Québec City: the morning after the night before
I'm cursed with an inability to sleep late in the mornings. Regardless of whether I go to bed at 02h00, 03h00 or 04h00, I will generally wake up before 09h00, and be unable to return to sleep. It hurts, but does not surprise me to full the sunshine burning through my eyelids just after eight on this bright Saturday morning. Before I have even opened my eyes and turned to look at the alarm clock, I know that I am now awake, and that I'm going to have to live with whatever time it is.
My head hurts, and my stomach is not as stable as I would like it to be. With every year that passes, it's get harder to recover from a night on the sauce. Time was now would be the time to start again in preparation for the following evening. Urgh. A half empty bottle of Molson Export eyes me from the kitchen counter, as if to say "why didn't you finish me, aren't you man enough?"
The cause for this pain was a long, drawn out evening of celebrations for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, otherwise known as the national holiday of Québec. With my adopted-Québecoise friend Kari and her pure bred Québecois boyfriend Vincent, I was guided through the celebrations. Foolish plans had been suggested to make contact with a few of my Montréal friends during the evening, and to meet up. However, as ever, we made the mistake of believing that it would be easy to just call someone's mobile telephone and then find a large and obvious landmark to meet beside. Unfortunately it seems that the other 250,000 people who converged on the Plains of Abraham in the city that night had the same idea, and repeated attempts to use one of the two mobile phones available to me failed: perhaps the networks were overloaded with people trying to make the same calls ("What? No! We're right beside the hot dog stand on the right of the stage beside the tree next to the flagpole....")
We began the evening with a beer on the deck of the family of Vincent in the suburbs of the city. The sun was setting behind a row of trees, lawn mowers were buzzing and the swimming pool was looking tempting. After an hour or so chatting in the sun, we made our excuses and headed to the next party, a barbeque back in town. A quick beer stop was made chéz Vincent, and we managed to bag the last vaguely barbeque-able meat from the near-by supermarket (minced veal, which was soon shaped into burgers). The atmosphere continued to build at this party, where I knew no-one but was soon introduced. It turned out most of the people there were anglophones from other parts of Canada.
At around ten o'clock, it was time to leave, and join the throngs of people in the streets heading towards the Plains of Abraham, the large national park that hugs the hill down the spine of old Québec. It's here that a massive outdoor stage is constructed each year for a free music spectacle that runs late into the night and which is followed by fireworks and bonfires. Out on the streets, I met more people holding Québec flags that a western Canadian might be comfortable with. The queue for beer and cigarettes at every dépanneur snaked out onto the pavement. We turned east along the Grand Allée, Québec's busiest and trendiest street for nightlife. The traffic had been diverted away, and the road became a throbbing sea of people heading to the plains. Thousands of people were moving in the same direction, being held up only by the controlled entrance to the plains, where all alcohol was to be stopped from entering the site. I shan't go into the details, but a little bit co-ordinated magic transported our backpack of twenty bottles of beer across the barrier, and we carried on along our way. Slightly tipsy by this stage, we felt like we'd managed to pull off a major bank heist...
We plodded on towards the stage, and disappeared into the crowds...