Dave's 2016 European Grand (sales) Tour

Welcome back, dear readers. This is my 10th trip in 11 years (last year we were too busy for me to leave the ship). It's good to know Heinrich and Clay have everything under control.

I can't promise the most action-packed story you'll ever read (I'm 55 now and not as inclined to engage in the irresponsible shenanigans of a 50 year old) but I hope you'll enjoy following along if only for purely educational reasons.

Bye bye, Vancouver!

When I left MOP had 5 shoots scheduled for late Feb/early March and more than 20 jobs bidding. Oh my. Massive volume for this time of year. I think I have to thank fracking.

Which way should I go?

Here's a hint:

Yes, I lucked out again (with a little help from Visa) and found myself in the gentle embrace of Air Canada Business Class with Mr. Hawkswoth supposedly sweating away in the galley. This is a standard I'm no longer sure I can avoid. Where will it all lead? Pedicures (I'm looking at you, Nathan)?

After a scrumptious meal (Mr. Hawksworth's 'signature dish', chicken, did not tempt me, I must confess; Business Class chicken though it was) I settled in to watch Daniel Barber's Civil War victory "The Keeping Room" (carefully filed away by Air Canada under "Avante Garde" next to international classics exploring the life of faded Bulgarian hippy taxi drivers and documentaries about the origins of milk carton design).

Then it was "push to recline" and off to sleepy land. Yes, I'm afraid I have no unbelievable tale to tell about the Flight Attendants refusing me more cognac. Nothing about trying to get the wine stains off my white shirt using the toothpaste found in my Business Class toilet kit. No one asked to change seats. My hands and feat remained untied. Security was not waiting for me on landing. Ho-hum I hear you say: what's the point of reading further? Well, at least I can share this with my mother.

DAY ONE, LONDON

Dull photos showing Heathrow and the train into town just to prove I was there and to carry the story along.

It has always been my custom to stay at the Scottish Laird's London encampment but, alas, this time Fergus was flying to Vancouver to create award winning advertising (Sheba cat food) in my town while I was visiting his conquered city. As a result I had to find my own bed. Naturally I did my best to economize knowing that every penny will be accounted for on my return.

Only slightly larger than my bed on the flight.

Aside from the smell of long-dead chickens in the lift and a recent poo in my toilet, old blood spatters on the wall, and a TV that fell off the ceiling and onto my feet I think my hotel well deserves its one star. It's central (only 40 minutes by bus to downtown) and £70 a night. Thanks for the recommendation, James!

The Round Pond in Kensington Gardens across the street. Great weather.
Buckingham Palace, only 20 minutes from my own

It was clear and crisp in Kensington Park where cockatiels sang of love and Canada Geese attacked you from behind. I found a quaint Bangladeshi/Somalian restaurant (where I was suspiciously the only customer). Tasty. Happily bringing new smells to the room and unable to watch the newest installment of "House of Cards" (WiFi is extra) I spent a fitful night adjusting to the time zone. Tomorrow is Saturday so I have a couple days to acclimatize, take in a museum or two, meet with dear friends, and find some powerful air freshener.

DAY TWO

The Greenwich Maritime Museum and other sights

DAY THREE

After 6 hours at the Victoria and Albert Museum (free!) I was invited over to James' and Sybille's house to meet their beautiful son Ben (seriously, this kid is ready for the cameras). When they were visiting Whistler only a short time ago I had the pleasure of buying them dinner at Quattro's in Whistler (sorry, Barb, we'll have to skip the next mortgage payment). James offered to return the favour when I visit him in London.

Pizza-Pizza-Pizza was unfortunately no longer in business so we ended up at a delightful gastro-pub (could my guts take anymore gastro, I wondered?). Then a little whisky back at their place. It was a memorable night (if I remember correctly). And they're moving to a new house! James has promised me a bed next time. Hoorah (there, James, it's public knowledge).

