Another Hostel Winner: The Yellow Rome

I have had some SERIOUS good hostel karma lately. I booked my trip to Rome last minute with no gigs booked, so was able to pick my hostel for one of the first times this trip (crazy!) so I went all out, reading reviews on hostelworld.com and finally picked The Yellow, a party hostel with a great location and a bar. (very important to me as that’s where you meet friends!) and I’m so glad I picked this place.

Full Kitchen, full bar and restaurant, hair salon in house, tattoos upon request, big awesome stage to play, with an underground nightclub. There were lots of options for group cooking classes, burlesque dance classes, yoga, bike tours, and free live music from local AND traveling bands every night. This place is hugely popular with locals as well as hostel-stayers.

The staff and bartenders are so friendly, happy and always smiling. I unfortunately had to get some work done during my stay (one of the cons of working remotely) but I just used the wifi in the bar, and had Ed Sheeran singalongs with the bartenders and it made the time go by. I also would suggest spending a day hanging out at The Yellow bar on the patio, if the weather is good. That same day I finished work and figured I didn’t have enough time to venture out and be a tourist, so I ordered a pitcher of cheap beer and joined a group outside to share. They were all traveling alone/in small groups and we all hung out for hours and then rented Vespas the next day together to explore the city.

As a solo traveller, finding a place with such awesome community vibes is so priceless. Everyone here was so open to meeting friends that the last night, 2 of the girls and I were just full-on walking up to people who were sitting by themselves, bringing beer, and saying “hey who are you, why are you by yourself, come hang out with us” #howtomakefriends

We had the whole bar. Seriously one of my favourite weekends. I do have to mention one bad thing about this hostel….it is ALWAYS awake. It’s not really a place you go to have a great night’s sleep, so prepare your body. There’s always live music, and I participated in the play-to-stay program in exchange for free accommodation. My gig was fantastic, one of my biggest crowds yet (in a city where I have NO draw, so awesome) but since there’s always something going on, be warned, the rooms are always prettttty loud.

My last night there was a local troubadour musical group that did a concert on the rooftop, right as the sunset over Rome. Bella, Bella Roma. Such a magical weekend that I now need to recover from, because I am so, so exhausted, but my soul is so so happy. Ciao Bella!

 

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Today was one of the good ones

Today was one of my best days. It started out stressfully, with me sitting in the hostel bar, using the wifi to try and do my taxes since I’ll be travelling through the due date. I must’ve been sighing a lot, since the bar staff played my Favourite tune a few times for me and we all had a singalong (“Galway Girl” by Ed Sheeran, hate on me more, I don’t care, this song freaking rules, you should get with it, we’re all having a better craic on the other side of hating him)

A group of nice guys sat down, poured me a beer from their pitcher and asked all about the problems I was having and actually genuinely seemed to care…about taxes, which was cute. They persuaded me to “give it time” and just come outside “it’s a beautiful day in Italy” (fair point)

I moved with them to the patio, in the warm sunshine, where there was a bustling group of about 20 international travelers, all recently acquainted and fast friends. A girl noticed my guitar and asked to play, and pulled out some awesome Tracy Chapman. We did some duets, using my iPad to look up lyrics and chords and pretty soon the whole group was in on the action, everyone grabbing the guitar to share a song from their home country, or something they had written.

I sang “Khe Sahn” with the Aussie guys, and learned a political tune from the Czech Republic. We sang Spice Girls. We sang “Little Boxes.” We sang old Irish hymns and Katy Perry and a song from Canada called “Stronger Beer” which was new to me and I’m quite fond of it now.

Lots of people were taping and taking pictures and everyone was so happy to share. All in all, the patio band played and sang for about 6 hours, and then retired to the bar where I performed my set at 10pm to one of the largest crowds I’ve played for solo to date, ever. In a foreign country. Where I knew nobody.

Today was one of those days when I realize why I do what I do. I don’t just live singing and writing, I love sharing stories and learning and creating art with people. I love the way music builds community and fosters new friendships. I love how everyone sounds good singing a song that really means something to them, and how the music we share sets the tone for the society in which we live.

Roma has been good to me so far!

More later

SJ

Castle Rock: My Favourite Hostel so Far!

