Sunday, March 15, 2015

Roadie Report 72 by Camilla McGuinn - 54 Trains, 61 Hotels and 2 Voyages

Roger at sound check in Bruges, Belguim
          The sounds of Roger singing and playing guitar are gently reaching my ears as I sit down at the desk in my office. I promised him that I would begin work on the BLOG this Saturday morning. After all I finally finished all the tax paperwork, planted vegetables and painted a wall. I have no more excuses. Now it was time to get to work. I don't really consider writing the BLOG as work, but there is a moment of sheer terror when I open the Word program and  wonder if I can think of any words to type and if I do, will I write them properly. English grammar was not my best subject. I think I excelled in recess. Roger has been asking me for weeks when was I going to finish writing about our European tour. He likes reading the BLOG  because it reminds him of our sweet memories.

          I was curious as to how many trains we boarded during our 17 week concert tour and was shocked to count 54 different trains. Those Eurail  and Britrail passes definitely paid off.  Too bad there isn't a hotel pass somewhere. We checked into 61 hotels. After I had established our itinerary, booked our hotels and studied train schedules, I knew that the best way to approach the journey was one day at a time. Everyday held a new adventure but I have to admit that during the last two weeks, I felt like I was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. One step at a time became the  focus that would take us back to Southampton and the respite awaiting us on the elegant Queen Mary 2 even though Roger was giving lectures on board. But before we began the voyage home, there were some beautiful cities and wonderful concert audiences to experience.

          After the concerts in Germany, we boarded the Eurostar for the second time on this trip for four concerts in England. Roger had performed at all the theaters on previous tours. It was like coming home to Bristol, London, Leeds and Newcastle and the sun was shining in every city.

Eurostar Train Station
          The day after the Newcastle concert, we had to catch a train to London, navigate the busy streets of London to change train stations, then catch the Eurostar again, this time to Brussels. We arrived in Brussels just in time to get a late night sleep. On October 1, we caught  the train to Eindhoven for the first of 13 concerts in the Netherlands.
          Remco, the tour manager from MOJO concerts, picked us up at our hotel. We had worked with him two years earlier and were thrilled when he told us that Kurt was our sound engineer again. This professional crew made our concerts stress free and fun.

          The next train was to Enschede, then to Haarlem for a concert and four nights in the same hotel, The Carlton Square. The city of Harlem is perfect for walking. There is one historical museum that I have always wanted to see and this was our chance. The home of Corrie Ten Boom with a hiding place in the house that saved lives.
          The Ten Boom family were Christians who hid a group of Jews during the Nazi occupation. In their house a fake wall was constructed for a small room where the Jews hid while the Ten Boom family was taken to prison. Corrie was the only family member who survived the Nazi concentration camps.  She wrote a book about those times called, ":The Hiding Place ."The tours are small and free.
          I asked several people in the Netherlands if they had been to the house, but few people knew about it. Everyone knew about Ann Frank's house in Amsterdam. I didn't understand why this home was so unknown until a friend mentioned to Roger that the Ten Boom story is known as a Christian story, not as a holocaust survivor story. Same war, same God, same Jewish people, same prison.
          Exploring the streets and crossing the canals in Haarlem were the quiet moments we embraced. The old buildings, the restaurants and the small hotel  became very familiar by the time we caught the train for the next concert in Tilburg.
          We traveled by train to most of the cities, but Holland is a small country so we decided to base out of Amsterdam for some of the shows with Remco driving us.


          Once again I found a flat to rent for five days in a very fun area of Amsterdam, just blocks from the Rijksmuseum. 

      On the way to the museum we walked along a street that was better than Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. There was even a Tesla showroom.
Telsa Showroom 
     But true to our habits, our shopping was done in the closest grocery store. Our flat had such a beautiful garden we saw no reason to look for a window table in a restaurant.

