I used to be good at writing introductions for essays and posts. Since I’ve been out of school for a while, I have become rusty. Oh wait, I believe I just made an introduction. Score one for me. This past weekend the Katima-group went to Québec City for Carnaval. The following post is lengthy and it is recommended that you grab a drink and a comfy chair before indulging in this post. Thank you for your co-operation.
The previous night I went out with the group to see Two Hours Traffic. The spectacle was at Club Lambi, a tiny bar that you had to walk up three flights of stairs before reaching the summit. $12 later and $1 for le vestiaire, I bought an expensive rum and coke ($6. Ouch!) in celebration of using my legs. After attempting to sip my drink slowly and failing, I decided to buy a Moosehead for $5 (which I knew I would drink slowly because I hate beer) and chose not to drink anymore. It was more fun to listen to the opening band, Expo ’67.
Before they started their third song, the band invited people to go out to the dance floor to dance. If you’ve ever seen our group, we like to have dance parties constantly. So the girls danced and I kept an eye on their purses and drinks.
10 o’clock rolled around and Two Hours Traffic got on stage and our whole group rushed to the front (which was easy enough to do because this bar was so small) and yell out the words to their songs and dance like hooligans. After the show ended, some of the group stayed around to talk to the band and I went home because I had to be up at 5:30 in the morning.
On Saturday I woke up and helped Lu put food into coolers and had a shower. We all piled into the van and Audrey drove for 4 hours (thanks to bad Québeçois drivers) and after a long group nap, we arrived in Québec City.
The first thing that we did was take a guided tour around the Plains of Abraham. While braving the cold and sidestepping the horse feces that littered the path, I learned the following interesting facts:
Soldiers that are used to defend the Martello Tower are hired by captians going to bars and passing around sheets of paper to drunk men. If they signed the sheet they were enlisted to defend the Tower for a month
The beds that the soldiers slept in were worse than the Katima-beds
There was a humidity problem and a lack of heaters (unlike today in the tower), as well as no showers or toilets
Surgeries were performed without anesthetic and rum was used for the doctor to calm his nerves, not for disinfectant
The tools used to perform surgeries were hardly ever cleaned as bacteria was unknown at the time
The success rate is higher in cutting off a finger or a toe than it is in cutting off a leg
It was a very informative (and freezing) tour. Afterwards, we ate vegetarian pizza (from the Portes-Ouvertes party) and I bought what I believed was a mocha concoction from a vending machine but turned out to be just coffee (which was okay because I needed a caffeine boost that hot chocolate probably couldn’t give). This trickery of supposedly receiving something in a hot chocolate beverage continued throughout the day. The Hot Chocolate gods were not smiling on me that day.
In the afternoon, we headed to the Le Château Concord to meet our Carnaval Tour Guides. The Château has a 360° restaurant, just like the CN Tower (I wonder if the food is any better), and mirrors everywhere (I’d hate to be the one who has to wash all of those).
While we were waiting for our tour guides to show up, two characters entered the hotel. One of them was a photographer (which I found out by standing within ear shot, although it wasn’t necessary since his voice carried throughout the hotel) and he was wearing awesome Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses and kept looking at me (in a checking out kind of way. For the whole weekend I was wearing snow pants and my hair was down and messy thanks to hat head. Not at my most attractive moment, but the flattery is nice nonetheless). He looked like one of those fashion photographers that worked his job like he lived his life: very lavishly and exuding coolness.
Taiger wanted a picture with the Bonhomme statue (which was the first of many statues we saw that day), so Courtney and I went with him to get pictures taken. This is where the other character comes in. He looked like a gay Napoleon Dynamite. He even had dorky vintage glasses on.
After the pictures were done, Napoleon walks up to Courtney and I and says, “CS?”. We say, “Pardon?” “Uhhh, couch surfing?” “Quoi?” “Do you speak English?” “Yeah.” “Are you guys a part of Couch Surfing?” “What’s Couch Surfing?” He explained that it is basically this thing where you sleep in people’s houses and stuff and eat out of dumpsters. Like a co-op and hostel all in one.
