Daily Post – Music in travel

The Daily Post not only issues photo challenges, they also do a daily prompt to encourage writing and blogging. Today’s prompt is Music. When I go through my photo archives, I realize that music features quite a bit in my travels in many different ways. Mostly, I don’t travel specifically because of music but it seems to pop up frequently in one aspect or another. Maybe we have seen some musical instruments in shops, museums or other places. Sometimes, I’ve seen performances, both formal and by buskers and street musicians.

My husband is a musician so music is a big part of his life. I’m not quite so passionate about it but I do enjoy it. I have a memory of waiting for a bus on Tottenham Court Road in London one night and seeing him gazing into a music shop window at an array of guitars. We also visited a guitar shop in Montreal and in the window of another shop in London, spotted miniature replicas of guitars and drums where the originals were owned by famous rock stars.

From Steve’s Music store in Montreal

mask and strings

From the Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels

We found out that there’s a Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels. We have a very limited visit to Brussels but still squeezed in a visit to the museum even though it meant that our hop on hop off bus tour of the city was cut short so that we could make our train! It was in a beautiful old Art Deco building and had four floors of instruments of all sorts from hundreds of countries and eras in history. Fascinating, Captain!
Street musicians are found everywhere, maybe one person on a corner or a whole group. Some I recall include this group of string musicians on the Stroget in Copenhagen. The big triangular guitar type instrument was particularly interesting! When you go to Scotland, there are inevitably bagpipers all over the country, wherever there are tourists. On one particular visit while on a bus tour, we stopped at Loch Lomond and there was a piper there. We also stopped at the border between Scotland and England for a photo opportunity and yes, in the middle of the countryside, there was a piper there, too. I recall that vividly because the piper played Hava Nagila for a group of women on our bus who were from Israel and I turned around, hearing the unusual song coming from the pipes and saw them dancing by the piper. This was before digital cameras with video and I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo. There was a piper at the base of the castle on the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne in Northumberland, last year, too. Bagpipes are not a favourite for everyone but I do like them!

Stoget Band

Street performers in Copenhagen


Piping for the tourists

Piper on the island of Lindisfarne


I’ve only traveled specifically for a musical reason once (so far) when I traveled to Montreal in the summer a couple of years ago to see Queen and Adam Lambert perform at the Bell Centre. They’re a bucket list band for me, and I never had the chance to see them when Freddie Mercury was alive. I’m very glad I went and maybe we might do that again sometime.

Sign on the Bell Centre

Seeing Queen in Montreal


Music and musical references turn up in lots of places, whether it’s expected or not. In Liverpool, across from the replica of The Cavern Club where the Beatles started out, is a music wall, with the name of a famous artist or band in every brick. I thought that was way better than the club!

Matthew Street Brick Wall, Liverpool

The Wall of Fame in Matthew Street, Liverpool


I’ve gone to see musicals on stage in both London and New York. I’ve admired antique pianos, pipe organs, and other old instruments in musuems, stately homes, cathedrals, churches and sometimes you see an instrument as a work of art. There’s an old building in Manchester’s Northern Quarter that contains 4 floors of funky market shops and stalls. Outside is a sculpture of an enormous saxophone. There’s usually always music playing in cafes and restaurants, loudly or softly. The Edinburgh Tattoo has numerous pipe and drum bands as well as marching bands and the skirl of the pipes from the Lone Piper on the top of the castle at the end is haunting.

Some other random musical memories: A couple dancing the tango in Rome in Piazza Navona. While on a bus tour of Italy, I joined an “optional” dinner with two or three men who did dual duty of serving the dinner and singing Italian traditional songs, opera and “pop”. Guesting on the Copenhagen based Metal Breakfast Radio Show, playing metal music and having a few bevvies. Seeing Paul McCartney at the Manchester Evening News (it’s not called that now) arena in Manchester. Eating in Hard Rock Cafe restaurants in a few different cities, (Toronto, Boston, Rome, Manchester) and taking in all the rock music memorabilia. Late night in the residence bar in a hotel in Dublin listening to a jam session of artists, vocals by one of our group of travelers, Rose.

