Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Touring Europe 16
Everyone loves a Top Ten list, and while on this most recent 5 week European tour I kept thinking about how lucky I am to spend so much time overseas. I realized that I will have spent over 4 months this year in Europe. Crazy… There are a lot of things I don’t like about touring Europe (too many cars, too much cigarette smoke, lack of space, etc etc), but I’d rather focus on the positives. Life is already too complicated and stressful for me these days, I need to think about good things 🙂 Here we go:
There’s nothing quite like driving a manual 6 speed diesel, especially on the left side of the road, hitting a roundabout and zipping across it like nobody’s business 🙂 And these cars are smart enough to turn themselves off while sitting at a light or while stuck in traffic! I’ve lucked out with amazing rental cars in both the UK and on the Continent. When you’re going to drive on the autobahn in Germany it’s very important to have a car that can handle 140 km/hr and up. The last few tours on the Continent my rental cars just coasted along at 140 km/hr, whereas my lovely little Toyota Matrix back in Canada would start screaming at me if I hit 130!
9. Combi-Boilers & Self-Cleaning Toilet Seats
I’m staying with friends who never run out of hot water. It’s a beautiful thing. I keep hearing about these combi-boilers, they’re very popular in Europe. They combine central heating with domestic hot water in one device (slightly different from tankless water heaters that are becoming more known in North America). Then there are the self-cleaning toilet seats at the German autobhan stops. This little arm full of cleaning fluid comes out of the wall and the toilet seat spins around and voila, a clean seat! Only cost 75 cents to watch! 🙂
8. Distance Between Venues
As a Canadian, this is huge. A long drive in Europe is 3 hours, but most venues are often an hour away from each other. Back home in Canada that doesn’t even get me to the next gig, let alone the next town. Granted, it can be incredibly exhausting to drive that 1 or 2 hours as there is about 10x the amount of traffic on the roads. But it’s definitely a treat to be able to drive less between gigs.
I don’t drink coffee back home but over here, it’s another story. Freshly ground beans per cup, fresh milk steamed per cup (for cappuccino and latte drinkers), all available even at the tiniest of petrol stations! It’s rather tempting 🙂 Can’t find that at the PetroCan or Esso stations back home.
Food has always been great on the Continent, and now the UK has upped its food game! I must say that food over here (for the most part) is pretty spectacular. Some of the best meals I’ve had are in Belgium, eating like a queen. I also don’t eat a lot of bread, cheese or yoghurt back home in North America, but when I head overseas I live it up! They have all 3 down to an art. The best Greek yoghurt I’ve had is Fage Total. I dream about it… I also dream about Dutch mustard soup. It’s amazing… And fries with mayonnaise! Is there any other way? The motorway stops in the UK have real food too! M&S and Waitrose now have great salads and pre-made healthy meals, but the stops in Germany and the Netherlands win HANDS DOWN for food on the road. Imagine everything made fresh, both hot and cold food bars, soups, a salad bar, cheese, fresh bread… Sorry, Tim Horton’s, you don’t even qualify.
6a. Indian Food
I think this deserves a sub-category all of its own 🙂 “Star of Bengal” in Whitstable is my new favourite curry house. Just had a marango dish, which was chicken cooked in a mild and creamy sauce with mango slices, then had perhaps the best bindi bhaji (okra) on the planet, and THEN amazing saag paneer. Haven’t had Indian quite this good since I visited Shrewsbury this past June 🙂
5. Bikes in the Netherlands
I’m still in awe of bike culture in the Netherlands. You see people of every age, every income level, every profession riding bikes, riding in suits, in dresses, in uniforms… People ride to work, to school, to concerts, to parties. Teenagers hang out on bikes, act goofy on bikes, try to look cool on bikes. There is even a whole entire highway network committed to bikes! No wonder the Dutch can eat all the fries and mayonnaise they want, when you ride as much as they do those calories are burned in an instant! 🙂
Canada and the US are relatively young countries (I am, of course, referring to when we “officially” became nations), so I never tire of seeing old buildings and houses on my travels here in Europe. I love even more the chance to perform in venues that are older than my home country! It’s happened many times — last tour I played in a Norman castle that was 900 years old, this tour we played in a church from the 1600s. I stayed in a house that was built in the 1400s… Walking on cobbled streets, hitting my head on doorframes because I’m too tall (ha! what’s up with that!?!?!). The list goes on.
3. Ginger Beer
Canada Dry Ginger Ale doesn’t even come close. I am a ginger lover, so the perfect after-gig beverage for me (especially in the UK) is a cold ginger beer. Some of the finer ones include Bunderberg and Fentiman’s. If you want something alcoholic there’s Crabbies. Very lovely indeed…
2. Dresses & Banjos
My purple polka-dot dress comes from Whitstable in England. I also love playing the banjo with my Banjo Master Johnny Fewings, also in Whitstable. He calls me Grasshopper.
