Dutch and Swiss adventures!

April 12, 2016 § Leave a comment

I had such an amazing week in Den Haag, Holland, and Bern and Stans, Switzerland, that I just feel the need to share with you some of the most beautiful and striking moments of those seven days :-)))

me and the llamas,  Buelen, Switzerland - filter

First off I’d like to thank all the wonderful members of the audience at all three shows, I hadn’t played since August of last year and as usual I feel so privileged that you are all so kind! Pics of my show at Rewire here and Stansermusiktage here :-)

In Den Haag, Rewire had an amazing programme and I was only able to catch one full show, but what a show: Xiu Xiu plays Twin Peaks, an uncompromisingly personal interpretation of the music from the series, with great musicianship and a gripping atmosphere enhanced by the church setting… At Stansermusiktage, once again I was only able to catch one show, and again got so lucky: Tal National from Niger, who delivered a hypnotic and exhilarating set that had me smiling the whole time and wondering “How the hell can they play like that AND dance at the same time???” Very highly recommended indeed!

These days, when I’m away for shows, I always take my binoculars with me: birdwatching has led me to living and loving a life that’s more focused on nature and therefore walking and being outside as much as possible, so when I’m tour, the first thing I do if I have a couple of free hours is to seek any possible green and/or water areas (seaside, rivers, ponds, etc…). I will now indulge in a small birdwatching report as I know from some emails and comments that I’m not the only one suffering from this wonderful addiction ;-))) Feel free to skip the next two paragraphs if you’d rather read about the rest, but if you are not familiar with the world of birds and feel intrigued as to why anyone would get obsessed in such a manner, I recommend at least checking out the links to see for yourself how incredibly varied and beautiful European birds are and how lucky we are to have them in our midst! ;-)

In Den Haag, I got lucky with the weather and the park of Scheveningse Bosjes was a riot of bird song: I honestly wish I could have stayed there all day, it felt so alive! I was able to spot my first Goldcrest, first Willow or Marsh tit (unfortunately unable to say which one it was, as those two species are so similar) and first Egyptian goose (outside the park). I also got amazingly close and prolonged sights of species I had already seen but only too briefly and from far away:  a Rose-ringed parakeet and not one but two Great-spotted woodpeckers copulating in the fork of a tree! It was a truly amazing moment to witness, especially as five days earlier, I had witnessed two Little ringed plovers going through a nuptial parade and copulating on wasteland on my way to my yoga class, so I really felt like I was having a crash course on bird copulation!

In Bern, I saw my first Alpine swifts, and a species I’d been hoping to see for so long, a Dipper, a very special species indeed as it swims under fast-flowing rivers! I also had great views of a Green woodpecker in the cemetery where one of my favourite painters, Paul Klee, is buried. (End of bird report ;-))))

But when I got to Stans for the Stansermusiktage festival, the evening before the show, I immediately saw that this wasn’t going to be my usual festival experience: Stans is barely more than a village, with mountains really close to it – in fact it was the first time I ever had a view on a mountain from a hotel window while on tour!

The view from my hotel room, Stans

Again I got lucky because my driver, illustrator Benedikt Notter, turned out to be into nature too, and paragliding! As I wanted to go up in the mountains in the hope of seeing Alpine species, he offered to show me one of his favorite spots from which he often takes off for paragliding: a farmer’s place that can only be accessed via an aerial cablecar consisting of one single car operated by the farmer itself! Benedikt added that we’d use a Vespa as he had no car the next day, and that he’d paraglide on the way down as this was more pleasant than taking the cable car again! 


Without a doubt this turned out to be the most original concert day I’ve ever had. Off we went at 9 in the morning on the Vespa until we reached a tiny shed in which the single cable car was located. Benedikt had to call the farmer on some kind of phone/walkie-talkie located inside the cable car to let him know we wanted to go up, and after a beautiful ride, we were welcomed by two lovely mixed-breed dogs, including one who greeted me “sitting pretty”, and the farmer himself, a smiling man who happened to be into birdwatching too and flowers and letting his animals roam as free as possible.


As these animals turned out to be llamas, it was quite an experience to find myself at one point alone in the same enclosure as them, with some really tall llamas (taller than me!) bringing their face 5 centimetres  away from mine and looking like they were just about to open their mouth to ask who the hell I was!


We went for a beautiful walk towards this amazing cascade…


But I did not have much luck with Alpine species…


So after a while I just took the cable car back while Benedikt paraglided down!  I’m someone who gets scared pretty easily, and I actually have a fear of heights, but the whole thing seemed so peaceful and effortless that now I actually feel like trying paragliding!

In the afternoon, after a long nap, I saw my first Hawfinch on the terrace of the hotel, but he was unfortunately dead, having visibly crashed into the terrace’s window… Weirdly enough, at the end of my show, as I walked enthusiastically towards the merch area, I myself walked straight into a very clean glass door… Thankfully I wasn’t injured but do have a bruise on my knee, and the unpleasant experience reinforced my impression of the day, which is that danger is not always where I think it is!

I had one morning left after my show, which I spent walking under the rain in the hills surrounding Stans. I saw some Buzzards and Red kite engage in combat, but the best thing was yet to come… Throughout the week, I had such a great experience with the birdwatching that I felt that before the minitour was over, I would see an animal that is important to me. I was hoping for some kind of owl, as I’ve never seen any member of the owl family and they fascinate me. But some other creature awaited me: I climbed up a path next to steep pasture land where some beautiful cows were grazing, hesitating as to how high I should keep climbing as my shoes were not appropriate, I had told no one where I was going and my phone had run out of credit. I decided to go up a tiny bit further, right to the top of the pasture land, and when I reached it, I saw an orange shape almost still in the tall grass: a fox…  My heart jumped, I was able to reach for my binoculars, look at it for a brief few seconds until it saw me and ran away… It was the perfect close to a spectacular week, and I felt so enriched by the whole experience, and so lucky that making music is leading me to live these privileged experiences.

Even though this post was not music-related, I still hope you enjoyed it, as I definitely believe that art and life feed each other, and I’ve come back with an even stronger desire to make new music, my head and heart filled with these uplifiting images and emotions :-)))

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