Walking back to the hotel along one of London's picturesque canals and a prison (or some rich person's house, not sure)

DAY FOUR

Waiting for my next engagment

My London meeting schedule was packed full. Probably my most heavily booked visit ever. Over the two days I visited Stephen Brierley and Sophie from Park Pictures (such nice people!), had drinks and a snack at SOHO House with the very impressive Anna Smith (from Iconoclast) and the indomitable (not that I tried) Charlotte Woodhead, met the welcoming Jane Lloyd from Pulse, the famous Orlando at Biscuit, the very kind Chris and Nick at 2am, the soon to be formidable Kate Taylor, had lunch at the Grouch Club with Adrian Harrison (want to know what really happened with Jeremy Clarkson, ask me!), finally had a chat with Bona from Feel, stopped by Knucklehead and saw Matthew, Tim, and Francis (first London, then the world!), had a glass of wine with Tess Mitchell (now at Rattling Stick and 4 months pregnant with her second - hoorah!), and ended with a few beers at the Lyric with Jeremy Goold (now owner of You Are Here) where I also met one of his directors, Joe, formerly a mimish clown (or clownish mime, can't recall) and now hoping to shoot a feature in Canada set in the Arctic (NOT the Franklin Expedition, thank goodness). What a whirlwind!

Napoleon famously called the British a 'Nation of Shopkeepers' and I now think I understand why. When you're doing all of these meetings you tend to have a lot of tea and coffee, either in the meeting or while trying to get out of the cold March winds. This means your bladder is always full. But it's impossible to find public lavatories and you can't always be peeing during your visit; it simply sets the wrong tone.

Lots of trains but nowhere to go!

So you have to keep buying more coffees and teas to use the shop facilities. Thus the success of the shops. I call it peepetual motion.

DAY FIVE

A "full English breakfast"

My last (half) day in London. I was a little light-headed from all the meetings, jet-lag, Bangladeshi/Somalian food, tea & toilets, , etc. so I rather foolishly decided a nice big breakfast would do the trick. Error. Error. Error. Believe it or not I didn't finish.

Next, two more meetings before I catch the train to Paris just after noon. I saw the sparkling Nicole Southey at Spark44 (next stop the North Pole!) and our good friend Andrew Levene at Stink (always good to catch up, especially when you hear that bidding South Africa, Florida, and Vancouver gives similar costs ?????).

Eurostar to Paris

Thanks to the wonder of points I booked a much nicer hotel in Paris. Apart from being within a few blocks of a lot of the production companies it was on a quiet street, between two major metro stations, and near lots of restaurants (well, everyplace is near lots of restaurants in Paris).

PARIS!

Best Western, Follie Bougere! The room was great but the elevator also smelled of ruptured sewer lines.. Maybe it's some new hotel strategy to keep people from loitering in elevators.

I got in around 3:00 pm and went for a walk. That church in the middle photo below? St. Vincent de Pauls. When we were 19 my friend Paul and I once gave chase to two South American drug dealers through the sewers of Paris on this very spot. It's true! But I can't share all the details on this blog for national security reasons. Better ask me in person. Tarot cards played an important role.

Not knowing where to find a good meal (and trying to avoid anything that might taint the comforting scents of my otherwise perfect room) I consulted the web (hint: don't). Trip Advisor mentioned a little place around the corner where famous chefs met. Who wouldn't go there?!

Names will be withheld to protect the innocent (although I didn't see any).

When I arrived the place was empty and the staff were drinking. I was told they opened at 8. That must be when the chefs start coming in, I imagined. So I wandered around the streets in anticipation. The owner is from the US and has been in Paris many years. His two staff are called Francois and Francois. There was no one else there except a young woman reading Artaud (Bob and the Francois were apparently into their third bottle). Here's a photo of "Bob" examining the book I'm reading ("Adam Bede", outstanding).

Bob is a bit blurry as he was weaving back and forth.

I liked "Bob". And the Francois' where very nice, too. But I don't recommend the cooking. I suspect that's not what the great chefs of Paris come for. It's the kind of food your brother used to make.

DAY SIX

What a day! I saw Gaëlle at Insurrection (formerly Les Télécréateurs - they told me they're changing the name because no one can spell it), lunch with Sylvaine from Stink (she's such a great person and the meal was amazing), and a delicious dinner with Genevieve from Carnibird (her son Gaspard joined us and her friend Anne-Sophie who's an AD in features, came too). The restaurant was near Genevieve's apartment and just one block from the Bataclan. Lucky for her she and her family were out of town that terrible night).

