FIRST DAY OF EUROPEAN TOUR:
Thought we were off to a great start as the thunderstorms that were predicted stayed away until after we departed. Landed in Paris for a 4 hour layover before flying to Italy. Long layover and very frustrating dealing with “meal” times. Breakfast is served until 12 noon and you absolutely cannot be served lunch until 12 noon.
We had to take a bus from the terminal to the airplane in Paris and our “videographer” could not find his boarding pass. Even though he had his ticket receipt, Air France would not allow him to board the plane. I did not find out that he had a problem until I had already gotten on board the plane and they would not let me return to the terminal. We had to leave “J.R.” at the Paris Airport. We landed in Florence, Italy and were to bus to Pisa, Italy — approximately 2 hours away. Since Air France could not tell us anything about J.R. and our military contact in Pisa was totally useless, we had to “hang around” at the airport. We landed in Pisa at 5:00 pm and J.R. finally arrived at 8:30 pm. His luggage had been checked in Nashville all the way through to Florence but, of course, it didn’t arrive with him. The USO rep flew in from DC and none of her 3 bags arrived either. Her bags contain all the itineraries for the group as well as the free photos for the troops. Air France is not being very helpful in trying to locate any of the missing items.
While we were “hanging” in Florence waiting for J.R., we took the other cameraman and went down to a beautiful park to begin filming some of the sights for the “Bellamy Brothers 25th Anniversary Special”. There were two really old men sitting on a park bench who started talking to me and David’s wife (the only females in the group at the time). We couldn’t understand a word they said as they only spoke Italian but they used lots of elaborate hand movements. We got some great footage of one of them — who we figured out is 87 years old — with Howard and David. He had on a ball cap and asked Howard to wear his cap so he could wear Howard’s cowboy hat. He kept calling me the “blonde” (go figure!) and got into a long dialogue with Susan Bellamy. She was listening intently to him and says, “Yes, I know, very large boobs”. Guess she understood him better than the rest of us.
We finally arrived at the Golf Hotel at midnight. It’s 1:30 am now and I think it’s time for bed. More news tomorrow. Here’s a shot of our “Park Lecher”.
DAY TWO – SORT OF!
My first project of the day was to call and try and get my $20 back that was ripped off in a money machine at the Florence Airport. I was changing a $20 bill to Lire and the machine only gave me back $1.50 in Lire. When I reported it, the information desk said, “Oh yes, that machine doesn’t work” and gave me a phone number to call today. Of course, I called the number and they only speak Italian. Think I can write that $20 off. I did enlist the help of the front desk clerk who was given 8 different telephone numbers and switched to 3 different people on each number. I begged him to just give it up but he insisted that he needed to “save face for all of Italy” and blamed it on the South Africans. Hmmmm.
David Bellamy had the story of the day – so far. Susan took a shower when we arrived at the hotel and was very careful to “dry the floor” of the bathroom when she finished. All the bathrooms have tubs with these hand-held showers and very little that serves as a shower curtain. The entire bathroom gets soaked every time anyone showers. The water pressure is incredible. Wish we had half of it back in the U.S. Anyway, David went in to take a bath after Susan’s shower, hops in the tub, and turns on the facet. Susan had left the shower wand in the hook on the wall and when David turned on the shower, it FLEW off the wall, whacked him in the head and as he said, was “hovering mid-air above his head like a helicopter out-of-control weaving back and forth spraying water all over the bathroom.” He was finally able to capture it and get it under control. Reminds me of our New Caledonia showers….
The Leaning Tower of Pisa and Plaza were awesome. The tower is, of course, closed for repairs but we were able to obtain a special permit and go inside. Wouldn’t let us go up the stairs, but it was still very impressive. We stopped by the beach on the way back to the hotel and saw the “Med”.
Tonight is the first show – Camp Darby — then we bus overnight to Switzerland. There was a huge sign out front at the base advertising the Bellamys show and asking for a “roadie” for the day. We had the MWR rep change the sign to “groupie” of the day…Next report will be from Switzerland. We didn’t take the typical photo of the guys trying to “hold up” the Tower of Pisa!
