The many delights of summer in Quebec City and the Charlevoix region.
I can't believe my good fortune. It's a gorgeous blue-sky afternoon. The cattle are lowing. A light breeze blows down from the mountains, diffusing the fragrance of a nearby lavender patch. And I'm completely alone in a hydrothermal pool overlooking verdant farmland, the St. Lawrence River flowing in the distance. The tranquility is immaculate. But as I soak in the rural scenery, the away-from-it-all peacefulness, I can't help thinking back to my time racing through Quebec City - and the bustle of its biggest summer festival - just a few days earlier.
That event, the Festival d'été de Quebec, is an annual, anything-goes celebration of music: 11 days of concerts in the heart of the city. It's the sort of grand gathering where you can spend afternoons hopping between shows by Afro-funk bands, Franco-pop favourites and American folk singers before checking out big-name acts like Lorde and Neil Young as the sun goes down.
The party's in full swing when I arrive in town, and I'm quickly caught up in a throng along the Grande Allée; downtown Quebec's restaurant-lined main drag is pedestrians-only during the festival. Every patio is filled to bursting, and anyone who isn't savouring a meal is moving toward a common goal, the Plains of Abraham. For the next three hours, the historic battlefield becomes a riot of booming drums, clangorous guitars and 80,000 rock fans shouting along with the Foo Fighters. In the midst of this gigantic crowd, the spectacle hits like a hammer to the chest. It's enough to make me wonder if the 188-year-old walls of Quebec's famous Citadel, just steps away, have been reinforced against sonic attack.
But one can take only so much rock ‘n' roll majesty, so I leave the show a touch early. It proves a wise decision. The stroll back to my room at the Chateau Frontenac is pleasantly uncongested. A block from the hotel, a lilting, guitar-picked melody drifts from a bistro's open window - a modest chaser to a raucous night.