Quebec City, Quebec, Canada 7/15/06 - 7/16/06

(Return to the) Return to the Centre of the Earth

Prologue

Rick Wakeman, piano and keyboard player extraordinaire, is one of the few artists whom we regularly travel to see. He is a dynamic performer and is very personable and accessible to fans. He performs many different types of shows, and we have never been disappointed. We saw him in Chatham, UK in 2000 doing his one-man show. We went to the world premiere of "Return to the Centre of the Earth" in Trois-Rivières, Quebec in 2001. We also saw him perform closer to home, at various Boston-area Yes shows and his solo show at the Somerville Theatre. When we heard that he would be performing "Return to the Centre of the Earth" for the second time ever, as part of the Quebec City Summer Festival, we knew we had to be there. It was an additional thrill to learn that Jon Anderson would be a special guest at the performance. We have seen him countless times with Yes, and we saw his excellent one-man show at Avalon Ballroom in Boston in 2005. We planned a road trip and made reservations at the Hotel Chateau Laurier Quebec. The package deal that we got included passes to the festival, and the hotel was a short walk from the Plains of Abraham, where the concert would take place. (The Plains of Abraham were the site of an historic battle during the French and Indian War in 1759. ) Craig's brother Steve and our friend Barbara would be joining us, as we, bold travellers, returned to the Return of the Centre of the Earth. Badge for entrance to Quebec City Festival

Saturday July 15, 2006

Barbara stayed at our house overnight so that we could get an early start. We ordered a pizza and watched the Rick Wakeman "Made in Cuba" DVD to get ourselves in the spirit of the weekend. Blackie, our cat, was all freaked out and meowing because of the presence of a visitor, so we threw her out at midnight (Blackie, not Barbara). We left the house at 7 am and stopped at Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. Craig got a croissant with sausage, egg, and cheese and a Great One coffee. I got a sour cream and onion bagel with cream cheese and a Coffee Coolatta. I hadn't had one in years, and it brought back memories of my high school summer job at an amusement park. We each got a chocolate honey-dipped donut for the road. I realized that we had forgotten the directions at home but luckily, Dunkies is only about 2 miles from the house. Craig left us there to finish breakfast and ran back to the house to get the directions.

He returned by 7:30 and we hopped into Steve's Caravan and hit the road. Craig drove, and it was a hot and sticky day in Massachusetts. We were happy to be getting away. We listened to hours and hours of Rick music on the ride starting with six Japanese mini-LPs that sound absolutely fantastic on Steve's stereo. We stopped at a rest stop right before the VT border. As we took the exit and realized the rest area was slightly off the highway, overlooking a nice lake, we remembered this was the same place we stopped 5 years earlier. This truly was a "return". After a quick break we got back onto the highway and we noticed there was another more convenient rest stop just past the border. Good to know for future reference. We stopped in Barton, VT to get some gas and snacks (Reese's Pieces!) Talk about a small town! We all watched one local smoking his cigarette while pumping his gas and hoped we would be away from the debris field should things take a Darwinian turn. Safely back on the highway with a full tank of gas, we got to the Canadian border at around 11:00 am. Our passports were checked, and we were free to enter the country.

We drove much the same route that we had driven to Trois-Rivières. Had it really been 5 years ago? Then we passed the Trois-Rivières exit and were into new territory. The highway here had a campy old Rt 66 quality to it. We passed the Restaurant Madrid, which had giant dinosaur statues out front and a pink Bigfoot truck. They also rented out rooms for $30 a night. It was surreal, and we thought that it would have been an appropriate place to be listening to "Journey to the Centre of the Earth". We passed many RV dealerships (or "VR", as they are known in French). We also passed some Tim Horton's doughnut shoppes. I had heard about these from my Canadian friends. Tim Horton was a hockey player on the Toronto Maple Leafs. He opened a chain of doughnut shops in 1964 and died ten years later, never seeing the success his chain would later realize.

