Ta-daaa – 180 Days of Magic

Sleights of moment, waving the family wand

Crowds, concerts and kids

Posted by PlayGroundology on July 7, 2008

Plains

Plains of Abraham - Lynda Lemay and Charles Aznavour

You can’t escape the speakers in Starbucks but the mokka is good and a couple of nights ago Presse Café was not open. The Ste. Foy franchise of this Québecois chain is conveniently located just a few coffee beans away from our hotel but that evening wasn’t keeping its posted hours. It was a lockdown blackout at 21h45 the javaflow cut off for the day even though 23h00 was advertised as closing time. Maybe this was to give staff a chance to take in the celebrations around the 400th. That’s what brings our happy gang to Québec City. No such compassion, or empathy at Starbucks apparently. The idea that I might get out and write something with the kids napped down in the hotel room eventually pushed me across the street to where the wireless costs money and the drinks are more expensive.

I only stayed long enough to think back on the Rencontres show outside the Assemblée Nationale on that first day we joined in the festivities. Quel spectacle – M. Champlain in period costume narrated the production from start to finish. With the worldliness of a well travelled 17th century explorer-cartographer he introduced musicians, dancers, artists and bridged it all with brief historical vignettes, snapshots of the city through its 400 years from the early days of bare survival to the riotous 30s of the last century.

Where there was a clear view of the stage or one of the jumbotron screens there were also massive gatherings of people, standing, sitting, kneeling, swaying, sweating in the sun’s shimmering heat. There wasn’t a postage stamp of grass, sidewalk or road to stand, sit or walk on. The ramparts of Vieux Québec were awash with music lovers seeking the best vantage point of the main stage.

Tens of thousands saw, felt and heard a story of conquest, perseverance and cultural rayonnement from the likes of Robert Charlebois, Gilles Vigneault, Ariane Moffat, Florent Vollant, Diane Dufresne and others. Marie-Jo Thério sang a haunting and powerful rendition of Évangéline – dispossession, deportation, dispersal – enfin, le grand dérangement.

Getting out through the crowds, well before the end of the show, was quite simply hell. Both Mélanie and I were surprised at the rudeness and lack of consideration. This was an event in the middle of the day open to everyone, including families. We thought that people would have been more helpful in clearing a small, temporary path for our stroller to get the kids out. Instead we were greeted with stony stares and annoyance, a “how dare they interrupt my enjoyment of this show” attitude. The mighty Mélanie did a masterful job of commandeering the intense push that got the stroller out and away from the boorish hordes. The kids were oblivious to the bad vibes but it had both of us hopped up. Fortunately we haven’t had to repeat our big push campaign and after venting our spleen we’re ready to leave the nasty experience behind us like a unpleasant smell.

That was quite a slide

That was quite a slide

We’ve been asking a lot of the 2 little ones over the last few days . It’s been a series of late nights usually accompanied by music – Sylvain Cossette’s 70s tribute show in Sorel on Friday, arrival in Québec Saturday, Lynda Lemay and Charles Aznavour on the Plains of Abraham Sunday and tonight The Wailers at Place d’Youville. Tomorrow we’ll be BBQing with friends and hitting the sack early for the return trip to Sorel the following day and the tail end of le Festival de la Gibelotte. We always make sure to plan some family-kid oriented fun during the day – parks, river walks, swimming and the occasional dreaded television viewing. Despite the nutty schedules for Noah and Nellie they’ve been enjoying themselves at the evening venues, grooving to the music and contributing to the general merriment in their own rights.

Tonight Noah-David is psyched for Bob Marley tunes as am I. He said to me a couple of times during the day that it would be just like ma maison à moi, just like at home. There will be dancing and singing tonight for sure – zion train will be coming our way.

An interesting television series on the 400th was broadcast on Radio-Canada over the winter and into the summer. Excerpts are available on line.

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