the street.)   

 Between COVID and the fact that there had been a terrorist attack in France a week earlier, the security around the parade made D.C. security look lax.  Miles of roads leading to the Avenue were closed off to entry by the public, protected by large men carrying machine guns.  We walked and walked and walked (well, Matt scooted and scooted on his knee bike) but they just kept telling us to go around until we had gone around so far we were a very long way from the parade route.  We ended up in a dead end with hundreds of others milling around trying to understand what happened.  We decided to head back to the hotel.  On the way, we saw some helicopters and a glimpse of a fighter jet but not the famous red, white, and blue contrails.  

 No worries though.  We would still celebrate the day.  I had secured tickets to a hotel restaurant with an unimpeded view of the Eiffel Tower for the nighttime fireworks.  That was fun. 

The rest of the time was spent doing all the tourist things—Versailles—packed back to chest and no one masked.  I just kept looking up. Great ceilings.

We were there for the dancing lighted fountains and fireworks spectacular.  

I saw Neptune my nemesis.

Musee d’Orday is the home of Impressionist Art, which is so popular they decided to just devote a museum to it.  Rightly so.  It was hard to enjoy the art with so many people milling about but I did manage to get a few photos without someone’s head in the way.

At the Louvre we tried really hard to tick off the highlights, but the elevators were not all working, and Matt could not manage the many stairs.  (I carry Matt’s knee bike up and down stairs when there is no ramp.)  One break came with the Mona Lisa where the crowd was a good fifty rows deep.  

Yes folks. This is what it is like to see the Mona Lisa. This is actually a line that snakes up to the painting. This is like waiting for a Disney ride. But, seeing Matt on his knee bike and carrying crutches, a museum docent hurried us to the front of the line, right in front of the entire crowd about ten feet from the painting.  

Ah, that’s better.

But our favorite time was our afternoon visit to a local café where we ate sea urchin tamara, something that seemed quite popular, we saw it on many menus, and champagne.  I think we did this every day we were in Paris.  Matt decided we would drink champagne when we could because they keep the best for themselves.  Tamara is a Greek spread usually made from caviar (or roe) and cream. You might see jars of it in specialty stores selling Mediterranean groceries.  Someone thought it would be fun to use sea urchin instead of roe.  We wholeheartedly agreed.  (We are total sea urchin fanatics.)

Then Fat Freddy’s Drop day came.  I did not buy handicapped seats because at the time, it was not necessary.  When we asked for them, they acted like Matt was trying to get one over on them.  One woman asked him if he really could not walk.  He pointed to his crutches and said, really?  Maybe this is a thing in Paris—people pretending to be disabled.  But they were skeptical.  We had to insist that we be given accessible seats.  

 We spent the next two hours bopping and singing.  

Here we are after the show.  Have you ever seen happier people? 

 

Our time in Paris was over.  Thanks Fat Freddy for a great time

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