We arrived in Quebec City at 1:45. We had made good time. In fact, it had taken us less time than it had to get to (the closer-to-home) Trois-Rivières. When we reached Quebec City we drove past the Plains of Abraham, where the concert would be. Several streets were blocked off, so we had to use a detour to get to George V East, where our hotel was located. The weather here was very nice. Warm but not as humid as home. They valet parked the car, and heeded our request to please not put down the driver's side window. It is broken and will not go back up. We had a problem in Boston at the symphony one night when they refused to listen to us and put it down anyway, causing us to leave a car with a slightly open window in a parking garage that night. We were glad that the Hotel Laurier staff were more helpful. We checked in to the hotel and were given our badges and lanyards for the festival. We dropped our things in our rooms (Barbara and I were in room 264 and Craig and Steve were in 334) and then met in the lobby. We headed outside and got some photos. The hotel was in a very picturesque area, near the Musée des Voltigeurs de Quebec, (Infantry Museum). The museum looked like a castle complete with turrets. Horse-drawn tourist carriages were walking in front of it, and it looked like something out of another time. We ran into some present-day Voltigeurs, who spoke to us and tried to entice us into the museum, for which admission is free. However, we had very short time and we weren't really in the mood for military history, so we passed in favor of finding a bite to eat and enjoying a more tranquil view of Quebec.

We walked down Grande-Allée, a touristic street which was lined with many outdoor cafes. We walked the length of the street to see what was available. It was definitely a good place to people-watch. It had been blocked off from cars and it was very happening. There was a woman on rollerblades wearing a mini-billboard on her back advertising the latest Southern Comfort gimmick. We saw a nightclub, outside of which was the biggest disco ball I've ever seen. After checking out the various menus, etc, we decided upon the Restaurant Bonaparte, a nice cafe with outdoor seating and a lot of flowers.

I ordered a sangria. Craig and Steve were looking for a local brew, and decided on the Fin du Monde. I thought it sounded ominous: the end of the world. Turned out the name just refers to the eastern provinces of Canada (much like Patagonia is often referred to as the end of the world). Oh well. The beer was 9% alcohol by volume and was triple-fermented. Potent stuff! Craig got the entrecote de boef grille aux poivres et champignons de Paris sautes au buerre (a very fancy was of saying "beef sirloin with mushrooms") and I had the chicken cordon bleu. The presentation of the food was very nice and we were all quite happy with our meals. As we ate, we could see some black clouds approaching. We had seen the forecast for the evening, and showers were pretty much a certainty. We hoped that they would get out of the way before the concert. We had another round of drinks, and Craig and Steve this time tried the Boreale Noire Stout. It started to sprinkle. At the same time that Craig and I (on one side of the table) were feeling droplets of rain, Barbara and Steve (on the other side) were in the sun. We didn't see any rainbows though. We paid our bill and got out of there none too soon, as the heavens suddenly opened up to a downpour. We turned the corner and ducked into the hotel. It was by now around 4:30. We headed up to the boys' room and watched the weather. Well, the good thing was that only 1-3 millimeters of rain were predicted! I wrote in the journal for a few minutes. We packed our backpacks and headed out to the Plains of Abraham at around 5:30.

We got to the gates and stood in line to get into the Scéne Bell, one of the many outdoor stages erected for the festival. Barbara and I went to the souvenir tent and picked up Rick's latest release (a live album from the June piano tour). We then got back in line. It started to rain and people pulled out their raincoats and umbrellas. We saw water spraying into the air, looking like a fire hydrant had been opened. We wondered whether this was some sort of fountain or whether a pipe had burst. When the rain stopped and the sun was seen once again, everyone cheered. The gates didn't open until close to 6:30. The concert was scheduled to start at 7 pm. We scoped out a spot right near the stage, in front of Rick's keyboard bank, about 4 people back. Security was making people with lawn chairs stay a fair way back. We had a blanket, and surprisingly, we were allowed to spread it out on our spot, and (most) people actually respected it all night. Other people had done this as well. It worked out nicely because we stood on the blanket during the performances, but were able to sit on it before and in between. This was handy since the ground was not grass at all, it was small gravel that was rather sharp and uncomfortable to stand on for long durations. I went to buy some waters and embarrassed myself by saying "si" when asked a question. Spanish is just my default non-English language. I laughed and said "Oui." The woman laughed too.