Napoleon was with a group from Couch Surfing that was visiting Québec for Carnaval and he had lost his group while he waited inside the hotel to warm up because he was cold. We learned that he was from Ottawa (but had only lived there for a couple months and wouldn’t tell us where he’s really from) and was inadequately dressed for Québec. He thought that his desert boots could hold up in the snow. He must of forgotten that although snow is like sand, snow is wet, not dry. Courtney pointed out later that for someone who only bought things vintage or second-hand, he was certainly sporting a new American Eagle jacket. Very questionable.
He attempted to tag along in our group for 5 minutes while I kept dropping off hints that we didn’t want him with us and that he should go find his group. He finally got the hint and wandered off into the sea of people. The way he acted and asked questions reminded me of Mik and it creeped me out a little. I felt like if Mik’s future was to become a sketchy, vintage wearing, dumpster eating nomad, he would turn out like Napoleon. Thank goodness that will never happen.
Once our tour guides arrived, they gave us VIP passes and a tour of the Carnaval grounds and events. We walked by the horse races and watched the bain de neige (snow bath) where there were Olympic Athletes (I think) raising money with the HBC for sponsorship or something. They were in their underwear and bikinis tossing snow up in the air and running around on the stage trying to keep warm. Bonhomme was there and spooning a guy as they all counted down the last 10 seconds of the twenty minutes of the bain de neige. They all cheered when they reached the end and we all waved at the athletes.
The next stop on our tour was at a maple syrup shack, where I had sirop d’erable sur neige (maple syrup on snow). It was so good and even when snow was attached to the syrup it was still soft and malleable. I wanted to buy a Bonhomme sash, so the tour guides took us to the Metro tent where they were selling Carnaval souvenirs and I rocked the sash for the rest of the weekend (now I have a scarf that I can use in TO that no one else will have. The sash also commemorates the 400th anniversary of Québec City).
Following the visit in the Metro tent, we ventured to the Ice Palace, where we saw Micheal Jackson dancers, drummers, and got a picture with another Bonhomme statue. We never got a picture with the real Bonhomme, although we did see him in La Parade de Nuit (the Night Parade). Shortly after, the tour guides left us and we wandered around the Carnaval. We ran into a street mime acting as Jack Frost, saw a multitude of snow and ice sculptures, and walked around Québec City.
We stopped in a classy Second Cup where I ordered a semi-frozen chocolate cake (because that’s my style) and a Chocochino (which turned out to be mildly chocolate flavoured coffee. This was the second time I was screwed out of a chocolate drink) and we all sat around eating molasses cookies that Taiger’s mom had prepared.
I don’t know what it is about Second Cup, but they always have a gay person as a barrista. It is the same in Tim Horton’s as well. I actually wanted to work at a Tim Horton’s once. I had two interviews with them and I ended up waiting for half an hour both times before I was told that the supervisor would be too busy to meet me for an interview. When they tried to schedule a third interview, I told them that if they couldn’t make time for me as an interviewee, they couldn’t make time for me as an employee.
After warming up and finishing off the cookies, we walked back to the Katima-van and ate flafels for dinner (so amazing and flavorful) and I had a bite of Lucia’s Beavertail, which I had never eaten before and had always wanted to, ever since the kiosk closed in the Cambridge Centre. It had brown sugar on it and nothing more. I don’t quite get what all of the fuss is about. Last night Jeffrey explained to me that a Beavertail is only good if you get everything on it. Looks like I’ll have to make a trip with him to Ottawa to find out what makes a good Beavertail.
After sitting in the van for a while (and having to jump start the car after the batteries died from the cold), it was 7 o’clock. We got out of the van to go check out the Night Parade. To our disappointment, we had parked at the end of the parade and learned from a citizen that the parade would not reach us until 9:30.
To kill time, we walked up the streets and played the Pony Song and yelled out Feist lyrics. Once we had exhausted ourselves, we decided to take a 15 minute sleigh ride around the Carnaval and go inside the Metro tent to get warm. While we were there, a Québeçois folk band (Les Tireux d’Roches) performed. They were all multi-instrumentalists and very talented. While they were performing I ate 2 hot dogs and a watered down hot chocolate. After that drink I had decided to not have any more hot beverages in Québec City because no one knows how to make a proper hot chocolate.