Day Three – seems like a week already
Last night’s show was really special. Camp Darby is an Army Base with only 250 people actually living on the base. They always get overlooked for “big name” talent because they are so small. Over 150 people showed up for last night’s performance by the Bellamys and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more appreciative crowd. Here’s an email from one of the people attending which says it much better than I ever could:
I just wanted to say that it was wonderful to have the Bellamy Brothers visit Camp Darby. We seem to be the base that the army forgot, so we don’t get the chance to see many shows here. It was really nice for them to put this show on for our community, and we really appreciated being remembered. The show was great, my family enjoyed it very much, including our 1 yr old son. This was his first concert ever, and he was fortunate enough to be able to get his picture taken with them. I think he tried to steal David’s hat too, sorry about that! But it was wonderful for them to think of us, and we are thankful to have gotten the chance to see you perform.
We left around midnight for the drive to Interlaken, Switzerland. If you’ve never crossed the Alps in a double-decker tour bus with all the bunks in the upper portion, you’ve really missed a treat. When the interstate ended and we started winding through the Alps, I got “sea-sick”. Had to get up and go sit in the lounge. Getting in bed at 2:30 am and up at 6:00 am is hard!
Interlaken is as beautiful as ever and the weather is perfect. Our film crew has never been to Interlaken and I’m wondering if they have any film left after today’s events. We took a train from Interlaken to Grindelwald. The train broke down half-way up the mountain. So, we took a bus to a certain point, then had to take a taxi, and then finally they put us in as horse-drawn wagon. Normally, you just take a train straight into Grindelwald, but not when you’re traveling with the Bellamys. Every day is a new adventure.
We arrived at the Glacier about an hour later than planned only to find 980 STEPS straight up the mountain to access the Glacier. The steps were very rough hewn logs and the hand rails were so large, your hand wouldn’t fit around them. It was quite a “test”. Our guide from the tourist bureau was 69 years old and sprinted up the stepsl But, it was beautiful and worth the hike.
Tomorrow is our festival and then we bus back to Italy. I’m attaching a photo of what Howard Bellamy looked like after the hike up the Alp and also a photo showing how beautiful it is here.
DAYS FOUR AND FIVE
No idea when I will be able to send this email since I am in Italy and internet access is “non-existent” from the U.S. Military base – figures. One would think that staying on base would make things easier – not so. We would have been better off in a hotel off base.
Saturday was a very long day in Switzerland. Susan Bellamy and our camera man got up early and went hang-gliding off one of the Alps. He got some beautiful footage and Susan didn’t break anything.
The festival had a new “fest tent” this year which held 10,000 instead of 4,500. It was packed for the shows. Becky Hobbs, Danni Leigh and Bellamys had great shows. We rolled out at 3 am headed for Italy and arrived on Sunday at around noon. Checked into billeting and immediately went to Venice to film. Venice was not as hot or crowded as our last visit and again, we got some great footage. We rented two gondolas and believe me, that’s the way to “see” Venice. Came back for a huge meal at a beautiful Italian restaurant.
Today (Monday, I think) was spent visiting with base officials and seeing the F-16’s. There is a show here on the 4th of July with World War II vehicles and a “club” of servicemen who dress up in WWII uniforms. Took lots of photos with those guys and “General Patton”. General Patton was trying to make a speech (exactly as Patton did to the troops) and whoever he had as his sound man, kept cranking the volume up on the background music. He talked louder and louder and finally yelled at the sound guy, “When you get rid of the “#@#!%^@&@&*$” music, I’ll make my speech.
Off to a show in a fest tent tonight for the troops stationed here at Aviano AFB. We depart after the show to go to Naples, but will stop in Rome and get off the bus to sightsee all day tomorrow. Again, don’t know when I’ll be able to send email…
Show in Aviano was great and we went to a fantastic Pizzeria afterwards. I think I’ve had a total of 6 Caprese since I’ve been here. The mozarella is to die for.
No email access in Italy. What a bummer. Will have to keep all the road reports and send from the UK on the 6th.
Rome was a LOT farther away than we thought. The bus driver told us we had 20 minutes before we arrived Rome at 8:30 am. Then he hit “traffic”. We didn’t arrive at the Rome airport until noon! We got off the bus and found the train terminal by the airport. As we were getting on the escalator, a group of nuns (imagine that) were also attempting to get on – each pulling a rolling case. I finally managed to break through a space and get on but about halfway down, one of the nuns starts screaming “watch out”. Her rolling case came flying down the escalator right at me but I stopped it before it hit me. She said “God Bless You” (imagine that, too) and I helped her get off. The nun in front of me said, “Can you tell we have never, ever traveled before?”.