At around 7:30, the show began. The California Guitar Trio came out onstage. We had heard of them but really knew nothing about them or what they might play. They were three guys (Paul Richards from Utah, Hideyo Moriya from Tokyo, and Bert Lams from Brussels) on acoustic guitars. They started off with an instrumental, and followed that up with a rocking "Ghost Riders In The Sky" and "Riders on the Storm" hybrid which they call "Ghost Riders on the Storm." The audience started to sing along during the opening notes of "Bohemian Rhapsody", and Hideyo quickly turned the mic around to face the crowd. It was a nice sing-along. Hideyo snapped several photos from the stage during the set. The Trio was then joined by Tony Levin, bass player extraordinaire. It was cool to get to see someone who has performed on so many classic albums. The four of them seemed to be having a very good time together, and Tony snapped some photos of the crowd from the stage as well. At this point it was still light out and the crowd looked very impressive. Lots of people standing in front of the stage, people in lawn chairs further back, and others on the hillside near the Citadelle (a military installation located atop Cap Diamant, adjoining the Plains of Abraham.)

There were screens on either side of the stage, covering the banks of amps. Cameramen were onstage taking footage, and it was being projected onto the side-screens, but it was still too light out to see them with any clarity. They played three instrumentals with Tony. Then the four of them actually played "Free Bird." We couldn't believe it. On his blog, Tony talks about learning the song that afternoon in his hotel room: "I must be the only person on the planet who doesn't know the song...so I'm doing some last minute homework...I don't think this will take long to learn compared to 'Heart of the Sunrise.'" Too funny! I'll bet he learned it very quickly. It certainly wasn't apparent that he had "crammed" to learn it! Tony posted some more pictures and thoughts from the show here. Tony then left the stage, and Jon Anderson came out and joined the Trio for the first movement of "Concerto for Four Guitars," which he had written for them.

The set segued seamlessly into a solo Jon set. Jon had an acoustic guitar we hadn't seen before, and he made a comment about there being "no sign of his guitar," so we assume there was some incident and he had to borrow a guitar from someone else. Jon played "Long Distance Runaround," "Yours Is No Disgrace." "I'll Find My Way Home," and "Owner of a Lonely Heart" (which I enjoy much more as an acoustic solo song than the album version in all its '80's glory). He tried to get the audience to sing along for "Your Move," but while they had spontaneously sung pretty well for "Bohemian Rhapsody," they seemed hesitant to participate in this one. It was kind of disappointing, as the "Your Move" singalong was so good when we saw him last November at a club in Boston. Rick came onstage and looked very relaxed, happy, and excited. In Trois-Rivières, he had looked much more serious and nervous, and when we had spoken to him after the show he stressed how exhausting the whole experience had been. This time, however, it seemed that he was able to enjoy it more. Rick accompanied Jon on the grand piano.

For this first set, the piano was situated on the right side of the stage, and we couldn't see it at all from where we were standing. But we could occasionally see a glimpse of Rick's nimble fingers on the screen. The sounds were unmistakable though. The two of them performed "Wonderous Stories" and "The Meeting." The latter is one of my favorites, and it was at this time that we noticed a family who had just barged their way up to the front. Neither mother, father, nor either little girl seemed to have any interest whatsoever in the concert, and they talked to each other loudly during the quietest parts of the set. Suddenly it felt a little like a school playground but by now we were commited to this spot.

Jon left the stage and Rick launched into a solo "Eleanor Rigby." The California Guitar Trio, Jon, and Tony Levin came back out onstage, and the six of them performed "Heart of the Sunrise." It's a very intricate song, and sounded very good with four guitars, bass, and piano. Tony wore "sticks" on his fingers and was tapping the bass strings with them for a very interesting effect.To close out the set, Rick and Jon performed "Show Me," "Nous Sommes du Soleil" (before which Jon joked that he wanted to write a song in French and the francophone audience cheered - and then Jon said "Well, the last line is in French!"), "And You And I," "Soon," and a bluesy "Roundabout," which was reminiscent of the acoustic version that Yes did at the Tsongas Arena for their 35th anniversary tour. Jon tried again in vain to get a singalong started for "Roundabout." It was a great opening set. Rick and Jon are both dynamic and captivating solo performers, and, as usual, they were a pleasure to watch and listen to. The set was very well-paced and had no down time. It was over an hour in length but it had flown by. Then there was about half an hour's intermission. We spoke with Louis-Gille, a Quebec City resident who was enjoying the show, but despising a few of the neighbors, as much as we were.

