Every Breath You Take at Quebec Summer Festival 26 AUG 2009: Quebeckers don’t let the weather get in the way of a good time. Case in point: Last month’s Summer Festival. While rainstorms were hitting Ontario and Eastern Canada, almost every day, festival revellers put on their Wellies, grabbed their parapluies and marched on down to the Plains of Abraham for the 11-day summer event, rain or shine. They crowded in to watch Styx, Placido Domingo, and Kiss among many other musical talents using a $45 pass that was good for the entire festival.

Friends of mine managed to catch Ramon Kelvink Jr., the legendary high wire artist, daringly cross a steel wire stretching from the Price Building to the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac which was pre-empted several times due to the weather. “We didn’t know what was happening and when we finally did see Ramon, I held my breath for the whole 20 minutes,” said Kris King, editor of ejazztravel.com.

Guess who’s coming to Quebec?

If you’re a Sting fan like me, nothing could be worse than missing a concert while he was in the same city. Quelle catastrophe to not be in the audience. I mean I just couldn’t be a no-show to the guy who gave the world “Every Breath You Take,” and “Fields of Gold.”

My other half, Stephen, and I were to finish a Maritime cruise in La Belle Ville de Quebec and while the cruise would be wonderful - wouldn’t it be even more wonderful if Sting could be the cherry on top?

I checked. There it was on the Internet. Sting was scheduled to sing at the 42nd Quebec City Summer Festival the same weekend. I don’t know what Sting has, but his appeal transcends all generations. Whatever it was, I was ready to get an update on this vintage model celebrated not just for his musical talents, but for his eight-hour tantric lovemaking with wife Trudie Styler.

Except Mother Nature had another idea. It rained the day before. It rained the day of. “I can’t believe it. What if they cancel Sting tonight?” I moaned to Stephen, sprawled on the bed at the Hilton with views ironically of the Plains of Abraham.

It didn’t matter. Rain or shine I would be there. We munched on Lebanese by the Saint Jean Gates and marched on by to the Bell Stage. The skies opened with a glimmer of sun splashing across the clouds.

Streams of followers started jockeying for spots. People hunkered down on the grass, claiming small pieces of green real estate as their own. “Hey I can’t move,” muttered one disagreeable sort, splayed on the ground with cooler under his derriere.

Finally after dodging the crowd we found what was to become our turf near the stage. Heavy metal indie rock band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs cranked up the decibel. It’s been years since I was at a concert and forgot how really loud “loud” can get.

If you love somebody...

Darkness descended and behind me, 120,000 spectators stood, red lights flickering on the Hydro Quebec pins mounted on everyone’s chest - all part of the hardware for the Quebec City Summer Festival pass.

We watched as the icon appeared, clad in white t-shirt and NASA-inspired white trainers, bass in hand. Tunes from The Police started and continued. I watched him like a hawk, waiting for je ne sais quoi I guess a moment where his personality would shine. One song bled into another. This guy was not quitting despite what I thought was a touch of a cold (he wasn’t hitting notes at times, and it wasn’t a new rendition either).

Between sets, he occasionally gulped from a gargantuan white tea cup (he had two cups) perched atop a Moroccan-designed table, the only reminder that this was no ordinary stage.

I wanted him to whisper some sweet nothings to the crowd. Instead, sparse one-liners that were few and far between were delivered over the plains to an audience who were largely there to well…party.

Hey people don’t you know this is a Sting concert? I thought to myself, as Sting stung the oblivious audience.

Later, I spoke to some music critics who explained how the guy who has sold over 100 million albums worldwide wasn’t really known for his stage performances anyway.

The next day’s headline read “A haircut for Sting.” Word had it he got his hair trimmed and on Saturday he ate a six-course lunch at Saint Amour to show off his new look before the concert. He stayed at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac and left on Sunday around 2pm aboard his private jet.

Quebec City during the Summer Festival

Sting has left the building, but...

Sting might have left but the festival atmosphere raged on as street performers strutted their stuff by the esteemed Chateau, across from Simon’s and along Rue St. Jean.

We sipped on organic coffee at La Brulerie de Café de Quebec, dined al fresco at Piazzetta one evening, feasted on gelato at Tutto Gelato and for our final evening, it was a chocolate extravaganza.

Over at the Choco-Musée local entrepreneur and chocolatier Erico has created an emporium to the cocoa bean. Besides learning about chocolate history, and how rich empires profited on the taste of the day, you can watch how chocolate is made on the premise, purchase freshly made creations or try his delectable gourmet ice cream. I especially recommend his mega chocolate and gingembre ice cream, a refreshing taste of ginger that helps clean the palette.

So Sting has gone but like his song says, “If you love somebody set them free.” A bit hokey, a bit cheesy, but hey, he let me turn the clock back and walk down memory lane. This Englishman in Quebec.

The price of tickets for admission to all performances during the 11 day festival: $45. The last fourdays of the Festival, a day pass sold for $25.

For more travel details on Quebec visit http://www.quebecregion.com/e/ or call toll-free 1-877-783-1608

Sting photo courtesy of Steve Deschenes/Quebec City Summer Festival

All other images courtesy of Stephen Smith/www.mycompass.ca

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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