I arrived in Lisbon, Portugal on a smooth flight courtesy of those very nice people at British Airways. Tim Gavin had left a brief message the day before confirming that somebody would be waiting at Lisbon Airport to pick me up. While walking through the terminal into the unknown, I wondered if there would be one of those people whose card read “Skin” waiting for me. Luckily the universal skate-camera backpack turned out to be a dead giveaway. Three guys greeted me at the gate. Two of them – Ruio and Bruno – were my tour companions and eventually became good friends.

That night we did a driving tour of beautiful Lisbon, complete with ancient buildings, a bustling nightlife, and no parking spaces. On our tour we saw some potentially good-looking skate spots, which were all hindered by the skaters’ nightmare, the small sandstone blocks that are laid throughout Portugal in mosaic patterns on all the sidewalks, called calcadas. If you happen to enjoy skateboarding, calcadas can make life a living hell.

Fact: in the seventeenth century, Lisbon was leveled by an earthquake that destroyed some of the greatest architecture the world has ever seen. Some parts of Lisbon are so old, fire engines can’t fit down the streets. Who knows what would happen if a fire ever broke out. A free-for-all atmosphere reigns, double parking is the norm, men piss in the streets, and no one seems to care. There’s an old saying in Portugal, “Where one man pees, four will follow.” And you were worried about those fires.

As it turned out, I’d met Ruio a few years prior at Münster – I was giving out some new mags, he’d asked me for one, and I’d said no. I felt bad, as he was now showing me the friendliness for which the Portuguese are renowned.

Where’s Chico?

The following morning, Mike York and Daniel Castillo arrived at our hostel. Not surprisingly, they were a little jet-lagged and overwhelmed as it was their first time in Europe. A few hours passed before Jeron Wilson, Keenan Milton, and Sean Sheffey also showed up. With them was supposed to be Chico Brenes, but he’d been deported for not having a visa (the same hurdle Matt Mumford hit getting into Spain earlier in the year). Chico was put on the next plane back to the States. “Stop hating on the Chics,” slang for “Don’t pick on Chico” became the cry in the camp.

Our first demo was at a contest held annually in memory of the late Jaime Fernandez, who died tragically three years ago when he fell asleep at the wheel of his car while driving back from a contest in Madrid. T-shirts screened with a photo of Jaime are worn with pride by the locals. During the demo there was an announcement for the team and me to come to the stage, where we were given gifts for being there. Because the announcer was speaking Portuguese, I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but at one point I heard Phil Shao’s name mentioned. We were all amazed at the emotion all around us – once again skateboarding brought everyone together.

We spent most of the following day wandering around Lisbon witnessing the city in all its splendor. Boiled eggs are making a solo comeback in Portugal; they come on just about everything, including pizza. “That shit is raw,” is all Mike York had to say on the subject.

Two More Demos

Smack in the middle of Lisbon lies a school for underprivileged children; there you can get an education, play soccer, have a roof over your head, and if you want, skate. Sean Sheffey did a solo demo in the small concrete park; the highlight was a switch kickflip over the pyramid. Our last demo in Portugal took us on a 40-mile drive outside of Lisbon, for the first time on the trip we skated a decent spot – a huge courtyard outside a church that looked older than the hills. It had a good riding surface, with a huge flat bank running down one side, ledges of different dimensions, and a good-size crew of locals skating with us made it our best demo yet. After the sun set on our la day, we headed off to Bruno’s house, where a feast had been organized in our honor. His mom made a three-course meal of traditional Portuguese food. We were treated like kings.

Friendly, mellow people, a kick-it atmosphere, plus hospitality you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the world made our five days in Lisbon unforgettable. With no sleep we headed off for our early flight, destination – Bordeaux, France.

Strange Brew

At the start of our trip Keenan was going on about how he couldn’t wait to visit Paris, because Killing Zoe was his favorite movie. Little did we know, soon we’d be sampling the kind of French mayhem that runs rampant throughout the film – enter our new tour managers, Dr. Strange and his assistant Max.

