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 – Caffe Galeria – 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.
We got to Ghent on a Friday afternoon, and found the campsite close to the city centre. Big site, well organised and very helpful staff at check-in gave us a map and relevant details. The dogs were sleepy and happy to laze around so we thought we’d have a night out and check out some of the music bars. I took the guitar, just in case I got a chance to play a tune for whoever does the gig bookings – slim chance I know, but it was early evening and ‘shy bairns’ and all that. There was a bus into town, but we walked anyway, 30-40 mins through a big sports park. First stop Missy Sippy – really cool blues and americana bar near the centre. Had a few strong Belgian beers and a chat with the owners – really friendly but nothing doing gig wise. Maybe on our way back through Belgium in August. There is a big festival in July in Ghent, and the bar does its own ‘festival in a festival’ – looks great.
Some nice sights around the city. We liked it!
Next stop the Hot Club of Gent, a jazz haunt – liked the ‘no talking during the performances’ sign. Asked the lad behind the bar about rootsy blues gigs but he’s more into the ‘nightlife’ he says. On to Trefpunt. Again a nice bar, very strong beers, some local characters in. It has a venue attached and its own mini festival in July.
Stopped in at another bar on the wander back, for an 8.5% Charles Quint ale. Slept well!
On, down to Luxembourg, through snow and the dashboard showing -2° outside. Cheap diesel in Luxembourg – always worth filling up! Nice scenery, reminded us of the English Lakes. Stayed 2 nights in Enscherange but didn’t wander far. Toasty in the van though, got some jobs done, Bev sorting the bedroom curtains.
Back into France, started to head South, working out best way to get into Italy. Probably not over the mountain passes, given the amount of snow. A couple of nice stops on the way, including Arbois (home of Louis Pasteur) and Lac de Madine. Stayed at a nice site at Cerveyrieu and set up the dog stroller for a hike up to the cascade. Pretty tough going at times, uphill on cobbles and down a track blocked by a fallen tree, but we made it! Great views. I learned about ‘lavoirs’ which are a common sight in rural France – public areas for washing clothes, fed by streams or piped water. Apparently, there are over 17,000 of them, most in disrepair, some restored to their former glory, before launderettes and washing machines.