Flat with a view

     Every city in Holland has a wealth of history and of course a beautiful church.  The canals, windmills and countryside are impressive but it is the bicycles that kept amazing us. The streets have big bike paths and we were in more danger of being hit by a bicycle than we were by cars or buses. Everyone rides, little toddlers to grandmothers. The train stations even have double-decker bike garages.
Commuter parking lot
          Before the concerts, I'm in the lobby at what Roger calls my "lemonade stand." I have Roger's autographed CDs and posters available for his fans. The main reason I like to be there is that folks tell me their stories about Roger and how his music touched their lives. After the concert in Hoorn, several men were excited to tell me that the sea chantey Roger talked and sang about, "Randy, Dandy O," made reference to Cape Horn. Cape Horn was named by the sailors from Hoorn in Holland.

Roger at sound check

     Before the end of the Holland concerts, we made one trip to the city of Bruges, Belguim and the beautiful theater that was built as a replica of the Paris Opera House. After a while, the word beautiful seems so overdone, but there is really no other way to describe some of the lovely cities of Europe. We had one day off to explore the historical part  Bruges, then it was back on the train for our last concert in Holland in the city of Nijmegen.

Bird Man in Brugge


     We boarded the Eurostar for the fourth time during this tour on October 30. By now, finding our seats on the Chunnel Train was as easy as navigating Amtrak  and the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel was feeling like a second home.

          November 1st was the beginning of the last leg of our concert tour. Concerts were scheduled in Milton  Keynes, Birmingham, Cardiff, Brighton, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham and Cheltenham.  This was when I began feeling like I was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Words spoken can have an impact, so I didn't tell Roger  I was becoming weary. Each concert requires a lot of energy from both of us and any cloud can drain energy that is needed for a fresh performance. Once Roger walks on stage, my energy soars until the last encore.

          Our train trips through England were filled with the same excitement that we felt when we embarked on our  first train journey in the United Kingdom many years ago. Seeing familiar cities, theaters and friends in the unusually warm sunny weather brought us to laughter when we told everyone that the warm sunshine would go away when we boarded the Queen Mary 2 on November 12.
The Queen Mary 2
          After the last concert in Cheltenham, Tilo, our English tour manager, drove us to Southampton. The sight of the majestic ocean liner almost brought tears to my eyes. The journey was almost over. I was relieved in a way, but sad with a sense of awe. Did we really do it? Did we haul guitars up the steps to 54 trains and into 61 hotels. And the age old question every performer thinks when the run is over, "Will we ever work again?"

          Yep! We did. We just got back from driving to concerts in Arizona, Texas and Louisiana. I hear we're going to Japan and Hawaii this year. There will be more sweet memories coming!

This painting was in the flat in Amsterdam. It reminded me of  someone.

I was surprised at how close I could get to this painting and that photos were allowed in the Rijksmuseum.

Bruges, Belguim

View from our hotel room of the Castle in Cardiff 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Roadie Report 71 by Camilla McGuinn - Germany and Austria


     The song "Get To You" kept going through my head as I pulled out my computer to write about the German portion of the tour. It is a song about a journey to get to a person loved. We love our journeys.
View from a train window in Germany

     Long train trips offer a perfect opportunity to write the BLOG but it means my eyes keep darting from the keyboard to the scenery speeding past the window. We are amazed at how much beautiful open land there is throughout England and Europe. These countries are centuries old but only the cities are crowded. The farmlands are abundant with delicious vegetables like the ones my grandma used to raise. Tomatoes with flavor! If I'm ever home long enough to pick a ripe tomato, I plan on planting them in abundance, but I'm married to a troubadour who never wants to stop carrying  his guitar to places where folks will listen. Thank you all so much for listening!

Cologne Cathedral
       Castles and Cathedrals are scattered everywhere. They took centuries to build but the solar panels and wind turbines are new to the landscape. We are sincere proponents of using the power of the sun and wind. Germany has miles of solar farms and thousands of houses storing the energy of a new time. Remember the stone age ceased because they found better ways, not because they ran out of stones. Our hope is that our oil age will cease when the ability to store the sun's energy becomes available, cost effective and important to everyone.

German Solar Farm
     When we talk about the different countries we have visited, Roger always says that he loves Germany because everything works. Well Germany was having a glitch when we toured in September. Our "boot camp" continued!

