bonjour from québec city

2009-apr18-quebec01

musicians atop the battlement wall

Ready for that visit to Europe? Forget about booking a flight. Your passport and a tank of gas will good as get you there.

Had a couple of days off and hit the road today for Québec City. Around four and a half hours northeast of Burlington, the history and charm of the province’s capital city have beckoned ever since I moved to Vermont. A couple of extra reasons finally drove the decision to go today. First, the historical draw: with Quadricentennial celebrations happening this year in Burlington this was the opportunity to get the rich backstory by visiting the city founded by Samuel de Champlain, in his pre-Lake year of 1608.

And, with a performer like Dobet Gnahoré in town for a show tonight – road trip!

Arrived in the city around 4 and the first stop was the Old Port neighborhood to pick up tickets for tonight’s show at the grand Palais Montcalm. I was surprised to find how contemporary the theatre looked, since the online history mentioned it had been built in the 1930s. Turns out the recent renovation did a lot more than touch up the building’s stone facade…taking a look around inside later on revealed a tastefully modernized auditorium in the glossy dark wood finish that would have been at the top of its deco style when it was built. Beautiful.

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Dobet's playbill

Second stop: hotel check-in, and then a long, quiet sunset-lit dinner at the Cafe Conti just down the street – er, rue. Recommended by the hotel desk, the low-light, casually elegant stone wall interior created a nice, non-competitive backdrop for the bright colors and saturated flavors in the meal. Focus on the food, just as it should be. Without a reservation on a Saturday night, a bar seat was the only one available. I never mind sitting at the bar but it felt odd to be eating on straw placemats through the salad course when the rest of the place was draped in white linens. That was soon remedied when an attentive bar attendant swept through and replaced all of the straw mats beneath everyone’s plates with white cloth napkins, spread out and smoothed, with the glasses, utensils and plates carefully replaced. “It’s just nicer,” she said. Alors, quite true.

And then, back to the Palais for Dobet!

I’d seen her in concert once before, when she came to Higher Ground shortly after the release of her latest recording, Na Afriki. When I realized tonight’s show was a seated one, I was a little disappointed because Dobet’s enthusiasm for dancing is infectious and I couldn’t imagine not moving around when she was performing. And while the show did end up being a bit more subdued than I remembered the last time, the fact is there simply aren’t many places that can match the intimacy of the rooms at Higher Ground for really allowing a personal interaction with the artists. So that’s a tough point for criticism.

In every other way the show was great: meaningful, politically pointed, musically thrilling…and can she dance! Check her out from this club date in Amsterdam.

Time to call it a night, tomorrow holds an exploration of the Citadel and other historic places around the city. And a lot of other unexpected adventures, I hope!

À demain.

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