TOUR DIARY: It's My Birthday And I'll Fly If I Want To

This wasn't the first time that I celebrated a birthday far from home on the road, but it was certainly the most fun. After a brutally long drive made up for by a wonderful show at The Sage in Gateshead (I could write a whole post about how impressive that venue complex is), we had my birthday off and decided to spend it in the North York Moors National Park. It's a remarkably varied landscape and perhaps the most beautiful part of England I've ever experienced: dramatic coastline, verdant rolling fields, scenic vistas where you can see forever. In the morning, Jane arranged a visit to the National Centre For Birds of Prey, where we got a personal session feeding and calling some incredible birds. There was a tough Caracara (a super smart, super powerful bird from South America), a shy little barn owl, and screeching adolescent tawny owl. I've met a lot of animals on the road, but these guys stand out as some of the coolest.

In the afternoon, we drove the scenic roads through the moors to the coast, where we cruised down along the cliffs through tiny villages to Robin Hood's Bay. It was easy to see why the town was a favorite for smugglers, with its hidden coves and narrow, twisting streets. We spent the night at the Victoria Hotel, a magnificent spot built in 1897 with panoramic views over the bay and village. If the trailer is any indication, it also seems to feature prominently in the new Daniel Day Lewis movie coming out.

Shows started back up the next day in Sheffield, but before we left the coast, I wanted to hike down the cliffs at Ravenscar to a beach where I'd read that grey seals flock at this time of year to have their pups. I didn't quite realize just what I'd gotten us into when I arrived, though. The path was steep, and in some places, non-existent. The weather was freezing cold, and at times the wind was so strong we had to crouch just to avoid being physically blown over. When we got to the bottom, though, it was worth it to see dozens of seals all gathered on the beach and playing in the water. It was extremely difficult not to scoop up one of the pups and take them in the car with us, but I suspect we would have had a tough time explaining it at customs. By the time we made it back to the car with frozen toes and unable to feel our faces, my iPhone told me I'd climbed the equivalent of 107 flights of stairs.

The Sheffield show was at City Hall (I would later learn that The Beatles played in this building), and though I wish we had more time to explore the town, I really enjoyed playing in such a beautiful space. The tour with Ricky really felt like it hit a stride by this point, and I'm not sure I've ever felt more relaxed and comfortable onstage. After Sheffield, we headed down to London to play the grand Cadogan Hall. My old friend Katy Pinke, who's sung on all of my albums and often performs with me live, had relocated to London this fall, so it was a real treat to have her join me onstage for a duet on "Ludlow" that night. In the morning, we paid a visit to the British Museum, which is always one of my favorite stops in London. (The day before, we visited the National Gallery, which was also pretty amazing.) It was just starting to snow when we left town, which made London look like a storybook. It was sad to say goodbye, but lots more shows awaited.

It's getting late here, so it's time to sign off for now, but lots more photos and stories from Leeds, Liverpool, and Buxton to come, as well the upcoming final shows of the tour in Ireland!