Venice and The VSOE

It’s been just over a week since we boarded our flight to Venice and began a trip of a lifetime.

After we landed in Venice, having raided the duty free make up counters and fallen asleep on our fellow passengers (That was me. I did that.), the lovely Frederico picked us up and took us to our hotel, which was stunning. We decided to take advantage of the time we had in Venice and walked for miles around the city, before deciding to stop for a drink in one of the beautiful sun-filled squares.

A couple of Aperol Spritz’s later, and we’re off to explore some more. Louisa and Steve got very involved in the Venetian Masks on offer on every street, while Anna took some serious photographs - she’s always updating our instagram with her beautiful shots so check it out here, or have a look at her website here.

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We got a relatively early night and woke up in time for a hearty hotel buffet breakfast before spending some serious time getting appropriately glammed up for the adventure ahead of us.

I think it’s fair to say we didn’t really believe that we would be travelling on the VSOE until we got to the platform to check in. It was an incredibly surreal experience; the train is magnificent and you can feel the history surrounding it. We were shown to our two cabins with an adjoining door (slumber party!), with a glass of something sparkly waiting for us. We met Rory, our lovely steward who took amazing care of us, and took a moment to appreciate how lucky we were to be experiencing the VSOE in person.

A warm welcome!

A warm welcome!

Rory, our cabin steward

Rory, our cabin steward

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We performed four sets for the wonderful guests on the train. For two of those sets we played saxophone, and let me tell you, playing a saxophone in an evening dress and high heels in a confined space on a moving train is a WORK OUT. Steve showed the piano a rip-roaring time and it was an honour performing our own songs as well as some classics on board the historical carriage.

We ate a ridiculous number of delicious meals on board; Lunch, Afternoon Tea in our cabin, Dinner, Breakfast in our cabin and then Brunch. Eating amazing food while watching the beautiful views pass by our window was unbelievable! Our dinner on Wednesday night was eaten while going through Austria, Lichtenstein and Switzerland. How often can you say that?! The bar manager, Ignazio, was a true gentleman and made us The Guilty 12, a signature cocktail of the VSOE. He couldn’t tell us what was in it (trade secrets), but trust me, it was great.

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For someone who falls asleep on moving trains as often as I do, falling asleep on the VSOE in our cosy bunks was one of the best feelings in the world. Waking up to a delicious breakfast served in our cabin and enjoying the rest of the journey was magical.

Sitting on the floor of our South West Train from Victoria back to Winchester just reminded us even more how lucky we are! We certainly don't take this job for granted. The whole experience felt like a dream, and we hope that we can return one day soon to perform for the VSOE and all it’s wonderful guests!

A Little Mid-Week Getaway...

It’s 5am and we’re halfway to Gatwick. We are off to sing on the beautiful Venice Simplon-Orient-Express! Here’s a glimpse into life on the road with The Spitfire Sisters. 

We have a day in Venice before boarding the train on Wednesday morning and travelling back to London via Paris, performing for all the passengers with Spitfire Steve, a baby grand and our saxophones. 

The excitement of the trip, as well as the sheer quantity of luggage we'll be taking (outfits! shoes! saxophones! music stands! microphones! the list goes on...) led us to a big discussion about our travel plans, routines and essentials. Our discussion went something like this...

What do you never go on holiday without? 

L: Clean Knickers. At least I try my hardest to remember to pack them. It hasn't worked 100% of the time. I'll double check...

A: My camera! One of my favourite things about travelling is wandering around some unknown destination with my camera. Obvioulsy it's wonderful to be able to show family and friends where you've been but I also love looking back on the photos in an attempt to relive an experience. 

H: My headphones; I can walk around a place for hours as long as I have a good album, playlist or podcast. 

What do you miss the most about home when you travel? 

L: My children.

A: My bed! I love my bed. Other beds aren't the same. 

H: A proper cup of tea. Actually, I don't miss anything too much, but I do love the feeling of coming home when you've been away. 