Memorial tribute at the Place de la République

Off to bed. Friday will be even busier.

DAY SEVEN

Membership has its privelages

Meetings don't start until 10 today so I took an hour to do my laundry. I know: thanks for telling us, Dave. Fascinating. But you never know who might study my every move in the future to write a sociological study (do you?). An old man helped me buy the soap.

View from Iconoclast office deck

Today I visited Jérome at his new home, La Pac (this guy should hold seminars on the industry. I'd buy tickets), met Gaspard at Moonwalk (one of Knucklehead's French connections and a very enthusiastic fellow), saw my old friend Christophe Nader at 75 and met the owner, Emmanuel (very friendly), and finally was introduced to the French Charlotte at Iconoclast. She was VERY interested in coming to Canada (well, everyone is, really).

Gaspard from Moonwalk's family is from Senegal. So of course I had to try some of their cooking and there was a restaurant just around the corner. It was... Interesting. The food was tasty but not very photogenic so you'll have to use your imagination (hint, Lilly would recognize it). The only drink you could get was cherry soda with rum. Hmmm. Not sure about this cuisine. Probably won't add it to the Lunch Wheel.

MOP has a spectacular reputation every where I go. I heard so many compliments about how organized, pro-active, enthusiastic, professional, nice, and efficient we are. Thanks, Team!

DAY EIGHT

Train Bleu Restaurant

I have been blessed in my life with the friendship of La Famille Farges. Originally from Lyon they decamped to Vancouver (via Carracas) and I've known them since childhood. They've taught me a lot about the finer things. Without them I'd still think ketchup and pickle sandwiches was as good as it gets. So before leaving home I asked Yves Farges for some suggestions on where I might get a decent meal in fabulous Paris. Knowing Yves that meant any answer would require a bank loan so used his advice carefully (at first). The Train Bleu (above) at the Gare de Lyon is, clearly, bloody amazing. The French Empire in one room! I only had an appetizer (€800) as I had bigger things planned for the evening. But what a place. Go!

I spent most of Saturday combing the city for presents for my nearest and dearest (with some success). The results will have to await until my return. But now, my soon to be jealous dear readers, the main event.

Saturday in Paris

Yves gave me a list of five restaurants. Based on his descriptions and without visiting any web sites I chose the Carré des Feuillants near La Place Vendome. I had no idea what was in store for me.

It was a 30 minute walk in the fading light of a beautiful Saturday evening.

La Place Vendome

As the destination approached and the fur coats and Bentleys thickened I could feel my credit card trembling: there be dragons! (by the way, as many of you know, I listen to a lot of podcasts and this trip is no exception. But I also have Apple Maps talking me through the twists and turns of unfamiliar streets. It can be a little disorienting following the 3rd Phase of the Haitian Revolution while a robot with a British accent tells you "in 20 meters turn right on rue doo la jooness". In London the thing doesn't call out the street names, it says things like "turn right on A3406" as you approach "Dukes of Connaught's Mews". Google Maps is much better. But I digress).

Here's what I sent to Yves the next day. It's a little wordy, sorry. I felt taking pictures at a 2 star Michelin restaurant seemed a tad guache:

Yves, it was fantastic.

Thank you so much for the recommendation. Visiting France is like visiting (my) heaven but this time I was invited to dine with the gods.

(By the way, I may be hitting Zeus and the gang up for a loan after paying the bill on my cc. Got any contacts? But not that Mars guy again, he's pretty fierce when it comes to collecting).

I was the first customer at 7:30.

I must say I was nervous.

The decor looks like it was chosen by Tony Montana's wife's in 1980 (if her designer was a coked-up sexual pervert who's read too many Vogue Italy mags).

Bright orange is an interesting colour choice for drywall. Stainless steel was not what I expected in a "typical French restaurant". "Airport Blue" carpets is not what I think of when I imagine any restaurant. The paintings on display looked like the previous evening's patrons had shown their appreciation like monkeys long in the cage.

