Lucca-St. Julien-Nimes 13, 14, 15 July

Yesterday the 12th was a day off in Sopot the seaside resort town on the Baltic in Gdansk. A mild sunny day, perfect for walking along the pier… thousands of holiday makers eating ice creme, cotton candy, drinking beer and consuming vast amounts of fish & chips, burgers and every other imaginable cuisine from Indian to Mexican and everything between. We’re nearly at the end of this leg of the tour and for me and the other Yanks, we’ve been away from home since the end of March… a long time. A deep weariness sets in and the quiet days off put a new charge on the battery.

13 July

A long day and longer still as I woke up a 5 this morning and never got back to sleep. De-camped Gdansk for a 2-hour flight to Pisa… yes, that one with the leaning tower. Wonderful stepping off the plane into a hot, dry Mediterranean summer day. From there it was a “30 minute drive to Lucca and our longtime gig the Lucca Summer Festival. An outdoor affair in the old town square that we always look forward to playing, tonight being no exception. Using local sound and lights, our front of house sound man Dave Dixon and lighting director Tellson James worked wonders and 8,000 Italian fans shared a great summer’s night with us. What a gig. We even witnessed a marriage proposal in the front row during the performance of Romeo and Juliet. A really great evening. A runner from Lucca back to Pisa and a midnight flight to Rimini, another seaside resort city where we will base for the next several days. Daniella is back with us on the jet, on hand were perfectly prepared steaks and cocktails for the flight. We arrived at our hotel in Rimini a little past 1. A long and delightful day.

14 July

Flight from Rimini to Geneva, Switzerland and a short drive to St. Julien for our third appearance at Guitare en Scene Festival. An outdoor gig, sort of, actually it’s in a tent. The past two times we’ve played the temps have been soaring and that tent was like a sauna. Tonight’s temps we’re in the ‘70s, very mild and it was a pleasure. A friend delivered a generous amount of beer and wine that will be enjoyed over this final week of the tour. Albert Lee, legendary guitar player and a friend going back to the 1970s opened tonight and it was so good seeing him play live again having lost nothing in the 40+ years I’ve known him. He and Jim Cox are friends for a long time too and it was great to visit with Albert again. He played a rocking 75 minutes and is a real inspiration. Our set was it’s usual relaxed fab gig and the 5,000, mostly standing fans could not have been better. A runner back to the plane and a Thai food feast to deliver us all back to Rimini. Straight to bed.

15 July

Our hotel in this seaside resort city of Rimini is right on the Adriatic Sea. A beautiful setting and the hotel itself was probably a jewel at one time but now feels just a bit tired. Air conditioning intermittent, no desk in the room to work at, uncomfortable chairs, fluctuating water temps in the shower and the morning coffee, while cheerfully delivered, is beyond strong and not in a good way… no matter how much milk you put in, it remains dark, bitter as iodine and you can stand a spoon up in it. The “gym” has only 1 treadmill and it is in-op. Still, there’s little to complain about. Today’s mid-afternoon flight was sushi fuelled to Nimes, France and our usual gig, Arena of Nimes, a Roman amphitheatre dating back to 100 A.D. It’s the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world and is among the 20 largest of the 400 still existing. Always a great venue to return to. A hot and sunny day for the crew getting things ready for us and still hot when we sound-checked at 5, however when we took the stage at 9:30, the sun’s fire had abated and a slight breeze made for a very pleasant gig. Lots of very happy people in this ancient and beautiful setting. We’re a very lucky bunch of musicians who get to play for large and appreciative audiences, in extraordinary venues with a legendary artist and musician. Never taken for granted. A runner back to Rimini, Italy with a late night flight dinner of green pasta lasagna that was delicious. Arrived back at the hotel nearly 2 in the morning. A few of us gathered in Danny Cummings room for a few bottles of ice cold Augustiner Beer courtesy of our German drivers and some music. If it wasn’t late enough by then, I still puttered around my room for another hour or so after that. I didn’t dare look at the clock before going to bed for two very good reasons…. 1) the sun was already coming through the cracks in my window shutters… and…2) the room has no clock in it. Thankfully a day off tomorrow.

16 July

Up late due to yesterday’s nocturnal activities but feeling great. Being relieved of gym responsibility due to it’s non-existence, I got a shower and hit the streets for a walk. Gorgeous and hot day, I walked along the seaside and canals for an hour then headed the opposite direction into the old part of the city, a fair hike. Ended up in the old town square feeling hot, hungry and thirsty. There like a miracle was a cool, dark wood panelled Italian ristorante. I spent a relaxed hour in there watching the world go by, enjoying a large margharita pizza, draught beer and two Italian espressos. When I finally asked for the bill I thought there must be a mistake…. 14€, about $17. It was just the afternoon that I’d wanted. Made my way back to the hotel around 6 glad to peel the shirt off my back and put my feet up. I opened a gorgeous bottle of wine, a gift from our French promoter and friend Assad last night, let it breathe and savoured every drop as I watched a full, peach coloured moon rise over the Adriatic from my window. Another perfect day.

Richard Bennett