The Doc had a master plan that consisted of us tearing as fast as possible across France, demoing at as many shops as we could. Everyone was dead from the night before, and now we were in two cars speeding recklessly on the freeway with madmen. If we thought the roads in Portugal were mayhem, we were wrong. At one point the Doc was doing 100 mph with a mobile phone in one hand and a walkie-talkie in the other, while using his knee to steer. Things didn’t seem so good in the other car, either. Mike York began calling it the “La Bamba” tour when our demise seemed certain. He had a good point.

Our first day in France turned out to be a nightmare. We drove all day, signed autographs in three shops, then ended up in a skatepark on the outskirts of Toulouse. The Doc insisted we eat the meat grilling on a nearby barbecue, instead we gave some guy a board for a bag full of Mickey D’s. Desperate times require desperate measures. After that, we were subjected to French hip-hop (it’s hip-hop, but not as we know it) and a seemingly endless supply of Orangina.

You Like Cheese?

Early the next morning, we headed out on the long drive to Lyon. Our food stop was at a crazy cafe in the countryside near Provence. There were no women (apart from the waitresses) inside, only male farmers and workers. The buffet offered snails. Bon appétit!

In Lyon we skated the square and visited a few shops. Later in the day, a session went down on a bar that had been recommended to us by locals. After the demo, we headed to a local shop for a party, then most of us retired to bed in our hotel on the outskirts of town. But Keenan and Shef headed into town – around this time our nightmare began.

The next morning, Sean was nowhere to be found. Panic hit the Doctor in a big way – his master plan was in jeopardy! We had to be in Paris for a demo around midday, so at 9:30 a.m. the Doc called a meeting. Here’s how the meeting went: Doc said, “I’m the boss here, if Sean doesn’t show up before 12:30, I’m leaving him and going to Paris. If you do not come with me, then I’m leaving you here, too.”There was no way we’d leave Sean. At times, Sean can be hard to travel with, but to think of leaving him in Toulouse without money was out of the question. Sean showed up a half-hour later, grinning like a Cheshire cat, which caused the Doc to do the opposite. Nothing was the same between the Doc and us from that point on; if it wasn’t for the coolness of Max, who knows what would’ve happened.

That afternoon we saw Paris from inside a car. We stopped at a few very trendy fashion shops, witnessing, for brief moment, how the beautiful people lived. It wasn’t much different from the way ugly people live, just far more expensive. In all fairness to the Doc, he did come through with a killer spot at the end of the day. We drove late into the night, and arrived in Belgium.

Germany, Here We Come

We did the biggest demo of the tour at the Zumiez indoor park in Belgium. Lots of skaters showed, and the facility was the best we’d skated so far. That afternoon, the Doctor left us, though nobody shed too many tears.

We stayed the night in a smart hotel in Brussels, and took a train ride to Düsseldorf the following day. I never thought I’d be so happy to be back in Germany. Once again, the tour took on the feeling we first experienced back in Portugal – all of the shop owners were super cool, and food was once again edible. We cruised over to the Ozone skateshop in Essen so the boys could do some autograph signing, and that afternoon we ended up in a schoolyard (while school was in) to skate some decent small ledges, a bar, and a good-looking handrail.

We crammed ourselves into a train compartment and headed off to Frankfurt. Some guards were pissed off at the noise coming from Mike York’s radio. We did another informal demo along with a lot of the local skaters right in the middle of a busy shopping area. Pedestrians wandered around and watched from the sides; it had the feeling of EMB.

Our group caught an early evening train to Stuttgart, where we were met by our new host, Martin from Skatebox, and spent the night in a smoke- filled club that played hip-hop. The following morning we headed out to Martin’s shop. A mini-ramp session went on in the vaults of a building behind the shop – Yan Vagge and a few other locals skated the tight transitions. The entire next day, we cruised around Stuttgart, hitting up some good-looking street spots. No one seemed bothered when we skated a ledge in the middle of an office building.

We finished our stay in Germany with a demo at the entrance to the Stuttgart train station. Two-hundred people crowded around to cheer and clap as Keenan switch-crooked-grinded a handrail.

Who knows why we had to take the six-hour train ride to Hamburg to catch a plane the following day, but we did. Perhaps we should’ve just stayed put, as it nearly ended up in hell. Upon arrival in Hamburg, I opted for a quiet night, but the boys decided to give Hamburg a go even though it was late. They ended up in some dead-end bar in the center of an area of promiscuity. While Sean was sipping a drink, he somehow got on the wrong side of a near-300-pound, six-foot-three, 40-something German. The wrong side was not the right side, and our pissed German friend hit Sean in the face so hard the blow knocked him off his chair. The fight went on while Sean was down on the floor, but in the ensuing mayhem, Sean and the rest of the boys managed to get out of the bar. Luckily, they all made it back to the hotel in one piece.

