I spent one rainy day looking ahead at our possible route and googling for cool bars and venues to approach for gigs. I really liked the look of Nostalgija vintage cafe bar in Ljubljana. We only had the one possible free night – the 23rd May, a Thursday. They normally have live music on Fridays and Saturdays, but agreed to a ‘Thursday Night Special’.
Cheers to Nico for putting me on! It’s a cool 50s/60s themed bar, with vintage stuff all over – old sit-under hairdryers for bar stools, a wurlitzer, old vacuum cleaners, and groceries. I played blues from the 20s, 40s, 60s and my own songs. Really relaxed, good banter 🙂
As we were nearing Slovenia, I tried a facebook message to a bar in Piran that has live music. I’d messaged once already, in English, with a bit of a wordy intro, links to a few videos and some vague dates. No reply, but now we’d got more exact dates, I thought it worth a follow up. I used Google translate and sent a shorter message in Slovenian. Within seconds, I got about 10 replies straight back, in Slovenian. Frantically copying and pasting and translating and replying, it looked positive. At last, I had a gig!
Huge thanks (Hvala!) to Adi, the bar owner at Caffe Galeria, for taking a chance and having me on at short notice. It’s a great music bar right by the harbour. Good beer, nice crowd (locals and tourists), and top cakes too, according to Bev. I played 2 sets, a mix of my own songs and covers of vintage blues (e.g. Big Bill Broonzy, Blind Bake, B.B. King), acoustic soul (Otis Redding, Bill Withers) and well known classics (The Animals, Fleetwood Mac, Chuck Berry). Went down well. First real run out for my little BOSS acoustic amp, and it sounded great.
The next day we walked the 5km in from the campsite in Portorese to see Piran properly. What an amazing place! The old town is a maze of narrow cobbled streets – I love it. Pics to follow in our round-up of Slovenia.
Such an amazing city, I was really keen to find a way to visit again. Obviously, you can’t really drive there. There is a ‘area sosta camper’ on the island of Tronchetto, across the lagoon on the edge of the city – but we’d seen mixed reviews and opted for a site just on the mainland Camping Rialto, near a bus route that could get us there in 20 mins. The site was quite waterlogged so we tried to find a pitch where we were least likely to get stuck. Ever the optimists, we were confident the weather would brighten up – and it did! Up early-ish, and on to the bus which was really busy. The dogs did well to stay calm, and fellow passengers were mostly cheerful, accepting Marra leaning himself up against their legs and ignoring Boo’s uninvited sniffing. We’d decided not to take Marra’s wheels – the right choice. We took it easy over countless little bridges, and eventually I carried him when he got tired, but we wouldn’t have seen half the sights with the rover. It’s a city made for getting lost in – every corner is a picture postcard shot and there is no sense trying to follow paper or Google maps too closely. There was nothing particularly we wanted to do – other than bimble around and enjoy the sights, ignore other tourists and soak up the magical atmosphere.
We called at another bar I’d contacted about getting gigs – Osteria all’Alba. Close to the Rialto but tucked away down an alley, we had a few beers and nibbles. The lady loved the dogs and we had a chat about music. She books the gigs maybe 3 months in advance. I’ll plan ahead next time – it’s a tiny bar/venue, would be really cool to play there.
Another movie-geek moment: Bev spotted another James Bond location, Ponte de le Collone, which Vesper crosses on her way to meet the bad guys in Casino Royale.
One of the joys we remembered about Venice was Osteria hopping – their version of aperitivo hour, where workers wander home stopping at the small bars for an ombra of wine and nibbles like polpette (meatballs) and arancini (stuffed rice balls). We were there a bit early in the day for the full experience, but got a taste at a few bars around the city.
I don’t think I’d get tired of taking photos there – in different seasons, different light, etc. Here’s just a sample…
Next morning, about 100 Polish scouts started setting up on site, all around our pitch. We thought we’d move on, around the Venetian gulf towards Slovenia.
Heading towards Venezia, up in the hills above Vicenza, Bev found us a place to park up at a vineyard – La Colline del Vitacchio. It’s free to stay, if you have a taste and buy some wine. There were a few local characters in, lots of banter but they had such a strong dialect, we were really struggling and they spoke no English. Bev mentioned my guitar, and they all burst into song – Suona Chitara! I sang a few, then more instruments appeared and we had an impromptu session, all the while sampling the vino 🙂 Gorgeous home-made salami too.
The old fella was 75 and whopped out his Hohner Super 64 – the big daddy of harmonicas. He said he only played classical, did I know Concierto De Aranjuez? We busked it, went really well! Wish we’d caught that one on video.