Locally, here in Halifax, there’s a busker festival every summer. There used to be a Scottish Highand Games day with pipe and drums, and dancing competitions and there still is a weekend of games and music in the town of Antigonish. There’s a Celtic Colours music festival in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia every October. We have several parades through the summer and there are outdoor free concerts. Halifax also has a Jazz Festival in July. Next weekend, we’re going to a guitar festival where there will be a small museum, a day long battle of the bands, and lots of interesting guitars for sale to look at. There’s a large track on the Halifax Commons where you can skate in the winter to piped in music.

Music is everywhere, home and away, and it always adds a layer, a dimension to places we visit. It might be a song you hear while you are away that will bring memories back to you. Music can give you insight into local traditions and culture and that makes music a very important aspect of travel. Chinese Opera, Spanish Flamenco dancing, African tribal music, Bollywood style music from India, Swiss yodeling, Italian opera, German “Oompah” music, Portuguese Fado, Appalachian blue grass. The list is far too long to list everything. Music is an intricate part of travel, more than you realize, I bet.

Black and White Monday

One of my top 5 things that I did this year was fly to Montreal to see my Bucket List band, Queen (+ Adam Lambert). It was a speed-trip, in on Sunday and out on Tuesday but Montreal in July didn’t disappoint and the concert was the best thing ever!

Brian May of Queen. Singing Love of my Life

WordPress Weekly Challenge – Containers

I could hardly contain myself last week. I traveled to Montreal to see Queen+ Adam Lambert  in concert! I;m pretty sure I overflowed my happiness capacity! Queen is my all time number one favourite band, a dream come true to see them perform live.  How’s that for an interpretation of Container! My happy cup runneth over!

WordPress’s weekly challenge here.

Queen and Adam Lambert, Montreal Bell Centre

Queen and Adam Lambert, Montreal Bell Centre

Montreal, In and Out

This week, I had the chance to revisit one of my favourite Canadian cities, Montreal. It’s one of the older cities in Canada and has lots of history. It’s also a modern city with a great arts scene, impressive shopping, loads of multicultural neighbourhoods and food, sports and tourism. I find the atmosphere and vibe of Montreal to be far more exciting than, say, Toronto.

I had a specific reason for spending a couple of days in Montreal in the middle of July. Otherwise, I would have avoided it because the summers there can be stinking hot! That’s the one drawback of Montreal, it can be very hot and humid in summer and very, very cold in winter. We got really lucky this time, weather-wise. It was showery and overcast when we arrived and it was humid! The day we flew out, two days later, was the same but the one full day we spent there was gorgeous! Sunny, warm, a nice breeze and no humidity at all. It was perfect for walking the streets and we did!

We arrived on Sunday evening and purchased a three day transit pass at Trudeau airport. It cost $18 for the three days and includes the “747” bus to and from the airport which is a 10 dollar ticket each way. Just using the smart card based pass for the airport run makes it worth while. They have some really good transit passes including a weekend one and one that gives you unlimited transit in the evenings only. (more transit information here ) The bus has a direct route through the main core of the downtown area (along Blvd Rene Levesque) to a major transit hub, the Berri-UCAM station.

We stayed at the Novotel Montreal, located one block from the Bell Centre one way and Rue St. Catherine the other way. The Bell Centre was the reason for the visit. I and two friends had tickets to see Queen + Adam Lambert!!! I won’t gush too much. Queen is my all time favourite band and this is a bucket list concert. But first, we have some free time in the city.

Sunday evening we found an Indian restaurant (Devi)  to enjoy and a bright cafe for breakfast the next morning (Vasco de Gama), a short walk away, near the Peel Metro station. We had a full sunny day to fill before the concert so we headed out first to Place des Arts, in hopes of seeing the Museum of Contemporary Arts there.

Coming out of the Metro station there are many cool art installations inside and outside the station and underground connector tunnels which are part of the whole underground “city” in Montreal. Normally, you’d come out onto Rue St. Catherine but a long block was closed off to traffic for the Just for Laughs festival that’s on this month. There were food and drink booths and stages set up for the evening performances though nothing was going on in the daytime, unfortunately. We had a look around, posed for photos with the little green creature that’s the JFL logo/mascot and pulled on the door of the Museum. Stuck. Locked. Ah, Monday is the day they’re closed. Rats!

