One of the questions I ask travellers is, "What is the best experience you have had?"
Usually takes a few moments thought, but I have found it makes for a lot of interesting stories. Some you might wonder how they made it into the category. For instance this story is surely one of the more interesting. It was a few years ago, now in the City of Genoa in Italy. My story teller was walking down a dark alley - why you would do that in city in a country where you don't know the culture or the language escapes me; but for some people adventure and risk taking is the drug of choice. The most interesting thing he saw was a ??retailer?? sitting on the pavement with a lot of wet, tightly sealed plastic bags ranged in front of him containing brightly coloured boxes covered in what he thought was Japanese script, and pictures of the latest electronic devices.
Apparently the reason for the plastic and the water was that at this time in the history of Genoa smuggling was rife. Bags of goods from the Far East were dumped over the side of ships passing through and were picked up by divers to be sold on the black market, or in this case the black alley-way. Yep. True. Very interesting. Was it one of his best or worst experiences? Don't know. Go figure.
Jillian's best experience featured music. She is a huge fan and on this particular evening found herself at The Bitter End Club in Bleecker St, Greenwich Village New York City, New York. USA.
In the mid 1970s, the club became known as the birthplace of Bob Dylan. Anyway she turned up with her travelling companion about 7.00 pm looking for a feed, some wine and music. Plenty of booze they said and music to die for, but, no food. However, she was welcome to get take-away from the Italian 'round the corner and bring it in. This they planned to do.
The Italian round the corner turned out to be about 20 different restaurants and they were all so cute, dinner was enjoyed sitting in a very small, owner operated joint that could have been anywhere in any town in old Italy. Fantastic ambiance, unbelievable food, and service from the owner (who hardly spoke any English and knocked at least one glass of wine to the floor with his wild gesticulations), that was just out of this world.
Returning, eventually, to The Bitter End they grabbed a table and were treated to many hours of music from a huge variety of master entertainers. It was a kind of Jam night. Happened every Sunday night, they said, and is still happening to this day. After their own concerts, musicians from all over New York City converged on arguably the most famous club in the city. A better night to finish a lovely week in New York City could not be imagined. The music was made more exciting because there was nothing planned.
The MC picked names from a list at the door (entertainers wrote down their name and instrument or voice, on arrival). So he would pick 'a band' and they would all take their places and someone would say, "OK. Blues in D. Go." And it was on. That is until the MC tired of, say, the piano player, stopped the ‘band’ in mid note and substituted another performer, may be on piano, may be on violin. Just as his fancy took him.
Some musicians Jillian knew of but many she didn't. It wasn't important. Music was supreme for the evening.
A trip to the toilet was an epic adventure in itself. Rubbing shoulders with the famous, infamous and unknown was impossible to avoid. But who would want to? The club walls were covered with the names, in their own handwriting, of comedians and musicians who had played there. From Stephane Grappelli to Leonard Cohen to pretty much any comedian, poet, band, singer, songwriter known to man since 1961 until today, well whatever day it was Jillian was there. It was beyond wonderful.
She left there at 2.00 am. The subway was still running (only in NY) so arriving back at the hotel about 30 mins later she realised there was only a few short hours to sleep, and pack ready for the airport bus which was due at 8.00 am.
Apparently being drunk and having a hangover on a plane from New York to wherever was NOT one of the best experiences.