Day 23 New Year's Eve
31.12.2011 - 31.12.2011 -5 °C
Saturday 31 Dec 2011
The snow was falling thickly this morning, and became even thicker with huge snowflakes while we were eating breakfast at the hotel. It had been a while since we had any pancakes, and it seemed just the morning for it. Robyn pointed out that by exiting from the café’s external door we had only to cross the street to reach the bus stop for the bus to the train station for our departure from Ottawa. So after checkout we hauled our luggage downstairs and across the street. Thankfully, by then it had stopped snowing, and we did not have to wait long for a bus.
It was a two train trip to Quebec City – train 632 to Montreal and then train 22 to Quebec – through a snow-covered landscape. It seems magical to us how the snow falls and lies, and melts and freezes leaving roofs draped in icicles. The snow looks pure white in the countryside but in the towns much of it is brown and slushy from traffic and from being sprayed with salt and sand.
It was snowing again when we arrived in Quebec City so we decided maybe a taxi was a better alternative than public transport this time. Good decision – the taxi delivered us right to the door whereas the bus would have delivered us to a stop some 370m away. The hotel, Chateau Bellevue, is in the ‘old city’ within the walls. It’s old-fashioned and cosy (read small rooms) but has a very well-appointed bathroom. The shower has a regular shower head but also two sets of jets for a water massage. The receptionist showed us on a map where the New Year’s Eve festivities would be happening and early in the evening we made our way along the slushy pavement, extra care being needed on the slopes – the old city is definitely not flat.
Just outside the wall we found Rue Grande Allée Est blocked off to traffic and barriers around Place George V – there was a ferris wheel with its own light show and what looked like the set up for fireworks in one corner of the Place. Two blocks of Rue Grande Allée Est had been closed to allow pedestrians only, and it was a big street party sponsored by Coors Light beer. Various venues had bars made of sculpted ice dispensing Coors – no need of refrigeration. In the middle of the street a platform had been erected to support different coloured lights and to become a stage for live performances. We weren’t sure of our chances in finding a restaurant open and with vacancies but Asian Restaurant, serving Thai and Vietnamese food, had a table for two. However, the speed with which we were served seemed to indicate that they had reservations for later.
Back outside we found the crowd increasing and the volume of the music going up some decibels to match. Some people had plastic trumpets, others had rattles; there were decorative hats, flashing plastic spectacle frames and gloves with flashing fingertips. We saw some young women, dressed in summer clothing and fancy shoes, who must have been making their way from one warm eatery or drinkery to another. Most people were very well rugged up in gloves, beanies, scarves, and thick jackets with hoods. Children in all their layers look like the Michelin man
The live entertainment was a vocal duo whose energetic songs had a Celtic flavour and encouraged foot stomping and clapping. Later a bare-torsoed young man supported himself on one hand on an ice sculpture while playing a guitar with his other hand. Incroyable! Later still, a lively quartet of three fiddles and a guitar had the crowd dancing to more folksy Irish-sounding tunes. Meanwhile the spotlights coloured the sky, showers of little bits of white paper were periodically discharged above the crowd and the ferris wheel turned and flashed. Finally we reached the countdown, the crowd roared ‘bonne année’ and the fireworks lit up the sky with a thousand multi-coloured stars.
It was a slow trudge back to the hotel, jostling with the crowd to make our way, and then heading mostly uphill on very slippery surfaces. A hot drink in front of the fire in the hotel lounge warmed us up and calmed us down ready for bed – our first sleep in 2012.
Happy New Year to all. May 2012 bring you peace and prosperity.