As some of you may have seen from one of our recent posts, GR Heads to Europe, we were over seas for a couple of weeks doing some sight seeing and playing a little music. In total, we went to 5 countries, though some visits felt extremely short and quick. We wanted to share some of the experiences with you, so here we go with some short travel insights, a few pretty pictures, and a short jam video we took from a rooftop in Brussels, Belgium.
Our Travel Guitars
We brought along 2 travel guitars made by Journey Instruments. This was our first trip with the OF660 guitars, so we were curious what it would be like traveling with them. These guitars are built for travel – they’re made of carbon fiber, and the neck snaps off so that the whole guitar fits in bag that easily fits in the overhead compartment on a plane. We had to take them apart and put them back together many times since we were constantly on the move, but we never had any issues.
A note about string gauges: They came from the shop with 13s, and they sounded great! 12s also sounded good, though you of course lose just a little volume and bottom end. When I tried the 11s, they were too quacky on my Journey, however Sam’s Journey sounded fine with them.
It always feels great to play for a new audience in a new place. We had a wonderful and unique experience performing as our acoustic duo, Terminus Falls, in a renovated house boat in Amsterdam early in our trip. The event was set up by the Amsterdam Music Project in an area called De Ceuvel, which is “an award-winning, sustainable planned workplace for creative and social enterprises on a former shipyard on the Johan van Hasselt kanaal off the river IJ in Amsterdam North.” The audience was great, the surroundings were beautiful, our host for the event was helpful and welcoming, and the guitars worked well for us.
We had a few impromptu performances and jam sessions after Amsterdam, including a jam from the balcony of the coolest Airbnb that we’ve ever stayed. Here is a clip from our rooftop jam in Brussels.
A few years ago when we visited various parts of southern Europe, we discovered that Airbnb seemed to be the most affordable way to travel when it comes to lodging. Since then, we’ve stayed at many Airbnbs in several countries and across the US. If you’re not familiar with Airbnb, I consider it the Uber of lodging. You can find listings through the app of people that offer all or part of their home for rent. Prices vary, but here are some tips for anyone that may be considering using Airbnb.
- Check the reviews! Do the hosts have a lot of 5 star reviews? How recent were their last reviews? Read a few of the reviews to get an idea of what staying there will be like.
- Check the provided amenities. Do they have all you need such as shampoo, soap, towels, coffee, etc? Do they charge any extra for certain items? (One place in the Netherlands charged us 3 Euro for every towel we needed, and 50 cents for each new roll of toilet paper we had to use. It was a little annoying but the place was nice and had gorgeous surroundings.)
- Will the checkin and checkout times work for your schedule?
- Read about the host and be smart. Do they seem kind and trustworthy on their profile?
- Have other tips you’d like to share with us? Add them to the comments below.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
We flew British Airways and American Airlines for this trip. You may have seen an earlier post featuring articles and stories of musicians not being happy with their experience on British Airways, but here is our first hand experience. We didn’t have any trouble getting the guitars on the flights since they folded up into the large book bags, though you could tell British Airways doesn’t play around with carry-on. Before getting on the plane, they walked around to tag peoples carry-ons, making sure they only had one item and that the sizes were according to their regulation. That being said, the flight was fine, the crew was nice, and the food wasn’t that bad either.
Trains are an excellent way to get around in Europe, and we certainly took advantage of them when our Airbnbs were outside of the city centers. However, we did rent a car for this trip for several reasons: we wanted the flexibility to travel where ever and whenever we wanted; though gas is expensive, the cost of the rental and fuel split between 4 people was still competitive against the EuroRail or other train passes we would have needed to go to all of the places we wanted to visit.
Be aware if you plan on renting a car that, like most of the vehicles in Europe, the majority of the rentals are manual and you’ll have to pay extra for automatic. Also, though they often seem self-explanatory, read up on the traffic signs before you go.
Recommended Places to Visit
Its difficult to pick our favorite locations, but here are a few that we recommend visiting at some point in your life:
Brussels, Belgium – This place took us a little by surprise. The people were kind, the sites were incredible, and the food was excellent. Oh… and chocolate!
Amsterdam, Netherlands – Canals everywhere! Take advantage of the canals and do an inexpensive canal cruise. Trek a little outside of the city to see some of the beautiful landscape that The Netherlands has to offer as well. Volendam was a nice, quiet area, as was the small town of Hoogmade.
Copenhagen, Denmark – Walk around or take the train with a beer in hand; no one will care. The buildings are unique, the palaces are extraordinary, there are plenty of hamburgers for some reason, and Tivoli Gardens is one of the worlds oldest amusement parks.
Malmo, Sweden – This is a really relaxed city only a short train ride form Copenhagen. There is an old fort, a huge park, and plenty of historic areas of interest. Why not stop by and check it out? A nice lady on a bike even stopped to ask us if we were tourists and offered a few facts about her lovely city. I hope she knows how much that meant to us.
Hamburg, Germany – Remember when The Beatles played here in the ’60s? Visit several gorgeous cathedrals, take a walk through their park, and have some good German food and beer at one of the many great restaurants or bars.
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