Thursday, September 20, 2007

Music to Travel to

It's been a solid 7 months or so since I last did a soundtrack, but trust me, this one has been on my mind since I was in China! So I apologize for not doing one of these sooner, but I hope to make up for it in quality here. So without further ado...

1. Joel Plaskett -- "Nowhere with You". Astute readers may notice right off the bat that I included this in my last soundtrack, but I think that this song may be even more perfect here than anywhere else. This song is energetic and totally encapsulates a travellers mindset of going "nowhere with you", plus the "na na na" part is perfect to listen to while walking down some foreign street

2. The Strokes -- "Juicebox". While many people may not have liked First Impressions of Earth, I think that this song is a great rockfest. The line "Why don't you come over here? We've got a city to love" is a great indication of your early excitement and energy that every traveller starts out with.

3. Led Zeppelin -- "Communication Breakdown". Maybe this is just me relying on my own personal experiences, but I certainly remember being in places where nobody spoke any English and I certainly didn't speak any of the local language. It leads to some pretty hilarious moments where communication sure breaks down.

4. David Bowie & Trent Reznor -- "I'm Affraid of Americans". Nothing against people from the good ol' U.S. of A, but this is a wicked song. I put this song in here not only because it is amazing, but because it refers to the stereotypical "Ugly American" tourist. You know the type, the person who wants everything to be just like things are back home...I hate people like that. And for the record, some of the worst tourists I have ever met were Australian and Canadian....

5. Kaiser Cheifs -- "Oh My God". This song is perfect for that moment you realize just how far away from your friends and family you are. Listen to the line "Oh my God, I can't believe it, I've never been this far away from home..." and you'll know that you are not the only one to feel that way. By the way, check out Lily Allen's cover of this song if you get a chance, maybe I'm biased, but it's great!!

6. LCD Soundsystem --"North American Scum". This is for the time when you realize that you, yourself have become a bit of an "Ugly American" tourist, trust me, it'll happen at least once. By the way, I posted this video here once before and if you missed it, be sure to check it out.

7. The Dandy Warhols -- "Everyday Should be a Holiday". Great song, great band. This is one of those songs for the moment when you realize that you will, one day, have to return home to your dreaded "real life".

8. The Shins -- "Sea Legs". Here's were the playlist starts to slow down a bit. It might be a bit too sad for you, but I think the line "And we got sea legs and we're off tonight", is a good one for nomads everywhere.

9. The John Butler Trio --"Nowhere Man". It's a song about being nowhere in particular, it ties into the opening song on this list and is a great way to sum up those long bus/train trips when you feel like you aren't anywhere.

10. Broken Social Scene --"Looks Just Like the Sun". I could have easily put all of You Forgot it in People on this list, the album just blends itself to staring out a window of a train, but I think that this song might be the best one for this list. Mainly because of those long overnight hauls when you first see the sun and you're not sure if it is really there because you are so freakin' exhausted.

11. The Arcade Fire -- "No Cars Go". You all know how much I love Neon Bible, so of course I was looking to include a song on this list! But this one is perfect, I swear! It's about finding places where "No Cars Go", which is something you will certainly want once you get sick of all of those crowds and souvenir stands.

12. Sigur Ros -- "Untitled" (aka "Njósnavélin" aka "The Spy Machine" aka "The Nothing Song"). Really any song off of ( ) is a great choice, I just took my personal favourite here. For those not familiar with this album, it is sang entirely in Vonlenska, a language which the band made up. This album needs to be represented on any travel playlist because it so wonderfully demonstrates the ability to communicate without common language. You listen to the words and you have no idea what they mean, but you can clearly understand the point that they are trying to make. There are so many moments that this happened to me in China that have left a pretty drastic mark on my psyche, and this album will always make me think about them.

13. Michael Franti & Spearhead -- "I Know I'm Not Alone". The chorus says "Even though I'm far from home, I know I'm not alone", sums up everything from the bond between travellers to any connections you have with someone back home.

14. Feist --"It's Cool To Love Your Family"...and Feist makes yet another of my playlists, thus making it even more likely that her and I will be wed some day. Anyway, this is a great song to justify feeling homesick but not wanting to loose any face by admitting that you miss your mommy, chances are every other traveller has at one point or another.

15. Simon and Garfunkel -- "Homeward Bound". It's finally that time, time to head on back home. It's always a bitter sweet time, but Simon and Garfunkel will help you ease that transition with this classic.

16. Kanye West featuring Chris Martin -- "Homecomming". If you haven't heard this song go and buy Graduation right now!!! Not only will you get a great album but you will put 50 Cent that much closer to retirement. Anyway this unlikely duo come together to put out a really great song that mixes West's rapping and Martin's incredible vocal talents. They talk a lot about coming home and in the chorus the Coldplay front man asks "Do you think about me now and then?", which will tap into any traveller's concern that maybe they've been forgotten while they've been gone.

17. Johnny Cash --"I've Been Everywhere". I know there are about a zillion versions of this song, but I've always been partial to Johnny's. It's a great song to reminisce about your adventures to, which is clearly one of the most important parts of travelling.

