The next day it continued to snow. We suited up, grabbed the Ulysses guide and set out in the storm. The Ulysses guides are great for walking tours; they take you block by block through neighborhoods, explaining the history and the architecture. We've used them, or similar guides, on just about every trip we've taken--Pittsburgh, Dublin, Toronto, Vancouver, London, Paris. We like to explore new places on foot. This was the first time we'd done it in a blizzard.
We walked up Rue Ste. Laurent, down Rue Ste. Catherine, where all the festivities had been the night before. The street was still blocked off on this Sunday morning, but the dining tents and the dance stage were quiet. Along Rue Rachel and Rue Sherbrooke the colorful rowhouses, wrought-iron balconies, and wide streets with their wonderful bicycle lanes (next to the curb--the parking lane was farther out into traffic, providing a buffer) were a colorless gray and white. The deep snow mounded over fences, piled atop lampposts, lay calf-deep on the sidewalks. We shuffled along, snow getting into our boots, soaking our socks.
We slogged past the Cathedral Marie-Reine du Monde, and stopped on the corner, snow stinging our faces, while Doug read aloud from the Ulysses guide.
It is exactly one third the size of St. Peter's in Rome...
We were just about the only people outside.
That evening, we had tickets to the circus. This seemed an unlikely activity for us, but the show was part of the festival, and Cirque Eloize was based in Montreal. Doug was dubious; I think he was thinking of Shrine Circus clowns with striped pants and enormous shoes and big red noses, and seals balancing balls on their snouts. But I thought it might be fun, a sort of cheerful and wacky thing for us to do.
We were in the front row of the balcony, surrounded by well-dressed people who murmured quietly in French. The lights went down; the curtain went up. I heard clarinet music--wistful, haunting, melencholy. It was joined by an accordian, and a violin.
What followed was nearly two hours of magic. There I go, using that word again. It's the right word. Trapeze artists, and contortionists, and unicyclists, and acrobats, leaping and flying and tumbling across the stage. A vague narrative about a wedding (hard to follow; the songs and narration were in French and Italian). The rag-tag gypsy band wandered in the background, playing its sweet sad music.
The performance was narrated by two clowns--no red noses and giant shoes here, but subtle clowns, more of a Greek chorus. Colorful jackets, a smear of white paint on the nose. In French, they cracked jokes, but they were also wistful, dedicating the show to an unseen woman named Sofia.
I watched entranced as the beautiful contortionist slowly, sensuously washed herself with a sponge held between her toes while the gypsy band played softly in the background. Watched while the trapeze artist clung from her toes from the soaring trapeze against the backdrop of a giant glowing moon. Watched while the guests at the wedding dance leaped from each other's shoulders and danced on the tabletops.
I must run away and join the circus, I thought. Is it too late to learn how to juggle? Surely there's some job I could do. Write press releases! Fetch their costumes from the dry cleaner. Start a blog!
At the end of the performance, the whole cast lined up in a row, holding hands, and a gentle rain began to fall on stage. As they sang their farewells, in the balcony I held my breath and stared and stared.
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