We made it to the train station near Vatican City and then took a bus to Vatican City where the USO was supposedly located. We couldn’t find it anywhere. Finally I asked a bus driver but he only spoke Italian. He felt so sorry for me that he made us all get on his bus and he drove us to the USO. Hope he doesn’t lose his job over that one!
We had a lovely tour guide named Anna Maria who was a tremendous help. We toured Vatican City, the Colosseum, the ancient ruins, and the Spanish steps. Took the midnight train back to Naples and we were all dead tired. We had walked all day and it was terribly hot. All we wanted to do was pass out on the 3 hour train ride back to base. Just as we were about to pull out of the station – an Afro-American family got on and crammed into all the empty seats beside us. There were two small girls who were hyper-active and very loud. We “passed out” anyway, but about ten minutes into a deep sleep, the “father” begins singing “Love Lifted Me”. He sang the entire 40 minutes he was on the train to “soothe” his girls – I didn’t find it soothing! They finally got off and we all went back to sleep – for about another 10 minutes. Some guy starts YELLING in the seat behind us and I looked around to find a Japanese man screaming into his cell phone. He continued this for the remainder of the trip.
We did finally make it back to the base and got checked in at around 1 am after trying unsuccessfully 3 times to awaken our bus driver to get our luggage out of the bus. Guess he was pretty tired, too
Attaching some more photos
Today we went to Pompeii – somewhere I’ve never been before. It was incredible. We photographed an entire family that was found lying in the ruins when the volcano erupted. Their remains were unbelievable well-preserved. It is amazing to see the architecture from that era. The beautiful marble and carvings in the homes of the wealthy were a sight to behold.
Drove down to the shore and photographed ships and castles! The “guys” were disappointed that all the women wore swimsuits. Think they were hoping for some topless beaches, but no such luck.
Show tonight in Naples and then off to Gaeta tomorrow for a show and sightseeing along the seashore.
The show in Naples was wonderful because it was the 4th of July. It was outside and there was a huge fireworks display afterwards. I have never met so many “rednecks” outside the U.S. One lady came up to Susan and I at merch sales and asked what the bandanna was. The Bellamys sell a bandanna that is a Confederate flag and has their song title, “You ain’t just Whistlin’ Dixie” on it. We told her it was a bandanna and she said, “No, what does it mean”. We told her it was the Confederate Flag and she asked what that was. She had dark hair, looked to be about late 30’s and didn’t speak with a foreign accent. So, I asked her where she was from. She said, “Mississippi”! And, she didn’t have a clue what the Confederate Flag was. I told her, “Well there was this Civil War between the Northern States and the Southern States…..” Unbelievable
Our driver is Charlie Di Palma and he’s a great big, Italian man who is your stereotype Italian Mafia. He curses constantly and drives like a maniac. Keep in mind that in Italy, the lines in the roads are mere decorations and stop signs, traffic signals, yield signs, etc., are all “merely suggestions”. No one uses a lane and everyone drives a minimum of 90 miles an hour. Charlie was driving us around in a van and driving 90 miles an hour. Usually, I was sitting in the back, but this time I sat up front. It was a hair raising experience. I decided to take my chances getting thrown around in the back for the rest of the tour (there are NO shocks on these vehicles). I did feel better after he told me that he used to be a race car driver and had never had an accident.
Charlie, being a large man, definitely knew where to find the best restaurants. We had the best meals of our trip with him but I’m sure I’ve gained 5 pounds just in Italy.
Today we are going to Sorrento, Charlie’s “in-laws” farm (they make wine and olive oil), and Gaeta for the show and to visit a fishing village. Left early and make a stop at a “water plant”. There were spigots for about 10 different kinds of water – magnesium, mineral, sulfur, etc. I didn’t try any of it, but the Bellamys tasted all of it. We had lunch at the most famous Pizzaria in Italy. We had a pizza that was a “meter” long.
Then we went to the farm and had wine, pastries, and a watermelon that Charlie had stolen. His wife is pregnant and very sweet. The farm had olive trees and grape vines and every kind of animal imaginable. There was a pen filled with beautiful black and white bunnies. When they told me they ate them, I decided not to go pet them. The Bellamys and the film crew walked down the hill to see the cows and pigs. J.R. (our director) was leaning over the pig pen and says, “So do you think they will eat these?” Just as he said it the largest pig picked up his hoof and slammed it down in the pig sh…., slop, and mud and splattered J.R. from head to toe. He had pig sh…. All over him and smelled horrible. Thankfully, he had a change of clothes with us. I think he threw the others away.
