Quebeckers don’t let the weather get in the way of a good time. Case in point: Last month’s Summer Festival.
While rainstorms were hitting Ontario and Eastern Canada, it seemed every day, festival revellers managed to put on their Wellies, grab their brollies and march on down to the Plains of Abraham for the 11-day summer event, rain or shine.
They rifled in to watch Styx, Placido Domingo, and Kiss among many other musical talents using a $45 pass that was good for the entire festival. Friends of mine managed to catch Ramon Kelvink Jr., the legendary high wire artist, daringly cross a steel wire stretching from the Price Building to the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac which was pre-empted several times due to the weather. “We didn’t know what was happening and when we finally did see Ramon, I held my breath for the whole 20 minutes,” said Kris King, editor of ejazztravel.com.
But what could be worse? If you’re a Sting fan like me the worst thing would be missing his concert while he was in the same city. Quelle catastrophe not be in the audience. I mean I just couldn’t be a no-show to the guy who gave the world “Every Breath You Take,” and “Fields of Gold.”
So I double checked our trip dates and double checked Sting’s only Canadian stop to his two-city North American tour. (The other place was a no-name town in Connecticut, called Ledyard which weirdly overlooks the Thames River). I figured maybe he decided on this unknown New England leg for some house hunting as word has it Justin Timberlake just bought in Greenwich and Joan Rivers’ house is up for sale.
My other half and I were to finish a Maritime cruise (more on that later) in La Belle Ville de Quebec and here I was wishing that if only I could get all the stars to line up I’d get my wish. The cruise would be wonderful but wouldn’t it be even more wonderful if Sting could be the cherry on top?
I checked yet again. There it was on the Internet. Sting was scheduled to be in Quebec City the same weekend. Now for most, when we mention Sting, here’s the typical reaction: Eyes widen and light up. A big smile consumes the whole face. I don’t know what Sting has but there is this appeal that transcends all generations. Maybe it was his claim to fame with “Roxanne,” or “Message in the Bottle.”
Whatever it was, I was ready to get an update on this vintage model known for his eight-hour tantric sex acts with wife Trudie Styler.
Except Mother Nature had another idea. It rained the day before. It rained the day of. “I can’t believe it. What if they cancel Sting tonight?” I moaned to Stephen, sprawled on the bed at the Hilton with views ironically of the Plains of Abraham.
It didn’t matter. Rain or shine I would be there. We munched on Lebanese by the Saint Jean Gates and marched on by to the Bell Stage. The skies opened with a glimmer of sun splashing across the clouds. Now streams of followers started jockeying for spots. People hunkered down on the grass, claiming small pieces of green real estate as their own. “Hey I can’t move,” muttered one disagreeable sort, splayed on the ground with cooler under his derriere.
Finally after dodging the crowd we found what was to become our turf near the stage. Heavy metal indie rock band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs cranked up the decibel. It’s been years since I was at a concert and forgot how loud “loud” can get.
Darkness descended and behind me, 120,000 spectators stood, red lights flickering to the Hydro Quebec pins mounted on everyone’s chest all part of the hardware for the Quebec City Summer Festival pass.
We watched as the icon appeared, clad in a heavenly white t-shirt and NASA-inspired white trainers. Legendary bass in hand, tunes from The Police started and continued. I watched him like a hawk, waiting for je ne sais quoi I guess a moment where his personality would shine. One song bled into another. This guy was not quitting despite what I thought was a touch of a cold (he wasn’t hitting notes at times, and it wasn’t a new rendition either).
Between sets, he occasionally gulped from a gargantuan white tea cup (he had two cups) perched atop a Moroccan-designed table, the only reminder that this was no ordinary stage. I wanted him to whisper some sweet nothings to the crowd. Instead, sparse one-liners that were few and far between were delivered over the plains to an audience who were largely there to well…party. One girl was having a lover’s tiff. Another couple brought their fast-asleep baby tuckered out in a back sack as daddy slurped on Molson Dry. Still there were those who smoked, drank and smoked some more.
Hey people don’t you know this is a Sting concert? I thought to myself as Sting stung the oblivious audience. Later, I spoke to some music critics who explained how the guy who has sold over 100 million albums worldwide wasn’t really known for his stage performances anyway.
The next day’s headline read “A haircut for Sting.” Word had it he got his hair trimmed and on Saturday he ate a six-course lunch at Saint Amour (www.saint-amour.com, 48 rue Sainte-Ursule) to show off his new look before the concert. He stayed at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac (1 rue des Carrieres) and left on Sunday around 2pm aboard his private jet.
Sting might have left but the festival atmosphere raged on as street performers strutted their stuff by the esteemed Chateau, across from Simon’s and along Rue St. Jean. We sipped on organic coffee at La Brulerie de Café de Quebec (575 rue Saint-Jean), dined al fresco at Piazzetta (707 rue Saint-Jean) one evening, feasted on gelato at Tutto Gelato (716 Rue St Jean) and for our final evening, it was a chocolate extravaganza.
The gal readers I’m sure will appreciate the rich taste of fine chocolate. Over at the Choco-Musée (634 Rue St. Jean) local entrepreneur and chocolatier Erico created this emporium to the cocoa bean. Besides learning about chocolate history, and how rich empires profited on the taste of the day, you can watch how chocolate is made on the premise, purchase freshly made creations or try his delectable gourmet ice cream. I especially recommend his mega chocolate and gingembre ice cream, a refreshing taste of ginger that helps clean the palette.
So Sting has gone but like his song says, “If you love somebody set them free.” A bit hokey, a bit cheesy, but hey he let me turn the clock back and walk down memory lane. This Englishman in…well Quebec.
The price of tickets for admission to all performances during the 11 day festival: $45CAD. The last 4 days of the Festival, a day pass sold for 25$ CAD.
More on Quebec: http://www.quebecregion.com/e/ or toll-free 1-877-783-1608
Photo courtesy: Steve Deschenes/Quebec City Summer Festival