As the first guest they kindly sat me behind one of the huge, stainless steel covered pillars (fortunately they have 4 so there were lots of options). Were they hiding me? Or the rest of the clients?

Was this going to prove a huge, cripplingly expensive mistake?

Eventually the restaurant filled with African dictators, old American trust funders arguing over who would sleep with the chauffeur that night, couples in trouble, lawyers, and faded French aristocracy. The usual suspects.

Oh, and me.

But let's get to the main event.

I'm not at all religious but if church was like this dinner I'd go every day; three times. My mother would finally be happy. Every bite was a spiritual revelation. I am reborn. Seriously, I spent more time tasting and savouring each fork tine full than I usually spend binge-watching Netflix on a Friday night.

OMG as the kids say.

And the service was excellent.

Every plate was better than the last. I am inspired to write a volume of prose about each different taste as they danced on my tongue as time stopped. Know any publishers? Ghost writers? There will be a lot of pages.

Patrick, the Maitre D, was beyond perfect (although I think I offended him when I said the Brie with truffles was too much; a canon after the peace). I told him it was one of the best meals I ever had. And that I knew a thing or two as I had dined at the table of M. Paul Bocuse! He sneered in respect. I know he scraped his shoes after I left but I'd still offer him a weekend at our cabin (can you imagine!?!?!).

*Paul with his Legion d'Honeur

THANK YOU, YVES!

It's all true.

*You can see why I had my doubts

On the way back to the hotel I did a little window shopping for presents for Barb and checked out Harry's American Bar to try one of their martinis. So-so.

DAY NINE, PARIS THEN BERLIN

Last morning in Paris then off to the airport

At 7:00 am on a Sunday morning I towed my luggage (now, with wheels! I said I'd never have luggage with wheels. For weaklings, I said! I am now a very happy weakling) to a local café by the Metro for my last café et croissant where I watched a Gypsy family fight with an old Algerian homeless man over a warm vent (Algeria won). Later, when I was taking the photo of the round airport bit, I turned around to see five Gendarmes with dogs. I said I was on a sales trip marketing Canada as a destination for television advertising. They nodded and let me go. I might use that line more often.

Look who was waiting for me at the airport in Berlin!

I had been trading emails with Manu Werner (the famous director but I don't have to tell you that!) about staying with him - as is my custom. But he's so busy and in and out of town during my stay that I had to book a hotel. But he very, very kindly grabbed me from behind (German security, I thought at first!) when I exited the luggage area at Tegel. Manu drove me to the hotel in his new, dog friendly, BMW (€90,000 in 2004, €5,000 last month). Such a nice young man.

View from my room

I didn't know I wasn't staying with Manu until 5 minutes before the plane left Paris so I very quickly used my phone to book a hotel. It's a lovely place on the River Speer (the photos sold me, of course, and the price) and near the President's Palace. But it's also surrounded by large, glass towers - not seen in the promotions - hosting accountants and insurance salesmen wearing baggy suits and eating Eisbein. And only 5 k from town. Sigh.

DAY TEN

Moscva? Nein!

Juri from Cobblestone was my first meeting. They're on Karl-Marx-Allee in the former East Berlin (where the Workers used to have some real control over the means of production). Super cool office, too. We did O2 with them in Toronto and Juri told me "it was the best shoot any of us had ever been on". Wow. I think we have Dennis Beier and his team to thank for that. Thanks, Dennis!

Berliners are very fond of Horror Circuses

Then it was off to see the welcoming Martina, Julian, and Lutz at Stink. So friendly! I gave them some maple syrup in appreciation.

That's it for today. There were a few cancellations as Berlin is busy but I didn't mind; I had a lot of blogging to do!

DAY ELEVEN

Memorial to the Worker: "Hey, don't forget about me!"

Today was a bit busier and I met with the Markenfilm Berlin Team (5 people!), Frank and friends at Big Fish, Fabian at Tony Petersen, and Jan at Iconoclast. I love Berliners! Good conversation, new people, and jam and syrup. I also got in some top drawer shopping near the Iconoclast office (always good to arrive early and do some exploring).