Cologne Train Station
     Figuring the logistics for three and half months was a daunting task, but I was sure that the German portion of our train connections would be exactly as listed. After a wonderful stay and concert in Antwerp, we boarded the train for a long trip to Hamburg. Little did we know that the German train drivers had called for a three hour strike. Our train left Antwerp on time, arrived in Brussels on time and in Cologne on time. With a 55 minute connection time we strolled to our next platform. The September weather was sunny and warm. Sitting on the platform watching the people was delightful. We felt confident that all was well with the world. Then announcements in German began and every so often one in English. "Due to the strike the train to Hamburg has been delayed 30 minutes." We were still comfortable on one of the few benches available. After 30 minutes, I became less comfortable. I went to check the electronic platform board. Our train was in the station but at a different platform. It was boarding.

    I ran to get Roger and our luggage. The escalator down was working. When we got to the escalator going up to the changed platform, it was out of order. We didn't have time to look for an elevator, so we began carrying our heavy luggage up the escalator steps. The metal steps were not conducive to dragging the wheeled bags up, so we had to lift them. Now I thought we had sparsely packed for our almost 18 week adventure, but lifting our bags on that escalator caused me to lament at having to need anything at all. Half way up a young couple who was passing us picked up my second bag and got me to the top. I broke a rule, left my bags there and ran back down to take the guitar Roger was carrying. We each carry one guitar, one roller bag and one misc bag. Roger also carries a third bag for those last minute things like water. We boarded the train just before it pulled out of the station.

    The first German concert was in Hamburg on September 7th. Peter, the promoter for the  eight German concerts and the one Austrian concert of our tour, met us at the hotel. We had worked with Peter five years ago. He wasn't only a promoter, he had become a friend.

    We traveled by train to all but one of the cities with a day off every two days.

    The train from Oldenburg to Nuremberg was delayed reaching our connection in Hannover. We had 14 minutes to change platforms. That wouldn't have been a problem if the train had been on time and especially if the electronic platform list had been working. It was working  except for the part that listed the platform for our train to Nuremberg. Once we found the location of our connection, we ran to the platform but the elevator wasn't working. One more time we were dragging our bags up the stairs. Finally as we reached  the top of the stairs  we caught site of our train just leaving the station. We laughed as we simultaneously said, "Boot Camp!" Fortunately,  I had a rail planner app on my iPhone. There was another train to Nuremberg in 30 minutes.

Dinner Time
      The train arrived in Nuremberg in time for dinner. Walking the ancient streets in the cool evening gave us a sense of history. We found a beer garden to enjoy a delightful traditional German dinner.

Osnabruck from our hotel window.
Osnabruck restaurant
Osnabruck is a city we have never visited. The old part of the town is graced with  beautiful cathedrals, shops and restaurants. Our lunch time server told us the city is beautifully decorated for the Christmas season and is a destination for many during the holidays.

    The tour schedule doesn't always give us the time to  fully appreciate the cities and we did wish that we had more time especially in the vibrant city of Berlin to visit the museums. Germany's cities and countryside are like paintings and a walk through history.
Roger in Berlin

    On our way to the last German concert in Stuttgart, we lost another electronic device. It was a perfect storm. The train lurched, a box of crackers fell into a glass, the glass fell into Roger's Apple MacBook Air computer keyboard. The computer was destroyed. One iPad, one camera and now one computer had become pieces of dead hardware due to liquids. The camera was replaced and now we had to replace the computer because Roger still had two more lectures on the Queen Mary 2 during the November 12 crossing to New York. The presentation was dependent on the computer program showing  pictures, video and audio clips. Roger had diligently backed up the lectures on a separate hard drive. We decided to wait until we got to London to visit the Apple store for another computer. I decided that I didn't really need another iPad. Life just got simpler.

Roger taking the computer apart.
     The computer disaster didn't dampen the Stuttgart concert. It was in a wonderful venue with a great sound system and happy audience. We left a note for Elvis Costello who was playing there a few weeks after Roger.