We wandered over to Blvd. St. Laurent and into nearby Chinatown, having a look at some of the neat shops chock full of Oriental tat, dishes and such.  We tried Dragon Beard candy which really was a power hit of sugar but interesting. It’s got kind of a cotton candy outside with something chewy inside, nutty. Unfortunately, we’d carried the rest of it around all day and it melted together into one lump. Doh.

We were going to find a place for coffee but decided to head over towards Old Montreal, the historic district by the St. Lawrence River. We walked along Rue St. Urbain and stopped at Starbucks for a drink and a sit down in the shade outside. Off into the historic district and the first stop, just at the top of the little hill was Notre Dame Basilica. We decided to pay the $5.00 and go in. I’d been there a few years ago but Kelly had not been in it and it had been some time since Shirley had visited. It really is a beautiful place, subdued lighting with blue and gold everywhere. There’s a light and airy newer chapel in the back as well.

There was actually an exhibition on Napoleonic items but we didn’t take part in that. We browsed in some of the really unique shops that were along the street beside the Basilica on our way down to the cobbled streets lined with stone buildings. Shirley wanted to browse the art galleries and Rue St. Paul has a couple of blocks that have almost nothing else but galleries. We went into a few of those and saw some really gorgeous art and paintings. Oh, to have the Lottery win in the bank and a lovely loft type apartment or condo to put them in!

Old Montreal is quaint and picturesque with old French style buildings but it’s also quite a tourist attraction so it’s always busy. There are lots of places to eat and drink in addition to the shopping and galleries. The main square is Place Jacques Cartier which flows below the grand City Hall at the top down to Rue. St. Paul. It too is lined with the patios of the restaurants with a few little shops. There are artists set up in the square and there are buskers performing for the crowds. We picked a restaurant and settled in for lunch and people watching. We ended up having a long conversation with an elderly man who had walked by, too. Good times!

From there, the time was starting to move on closer to the evening hour so we thought we should probably go back to the hotel to change and freshen up for the concert. We walked up and over to the nearest Metro stop and zipped back. Shirley did a slice of power shopping along the way, so as not to waste any time! We were anticipating meeting up with some of Kelly’s friends, all Adam Lambert fans, at what we thought would be the restaurant/bar at the Bell Centre but we couldn’t find them there and she had some trouble finding a way to contact them. In the end it turned out they were in a pub around the corner. Kelly went to find them and we stayed at the Bell to get a look at the concert merchandise booths, a successful quest.

The concert was everything I had hoped for and was probably the best thing I’ve ever seen. I guess it’s hard to beat when it’s your favourite band ever and they put on a spectacular show. Queen used to be fronted by Freddie Mercury but he passed away in 1991. They have brought 31 year old Adam Lambert along now to sing for them and he has done a fine old job. The show was everything I wanted it to be and more. My full review is here and there’s a link to photos at the end. Kelly met her friends afterwards, Shirley and I bought some snacks and drinks to have at the hotel since we’d missed dinner. We listened to Queen on the iPod while I uploaded my photos to my laptop and relived the night, far too wired to go to bed just yet.

The next morning, the weather was grey and threatening again. We had a late start. My feet and legs were killing me from the nearly three hours standing on the cement floor by the stage last night! Kelly and I and hobbled up to Rue St. Catherine to find breakfast while Shirley went shopping. (Well, I hobbled, Kelly was fine!) We ate some wonderful omelets at a deli called Reuben’s which specializes in Montreal smoked meat though that wasn’t on the breakfast menu. It did look like anything on their menu would be good and very filling.

We checked out of the hotel, put our bags in the luggage room. I stayed in the lobby lounge and read while Shirley ran back up to a couple shops and Kelly headed out to another hotel. She is staying another night to attend a Katy Perry concert. Shirley and I went down to where the airport bus stopped, just at the end of the block where the hotel is and returned to the airport. We ate the rest of the sandwiches from last night with a coffee before our flight and finally got back to Halifax by 7 p.m.

It was a quick visit, but thoroughly enjoyable. It might have worn me out, but I’d do it again! It wasn’t even all the walking that did my legs in, it was standing for three hours in one place! Never mind, floor seats close to the stage were more than worth it! I really would like to go back to Montreal for another visit again soon. Maybe Queen will tour again!