More yummy

Back to the hotel for a quick shower and change then off to dinner with Manu (who was just off the plane from London). Manu is one of those great directors that knows his craft and the history of film. We can talk for hours (and we (I) did).

Check out the flying red napkin and person with a paper bag over their head. Totally normal in Berlin

After a delicious Italian dinner in the Kreuzberg area (I think) we mosied off to one of those unique, Berlin-only, bars where everyone is from everywhere and it feels like anything can happen (however all that really happened is we added four more types of alcohol to our blood stream). Then it was "last call" (and anyone that's been to Berlin knows what time that is) and a mad taxi ride to Manu's (bye!) then, after a long conversation about contemporary symphony composers with my taxi driver, Carsten, back to a deep sleep.

DAY TWELVE - HAMBURG

Hamburg! My second home. I took the ICE (über-fast train in German) and arrived in the afternoon (the morning was lost to a bit of a sleep-in). Then a taxi to meet one of my best friends in the world, Nicki Mirbach, at Markenfilm to pick-up the keys to Marc Bierer's (one of my other best friends - so many in Hamburg!) flat where I'll rest my weary head for the next four days (Marc is shooting so not at home during the day).

Marc has never been able to explain why this is in his bathroom. But now that Innes is around I notice it is getting kind of dusty.

Nicki was his usual, bizarre, funny, warm, crazy self. I unpacked, had a quick nap, and met Nicki for a serious German dinner.

That's Nicki's production friend Daniel on the right. Lovely man.

Nicki has found the only restaurant in the Western world where you can drink, eat, smoke, and bring your dog. He tried to convince me to order an enticing dish called Cold Meat in Sour Jelly. I think it's the only food in the world that sounds better in German - Sauerfleisch (OK, maybe not). However I declined and he ordered me the shnitzle.

At first I thought this was for Lilly, Nicki's dog.

Later we were joined by some acquaintances of Daniel: a German English student (Sam), her teacher from Ontario (Natasha), and their friend Taler (a Cherokee Floridian alligator hunter). Really! The beer and Helbing flowed and once again I was walking the dark, lonely streets of a foreign city listening to this English lady try to pronounce German street names and guide me home to Marc's while a British psychologist discussed the sex life of handicapped people in 18th century Coventry (Ask me for the link!).

Hamburg canals, me (a shadow of my former self), the TPF offices, and a clothing shop with a client of one. Now you know where he gets those sexy loin cloths.

Meetings! Oh my! A bit blurry-eyed but determined to make it through the last two days of "sales" I set off to see Annette and Nadine at 539090 (I'm running out of complimentary words but they're so nice!), Julia and Daniel at Cobblestone (charming and new faces!) and Carlo (great guy, super informative) at TPF (formerly Tony Petersen Film - Tony is now retired). Always a warm welcome, talk about children, Justin Trudeau, 1 million Syrians in Eppendorf, Donald Trump, and, oh, bringing business to Canada. I get to have so much fun! Shhhh, don't tell anyone!

A quick stop at the Martimes Museum (it was AWESOME!)
Home of one of my favorite phrases in the world: "Die nächste halt ist Landungsbrücken. Exit here for Harbour cruises". Don't ask me why

That night I took the U-Bahn to meet my old friends Dominik and Sandra at our favorite restaurant, Il Vagabando. It was really great to see them both as it's been too long. Dominik is now advancing the vision (and profits) at Marmalade and Sandra was jetting off to Munich at dawn the next day producing for Markenfilm. I may have said it before but let me say it again: I love the people I get to work with!

Canadians and communists

I tend to wear a little Canada flag on my lapel to avoid having to explain America to confused Europeans (everyone first assumes you're from the USA). Sometimes this leads to interesting encounters. Today on the U-Bahn I sat down next to a family and one of them asked "Bist du Kanadier?". "Ja" I replied but then "Ich sprechen keiner Deutche" in a convincing accent (convincing that I didn't speak German). They quickly switched to BC English. It turns out the guy above taught my sister Carolyn's kids at Shawnagan Lake last year! Bryce, Reid, say Moin, Moin to Jeremy! Then it was off to attend a Communist Party rally. You don't want to forget your roots.