     Our TGV train left our final German city, Stuttgart on Sept 23rd for London via Paris on the Eurostar. Our traveling "chops" were now fine tuned. Navigating the  German train stations became as familiar as our beloved highways of the United States.  We were hoping the "Boot Camp" training was coming to an end but even the glitches from London to Germany had already become a funny part of our sweet memories.

Linz Austria

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Roadie Report 70 by Camilla McGuin - PARIS, BRUSSELS and ANTWERP

Roger in Paris
      Leaving our Knightsbridge flat was a bit of a sweet sorrow but we had two more favorite hotels to experience before our trip to the Continent.
               Two nights were spent sleeping in the boutique hotel, The Knightsbridge Inn. We found this lovely converted row house years ago and even though it has now exceeded our budget, the two nights spent there on the special weekend rate were well worth it. We ate at our favorite local Thai restaurant around the corner and the food court at Harrods. London was now a very familiar city for us.
               After the Kensington neighborhood, we cashed in our Marriott Frequent Hotel points for the lovely and convenient Renaissance at St. Pancras train station since we would be catching the Euro Star to Paris from there. It was so luxurious to be able to roll our bags out of the hotel lobby right into the train station.    

           "Paris is a woman's town with flowers in her hair." That is a line from the Henry Van Dyke poem "America For Me."  Roger and I found the poem on a cozy night in Berkeley California in a poetry book my brother had saved from our childhood. When I read it to Roger, he picked up his guitar and added the music. Our next CD project named "Favorites" will include that song.

The Flowers at Notre Dame
     Paris is indeed a city with flowers and lights. We walked the city for hours. With famous landmarks as a destination; Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Opera House. It was August and even though the locals had left town, the rest of the world was on every corner. Years ago we had been in the Eiffel Tower restaurant for lunch, prayed quietly in Notre Dame and visited the Louvre, mostly to see the "Mona Lisa." This time the lines were longer at those points of interest than the ones at  Walt Disney World in the summer! The crowds didn't bother us, we were just happy to be living and walking for a few days in this beautiful city.
     We always had a destination on our walks, but we never knew quite where it would lead us. The third day in Paris was day for meandering until we got hungry. Pat, our sister-in-law, joined us on our exploration. The lunch hours were almost over and I was insistent that we keep looking for the quintessential French restaurant. A late lunch is usually our main meal of the day. That means the meal is special to us and should have tablecloths with atmosphere.
    Roger and Pat were getting worried that I might insist we go back to the Oriental part of Paris for sushi. I declared that we would soon find the perfect restaurant and then we did! Peering into a window we saw tablecloths and a cozy ambience. We later learned that Le Grand Colbert restaurant was used in a favorite movie of ours, "Something's Got to Give" with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton.
               Paris was on our way to the Belgium and German part of the concert tour but while we were in Paris we celebrated our dear friend Lariane's sixtieth birthday. Her husband Phil, emailed me and asked if I wanted to speak at her Paris

soiree. I replied, "Have you ever known me not to want to talk?"  
      Even though I was quick to say yes, the reality of trying to honor a special person became a daunting process. I came up with all sorts of corny jokes. My prayer became, "Oh Lord...what am I going to say?"
    Then the answer came in an email from Roger. He had read some quotes of Winston Churchill and thought his "history buff" of a wife would enjoy their wisdom. As I read the quotes from Laraine's fellow countryman, I realized Mr. Churchill had described all the amazing traits of her intestinal fortitude.  Every quote fit Laraine perfectly.
     The epiphany of going back into history to describe a friend, inspired me to go further back. I went to the words of The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 in the New Testament of the Bible. It is called the "Love Chapter." Once again, the chapter described Laraine's traits.
       Since all good things come in threes, I needed one more quote,. I asked an older and wiser man... my husband Roger. Without a pause, he described Laraine as a spark. "When she walks into a room, the whole room ignites." For the eighty people who traveled from around the world for her Paris celebration, those words described her brilliantly.
      Roger's time is Paris was filled with telephone interviews to promote our five country concert tour but now it was time to stamp our Global Eurail Pass for the train to Brussels. 

