Last week, I took a mini-vacation to Quebec. I flew into Montreal Thursday night and flew back on Sunday morning. The flight to Montreal was delayed by 90 minutes, supposed to take off at noon, finally took off about 1:30. I was just grateful it was non-stop and I didn't have any connecting flights to try and make. We landed in Montreal about 9:30 p.m. local time. I didn't know how late the rental car services were open, so I grabbed my carry-on and headed for the parking lot. Enterprise was still open and they had three people working. It took almost 30 minutes for me to get my car and there was only one other customer. To say they were a little disorganized would be an understatement but I finally got the car. I plugged the address of my hotel into the gps and took off. The gps had me on the 520 nord instead of the 40 ouest. I knew as soon as I got out of the airport that I was heading the wrong direction but wasn't sure how to correct my course. Then I ran into construction on the highway and within about 1 km, the highway completely shut down.
I pulled off the highway onto the access road, saw a Comfort Inn and realized that I had stayed there several years ago. I drove into the parking lot but there was no place to park, so I drove out again and parked on the side road. I went into the lobby and waited for the night manager to finish helping the other folks and then explained my dilemma, where I wanted to go and could he give me directions. He was very nice and tried to be helpful but he kept changing his mind about how I should get there. Finally, I just went the way he said even though I knew it was still sending me the wrong direction. In a few minutes, I saw a Hilton and pulled in there. The night manager there gave me great directions and drew me a little map and I was at my hotel in 5 minutes; it was after 11 p.m. and I was beat. It took me about an hour to wind down but the hotel room was great. I had the most comfy king bed and it was so quiet. I had an awesome night's sleep. In the morning, I went to the free breakfast buffet and had scrambled eggs, a toasted bagel with cream cheese and coffee. Since I got so lost the night before, I went to the business center at the hotel and got some directions to the restaurant that I was going to for dinner and to the theater for the concert that night.
I started going to Quebec in 2001 to see the Quebecois singer Bruno Pelletier perform. In the intervening years, I've made a bunch of friends, people I've met at his shows. Now, when I post on FB that I'm coming up, they invite me to their pre-show dinners and gatherings. It makes me feel very welcome! On Friday night, I met a group of people at La Maison Vert in Ste Genevieve in an area I've heard referred to as the west island. There were several ladies and one young man from Quebec, plus Mew from Japan and Annette from Germany. An international crowd, all there to see Bruno. The food was muy delicioso, I had beef bavette in a mushroom-red wine reduction with mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables. Very flavorful and rich! There was also a cup of leek soup to start, tres tasty. The only downfall was the dessert. It was bland and doughy and I should have skipped it. I don't know if it's considered part of Montreal proper or if it's a separate town but Ste Genevieve feels like every small country town I've been to: little pockets of surprises in a town that feels little provincial. My family lives in a town like that in Sonoma County.
After dinner, I followed Line and Diane over to the theater. I knew how to get to the theater but it's a good thing I followed them because I would have never found the parking lot in the twilight! "Heavenly shades of night are falling, it's twilight time!" Wait, where was I? The theater was really nice and I was in the 3rd row just to the right of center stage. The show that night was really great, I think I used the word splendid when I posted on FB. Bruno was in great voice and there were several songs that really stood out. One was his version of 'Roxanne'. If I remember correctly, it was just Bruno and the guitar player, who's name escapes me at the moment. They slowed it down turning it into more of a sultry, almost R and B, song (and lament) of desire and longing.
I never liked 'Roxanne' in its original version by The Police. I found it to be monotonous and kinda boring. But then I heard this rendition of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDJMXSXSmtA I thought this was such a great version particularly the beginning. Bruno's version reminded me of this at first but he slowed the song down all the way through and that changed the entire vibe. It's a whole different song done that way. Just a little lesson to keep an open mind, that a little spin on something can change it from 'meh' to 'wow'.
My favorite song of the whole show was Bruno and Julie's beautiful and haunting version of Peter Gabriel's Don't Give Up. Sometimes I hear a song performed live and it seems as though the air is shimmering. I don't even want to take a breath or move in any way because I don't want to disturb the energy. Gorgeous, gorgeous rendition. It was an all around terrific concert. Plus Bruno did me a massive favor and met with me to record a video message to a friend of mine (and a fan of his) as she struggles through a very rough time in her life.
Saturday, I left my hotel in Dorval and drove to St Jerome. I checked into the hotel and waited for my pal Lynne there. She arrived about 4 p.m. from Gatineau. It was so good to see her, even if only for an evening. We always have a great time together! She and I had dinner with Line and Mew at St Hubert and then drove over to the theater. Everything went well up until I sat in my seat. Someone sitting near me, either right next to me or right in front of me, REEKED of hairspray. I must confess that I hate the smell of hairspray, it gives me a headache and this person smelled like they had used a whole can of it all at once. I couldn't get away from it. Typing this right now, I don't know why I didn't just move, I didn't think of it. As far as the concert that night, I have to say it was the rockiest performance I've ever seen Bruno give. I know when I create something, I have an idea in my head of how I want the energy to flow. This performance was like the energy went sideways on Bruno. He still sounded good but the performance was off for a lot of the evening. He maintained his humor about what was happening and the audience still loved it, I loved it because I don't think he's capable of giving a truly bad performance and by the end of the evening, he had regained control of the stage, but it was...different. I have wondered how much of my perception of the show was colored by the stench of the hairspray, it was really bothering me.
At the end of the night, Bruno came out in the lobby to chat with people and Lynne and I got in line. I wanted to say good-bye and thank him for the video. When I got to the table where he was sitting, he looked at me and asked if I was alright. I said I was fine and we spoke for a moment. Someone else spoke up while we were chatting and he responded to them then turned back to me. He asked me again if I was okay, and I assured him I was. We said good-bye and I left. It was only later that I realized that, mentally, I was already on my way back to L.A. and so wasn't fully present in the moment. I wonder if that's why he asked me that. Or maybe I just looked ill from the hairspray. Lynne and I went back to the hotel and went to bed. I got up at 5 a.m. to get to the airport, made it in plenty of time and flew home. I had a great time in Quebec and as always, was glad I went and was equally glad to be home again.