When I left it last time, we still weren’t completely sure if our tour was going to be able to go ahead…but fortunately all the paperwork was completed in time, and so off we set the following morning. Things didn’t start off too well, with horrendous traffic causing us to miss our ferry from Dover to Calais, but a couple of hours later we finally made it to France. Unfortunately though, major traffic jams (and arriving places very late) were about to become a common occurrence over the next 9 days! But anyway, after a further 6 hours in the car we arrived at the first Youth Hostel in Dole where we were given free food and accommodation in exchange for playing a concert there in the evening.
The following day we carried on travelling to our next stop at Lyon, before heading out in the evening to play at the famous Vienne Jazz Festival. This was our biggest gig so luckily it went well in front of a fabulous crowd. They were desperate for more at the end, but due to the strict scheduling of the festival we had to leave it at an hour set. But it was great whilst it lasted! In return for this performance we got an amazing free meal at a local restaurant and free tickets to watch the main stage later that evening. It was an incredible venue – an ancient Roman amphitheatre with fantastic views over the city. The headline act was Wynton Marsalis’ big band and they cranked out an incredible set late into the night! We came back to the same venue the following night for some more great performances, with my favourite being Roy Ayers’ band as they injected so much humour into the performance as well as just playing very well.
We had no more performances for a few days now, as a couple sadly had to be cancelled whilst we were out there, so over the next few days we continued our journey through France, visiting Sete, Nimes and Toulouse; spending time in the cities and on the beach (and a lot of time sat in traffic!). In Toulouse there was an amazing shop called Fnac – an ECS student’s heaven with several floors full of all kinds of gadgets and gizmos!
Next it was onto Spain where we were staying in Sans Sebastian. We were the first ever group to stay at the Youth Hostel and it was like walking into Ikea! Literally everything was brand new from the Swedish giant and it was quite a site. We even had press arrive to come and take a look around with us! Our first day there was spent looking round the city and then spending the evening at the Vitoria-Gasteiz jazz festival. On the second day we played our final concert at an English Language school in Santander and again received a delicious free meal in return. We then headed to the port to board our ferry home (although in a cruel twist of fate we actually arrived at the port very early – a first on this tour – and the ferry arrived an hour and a half late!). The ferry itself was very choppy, and at 21 hours long not the most enjoyable experience, but finally it ended and we were back in England!
A big thanks to Robin for organising it all, and I know we are heading for a great year next time around. If any budding musicians are reading this then come and check us out at the Bunfight on Wednesday 30th September!