We spent two in days a favorite hotel in the old section of town, the Amigo Hotel. The area is filled with restaurants, cobbled streets and old architecture. 

Roger performed for a radio show and then we found a local food  
Radio 1 Belgium
market to prepare a tapas picnic for dinner. Grocery stores can be as much fun as museums if you enjoy eating like a local.

     Two days later we were on the train to the beautiful town of Antwerp and our first concert of the tour. We stayed in the old part of the city and were captivated by the charm and the fact that it wasn't only for tourists but local people working, eating and living within its boundaries. There were real stores including a great camera shop.
     I had been missing my camera since London. All my photos of Paris were from my iPhone, but I sorely missed my 20X zoom lens. The moment I decided to quit silently lamenting my loss, we crossed the street and walked into a great store. A kind gentleman demonstrated a Nikon with 30x zoom - better than my last one. I was concerned that it would be much more expensive than it would be in the States, but it was a fair price. Now I could zoom in on all the sites of Europe.

Beautiful Antwerp taken with my new camera.
     One of my first zooms back at the hotel was a street cleaner or maybe I should  say street vacuum cleaner. I couldn't believe it ... they vacuumed the sidewalks with a portable cleaner. In my town a great big truck comes around about once a month with brushes that move stuff around, here the vacuum cleaner sucked it all up. Well I guess it is the simple things that amaze me.

     "Boot camp" didn't begin again until Germany.

We will always have Paris!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Roadie Report 69 By Camilla McGuinn - London Days and More Boot Camp

Sunny Days in London
Our London Neighborhood

      We dropped our bags in the flat and put on our exploring shoes to familiarize ourselves with our new neighborhood for the next ten days. I knew that a Whole Foods Market was less than a mile to the west and Harrods food court was a mile in the other direction, but tonight dinner would be in a local restaurant.

After dinner, our walk home in the warm London evening was enhanced by the smiles on our faces. With all the exercise we had gotten pulling our equipment over the Thames, we turned  in early after enjoying a glass of wine on the cozy patio.
The morning light.
The flat is located in the basement of one of the row houses. Because of the ground location, it has two private patios, one off the living room and one off the master bedroom. 
 Morning sunshine flooding the master patio was our morning alarm clock.
Everything was perfect, until Roger took a shower. He emerged from the bathroom laughing, "Remember how I mentioned we were in boot camp yesterday? Well we still are!  There is no hot water. I took a cold shower."
 I jumped out of bed and began testing all the faucets. Yep, he was right. There was no hot water. A quick telephone call to the rental agent's office assured me the problem would be fixed quickly.
As I was washing my face in the sink, I noticed water on the floor. There was a leak in the master bath sink spilling out of the cabinet onto the floor. A quick call to the rental agent was again necessary.
Then a short time later, another call to the rental agent, "This is a basement apartment and it is a little chilly. The thermostat doesn't seem to be working." "No problem. Someone will be over today."
The Kitchen
Feeling confident that everything would be fixed, we began our first walk to the Whole Foods Market to stock our kitchen. Our favorite way of exploring cities is to go to their grocery stores. Even though Whole Foods isn't a typical grocery store where most folks do their weekly shopping, Whole Foods Markets are different in every country. We later found a Sainsbury's, the second largest chain of UK supermarkets,  and another favorite, the Waitrose, which Nick, Roger's agent had recommended.
The Dining Table to Entertain Friends
Our food shopping had dual purposes. We were cooking for friends. After thirty years of working with Nick Peel, we'd never had the opportunity to share our favorite hobby with him. He was coming to dinner. We also invited friends that we'd made on the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary 2. Cooking in our quirky little flat in London was going to be fun, but sharing it with others was going to be the highlight of the stay.
The Famous Black Taxi
In between the domestic bliss, Roger had a full schedule of radio and press interviews to promote the tour. Our taxi bill was getting very high but we had a plan. Public transportation has always been fascinating to me. I never lived in a city where you could hop a bus to go somewhere, now I did.
Our grocery store forays had us walking for miles. When we passed the bus stops, I always wondered how to get on a bus. How much was the fare? How did you know where they were going? Thanks to the internet, I became an aficionado of the London bus system.
A View from the Bus
You can't pay with coins on London buses, you have to have an "Oyster Card." Nick explained that once you bought the cards, you could top them up and use them forever. We went to our local tube station, bought two cards, looked up the routes on the internet and became regulars on the top deck of the very clean red, double-decker London buses.
The buses were now our form of transportation and sightseeing. When Nick said he was going to catch the bus for our dinner party, he was surprised when I told him to catch the #74, it stopped a block from our flat. We also caught the #74 to Westminster Abbey for the Sunday service.
Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is magnificent. The service was touching, but the thing that interested me most were the number of women wearing burqas sitting though the  service. On Sunday's there are no tours offered in Westminster Abbey. I surmised they realized the only way to get into the historical church on Sunday was to attend the religious service. They all sat quietly listening to a teaching about the love of Jesus.
Back at the flat, things were falling apart in the old building. I wasn't sure if we were living in a nightmare or a sitcom. It  took three days to get hot water and heat. Roger went to sit down at the dinner table the night Nick came to dinner and he barely caught himself as the chair collapsed. That night the bed collapsed.
Now I became concerned. If a child had been in the bed, its head might have become lodged between the board that was holding the mattress to the frame when it slipped and fell to the floor. I was very thankful Roger's hands didn't get caught in the collapse. 