Alrightie I think that's about all, let me know if I missed any big ones. Also, does anyone have any suggestions out there for future soundtracks? If so, let me know, I'd love to hear them!

Until next time,


Archieved Playlists

Music to Break-up to
Music to Wallow to
Music to Swoon to

Monday, September 10, 2007

Memories of Paris

Welcome to the first of hopefully a long-running recurring feature here at Getting Glenergized, called "Memories of..." where I talk a bit about a place I have travelled to in a reflective/informative way. I realize that there is no better city to start this off with than the epicentre of culture and decadence, Paris.

People who have travelled to Paris seem to be in two distinct camps, the lovers and the haters. I myself am in the former. I was immediately charmed by the city's very distinct culture and role as a traveller's Mecca.

Paris has a reputation for being dirty, both in its city streets and in the behaviour of its citizens. From the stink of the river to the lewd comments you may get walking through Mont Martre, so much of Paris is in your face. As such, I think that it gives off a bad first impression for a lot of people used to the sterile blandness of North America. However, if you deal with these things as they come and try to focus on some positives I think that you will love the city.

Well what's there to love you ask? Well the history, culture, and sights are dead give aways. Clearly you will not find an Eiffel Tower, a Louvre, a Notre-Dame or an Arc de Triomphe anywhere else now will you? But other than those "big four" which are clearly just a given, there are a lot of other wonderful sights to see in Paris such as...

La Defense: This is essentially the "Sky Scrapper" district of Paris located outside of the downtown core. While that doesn't sound all that exciting, it is a haven for odd bits of modern architecture, including a giant "Window to the World" which was intentionally lined up just a little bit off of the Arc de Triomphe, some iron statues of people with no arms or heads, and oddest of all a giant thumb (obviously pictured to your right). Now I just happened to go on a Sunday and the place was completely empty (from what I'm told a sharp contrast to the week days) and I have to say it couldn't have been any better. There I was walking alone through giant sky scrappers and odd bits of modern architecture. The sounds of the trains going by and birds chirping where all that filled the air. I felt like the last man on earth, walking alone through a concrete jungle searching for survival after some future catastrophe. It really was a surreal feeling. So if any of you are going to Paris, I highly recommend you head out this way on a lazy Sunday, you won't regret it.

Père-Lachaise Cemetery: Now normally I hate cemeteries, they really creep me out, but this one was different. It was full of exceptionally old, and incredibly elaborate grave stones lined up as a small miniature city for the dead. The uneven cobble stones and gorgeous view of the sunset from the top of the hill really make you feel like you stepped out of a busy modern metropolis and into a more relaxing time. As if that wasn't enough, there are many graves of (im)famous people strewn about to go and pay particular attention to.

There are two graves that really got my attention, the first is the most famous one, Jim Morrison's grave. I was told by some friends that when they went there were all sorts of old hippies smoking joints all around the grave, paying tribute to Mr. Mojo Risin'. Unfortunately, when I went there was no such thing...ahh well, better luck next time I guess.

The next one was for one of my most favourite authors, Mr. Oscar Wilde, whose grave is pictured to the left. If you look closely at the grave there are a number of spots all over it, those are all lip stick marks, by people who have kissed his grave. Strewn between all of the flowers and notes to Oscar there is a small plaque at the bottom that says something to the effect of "Do not deface Oscar Wilde's grave, it is considered historical property". It also mentions that the grave was restored in the 1990s at some point. I was simply blown away by this. The fact that they have to tell people not to deface it says that it must be defaced on a regular basis, and if it was restored in the 90s, how bad was it before then? It really was interesting to see the way that people paid their respect to a great author.

If you're out and about in Paris I'd also highly recommend the Sacre Coeur, a gorgeous white church which will blow your mind. The modern art Gallery Centre Georges Pompidou is a really odd place, even if you don't want to go in, walk by and see the fountains and the unique collection of people outside. Also, the Catacombs are a really chilling place, walking deep underground through short, narrow walk ways lined with bones is certainly something that I don't do every day.

Paris is also a wonderful place to people watch. I spent a solid 45 minutes sitting outside Notre Dame Cathedral just watching everyone walk by. I was amazed at all of the different types of people that I saw, from busy executives, to swooning honeymooners, to students on trips, to backpackers, to anything in between. Paris is absolutely full of a wonderful assortment of individuals.

So for any of you interested in seeing the best and worst of Europe, I can think of no better place to start or end your journey than the glorious city of Paris. I know I enjoyed it and I'm sure any of you would too.

Until next time,


Appendix: Some Links
Blue Planet Hostel: The place I stayed, it's pretty expensive, but prime location, and free breakfast.
Hostel World: Should be your first check for discount places to stay
RyanAir: For anyone travelling Europe, be sure to check out the insanely cheap flights, their "Paris" airport is pretty far away from town but there is a bus that will shuttle you in.
Zoom and Air Transat: Good low price flights from/to Canada.
Lonely Planet: Well duh...