It was July of 2002 and I had just COS’d* from the Peace Corps when I traveled to the UK for a two-week vacation prior to starting my job with the American University in Bulgaria. When I say “just COS’d” I mean I JUST COS’d. I COS’d on July 5th and flew to London on July 6th.
Part of me just needed a dose of a western culture that I hadn’t had for a couple of years. I wanted to go somewhere where they could make change when I bought something. I wanted to go somewhere where the toilet paper was already provided in the bathrooms, not where I had to pay the equivalent of .10 cents for four squares sold by a lady sitting in the ladies room at a table with a roll of TP and a pair of scissors. And finally, I wanted to go somewhere where I knew that short of mechanical failure, the coaches and trains would actually depart.
These are not bad things, mind you. They’re just quirky. They’re things I learned to live with. For example, I learned to always carry small bills and coins. To this day, I still always carry a pack of kleenex with me – just in case. And finally, I got a lot of reading done on occasions when a driver didn’t feel like driving the 4.5 hour route to Sofia that particular day meaning I had to wait a couple of hours for the next departure. No big deal. (Of course there was that time when our bus caught on fire while heading down the freeway after leaving Plovdiv…that was kind of a big deal.)
Well once I arrived in London I was thrilled. What a great city. And western England, wow. And Wales – gorgeous! And… Well. You get the idea. After about a little over a week or so in England and Wales, I took a coach up to Edinburgh, Scotland. What a beautiful, fun, amazing (Insert positive adjective here) city!
I stayed at a hostel on the Royal Mile and met a ton of great people! One day I ended up spending the day with a girl from Australia. We visited the Royal Yacht Britannia and the Edinburgh Castle, but had the most fun with a book we both bought called “What’s Under the Kilt.” It’s about life in Scotland and is absolutely hilarious! It’s along the same line as The Onion, but much funnier! Ahem. Anyway, while walking around the city, we found our friend, Malcolm, playing the bagpipes.
He’s a Kiwi who is also part Scottish and is really talented. He was staying at our hostel, too and was a lot of fun. He also earned quite a lot of money playing! So – we stood and watched – all the while urging people on to drop a coin or two in his hat. It worked – plus it was wonderful listening to him. Nice guy!
*COS = Close of Service. This is the term used by Peace Corps volunteers when they complete their two-year service as a volunteer after having taught sustainable skills in a developing nation. It can be used both as a noun and a verb. Once you COS, you become an RPCV – Returned Peace Corps volunteer, or a member of the Peace Corps alumni. There are approximately 250,000 of us who have served in the Peace Corps since it was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.
Halfway through my Peace Corps service, on summer vacation (I taught middle and high school kids so I had a big chunk of my summer off), I traveled up to Budapest, Hungary. What a gorgeous city! While up on the Buda side of the city, we entered the Buda Castle and toured an exhibit they had on display which was 1000 years of music in Hungary. It was a huge exhibit and my friend and I spent a good 3+ hours in there. It was very well done. It had original manuscripts on display, period instruments, information about the composers and listening stations all over. It was so amazing to follow the music on the original manuscript while listening to it in your ear. Wow.
Before we entered though, we happened across these two musicians who were total hams for the camera and very good to boot. We happily left generous tips as we listened to them for a good 15-20 minutes before entering the castle.
Such a beautiful city, Budapest!
According to my friends on Facebook, any street performer can be called a “busker.” Good to know because there’s a fun area in Buenos Aires that has street performers, but many don’t play music. Some dance (as indicated on the painting below) and some just stand there…making you wonder if you’re looking at a person or a statue.
Very cool! I saw some outside the Musée d’Orsay and in the Place du Tertre in Paris but didn’t get pictures of them for some reason. It’s fun to watch them for a while because every so often, you just have to wonder…”did that statue just blink? Or is it just me?” Imagine the muscle strength it requires to stand still for so long! Imagine that because not every one of these statues (I’ve seen Yodas, statues of liberty, gold and silver “statues”, etc.) has the benefit of a long, flowing gown to mask subtle leg movement.
Wow! Definitely very cool!
P.S. For those of you who know the area of Caminito, we did end up at the Bombonera later on this same day to cheer on the Boca Juniors (Despite seeing that River Plate shirt in the picture!) And yes – they won. 5-1 against Gimnasia!
On our last day in Paris back in 2005, Mom and I were walking around the Left Bank before hopping back over the Seine for one last walk around the Notre Dame. As we passed Eglise St. Séverin, we heard music – some really fun music!
This is Borsalino, the jazzy band we heard that day in Paris. They played some fun music with a good beat that made you want to just tap your foot and stick around for a while, so we did. They reminded me a bit of some of the music played in the movie Chocolat. After buying one of their albums, A Little Taste of Paris, I understood why: Minor Swing, one of the songs they played and was also included on the film.
I found a handful of tourist videos of Borsalino and include a couple here. It looks like they have a rotation of musicians, but some are still the same. On a happy note, one of their albums, Metropolitain, is available on iTunes now. Like everyone else, they’re on Facebook, too.
Here are some pictures of Eglise St. Séverin where we heard them playing. They were outside on the far corner, just across from the green awning in the lower left. Behind those buildings is the Seine River and then the Ile de la Cité where we were treated to more fun music – of another jazz band – which I’ll save for another day!
France has known no shortage of talented artisans. Just look at some of the stained glass inside St. Séverin. Amazing, isn’t it?
It’s been eight years since my last trip to Paris. I miss it terribly! I miss the beauty, the history, the culture, the people, the food…and I especially miss the music!
These are a couple of guitarists in Granada, Spain playing traditional Spanish guitar music. They were very nice and were happy to pose while I took a picture. I probably listened to them for a good half hour or more since they were really good and, for January, it was quite nice out!
Granada is a beautiful city in southern Spain and is home to the Alhambra which houses the last of the moorish palaces, Palacio Nazaries. Someday I’ll have a chance to return there and also visit some other cities in the region. So much history!
I love running into musicians playing on street corners or metro stations when I travel. I also try to at least drop something into their hats or cases as I inevitably stand there listening for a while. Here’s one who happily consented to having his picture taken. He was playing traditional French music behind the Notre Dame de Paris on the Ile de la Cité.
Ahh – que j’adore Paris!