It’s a privilege getting to tour in different countries, places where English is a 2nd language (on the Continent), where people’s customs are different from my own. I love getting to know these people, being welcomed into their homes and their lives. I’ve been coming regularly to Europe now since 2007 and I have a most incredible network of friends here, in many different areas. People who will feed me and house me and take me on bike rides and pick me up at the airport and store my stuff for me… And such amazing fans! People who come out faithfully to shows, who offer their support by buying CDs (and socks!), who take part in my Indie Music Angels project. One fan came up to me recently and asked if I was going to start fundraising again for a new album. It made me feel very lucky, to know that people over here care about the longevity of my career, and care about me.
THANK YOU EUROPE!
November 25, 2013 @ 6:28 pm
Hi Cara, Your touring in Europe sounds great, you should try to get back to Oregon some time, would enjoy hearing and seeing you perform! I saw you at the bookstore Borders about ten years ago a little longer and then at a venue called Artichoke or something like that a vegetable anyway on Hawthorne Blvd it was in Portland 🙂
November 26, 2013 @ 9:28 pm
So happy to hear from you, Cara. I love hearing about your great adventures and am glad all is well. Let me know when you’re back here in the wheat fields again,
November 27, 2013 @ 5:01 am
Thank you, dear Heather! I’ll be in Edmonton in February, this time we HAVE to see each other!! 🙂 Sending love from the UK
November 27, 2013 @ 5:02 am
Hi Jim! Thanks for your note! Wow, that sure was a long time ago, I remember playing those places 🙂 I was actually in Portland this past April, performing at the Alberta Rose Theatre. Fingers crossed I’ll make it back down again soon! Wishing you all the best, thanks again for the note 🙂
December 4, 2013 @ 11:20 am
Hi Cara – great diary, thanks for sharing your experiences. Any time you feel like coming back to Seven Arts in Leeds we’ll be waiting for you !
December 4, 2013 @ 12:06 pm
Hi Cara! Your passage at N9 in Eeklo-Belgium isn’t going to be forgotten soon! You guys played as if you were together for many a year already. Thanks for the ‘Wall Of Banjo’s’! ‘The ABC of Canadian Music’ makes us wonder what the next letters will be like! We hope to see you all soon again. I wouldn’t mind if that was together with the ‘A’ and the ‘B’, but whatever the combination, it’s OK for us: you’re always welcome! For those able to understand Dutch/Flemish, see our concert review at http://www.rootstime.be. And to all readers: have yourself a merry Little X-mas!
December 4, 2013 @ 12:12 pm
Hi Cara, just to let you know your visit to our humble wee Torphichen Inn in Scotland’s backwater was indeed one of the great highlights of our 2013 calendar. You always have friends here…..haste ye back we loo ye dearly – lang may yer lum reek………(.come back soon we love you dearly) – (long may your chimney smoke). Best regards to Awna and Brandy too when you next bump into each other. Bill Lothian, Wigwam Concert promotions
December 4, 2013 @ 2:21 pm
It was a joy to see you at Torphichen in Scotland …. you guys really enjoyed your time on stage and that’s what it’s all about …. haste ye back …..
December 5, 2013 @ 3:46 am
I was with my husband and daughter in the Amer. Your performance with Awna and Brandy was great! We enjoyed ourselfes very much! Always when we are listening to your album, which we bought, we think back to the nice and varied performance.
With kind regards,
Henk van Riezen
December 5, 2013 @ 2:52 pm
Nice to read you had such a good time in the UK and Europe. We had a lovely evening watching the ABC show in De Amer in The Netherlands. I was asked that evening to thank you, Awna and Brandy on behalf of the audience. It was a great pleasure to show my gratitude. We enjoy the cd’s we bought that evening and look forward for your next visit.
Wishing you all the best,
December 8, 2013 @ 3:59 pm
Thanks so very much, Henk! We had a wonderful time that evening, hope to make it back again soon! 🙂
December 8, 2013 @ 4:00 pm
Thanks so very much, Lemeke! Here’s hoping I’ll be back again soon in the Netherlands for more concerts 🙂 Wishing you all the best from Canada
December 8, 2013 @ 4:00 pm
Thank you Ian!! I’m already looking forward to my next visit to Scotland! 🙂
December 8, 2013 @ 4:02 pm
Thank you so much for having us, Bill, we absolutely loved our time at the Torphichen Inn! Fabulous audience, great vibe… Here’s hoping I’ll be back in Scotland soon! I will always remember “lang may yer lum reek” 🙂 With very best wishes from Canada
December 8, 2013 @ 4:02 pm
Thank you Antoine! I will also reply to your other emails, we’re grateful for the fabulous review you gave us, and many thanks for the gift of the mix CDs 🙂 They kept me company as I drove around the Netherlands those last few days… 🙂
December 8, 2013 @ 4:03 pm
Thank you so much, Garry! And thank you for your email, I will reply 🙂 Here’s hoping I can make it back to Leeds sooner rather than later! Best wishes to you this Holiday Season