After playing in Glasgow for the weekend, I wanted to escape and spend a few days NOT playing music and just exploring a new city so I took a train ride to Edinburgh, where I stayed for 6 days. I ended up playing music 3 out of the 6 days, so ya know, rules are meant to be broken. I stayed at what is possibly my favourite hostel, definitely the best one so far, Castle Rock, right beneath Edinburgh Castle.

This place is great. it’s huge, and my room slept 12 people, but it was massive so it never felt like there was a crowd. There’s free towels and hairdryers, a fully functioning kitchen with tons of appliances, and cool hang out bar area (no liquor is sold but you’re encouraged to bring your own to share) and my personal favourite, a “jam” room. It’s a room with tons of pillows, a record player, thousands of old records, 3 amps, 4 guitars, and a beautiful vintage white grand piano.

I spent most of my time in that wing of the hostel, playing guitar and piano and writing. They offer breakfast in the morning for 1.50, and have lots of free events to help you see the city and meet other travelers, like ghost tours, pub crawls, free walking tour of the city, and more. I had a good friend who is originally from Edinburgh and was home for the week, so I had my OWN personal tour guide, but I did go on the Harry Potter walking tour which was an experience to remember.

Two of my good friends, Christiane (of Run Live Love blog) and Megan flew out for the weekend to hang out and see the city, so overall, this was one of my favourite places I’ve been so far. Can’t wait for an excuse to return to Scotland, hopefully I’ll find one soon!!! here’s some hostel pics.

 

 

A Review of Ryanair: Musicians Don’t Fly

Ryanair asked me to throw my guitar away at the airport. They literally asked me to throw it in the trash or forfeit my plane ticket. Theres no options? I said no, (obviously) and was told I couldn’t fly, was referred to a British airlines counter as “Instruments aren’t allowed on Ryanair flights, maybe you can fly standby with another company”

This just flat out isn’t true, I was trying to count how many Ryanair flights I’ve taken but can’t even remember, it’s so many, and I’ve never EVER had a problem. I am a frequent Ryanair customer. I’ve the app. Ive a ton of points. I’ve never even been ASKED about my travel guitar when boarding, as I know the (old) rules, so you can bet I was surprised.

After saying “no” to throwing out my livelihood and much discussion (holding up the line for 30 minutes) I was told I could pay ANOTHER 50 Euros to put the soft case underneath, in the hold. It’s a tiny delicate sandlewood acoustic guitar in a mesh case and in the US it’s not allowed to just toss something so fragile underneath everyone’s heavy suitcases, but okay. “This is the only way to board the plane” I was told, and as I am a professional musician and I’ve a show in Rome tomorrow, I’ve no choice.

As I was held at the gate for another 30 minutes while they called security to talk about me, (public enemy #1 and general menace to society) I watched tons of people walk right on the plane, struggling to lift their HUGE, heavy suitcases MUCH larger than my tiny travel guitar. I bought this guitar LITERALLY BECAUSE the measurements fit carry on standards, it even fit right into the carry-on box when I was asked to try it out, much to the dismay of the ladies at the desk. I had a laugh…”well you have to pay anyways” I was told. Which I guess is the rule. That they just made up for fun. OH and BY THE WAY my guitar weighs less than 10lbs.

Trying not to be angry, holding up a flight (without trying to!!) i was very embarrassed in front of the entire crowd of passengers (all waiting for me and watching me) because my debit card got declined a few times because it was 3am where my bank is located and I had not prepared to pay twice the fee. Had to transfer money quickly and tried to count all the coins in my wallet (7 euro)

I’m an artist and I live frugally on tips. I never feel poor, I love my life, but I definitely don’t have the extra 100 euros to throw around on a whim, every time I travel to a gig from
now on. (Flight cost 18 euros) (one hour) (sorry i keep repeating these facts, this is just insane)

When speaking with the attendant, I was very kind and calm, (I try not to blame the workers just doing their job, it’s the company’s fault not theirs) and I asked if this was a new rule, because I’ve never had a problem. I expressed concern about this new treatment of musicians. I asked for an email to express a complaint later on, and I said they may lose business discriminating against musical artists this way, and the attendant said “well we don’t really care, we’re a large company and we do very well either way” #ThatisaLITERALquote

(She said this pretty loudly and a few passengers heard it…one lady chuckled out loud and said “that’s a grand business strategy” and I thank her, because I laughed and I needed to smile for a minute)

So that’s @ryanair for ya! I finally got to get on the plane, last, with my tiny delicate guitar in a SOFT CASE underneath in the hold, after paying an extra 50 euros on top of the 50 euros I already paid for my $18 one hour flight.