Back To Blighty

Pete Hellicar from Slam City Skates picked us up from London’s Heathrow Airport. We made our way toward Liverpool on a busy Friday. Another night of partying, but this time it was at a good hip-hop club Pete had recommend. That night took on the familiarity of the whole tour; some retired to bed fairly early, while others went out into the Liverpool nightlife for more.

Indoor parks have been popping up everywhere in the UK over the last couple of years, and even though Britain is blessed with more than its fair share of street spots, none are skateable when wet, so the indoor park has become the backbone of skateboarding there. One such park is RampWorks in Liverpool, where yet another informal demo took place there on Saturday.

After a long haul back to London and a night in a top hotel (courtesy of those nice people at Slam), it was time for me to leave. One last demo went down at London’s PlayStation, but my early departure forced me to miss it.

We said our good-byes outside a tube station in south London. After two weeks on the road, everyone was feeling the same way. The States were calling them back, and I had to get some much-needed laundry done.

the following day. I never thought I’d be so happy to be back in Germany. Once again, the tour took on the feeling we first experienced back in Portugal – all of the shop owners were super cool, and food was once again edible. We cruised over to the Ozone skateshop in Essen so the boys could do some autograph signing, and that afternoon we ended up in a schoolyard (while school was in) to skate some decent small ledges, a bar, and a good-looking handrail.

We crammed ourselves into a train compartment and headed off to Frankfurt. Some guards were pissed off at the noise coming from Mike York’s radio. We did another informal demo along with a lot of the local skaters right in the middle of a busy shopping area. Pedestrians wandered around and watched from the sides; it had the feeling of EMB.

Our group caught an early evening train to Stuttgart, where we were met by our new host, Martin from Skatebox, and spent the night in a smoke- filled club that played hip-hop. The following morning we headed out to Martin’s shop. A mini-ramp session went on in the vaults of a building behind the shop – Yan Vagge and a few other locals skated the tight transitions. The entire next day, we cruised around Stuttgart, hitting up some good-looking street spots. No one seemed bothered when we skated a ledge in the middle of an office building.

We finished our stay in Germany with a demo at the entrance to the Stuttgart train station. Two-hundred people crowded around to cheer and clap as Keenan switch-crooked-grinded a handrail.

Who knows why we had to take the six-hour train ride to Hamburg to catch a plane the following day, but we did. Perhaps we should’ve just stayed put, as it nearly ended up in hell. Upon arrival in Hamburg, I opted for a quiet night, but the boys decided to give Hamburg a go even though it was late. They ended up in some dead-end bar in the center of an area of promiscuity. While Sean was sipping a drink, he somehow got on the wrong side of a near-300-pound, six-foot-three, 40-something German. The wrong side was not the right side, and our pissed German friend hit Sean in the face so hard the blow knocked him off his chair. The fight went on while Sean was down on the floor, but in the ensuing mayhem, Sean and the rest of the boys managed to get out of the bar. Luckily, they all made it back to the hotel in one piece.

Back To Blighty

Pete Hellicar from Slam City Skates picked us up from London’s Heathrow Airport. We made our way toward Liverpool on a busy Friday. Another night of partying, but this time it was at a good hip-hop club Pete had recommend. That night took on the familiarity of the whole tour; some retired to bed fairly early, while others went out into the Liverpool nightlife for more.

Indoor parks have been popping up everywhere in the UK over the last couple of years, and even though Britain is blessed with more than its fair share of street spots, none are skateable when wet, so the indoor park has become the backbone of skateboarding there. One such park is RampWorks in Liverpool, where yet another informal demo took place there on Saturday.

After a long haul back to London and a night in a top hotel (courtesy of those nice people at Slam), it was time for me to leave. One last demo went down at London’s PlayStation, but my early departure forced me to miss it.

We said our good-byes outside a tube station in south London. After two weeks on the road, everyone was feeling the same way. The States were calling them back, and I had to get some much-needed laundry done.