The next day, Roger flipped on the bathroom light switch, heard a pop and all the lights went out. No electric light in a basement flat can cause a lot of darkness at the wrong time of day. Another call to the agent.

The view from my desk.
                                    In spite of the problems, we loved shopping, entertaining our friends and living in this quirky London flat!  Every morning I would sit at the desk working on the tour with a cup of tea to sip for those occasional breaks to gaze out the window.

Dennis Hopper's photographs were being displayed at the Royal Academy of Arts. They were also showing two of his movies, "The Last Movie" and "Easy Rider." In our lives, we know there are no coincidences. A bus ride to the museum was now on our agenda.
We got to the museum just as it opened and "The Last Movie" was showing. Since neither one of us had seen it, we sat through the rather agonizing hour and a half of the movie that got Dennis Hopper banned from Hollywood for years. We felt we had to stay to the end. I kept hoping the ending would be interesting, but it was worse than the whole of the movie. Now that is about as much as a movie critic I ever want to be.
Mr. Hopper's photographs are a time capsule. There were some familiar faces for Roger. We did go back to the screening room to watch "Easy Rider" but I insisted on leaving before Jack Nicholson got bashed on the head with a baseball bat. I don't like dark moments.
I purposely kept the last day open, so we could have one last romantic evening  in our London home and begin packing for our tour. The doorbell rang at 11am that day. Three attractive ladies were standing at the door appearing surprised to see me. They were the maids. It was our check out day! In 34 years of being a tour manager, I have never missed a check out day!
I  smiled, "Oh there must be a mistake. Please excuse me while I call the agent." Before the phone call, I checked my reservation papers ... yikes! I had made a mistake. The ladies told me that all the hotel rooms in London were booked for a carnival in Knotting Hill.
This time, my call to the agent's office was ever so humble with a desperate plea to stay one more night. I had just put clothes in the washing machine. We couldn't get out in an hour. The agent told me the owner was scheduled to arrive that day, but they would call and ask him. The next hour held emotions between total despair to optimism ... which we always try to bring into our situations ... but it wasn't until the agent's call telling us the owner said we could stay, that leaps of joy danced through the flat.

The Large Patio
One last glass of wine on the patio, one last tapas meal made in our kitchen and one last night in a flat that now had hot water, heat, a fixed bed, a chair waiting to be fixed and memories of the time we lived in London. We look forward to a future date of entertaining in our London home again. Who knows who will visit us next time!

Coming Next- Boot Camp in Europe!