What travel snacks do you pack? 

L: I'm not very prepared when I travel and usually grab whatever there is from a local snack stop on the go. I do remember being given fruit boiled sweets to suck on the plane to try and keep my ears happy. 

A: I never remember to pack travel snacks, and I find that snack shopping at the airport is a good time-waster. Also, Hannah's a boss at emergency snackage so there's no fear of starving. 

H: I try and go for a good mix of healthy and unhealthy. Sweets, crackers, crisps, bananas and tea. For this trip I've packed some chocolate covered rice cakes, four bags of pic'n'mix for each of us, cereal bars a load of herbal tea bags. I have a reputation to live up to! 

What's your travel beauty routine? 

L: I try to keep a makeup free face with a light moisturiser, especially as we will be leaving very early in the morning for this trip. I do love a good rummage around the duty free while I'm at the airport. I probably come out smelling very confusing from mulitple sprays of various perfumes. 

A: Moisturiser and a quick bit of mascara - I find that this strikes a perfect balance between not looking like a zombie, keeping hydrated and haivng a blank canvas for playing at the makeup consession stands in duty free. 

H: No matter how early or late I'm travelling, I always wash my face with The Body Shop Tea Tree scrub as it wakes me up immediately and makes my skin feel amazing. Then it's E45 moisturiser, Glossier Boy Brow and whatever mascara I'm currently using. When I'm travelling with Louisa I never wear nail varnish as I always hope I can persuade her to give me a quick manicure. 

Favourite thing about planes or airports? 

L: The feeling of adventure and excitement. 

A: The older I get, the less I care for airports. I used to find them incredibly exciting, where as now I just want to be on my way. That said, I do like the fact that in an airport you can drink champagne at any time of the day without it being frowned upon. That's a thing, right? 

H: My pre-flight routine! I love to get to airports ridiculously early, look around every shop, settle on a place to sit, make sure I've got enough snacks, and get a coffee just before I board the plane.

What do you listen to when you go travelling? 

L: Last time I went travelling I was trying to learn some songs for an Ella Fitzgerald centenary concert and that was a wonderful travel companion, especially the five minute scat solo. 

A: It changes every time! There are a handful of albums that instantly evoke memories form certain trips, like Gavin DeGraw's Chariot which takes me straight back to sleeper trains in India, or Frank Ocean's Channel Orange which will forever remind me of a snowy trip to Stockholm with Hannah and Spitfire Bassist Doug. 

H: Podcasts; I like hearing people talk, especially if I'm trying to sleep in a new place. In terms of music, J made me a playlist about a year ago that is 164 songs long and I always revisit that whenever I can. 

We ended up having quite a few crossovers on the music we listen to when travelling, so here's a joint playlist of some of our favourite tracks! You can find our travel playlist on Spotify here.

https://open.spotify.com/user/hannahcastleman/playlist/3RbZef1KZ2m1Vfmqj0YNRK?si=r47IOUQEQ2uygFXRLKx3kg

1. It's Nice To Go Travelling - Frank Sinatra

2. Perfect Day - Hoku

3. Running Away  - Vulfpeck ft. Joey Dosik

4. Over-rated - Gavin DeGraw

5. Sweet Life - Frank Ocean

6. All I Want Is You - Sarah Jane Morris & Antonio Forcione

7. Remember - Seinabo Sey

8. Back To Basics - Jenny and the Mexicats

9. Misery Business - Paramore

10. New York State Of Mind - Mel Torme

Hannah never leaves the country, let alone her house, without some excellent podcasts. Here are her top picks. 

1. Elis James & John Robins on Radio X

2. Desert Island Discs

3. Pappy's Flatshare Slamdown (explicit content!)

4. The Chris Moyles Show on Radio X

5. This American Life

6. Wooden Overcoats

7. Serial Season 1 - I listen to these episodes over and over again. (explicit content!)

8. Another Round (explicit content!)

9. Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Show Podcast (explicit content!)

10. BBC Comedy of The Week