At 9ish we walked outside and saw the parade. There were 20 feet tall marionettes, dancers, flags, floats, and dioramas that moved up and down thanks to a forklift. Some of the floats were bizzare (2 giant faces with lights poking out of them), others were amusing (watching Bonhomme do high-kicks in his float) and all of them were very Québeçois. It was a well done parade and reminded me of the Santa Claus Parades I used to attend when I was young.
Once the parade had finished, we piled into the van once more and drove to St. Etienne, where we slept in the Scout Headquarters for the night. Due to my sickness, I apparently snored that night. I apologize to everyone who had to hear my snoring. I don’t snore often, and when I do, it is due to stress, sickness, or being in an uncomfortable sleeping arrangement.
I first learned of the reason of my snoring in the Grade 8 Ottawa grad trip. My roommates and I didn’t want to sleep in beds together, so for the first night, 2 of us slept on the ground and switched places the second night. I think my body missed the bed so much because I fell asleep in no time and snored, much to the dismay of my roommates. It also didn’t help that we had spent the night at a barnyard dance with music too loud to hear anything and I had gotten a cold because of the rain. I do remember one of the great things about that trip was going to the Hershey factory and buying lots of chocolate.
The group woke up at 7:30, thanks to my cheery alarm from my cell phone. Audrey had told us to wake up then, but no one actually planned on doing that. So we all rewoke at 8 for breakfast. We had vegan mocha muffins, yogurt and radioactive grape drink. After finishing breakfast we drove back into Québec City for day 2 of the excursion.
Our first experience of the day was Château Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world. It is also the same hotel where Leonardo DiCaprio shot Catch Me If You Can. The group walked in, admired the poshness, and walked out.
After the hotel, we visited the Choco-Musée Erico (The Erico Museum of Chocolate). I didn’t know what to expect, but I thought it was going to be bigger than what it actually was. The store and the museum reminded me of the Reid’s Chocolate Store in Cambridge. I had Valentine’s Day Chocolate (half price!) and an extremely delectable square of maple fudge. It was so soft and chewy and melted in my mouth. Best. Fudge. Ever. I already knew how chocolate was made after spending so much time at the Hershey Factory from my childhood summers, so it was nice just to sit inside and warm up and breathe in high-quality chocolate smells.
Along the way to the Choco-Musée, we ran into another Katimavik group. They were from some tiny Québec town, originally from New Brunswick. They had 11 people in their group (one person had left early on and got a replacement) and we congregated on the sidewalk, blocking off the path so that no one could get through. It’s funny how easy it is to recognize fellow Katimavik people. Just look for a giant group walking around aimlessly, or someone standing in front of a group reading off of a paper about some famous monument. If all else fails, find a Katima-van or a group of people with new piercings and tattoos.
After indulging in chocolate, we broke off into groups for a bit of shopping. Most of my time was occupied in the Le Château Outlet store and I ended up buying a pair of sunglasses and a jacket for a fantastic price. Now I look like a snobby movie star. I also walked into Limité with some of the girls and I must say that I am a bit envious of women’s fashion. They have so much more to choose from than the men (which is a pro and a con). I enjoy men’s fashion because it’s fun to find clothes that are different and push the envelope a little.
On a side note, before I leave Montréal I plan on visiting Simon’s one last time (because it is non-existent in Toronto), hitting up the trendy fashion stores on Mont-Royal, having a crêpe at Une Crêpe, performing at Sing Sing, and dancing at Unity II (although I’ll probably end up there again if I end up coming back to Montréal for Pride). Who knows if there will even be time for all of that, considering that the group will be heading to Stonewall in two weeks.
We regrouped in front of Simon’s and then walked back to the Katima-van to go home. As we were driving into Montréal, it was snowing pretty badly. I hope this doesn’t continue all week. It didn’t matter much to me today because I was sick. My coughs and hacks got the best of me and I spent the day in bed and writing this blog entry. I also managed to get MSN Messenger on the Katima-computer. A productive day on my part, considering the fact that I couldn’t go to work without coughing up a lung.
Just like introductions, I have fallen out of practice in writing fantastic conclusions to posts or essays. This post feels too long to summarize, so I’m just going to say that Québec City is a beautiful city with a strong sense of francophone pride. I am curious to see what it is like in the summer. Just don’t order a hot beverage that you believe is chocolate flavoured.