I will not be able to “enjoy the flight” as I’m so so worried about my instrument. The male flight attendant was very apologetic and nice and said he would “try” to put it on the top, as I took these pictures for posterity. Another flight attendant said she had heard about the situation (great, let’s all talk about me) and was sorry, her grandma is a musician, so she understands. (Which is nice and thank you, but also like, ok let me hold my tiny guitar at my seat like a baby then, I am happy to do so. It fits under the seat! It fits above! Or put it in ANY of the 20 open seats onboard the flight! Don’t charge me an entire month’s food budget to crush the poor dear!!!!)

If my guitar is damaged in ANY. WAY. When I get it back, the head office in Dublin will hear from me in person when I tour through there next month. I’m not mad, I don’t want to throw a fit, I just don’t understand.

I’ve flown around the globe with many different airlines and never been treated that way. Charge me if you have to, that’s fine, but NOT twice, and be clear about the rules, don’t make them up as you go along. Charge everyone the same amount, don’t single someone out and take them for all they’re worth. don’t put my instrument in danger, don’t hold up the entire flight and make me feel awful just for trying to be a customer. Don’t be rude and tell me my business doesn’t matter to your company. I try to be a kind and compassionate person in all situations (this was a challenging one tbh but I did try) and I will not financially support a company that carries on this way. 🙌

And yes, the sticker on my guitar says “kindness matters” let’s all meditate on that for a bit

#endrant #needapint #cantaffordoneanymore

Eurohostel: Glasgow!

I’m a little behind on my hostel reviews, so I’m going back in time to a few weeks ago when I played-to-stay in Glasgow, Scotland! I was honored to be offered a bed in exchange for my music and I got a private room, my first and only this whole trip! Was awesome to have some time to myself and I took advantage of the quiet and the big bed to catch up on sleep before Edinburgh.

Eurohostel is a chain and they have a few locations in Liverpool and London as well as Glasgow. I really liked where this hostel was situated, close enough to downtown Glasgow to walk right into the city and a short train ride away from anywhere, short walk to the train. They had breakfast every morning for a small fee, but it was really worth it, sometimes hostels just have toast and cereal but this one had sausage, beans, eggs and bacon as well as lots of little pastries and really good coffee.

I played in the hostel’s bar, and I really enjoyed the ambience of the evenings. The acoustics were great and everyone seemed to very much enjoy the music, I got song requests and had backup singers, it was all good fun! The hostel has great wifi, very helpful  front desk staff, and offers a great rental service of anything you may have forgotten/just felt out chosen to not bring such as hairdryers and towels. Here’s some pics!

 

Marching on Forward!

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Greece has been amazing so far! I made friends on my walking tour who were all staying at other hostels and we organized a Greek Island trip, so yesterday we all adventured onto a ferry and explored Aegina, a gorgeous little island off the coast of Athens. I’ve eaten so much Greek food since I’ve been here, I’m bursting at the seams! My hostel offers a wonderful breakfast, fresh greek yogurt with honey and cucumber/tomato pitta bread on the rooftop overlooking the Acropolis and surrounding ruins. I’m currently catching up on blog-writing on my terrace, where I can see the Temple of Athena whilst sipping my wine. Seriously a dream week for someone like me, who has ALWAYS dreamed of going to Greece.

A few people have asked me about my plans from here (hi mom) and they’re all finallllly finalized, for now. On Wednesday I’ll fly to Rome, spend a few days exploring and probably eating and drinking way too much pasta and wine (not mad about it) and then head onto Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest before hopping a flight back to Dublin.

Dublin (along with Edinburgh) was one of the cities where I felt the most at home, and really identified with the songwriter scene. I loved how musically people were so involved in the writing process, people really wanted to hear originals and listened intently to the lyrics, asking about what inspiring a song, asking for more originals than covers, really caring about the artistic creation. It was refreshing.

I was lucky enough to be offered a few feature spots at songwriter rounds in the city, almost turned them down since I was moving on, but I figured, why not head on back and play a little more! So I’ll be featured at Circle Sessions on April 17th, and waiting to confirm a few others.

I had a successful audition in London last week, and I’m waiting for the ink to dry on that as well, and then I can announce my summer plans! Okay, I think that’ll about do me for a bit, I’ve got some hostel reviews to catch up on!

 

more later

 

SJ