The spectacle that was "Return To The Centre Of The Earth" began on time at 9:45. There was a thin white mesh cloth (the theatrical term for this is "scrim") running lengthwise down the center of the stage. There was a semi-circular hole in the middle of it, where the conductor (Gilles Bellemare) was standing. He faced the orchestra (Orchestra Symphonique du Festival d'été) and choir (Ensemble Vocalys), whom we could see vaguely behind the scrim. In front of the scrim were Rick at his bank of keyboards (mini-Moog included), Lee Pomeroy on bass, Tony Fernandez on drums, and (we believe, as nothing actually introduced the band) Dave Colquhoun on guitar. Rick was wearing a deep blue velvet cape with a silver sequined chevron design. (Rumor has it that this was a hand-made gift from a fan at last year's "Four Wakemans and a Christmas Tree" Christmas party that Rick attended with his adult children Adam, Oliver, and Jemma on Dec. 17, 2005).

The narrator was a Quebecois actor named Guy Nadon. He had a very theatrical delivery that suited the material very well. Even though the narration was in French and we couldn't understand exactly what he was saying, we knew the story and his delivery was suitably dramatic. It was now dark, and images were being projected onto the side-screens as well as the scrim, making the entire 130-foot-high stage a colorful backdrop. The words "Retour au Centre de la Terre" scrolled by, and were sucked into the top of a volcano. It was deliciously campy and it reminded us of Monty Python. Craig later said he was waiting for the giant foot to come down and stomp the volcano. Panoramic landscapes of stalactites and stalagmites were projected onto the stage, and close-ups of the perfomers were layered underneath them. It made for a very nice effect. We were close enough to see the performers directly, but for the thousands who were further away, this managed to still get them a good view. Estimates in the media the next day were upwards of 50,000 attendees.

Vincent Marois, singer for the band MarionetX, sang "Buried Alive." He did a great job and did quite a bit of strutting and posing. He seemed like a cross between Mick Jagger and a punk rocker. His voice was very strong and we really enjoyed his performance. The next soloist was Fabiola Toupin, performing "Is Anybody There?" She had performed this song at the Trois-Rivières premiere of Return in 2001. We almost didn't recognize her at first but her very wide smile gave her away. She looked so much more mature and sexy in a slinky black dress. Her voice was strong and sultry. Her performance in Trois-Rivières had been very good, but it was clear that she had gained a lot of experience and confidence in the intervening five years. She is quite a star. Rick headed from the bank of keyboards to the grand piano for the classically-inspired "The Dance of a Thousand Lights." This was the best view we would have of him playing tonight, as the piano was now directly in front of us. The keyboard bank was very close too, but there were so many keyboards that he was often hidden behind it. The projected backdrop was stunning. As he played, small fireworks were set off behind the stage. The stage was open on the backside, so you could see the fireworks through the scrim. A very nice effect. Our festival badges were sponsored by HydroQuebec, and each contained a little blinking red light. When you looked back at the entire crowd, all you could see were a sea of small blinking red lights in the distance. Truly the Dance of (50+) Thousand Lights!

Fabiola then came back out, this time in a red dress. She belted out "Mr. Slow" and we were once again very impressed by her stage presence. The children next to me were becoming very restless, running around in tight circles and making lots of noise. The parents made no efforts to stop this and continued talking to them in a loud voice, disturbing everyone around them. The mother had a super annoying "man-laugh" that began to affect us like nails on a chalkboard. Why were they here anyway, if they had no interest in the performance? At the end of Fabiola's song, the children started chanting "An-nie! An-nie!", something we didn't understand.