DAY THIRTEEN

Final meetings. Phew! Stefan and Sohar at Bakery (they both complimented Heinrich's edit of the MOP reel), Alexander, Acki, Stefan and our former intern André at Tempomedia (an hour wasn't enough time to catch up), Mathias and Julian from WANDA Hamburg at their new office (the next generation!) and to cap it all off Oliver, Nick, and Florian at Markenfilm (Florian told me not to talk to him yet). Oliver (who many of us met on RAM) has had quite a year. Ask him.

The week ended with a French meal with Florian from Markenfilm, Marc, and Innes and then a smoky bar. Fortunately this group is a bit more mature so we got to bed before 3am. Saturday is for present shopping!

Innes, Marc and I started our day with a tasty breakfast al fresco ('out in the bloody freezing cold' in English). Then it was off to find more presents for the family. Thank you, Innes!

Beerzercize

We all agreed that a dinner at home would be a good idea. So off to the grocery store. There's a fitness craze sweeping Germany right now. After slipping into your best excercize clothes (lime green and black for men, pink with black and white tiger stripes for women) you get in your Mercedes SUV and drive to the nearest grocery store. There you purchase a 24 of beer and, careful to avoid back strain, we don't want you to over-do it (and be unable to shop), carry the beer to your car (if you're just starting it's OK to use a cart). I can see the results everywhere.

Marc made curry (the best thing I've eaten since Paris) and I made a butter lettuce salad (everyone said it was "good" but dumped the remaining dressing down the sink. Marc said this was his "normal practice". Hmmmm.)

DAY FOURTEEN - SYLT!

Usually when I get back home I'm a bit of a wreck. So this time I added a couple of days with the idea of slipping in a little tourism to help me recuperate from my "meetings". I asked everyone in Germany where I should go and most recommended "The Hamptons of Hamburg" otherwise known as the island of Sylt in the North Atlantic.

The route to Sylt. About 3 hours by car and train

And the good news is Nicki agreed to come along! What fun we will have! How relaxing it will be. I will be so rested at the end of our visit (if you know Nicki you're probably shaking your head).

After untying the tin cans from our bumper and combing the rice out of our hair we waived farewell to Marc and Innes and Nicki and I set off on our grand adventure together.

To get to Sylt you drive a bit and then put your car on a train. Cool! Nicki didn't want to miss the train so he drove at a hasty but relaxing 200 kph in his Mercedes Benz Limousine.

Great photo of Nick, for sure
*Sorry, crappy photo but gives you the idea of what Sylt looks like. You can see the train causeway in the top right corner of the photo.

It was raining when we left Hamburg but gradually the clouds parted and by the time we got off the train on Sylt the sky was entirely blue. Lucky us!

Isn't that pretty? Those houses are only $30m each.

Sylt really is beautiful. We're staying at a tradditional B&B in Kampen (very affordable. Less than London!). Nick has a much bigger room than mine but that's because of Lilly, of course. Once we're settled in it's off to the beach.

Windy and cold but perfect!

It's really hard to see them in this photo but there were two people walking naked on the beach in the distance. If you squint you can just make out that they're Beerzercize practitioners.

DAY FIFTEEN

We went for long walks on the beaches, stopped at cafés, and reviewed our restaurant options. I shopped for rocking horses (only sold in the men's room).

Hmmm. Maybe this honeymoon joke is starting to look and sound a little bit creepy. For the record we're just friends!

Nicki forgot his glasses but fortunately the restaurant keeps a full case.

For our last night on Sylt we ate at a traditional Bavarian-Asian place just up the road from the B&B. It was really, really good! I highly recommend the deep fried weisswurst served in a pool of potato wasabi. They call it "Bayern meets Asia". Yum.

Well that's it, folks. This morning we'll drive back to Hamburg where I'll catch the train to Frankfurt then the plane home tomorrow. I was actually away for 20 days but only seem to be able to account for 16. Hmmmm. Must have been a heck of a trip.

Bye Europe!

THANKS FOR READING!

All photos by me (even the good ones) unless otherwise noted by an * in which case I likely stole them from the web.

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