I wanted to document where I went in Europe and when I went there, because I constantly forget.
I’ve gone on an awful lot of trips to Europe – in the past, I traveled with a concert band from my family’s home in London Ontario (despite being from Fake London, it took us a full decade before we finally took a trip to Actual London™). These trips were always frantic – we traveled with a 50-person concert band called the New Horizons, playing arrangements of classical, contemporary, & pop music. We always went for about two weeks, and needed to carry two week’s worth of vacation luggage in addition to all the large, clunky and (most frighteningly) expensive instruments we needed to play the shows, of which we usually did six or seven during the course of the trip. During all this, we also wanted to actually be tourists and go see the cities we were visiting.
We went through a travel agent who always did a fantastic job. They provided us with a (frequently pretty tight) schedule – we would get three or four days in each city we visited, they’d have coaches for us in each place that would lug our instruments and luggage around, arrange for tours, group rates, & whatever else they could manage. They’d also arrange concert venues for us to perform at.
Sometimes these were adorable, like nursing homes or public parks. Sometimes we played in the middle of bustling town squares, with an enormous captive audience. The most affecting places I got to play on these trips were in the middle of the domed Pantheon in Rome, and at the monument of Vimy Ridge (where our audience was mostly sheep, but we were playing more for ourselves than anyone else). Our family members and friends that came along on the trips went to every show, and listened to us play the same set of songs, make the same jokes and do the same bits over and over, and they were infinitely supportive through everything.
- 2005: Vienna, Budapest, Prague
The very first trip. We were still finding our bearings and getting used to the travel company, but things worked out even better than we expected. I was 17, and generally terrified to travel abroad and find my own way around another city on the other side of the globe with not too many english-speakers to help me out if I screwed up. But, I ended up getting used to it by the end of the trip.
- 2007: Paris, Vimy, Brugge, Amsterdam
This was a series of locations I’d seen a lot more in shows and movies, and it was humbling to see a lot of them in person. Vimy was probably the most affecting.
- 2009: Stockholm, Tallinn, Helsinki
Probably my favourite trip to go on. We went on several ferries to take us between locations, including one that was basically a party boat, where you could dance all night then crash in your cabin and wake up in your destination the next morning. I loved being in Stockholm – some of the friendliest people I’ve met while abroad.
- 2011: Rome, Florence, Venice
I played a lot of Assassin’s Creed leading up to this trip. This was an incredible idea for two reasons: one, the music floated through my head as I walked among the stone buildings and through ancient churches and made it just magical. And two, I could identify the inside and outside of so many important monuments and buildings by loudly pointing and proclaiming to anyone nearby “I’ve climbed all over that.”
- 2013: Berlin, Luebeck, Copenhagen
All our trips were filled with a lot of history, but this was filled with the most interesting and reflective history. Playing in the beer halls were pretty excellent evenings as well.
- 2015: Edinburgh, York, London
This was the last time I played my horn publicly. Noémi is very sad about this – she happened to also be on vacation in London at the same time, and barely missed our concert because of the tube strike. This trip was also where I discovered Edinburgh – to this day my single favourite city outside of Canada.
- 2017: Krakow, Wroclaw, Warsaw
I didn’t go on this trip – it was the first one I missed.
- 2019: Belfast, Galway, Dublin
I’m technically not going on this one either – but we’ll cross over with them in Belfast, and I’m excited to potentially see some of these cool folks again!
Just looking at all this summarized is very baffling. I’m very lucky to have been able to get out and travel and see a lot of the world while I was that young. I started playing with the band when I was in grade school and spent a lot of my life with these wonderful folks. We may yet travel & play with them again in the future – who knows!