Leslie Lewis et Gérard Hagen "Bonjour de Paris" 10 Mai 2019
Bonjour de Paris ...
So many things have transpired since I last reported to you. It's best that I follow events chronologically in order to lessen the chances of forgetting something important or more to the point, funny.
Our concert at Jazz Club Grenoble was great fun. It was produced by a group of very active volunteers who love jazz music. These people rent the space, the piano, the P.A., do the advertising, buy and sell the drinks and food etc. They met us at the train station, took us to our hotel, and then to the venue. They fed us and took us back to the hotel after the concert. It is a huge undertaking, and they not only do a monthly concert series, but they also do a jazz festival and create opportunities for student musicians to perform. They are an amazing group of people. But this is not unusual in France. There are groups like this all over the country. Many in very small towns that one would never expect to find jazz of at all. When we returned to the hotel Peter and Leslie's NY/NJ backgrounds came out in the form of having an appetite for a slice. Mourad (our drummer), who doesn't suffer from the same appetite, decided to turn in while the rest of us went on a midnight search in Grenoble for a slice. We found a place that was appropriately called "SOS" Pizza and it was only about 7 or 8 blocks away from the hotel. So off we went in search of satisfying our cravings. Oddly enough there was another pizza place across the street from "SOS", it was connected to an Indian restaurant. Their pizza was made in a wood fired oven so we abandoned "SOS" for the Indian/Pizza joint. We couldn't get only a slice so we ended up with a whole pie which we couldn't finish. We decided to bring the leftovers to the night guy at our hotel who had been very helpful earlier in the night. He was happy to get a take home box of pizza and we got into the elevator to go to our rooms. After a minute it became apparent that we weren't moving nor were we able to get the doors to open. So now it's 1:00 am and we are stuck in an elevator that is so small there wasn't enough room for three people to sit on the floor. Peter realizes he has the hotel's business card in his pocket. So we call the front desk and tell the night guy that we are trapped. After awhile he figures out how to open the door from the outside where upon Leslie jokingly tells him as we are exiting the elevator "I'll take that pizza back".
Peter took a selfie, because what else would you do while waiting to be rescued from an elevator.
Peter and Mourad at the sound check for the Jazz Club Grenoble concert. Sometimes it is scary to think that they are currently "at large".
Two days later Leslie and I were on a train to Marseille with forty some other musicians. We would leave from there for a two week "Jazz" cruise. The first night was pretty rough going which resulted in one band having to sub out most of the players due to seasickness. Luckily Leslie didn't have to work that night because she was pretty sick as well. She did have to work the following night and the Mediterranean sea was still pretty choppy. She had taken medication and wore a patch but it wasn't enough to do the job. The concert was in the showroom that was located on the 5th & 6th floors in the front of the ship. It was with a big band doing repertoire from Count Basie's band. The showroom really took the brunt of the punishment from the choppy seas. So much so that Leslie was barely able to move after the first show. She had another show in 45 minutes. Members of the crew recommended that she try to eat something and helped to get her to a restaurant and found her a private area where she could try to recover before she had to work again. She was able to eat an apple and some bread. We decided that she would sit in the audience because it would be easier to get on stage from there. Se we sat together in the third row and just as the band was about to play the first tune she gets sick and everything she had just eaten ended up on the floor in front of her. Just about the time that she was able to sit up after that episode her name was announced and it was time for her to sing. So she stood up and walked to the stairs and on the stage. As you can imagine there was an audible gasp from the people around us who had witnessed her getting sick and were very surprised to see her walk on stage. When she turned around to look at the audience the band was already playing the introduction for her first tune. She had completely composed herself and had the smile that I am so used to seeing when she is working. She sang her ass off while trying to steady herself as much as possible. She made it through the first four of five tunes that she was to sing. On the fifth and last tune of the night, she had to leave the stage during the instrumental solos where she lost what was left of her pre-concert snack. We all assumed that she was done for the night, but she returned to finish the song. People were amazed and she sort of became an audience favorite that night. After the showroom emptied out I got her back to our room. Along our way to the room as people recognized her, they were stopping to applaud her performance. The next day some of the other musicians said they heard that her performance was "heroic". That night I had tears in my eyes as I witnessed what she did. From then on she became a bit of a celebrity on the ship. People would clap as she entered a restaurant, or they would stop to talk with her at the pool or in the elevator. It got to the point that she couldn't be alone in any public space on the ship. Considering that Leslie is a private person who is not one to look for attention especially when she isn't working, she handled all that attention pretty well.
Cruise ship in port.
Leaving port in Marseille, France.
View of the showroom stage before Leslie's first concert.
Leslie sings with a big band.
The next morning we woke up in the port at Valetta, Malta. From that point on the sea would be calm and Leslie would be okay for the rest of the trip. That afternoon she had recovered enough that we decided to check out Valetta and grab some lunch in town. In the following days we fell into a routine that started with getting up at the crack of noon and going into the village where we had arrived sometime earlier that morning. We would explore a bit, have lunch and then explore some more. After that it was back to the ship and landing poolside where we would spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing, napping and in the jacuzzi before heading back to the room to get cleaned up for dinner. Besides Malta the itinerary took us to Argostólion, Monemvasía, Kalamáta, Náfplion, Mykonos and Heraklion in Greece, followed by Catania, Sicily, and Salerno and Portoferraio, Italy. We traveled 2,925 nautical miles. Some places were more charming than others but we were glad for the opportunity to be visiting all of them. Leslie had pizza in Sicily! In fact the restaurant there was so authentic that we had quite a bit of difficulty communicating our lunch order. Leslie asked for a menu and the woman looked at her with a surprised look and came back with a beer! She wanted pepperoni on her pizza but they thought she wanted bell peppers. Eventually it all got sorted out. Finally they escorted Leslie to the meat counter (they sold meat to take out as well) and she chose the salami she wanted on her pizza so the problem was solved! She said it was some of the best pizza she has ever had. Leslie and I had so much fun enjoying all of the free time we had together. Once we had four days off in a row. The weather was incredible. Many of the villages were beautiful and very charming, and since wifi in port was spotty and the internet connection on the ship was expensive we were happily cut off from the rest of the world.
Garden in Valetta, Malta.
City square in Valetta, Malta.
Monemvasía, Greece. The rock is called the Gibralter of Greece.
Village square Náfplion, Greece.
Leslie at the port in Mykonos, Greece
Leslie in Mykonos.
Catania, Sicily, the restaurant where we had lunch is on the right.
There was also a music performance routine which began with a poolside set at 5:00 pm which was followed by nightly concerts at 7:30 pm and 9:00 pm which featured a specific band or themed repertoire in the showroom. After that there was a late night set at 10:30 pm in the disco that had been turned into a jazz club including a Yamaha grand piano and a Hammond B-3. The nightcap was a jam session which began around 11:30 pm and sometimes went until 3:00 am. The concerts in the Showroom were rehearsed before the cruise but the rest of the shows featured different groups which were formed from the forty some musicians on board. Leslie had four concerts to play over the two week period so there was a good bit of down time. Because she was a crowd favorite she was often asked to sing at the after hours jam sessions which she graciously did even though her inclination at jam sessions is to be a listener rather than a performer.
View of the pool deck onboard. There was a poolside concert everyday at 5:00 pm.
In the jacuzzi. Oh yeah!
We arrived back in Marseille and the great weather continued. By the time we were on the train one hour out of Paris the skies were gray and it was raining. The overcast skies continue in Paris and the sunshine in the Mediterranean is now a memory but fortunately next month the sun will typically be out even in Paris!
For those of you in Paris or if you’re planning to visit this month, here is our remaining May schedule.