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

 

 

 

 

Anna's Top 10 Things To Do in Porto

1. Visit the Casa da Musica

A trip to Rem Koolhaas' Casa da Musica should be at the tippy top of every itinerary, especially if you are a music lover, an architecture lover, or both. I highly recommend taking a guided tour to visit the many smaller rooms inside, such as the 'VIP room', which is an incredible combination of angular concrete and traditional hand-painted tiles. The main concert hall, or Sala Suggia, is just wonderful (see pic below).

Guided tours run twice a day in English (11am & 4pm) and cost 7.50 per person.

More info: http://www.casadamusica.com/en/

Exterior.   Photo by Anna Harding.

Exterior. Photo by Anna Harding.

Concert Hall Interior.  Photo by Anna Harding.

Concert Hall Interior. Photo by Anna Harding.

2. Enjoy a drink on the Espaço Porto Cruz Terrace Bar 

Day or night, this is the perfect place to unwind for an hour or so to enjoy the spectacular views. This gem of a bar is located over the Dom Luis bridge and is surrounded by Port houses, so is in the perfect spot to take a break. The port, gin, beer and lemonade are all good. I checked especially for you. 

The view at night.  Photo by Anna Harding.

The view at night. Photo by Anna Harding.

3. Marvel at the traditional tiles at São Bento train station

This must be the most impressive train station in the world, right? The decorative tiles (called azulejo) that cover the walls are painted to depict the history of Portugal. The murals represent epic events, battles and conquests from the 12-15th century, as well as scenes of everyday life. This really is a must-see! 

Station Interior.  Photo by Anna Harding.

Station Interior. Photo by Anna Harding.

4. Enjoy views over town from the cable car

This cable car is a fairly new attraction for Porto and it is a great way to pass over the rooftops to the Jardim de Morro, with a spectacular view down the Douro river. Perfectly positioned at the top of the cable car is café/bar Esplanada which is the perfect place to enjoy a beer, especially if (like me) you need something to steady the nerves after your cable car experience. 

 

5. Eat Francesinha

This is a Portuguese sandwich, not dissimilar to a Croque Monsieur. But with more cheese. So. Much. Cheese. And more meat - all the meat. With chips. Mmmmm chips! All served with a spicy, beery sauce! OM NOM NOM. 

 

6. Visit the Igreja de São Francisco

This Gothic church is impressive from the outside, but it is the phenomenally opulent Baroque interior that will really blow you away. Every inch of the walls and ceiling is covered in 'Talha Dourada' - intricate wooden carvings gilt with gold leaf. Unfortunately you can't take photos inside so you'll have to take my word when I say that it's worth popping in! You can also visit the catacombs, which i'd recommend. 

Igreja de São Francisco.    Photo by Anna Harding

Igreja de São Francisco. Photo by Anna Harding

7. Browse the shelves for books at Livraria Lello

Livraria Lello.  Photo by Anna Harding.

Livraria Lello. Photo by Anna Harding.

Once upon a time in the nineties you could have found J.K Rowling browsing the books at the Livraria Lello, whose flight of stairs is rumoured to have been the inspiration for the moving staircases at Hogwarts! Nowadays you have to buy a ticket to visit the bookshop, but the Art Nouveau interior is really spectacular and well worth the fee. Plus, if you decide to take something home with you, the staff will discount the ticket price from your purchase. 

 

8. Walk over the Dom Luis bridge

Pedestrians can walk over this impressive bridge on two levels, alongside cars on the bottom and the metro at the top. The lower route is the best way to get from the old part of town to Vila Nova de Gaia, where you will find the many port houses, the bottom of the cable car and the Espaço Porto Cruz Terrace Bar. The top deck is the ideal route to take you back into town from the Jardim de Morro. 

9. Get lost!

Like so many European cities, getting lost in Porto's steep, narrow streets can be a delightful way to spend an afternoon. Stumble upon hidden cafés, dream of conserving the crumbling tiled exteriors and make friends with the local feline population - it's all good. 

Porto streets.  Photo by Anna Harding.

Porto streets. Photo by Anna Harding.

10. Drink Port for breakfast at the House Ribeira Hotel

Yes, you heard me right - port for breakfast! I'm pretty confident that this is just for the tourists, but hey - when in Rome. If boozy breakfasts aren't for you, I'd still recommend booking a room at this stylish hotel. The rooms are modern with high ceilings and comfy beds. To avoid any awkward surprises, make sure you are comfortable with your roommate - the toilet doors are made of glass. Request a room with a street view, where you can see the river at the end of the road and beautiful traditional tiled buildings in every direction.

Hotel info and booking here