There are two rules I loosely follow when travelling – neither locked in cement.
Firstly, When in Rome do as ……. you know the rest (sorry, don’t do sheep eyes)
Secondly, only 1 castle and 1 cathedral/church per country.
The rest make up as you go.

Since mid May we’ve been living in a small caravan in Coventry England.

Nursery Tavern - CoventryGreat to be re-acquainted with my favourite Cov pub, The Nursery Tavern in Chapel fields.
Played a gig there in June with some excellent local musicians (assembled by the irrepressible Elaine) and have another coming up in August.

Sadly, my favourite venue / coffee lounge The Tin Angel is no more but it’s sister venue Taylor Johns House in the Canal Basin is still motoring on with a mixture of quality local and touring acts.

Regularly pop down for a play to the Tump Folk Club at Coombe on a Thursday – very friendly bunch and a huge diversity of ages, genres and abilities – just as music should be!

There are small folk clubs and open mics scattered everywhere – you could play every night of the week if the mood took you.

Have seen (and heard!) a lot of outstanding music this trip including locals Wes Finch, Lucy Anne Sale, Kristy Gallacher, Matt Lakey, Sarah Bennett, Amit Dattani from the Black Country, Bodger’s Mate from Leicester, and tourers Devon Sproule, Curtis Ellers and Nils Lofgren among the many.

So that, in a nutshell, is life at home base.  Now for the add ons! (I’ll keep it brief)

France

Two weeks in the Dordogne region of south west of France.
Stunningly beautiful, spectacular cliffs, river, towns, medieval buildings, forests and markets and as many English here as French (not left over from The Hundred Years war either)
Quite a tourist region, though fortunately we avoided the high season, but all a bit picture book and not quite real – and that’s not a complaint, more an observation.

Castles  – 1
Cathedrals – 0
Music –  0

Spain

Five days traversing Northern Spain.
One of those trips where the journey is as good as the destination.
I prefer to travel by train (not only because I dislike flying) and preferably during the day so I can get some sort of appreciation for the terrain I’m travelling through.

Had no idea what to expect and was surprised by how sparsely inhabited and mountainous it was.

Leon – Had not heard of it until we pulled into the station.
The old part of the city was brilliant – great food and wine, interesting cobbled lanes and really impressive medieval cathedral, apparently renowned for the intensity of the stain glass windows – and there were plenty of them!

Vigo – Another town/city I had not heard of and a real gem.
It is a fishing port, on the north west coast, supposedly the largest in Europe.
Very hilly, interesting architecture and several islands within a 30 minute ferry ride.

I’ve always had a preference for “working” or industrial towns over postcard destinations – usually better and more varied cuisine and bars and generally much more authentic than the tourist meccas.
Vigo ticked all the boxes and would make a pretty good postcard as well! – At last I found my grilled sardines!

Castles 0
Cathedrals 1
Music 0

Portugal

Decided we would venture no further south than Lisbon, halfway down Portugal, to avoid the terrible high rise tourist rat holes serving soggy chips to drunken British holiday makers – like a Mediterranean version of our Gold Coast.

Podentes - SquarePodentes – Small village, inland and well away from the tourist routes – it was a highlight of the trip.
One shop (you had to know it was a shop, no signage) selling beer, toilet paper and litre bottles of locally produced wine for around $1.50.
A bread van would come to the village twice a day, meat, fish and vegetable vans a couple of times a week and all the houses grew their own vegies and most importantly, grapes.
Very friendly, quiet and generous with their home made wine and produce.
No mobile coverage either – perfect!
Walking down the street early on a Sunday morning I heard this beautiful music coming from the open door of a cottage, guitar slightly out of tune and a really strong, gravelly, voice – Portuguese Tom Waits.
I sat there for about half an hour till he finished – tempted to go and knock on the door, but some things are best kept a mystery.

1000x_lisbon-4Lisbon – Loved this city!
One of our prime objectives was to track down some Fado music, native to Lisbon (rightly or wrongly, mostly wrongly sometimes referred to as Portuguese blues, but you get the idea)
Had a memorable night at the Fado Club and lucky enough to see some of the genres finest.

Castles 1
Cathedrals 0
Music 5+

We fluked arriving in Lisbon on Fiesta weekend and the old quarter, the Alfama, was going wild – and yes, more sardines!
I hope God is not a fish or I’m in deep trouble.

Back in the UK, a quick trip up to Manchester and then on to Great Langdale in The Lake District.
The subsequent all day climb up to and across the Crinkle Crags and on to the summit of Bowfell became fodder for this weeks poem- greatly exaggerated if not entirely fabricated – the ending at least was true – ten pints with Leicester band Bodgers Mate at the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel!

Wednesday I managed to cross off an entry from my “To do before you die” list – saw the Royal Shakespeare Company performing Macbeth at Stratford-on-Avon – brilliant! No wonder they had a large cast – most were dead by the second act!

As Pink Floyd once said “Wish You Were Here”

Part 2 will be along…

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