Vincent Marois came back out for "Never Is A Long, Long Time". He performed this with all of the energy and theatrics of his first number, but his voice sounded weaker. I don't know whether the song was a bit out of his range or whether he just didn't have much of a voice left after such a strong "Buried Alive." But either way, it was still very enjoyable. Jon Anderson came back to sing "Still Waters Run Deep." We enjoyed his version better than the Justin Hayward version on the studio album. They had a smoke machine and soon the whole stage was enveloped in fog and glowing in an eerie red light. During "The Electric Storm," there were lots of explosions. Craig and I had been a little confused at first because it sounded like fireworks, but none were to be seen. We hoped that something hadn't terribly malfunctioned, and looked around nervously. But since nobody was running around frantically, we assumed it must have been going as planned. Perhaps we missed the connection to the piece being performed as we were likely distracted by our neighbors.

Then Annie Villenueve came out to perform "Ride Of Your Life". It was now apparent why that noisy family to our left was at the concert at all: just to see her. This was the "An-nie" for whom they had been chanting. The parents hoisted the kids up on their shoulders and the kids started waving and yelling "Annie! Annie!" I don't know if they were related to her or what, but they showed zero respect for any other performers or any other members of the audience. Annie's performance was ok, but we would have preferred to see Fabiola performing this song, as it had been the highlight of her performance in Trois-Rivières. We were left to wonder how well she could have performed it now, with five extra years of experience under her belt. Not only that but perhaps the rude family to our left might have stayed watching TV in their living room where they belonged.

Colored plumes of fire were lit from various scaffolding platforms scattered strategically among the audience. Yellow, orange, and green flames shot up into the air, and you could see the audience's faces glowing in the light as they looked around from one flame to the next. We were surrounded by flames, much like the protagonists in the story. We could feel the heat from the fire. A plume of water sprayed up into the air, and we realized that was what we had mistaken for a fountain or a broken pipe when we were waiting to enter the venue.

"The End of the Return" was accompanied by more fireworks, "globes of fire" bursting forth on either side of the stage, and animation depicting a volcanic eruption. We were too close to the stage to get the full effects of the fireworks, but it must have been such a spectacle to the people further back. The AP has a stunning photo of the stage beneath the fireworks.The crowd went wild and all of the performers came out to take a bow. Rick looked ecstatic. He and Jon gave each other a big hug, and Jon looked like he was totally in awe of the spectacle his friend had just pulled off. Guy Nadon, Rick and the band came back out for an encore, and they performed "The Volcano" and "The End of the Return" one more time. It was a fitting finale, and everyone was left with a smile on their face.

They announced that Rick and Jon would be signing autographs at the souvenir tent, so after the show we headed out the gates and got into the queue at 11:45. Not having anything to be signed, Steve headed back to the Restaurant Bonaparte for a Fin du Monde beer. The security guards told us that we were only allowed to get items which we had purchased tonight autographed. We had each bought a newly released live Rick piano CD, but there had been nothing else available from either Rick or Jon that we didn't already own. We wondered if we would be able to get Jon's autograph. We had brought a bunch of items from our collection (Rick CD's, Rick 45's, and a couple of Jon CD's). Every time we have seen Rick he has been very generous about autographs, taking things out of Craig's hand and autographing them all. When security saw us holding these things, they made sure to make it clear several times that we could NOT get them signed. We said ok.

We waited in line for about half an hour, and then a security van arrived, delivering Rick and Jon. The queue erupted into applause. After another 15 minutes, we were at the front of the line. As we had already purchased our CD (and some people were buying them now) we were put in the "fast track" line and were brought over to Rick. Rick looked flushed and happy, high on adrenaline. Quite a contrast to when we saw him after Trois-Rivières, where he looked completely spent and relieved to have survived the evening. Jon was all smiles as well. Craig handed Rick the CD that we had purchased, and he signed it and then automatically handed it to Jon to sign (even though Jon was not involved in the CD). I took several photos of Rick and Jon signing.

Craig had his other memorabilia in his hand, and once again, Rick grabbed it from him and started signing it. Craig and I both said, "You're going to get us in trouble! You're not supposed to sign those!" With a smile and a laugh, Rick said, "I know, but they're so rare, I have to sign them for you." He said that he hadn't seen those 45's in years. "Oh, you got Cuba!" said Rick as he signed the "Made In Cuba" DVD insert. Craig said that we had gotten a PAL DVD player just so we could play things like this. Jon got in on the act and said to Rick "Oh, you went to Cuba?" and the two of them chatted a bit about the concert. I asked Jon if he would sign the insert to his solo album "The Promise Ring". He smiled when he saw it. "The Promise Ring!" he responded. I said that I loved it. He said "They want to do a revue of it in Ireland." I said that we'd have to go over there to see it performed if they do. Jon was about to say more (and Craig was still chatting with Rick) when the security guards had had enough of us and pretty much pushed us out of the way. It was so funny. Rick and Jon were so generous with their time and were perfectly prepared to continue talking. But I think the venue's security wanted to go home. It was now 12:30 and we were thoroughly happy.

We walked back to the hotel, stopping in front of the Infantry Museum to take a few night photographs. Everything was beautifully lit and we had to see what we might be able to capture. Barbara decided to stay in the room. Her foot had been hurting ever since a drunk guy stomped on her foot at the show, and she needed to rest it. When Craig got to his room, Steve wasn't there. He arrived at the room while Craig was putting his stuff away and preparing to head back out. Craig asked him if he wanted to go out on the town with us, and he said yes.

We headed out to Grande-Allée. It was hopping with people. Steve had a bit to eat at McDonald's before we hooked up with him as he had some Canadian money to spend. He felt it was a worthy way to lose some spare change. Craig and I hadn't thought we were hungry, but the thought of food suddenly sounded very good. Steve said that Restaurant Bonaparte was no longer serving food, so we looked for someplace else. The night club with the huge disco ball in front of it was packed, and the disco ball was reflecting shafts of light into the night. It had even been visible from the concert. We sat down at a calzone restaurant where people were eating at outdoor tables, but were told by the waiter that it had closed. It was now just about 1:00 and we wondered if we would find food after all. McDonald's was still open, but we wanted to avoid that if at all possible.

We decided on the Aux Viex Canons. They were obviously still open, because there were Romanian musicians serenading the diners with an accordion, violin, and xylophone. We sat down and our waiter came over. He asked if we wanted food and said that we would have to act quickly because the kitchen closed at 1 am. He gave us the menu and our mouths were watering as we looked at the choices. We were getting hungrier by the minute. As we were ready to order, he came back and said that the kitchen was closed. What a disappointment. Craig and Steve ordered Belle Gueule (Craig got a yard, and Steve, having already drunk his "9 volt" (9% vol.) Fin du Monde earlier, got what the waiter referred to as the "girlie size"). I got a sangria. The waiter was a lot of fun, and we were now hungry beyond the point of no return.

The restaurant was directly across from McDonald's, which was doing a hopping business. I asked the waiter if it would be possible for us to run over to McDonald's, grab a burger, and bring it back to the table to scarf it down. He said "It is not allowed. Wait, let me check something..." and he ran away. When he came back he said, "The woman who cooks is doing the dishes. She can make you a pate and a cheese plate. That's the best I can do." Sold! So we sat there, enjoying our drinks and eating a fresh baguette with four different cheeses and some pate. It seemed so French. At 1:50 it was obvious that they were closing, The waiters were all seated at a table having a drink themselves, and some of the staff were bringing the potted plants and flowers inside. Craig had wanted to order another beer, but the waiter told us that they were finished. "We have to be here at 5 am and I need my beauty sleep!" He was a hot ticket. So we paid our bill (leaving a nice tip) and headed back to the hotel and our separate rooms. I was sound asleep by 2:30.
Watch Jon Anderson and the California Guitar Trio playing 'Concerto for Four Guitars'Watch Jon Anderson and the California Guitar Trio
Playing 'Concerto for Four Guitars' (20 second clip)


Watch Rick Wakeman Playing 'The Dance of a Thousand Lights'Watch Rick Wakeman Playing
'The Dance of a Thousand Lights' (20 second clip)


Musée des Voltigeurs de Quebec

Restaurant Bonaparte

Scene Bell, Plains of Abraham

Jon Anderson and the California Guitar Trio performing Jon's Guitar Concerto

Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman (hiding), Tony Levin, and the California Guitar Trio

Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman (hiding), Tony Levin, and the California Guitar Trio

Vincent Marois performing 'Buried Alive'

Rick Wakeman

Fabiola Toupin performing 'Is Anybody There?'