Stoked for two upcoming trips

Rue St. Paul, Old Montreal

An opportunity came up last week for another quick trip. This time to Montreal in July. The legendary rock band Queen is my all time favourite. After their lead singer, Freddie Mercury, died over 20 years ago, it seemed as if that would be the end of their touring days. But they took on Paul Rogers as vocalist. He was best known as lead singer for the late 60s and early 70s bands Free, and Bad Company. He’s a decent singer, some would argue one of the best rock vocalists. I was less than impressed and I didn’t think the classic Queen music suited him. They did a cd of new and original music, though, and that was much better. He hasn’t stayed with them.

Two years ago, they did some concerts in London using American Idol contestant Adam Lambert who has made a good career for himself. I was skeptical but saw some of the video taken at the gig and ended up being very impressed. This summer, Queen and Adam Lambert are going on a 6 week North American tour with several stops in Canadian cities, including Montreal. I work with someone that’s a major Adam Lambert fan as well as a fan of Queen and we have decided to go. I gave her the ticket money and she snagged us two good seats on the floor pretty near the stage. Another good friend of mine has a ticket and she’s going as well. We may all end up sharing a hotel room, depending on who else ends up going.

Queen is a bucket list band for me and I’m hugely stoked for this one!! And, you know, a couple of days in Montreal thrown in only adds sugar and spice to the mix. Montreal is a fantastic city with lots of personality and style. An unexpected quick trip! Gotta love those!

Coronation Street studio tour tickets!

Coronation Street studio tour tickets!

You all know I’m heading to the U.K. and Paris in less than a month. Yep, stoked for that. We’ve already got tickets to see The Mousetrap and a Vikings exhibit in London and have our must-see-do items for Paris and day trips from there. You may also know that I’m a Coronation Street fan. Corrie is a British serial drama or soap that’s been running since 1960. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the set four times to date and there’s one more visit in the offing.

Coronation Street is now filmed at a new studio at Media City in Salford, near to Manchester and the old set is just sitting there, waiting for someone to redevelop it. Before that happens, though, it’s being opened as a guided tour between April and early October this year. Today, tickets went on sale so I snapped up a couple. Why? Yes, I know I’ve been there already but a fan never passes by an opportunity! This is a guided tour, with backstage access including some of the areas the public doesn’t get to including the green room and the dressing room area. Not all of the sets are there, of course, but some of the interiors of the houses will be. I don’t think they’ll have the sets or reproductions of the sets for the pub or other businesses. They will also let you outside on the famed cobbled street for photos as well. This will be the last shot before they close it for good.

I have our tickets and I’m stoked!

Travel Theme: Romance

Given that we’ve sailed through Valentine’s Day, Where’s My Backpack has a travel theme of Romance this week. I had to think how I would relate this to travel. We do go to some romantic locations like Paris and Rome and we really enjoy exploring new places and making new memories. Our road trip to Cornwall was brilliant and we were going to do a road trip to Scotland last year but it got side lined.

What’s really romantic, though, is that my fella is an artist and for my birthday every year, he draws me a cariacature/cartoon and often it features our travel location from that past year.

Here’s a few of them:

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And the other romantic thing that he does is write and record me a song every year for Christmas. You can hear the “Lurve” album here.  Some of those mention travel and flights because ours is a long distance relationship.

A Word a Week Challenge – Music

“If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.”

Music for many people is food for the soul. Music can lift you or depress you. A bar or two of music can take your memory instantly back to a time, a place, a person, or a situation. Music is written out of emotion, why do you think there are so many songs about love lost or gained?

Sue’s Word a Week challenge this week is Music.  Here, then are a variety of photos with a common theme:


Matthew Street, Liverpool. Wall dedicated to famous musical acts


Odd looking musical instrument. Museum of Musical Instruments, Brussells

Street band on the Stroget, Copenhagen

Rick Neilson, Cheap Trick, playing a five necked guitar

Great hall piano, Lanhydrock House, Cornwall, UK

Hard Rock Cafe, Toronto, a chain of restaurants started in London dedicated to rock music memorabilia. They can be found in major cities all over the world

Band member, Los Chaskis from Ecuador, South America

Steve’s Music Store, Rue Saint Antoine Ouest, Montreal

Window shopping, toys for musicians. Charing Cross Road, London