European ‘Ukulele Adventure

Recently I have returned from my first trip to Europe; traveling parts of Northern Italy, Paris, and London. I packed light and took my new, “traveling ‘ukulele,” just in case inspiration struck. As always I kept an ear to the ground for all things music and more specifically, ‘ukulele related. I had a couple of findings that were interesting and I wanted to share!

First stop was Northern Italy which comprised of quick stops in Florence, Vicenza, Venice, and Como. In the flurry of running from city to city I did find some pretty unique and antique instruments alongside a sweet music shop in Florence named Ceccherini C. Every afternoon in Florence I would sit in a different park or plaza, and play ‘ukulele while watching the city turn color as the sun went down. I couldn’t help but be inspired to write some new music as well!

In between all the galleries, the long and gratuitous meals, and being amidst a heatwave, I didn’t see as much music in Paris as I would have liked too. We hopped off the metro at the Chatalet stop and found a small line venues including a blues-rock venue and a jazz venue. While the jazz venue was a typical yet nicely done place, the blues-rock bar looked like it was inside an old metro station with it’s semi-domed ceiling. While it may not have had the best acoustics, it was a charming place a lot of fun to watch a Parisian band play old American rock and roll tunes from the 50s/60s.

Last but not least we stayed a few nights in London. This was my personal favorite not only because it was nice to speak english again but because I saw so much music! From streets lined with various music shops to a sign for live music around each corner, I felt a certain electricity being surrounded in my element. I had to play tourist and take a crooked picture on Abby Road and not to mention a shot in front of the Royal Albert Hall.

Though it’s hard to select a favorite point of interest, it was really cool to see this program that the City of London Festival was hosting called Street Guitars. In 12 different locations, boats fashioned as little huts housing a guitar with some maritime sheet music were open to the public for any and everyone to play. I read about it in the local paper upon arrival but only serendipitously on the last day did I actually find one. This particular one had two instruments including probably one of the only ‘ukuleles! I waited in line as these two young children were plunking away having a grand ol’ time. After the kids vacated I took my turn and left with a smile. What a great way to share music with new people!

It truly was a memorable experience for myself and I admittedly was truly bit by the travel bug for the first time. I love the subtle and not so subtle differences and the range in people from culture to culture. Not to mention it is refreshing to be reminded that people love music where ever you go!

We would love to hear about your musical journeys abroad!

Where have you been and what kind of musical findings do you have?

-Neal Chin


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