We got some beautiful footage of the shore and fishing village. Had a great show in Gaeta and the people stationed there were so appreciative. They had a nice steak dinner for us after the show but everyone was concerned that it was “American Beef” and not Mad Cow.
We found out how to shut Charlie up AND get him to slow down. The film crew wanted an interview with him, so they “miced” him and filmed him as he was driving. He slowed down to 30 miles per hour and answered every question with “yes” or “no”. Totally camera shy. I told him the next time the speedometer hits 100, I’m turning on the camera!
DAY NINE AND TEN
Got up early to go to the airport but had 3 “casualties” who were late from partying to hard the night before, so we were late leaving. Got to the airport for our flight on “Alitalia” (my favorite airline – NOT) only to be told that our flight from Naples to Rome was cancelled and they were putting us on a bus! No way all our band gear and luggage would fit on the bus so we chased our bus driver down as he was leaving and got him to take us to Rome.
So, now I’m at the Rome airport. Our German bus driver (who is wonderful and a very old, dear friend), drove like an Italian maniac to get us to Rome in time for our flight. When we arrived, we learned that the Italian Air Traffic Controllers are on STRIKE so either flights are cancelled totally or they will all fly after 6 pm! Our flight was changed to a 7:30 pm departure so we’ve had the entire day in the airport. Of course, it took me 2 ½ hours just to get up to the ticket counter and then to check in all 31 pieces of luggage and gear. Who knows if we will get out of here tonight. And, British Airlines takes no responsibility for booking us on an alternate flight because it’s not the “problem” of the airline – it’s the Air Traffic Controllers. They need a Republican President to run things over here.
Arrived at the hotel at midnight. Danni Leigh is SICK with the flu. Don’t know if she will be able to perform.
Finally got my computer plugged in only to find that NONE of the access numbers for AOL from the UK will work. They all say access not authorized. Finally reached someone from AOL on the phone only to be told that not only must I pay the $3.95 per hour international access charge, but anyone who is not an AOL UK account member, must also pay 1 pound per minute (about 1.5 cents per minute). What a rip.
Got on line and sent out several of the road reports that I’ve been holding only to be knocked off line and then not allowed to sign back on – PASSWORK INVALID! I was screaming obsenities (really bad ones!) at 2:30 am and realized my window was open. One of the Bellamy’s crew was leaning out his window smoking a cigarette and heard me as did Becky Hobbs who was next door. I have never had this much trouble with AOL. Finally reached AOL this morning (Saturday) and they said that my account has been cancelled because I sent bulk mailings and I am not authorized to send bulk mailings. Yes, my road reports! I’ve been doing this for 5 years and never had a problem. All my yelling at them did no good, so I had to apply for permission to send bulk mailings. Have to all back in 24 hours to see if I have been approved. If so, you’ll see this road report.
We had bad weather today for the festival. Rained off and on all day. Fortunately it did not rain during Becky’s and the Bellamy’s shows. You would not believe some of the clothes these people wear at the festival. Becky was interviewed by the BBC radio when we arrived and the DJ was dressed as a viking — I mean the fur leggings and loin cloth and a helmet with horns. Becky and Bellamys had great shows and the crowd loved them. Danni went out to the festival, sang one song, and had to come off stage. Just no voice at all! Really feel sorry for her especially since she has to fly back to the U.S. tomorrow. Not going to be a fun flight for her.
DAY 11 AND 12 (AND 13!)
Got up early to get Danni off to Nashville and Becky off to Turkey. Weather is still horrible – cold and rainy – typical of the UK. Filmed the Bellamys today at the castle then headed out to the Festival Site. The Bellamys presented the awards for the Classic Car competition and there were dozens of them! They had a good crowd at their show even though the weather was still lousy.
We departed the UK on Monday am, the 9th on a direct flight from Birmingham to Chicago then on home to Nashville. American Airlines business class leaves a lot to be desired. The seats are really small and cramped. They bring around a portable DVD player for you to watch movies on. I managed to knock mine off along with the guy sitting next to me as well as his drink. The cd flew out of his DVD and he had to start the whole movie over. Don’t think he was very happy with me.
Got into Nashville early evening and got unpacked before I went to bed. Woke up this morning with a stomach virus and not real happy! Glad to be back in the good ole USA.