Narrator Guy Nadon, with fireworks in the background

Rick Wakeman performing 'The Dance of a Thousand Lights'

Fabiola Toupin performing 'Mr. Slow''\

Jon Anderson performing 'Still Waters Run Deep''

Jon Anderson performing 'Still Waters Run Deep''

AnnieVillenueve performing 'Ride of Your Life''

Pyrotechnics' during 'Ride of Your Life'

ERE'

Finale'

Finale'

Curtain Call'

Rick and Jon signing autographs after Return to the Centre of the Earth in Quebec

See more pictures from this trip

Sunday July 16, 2006

We had agreed to wake up at 7 and meet for our complimentary breakfast downstairs at 8. Craig called our room at 7:30 to make sure we were up (the clock radio was a bit difficult to figure out, especially at 2 am), but we were. We met downstairs at 8:00. The hotel had some complimentary newspapers, and a picture of "Return" graced the covers of two of them. We took copies and headed into "La Closerie", the hotel restaurant. We were served coffee and orange juice. Craig and I got French toast, which was very light and fluffy and served with maple syrup. We had some fresh fruit on a kebab. We finished our delicious breakfast, picked up our luggage from the room, and checked out. We were on the road at exactly 9 am.

As we headed out of the city, we were behind a Caravan with a bike rack on the back. As we were driving along the slightly bumpy road, Craig noticed what he was sure were car keys falling off the bike rack. The keys fell out of the lock and landed in the middle of the street. The car was from Ontario, and we had visions of the poor people driving all the way home only to have lost their keys in Quebec City in the middle of a busy road. It took us several blocks to be able to catch up to them. We pulled side-by-side and I rolled down my window. I held up a set of keys and yelled "Your keys fell out on the street. A few blocks back!" The man looked at the woman with obvious disappointment, and they pulled over, ostensibly to turn around and retrace their path. We felt we had done our good deed for the day.

As we crossed the bridge over the Saint Lawrence River, we had a classic turquoise old car with fins and everything in front of us. It made for a nice photo. As we passed the Restaurant Madrid (with its tacky dinosaurs) I took a picture from the car. We stopped at a gas station about 50 miles before the border because we didn't think that we would quite make it back to the U.S. on what we had left. I bought some sodas and some Cadbury candy bars to help keep us awake on the ride. Craig didn't fill the tank as gas is much more expensive here. We got to the border exactly at noon. We used the facilities at the duty free store and Barbara bought some earrings. There was, of course, a backup at the border, and we ended up in line for a while. While waiting in the car, we got to admire a 1923 Model T being towed on a small flatbed trailer. We went through the border, declared Barbara's 8 dollar earrings, and were back in the U.S.A.

We stopped in Barton, at our new favorite gas station, and Craig filled the tank the rest of the way. We bought more Reese's Pieces and some water. It was much warmer in the car today, as there was direct sunlight. As we went through the White Mountains, we had one of the nicest views of the ridge between the Presidential Range that we had ever seen. We have hiked up Mount Lafayette several times, and it seems that every time we go, the weather is lousy and there is no visibility. Today we got a crystal clear view of the mountain and the ridge, and we we looked at it in incredulity. We actually hiked that whole ridge? From below it sure seems awfully high. Craig asked if I wanted to go hike it now? We started to hit some traffic in southern New Hampshire as it seems there was some sort of Nascar race underway. Fortunately it wasn't getting out until after we would drive by the critical exits. We stopped quickly at a rest area, and got back to the house at 4:00 pm. It had taken an extra hour today, but we had made several more stops, and we got caught in traffic at the border. We drove Barbara to the T station and said our goodbyes after a lovely weekend. Thanks, Rick, for yet another unforgettable show!
Bridge over the St. Lawrence

Ridge at Mt. Lafayette, New Hampshire

Rick seemed to enjoy the show every bit as much as we did. On his web site today, Rick wrote a very nice post about the Return concert: "For as many years as I can remember, I have been asked which was the most memorable show I've ever done, to include both YES and solo shows. I have always been unable to answer this as there are so many shows that have been true highlights....until now......last night (15th July 2006)....we performed Return to the Centre of the Earth in Quebec. