Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stop being sunny and having a beach, I gotta practice!

Hello, readers!

There's been a bit of a change of pace here in sunny Nice for Annelise (hehe).
I started my week at the 'Conservatoire National à Rayonnement Régional de Nice' (or as I like to call it, the Academy) last Tuesday! Figuring out the bus systems to get to this Academy was a little humiliating, considering my lack of French, but I finally figured out how to get there, alone! Which is a big deal for me, as Raylene is the constant navigator on this trip.
They don't do a very good job of informing at this Academy, so I was very lost as to where I should be and what I should be doing.
Desk person: "Here is your studio number and your ID card!"
Me: "...Ok do I just go practice now...?"

I soon found out that my teacher, Boris Garlitsky, will be giving numerous lessons that the students are to sit in on and watch, and I have four lessons this week. Mr. Garlitsky is the former concertmaster of the London Philharmonic, current teacher at the Paris Conservatory, as well as a concertist. Intimidating? VERY! So naturally, having my first lesson yesterday, I was a huge mess the day before. I got that whole 'inferior comparing-myself-to-other-musicians-I'm-not-good-enough-for-this-syndrome' and didn't know how to handle it. Raylene, being the constant as she always is, gave me some comfort and decided to accompany me the next day to the lesson.

Warming up the next day I felt like I was preparing for Concerto Finals or something! After all, I was playing the same piece as I did for the Concerto Concert last year- Prokofiev Concerto No. 1 First movement. Sadly, I am getting a little sick of this piece, and it is a ton more difficult to play on the 'junk' violin I have with me on this trip as opposed to my nice one at home. Oh how I miss my other violin.......
Anyway. The lesson began, I played my piece, and it wasn't wasn't too bad! As soon as he started to conduct the lesson, I felt much more at ease. He had wonderful suggestions, such as comparing a section to a Russian fairy tale about a really mean limping beast who is actually a big softy inside. If you heard the piece it'd make more sense. :)

Whew! Now that the first lesson is over, I know what to expect and prepare for. Besides the lessons and masterclasses at the Academy, all there really is to do is practice and make friends while eating lunch. ...It is a little awkward looking for a table with some people and asking if they speak English to see if it's even possible to make friends with them.

It is very refreshing to have a week to focus intensely on violin and sort of get in that mode again. And what better place to do it than sunny, beautiful, warm and colorful Nice!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nice is so nice :)

Where are we now? Paradise. Nice, France is like nowhere we've been yet. Brilliant sunshine, gorgeous aqua beaches, picturesque night time cafes, old Italian and French structures, bohemians, and an incredible busking music scene.

We began the week at a youth hostel, rooming with six fun Australians! First things first: Monte Carlo Casino. All dressed up and hoping for a glimpse of James Bond and some flashy wheels, we took a train to Monaco. We felt like the night was something from a movie. We had a lovely dinner with our new friends, and then in true Bond spirit enjoyed a martini at the casino (shaken, not stirred).

The next day it was time for the beach! After two months of becoming successfully pasty skinned in Northern Europe, we definitely laid on the sunscreen ;-) We've been dreaming of sunshine all summer and here there is an over abundance of it!!

In just our first few days here we've discovered that being a street musician in Nice is the absolute life. Our performing begins late in the evening after a full day of sun bathing and hanging with friends. There are countless quaint cafe lined streets and squares to perform for into the late night. Our first night out we had the privilege of meeting two fantastic established international buskers. For the last twenty years, they have made a life out of a combination of busking and private gigs. They "showed us the ropes" of street performing in Nice and by the next night we were doubling our profit and enjoying ourselves a thousand times more. The jazz bar "Shapko" has become our hang out in the old city of Nice, where amazing musicians from all over the world congregate in the late evening. The owners are wonderful people who invited us last evening to perform especially for their guests.

We sadly had to say goodbye to our Aussie friends, but are now enjoying the company of our couchsurfing host. He is a kind man from Nice who is heavily involved in the art and music scene of the area. His home is both a perfect location for Annelise to practice for the Nice Academy and for us to have a short distance to the best performing locations.

Our excitement for street performance is incredibly high right now because the music community here has made us feel so loved and welcomed. There is endless opportunity to make a life performing music here so we are looking forward to what the next three weeks will bring!

Delirium Kalypta Waffles

We had a surprise vacation in Belgium with Annelise's Dad! It was five days of relaxing, practicing, and exploring. It was my first time in Belgium but it took me just one day to realize how much I loved it. It's an intriguing country with varying languages, architecture dating back to Medieval days, and a laid back, international feel.

We spent several nights at "Delirium," a hip student bar near the Brussels Grand Place. It was fun making friends with people our age from all over the world! In Leuven, we stumbled into an exciting music festival with live bands spread throughout the main squares and plenty of Belgian beer to taste. We dined at an eclectic and cozy cafe called "Kalypta." Tall candles melted over their empty wine bottle holders, island signs adorned the colorful walls, sea shells held the guests' cigarettes, and a mini treasure housed our dinner bill. It had a wonderful ambiance and was a prime people watching location!

One rainy evening, Mr. Wiering taught us how to make a delicious beef meal. While we chopped and sauteed, we listened to Serge Gainsbourg and drank champagne. After, we had our first European movie theater experience, seeing "Midnight in Paris" - a film by Woody Allen with Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and Marion Cotillard. (We HIGHLY recommend it!!) The opening scenes of the film were snapshots of Paris, which was especially thrilling for us after spending three weeks getting to know that city so well this summer :-) In true Belgian fashion, there were subtitles in French AND Dutch!

Eventually it was nearly midnight on our final night in Belgium. Suddenly we realized we had not tasted a Belgian waffle yet!!We were ecstatic when we discovered there was still something open. The last customers of a quaint sidewalk waffle shop, we enjoyed a traditional Belgian waffle, topped with cream and strawberries. It was a perfect finish to our visit :-)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

To the Netherlands and Back

What better way to get to Amsterdam then driving the Auto Bahn in a car with good friends and a dub step play list? Oh and did I mention no speed limit?

Annelise and I have been dreaming of and saving for our 5 day vacation in Amsterdam since our trip began. And it was definitely worth every bit of effort and every last euro ;) We got to spend the trip with my amazing cousins Nicolai and Diana, our friend Kevin, and our travel buddy Josh (remember him from Paris?!).

Because it was our vacation time, we didn't do much performing. But with the money-making pressure off, we had a lot of unique and beautiful musical experiences. At one point we performed into a breathtaking canal in the evening, serenading a couple enjoying the romance of the night lights reflecting on the water. We carried our instruments with us everywhere and whenever we felt like putting a soundtrack to the moment, or offering a song to someone, we would. It was spontaneous, carefree, and wonderful.

Amsterdam is an inspiring city with its endless canals, cobblestone streets, network of bicycles, tulips, and boats. We enjoyed a sunset on a boat one evening, and spent others on the edge of a canal soaking up the moment away from our respective realities.

We've returned to my apartment in Hannover for a short pause. Next week, Annelise will be attending a week-long music academy in the south of France, so she will be practicing an inordinate amount this week. Unfortunately that means less street playing together, but I will go solo for a few days to keep up the trip savings for the French Riviera. We will be venturing to Brussels later this week which will be especially exciting for me since it is my first time!

All in all, Amsterdam was a wonderful experience. For those interested in a more...detailed story, shoot us a facebook message :)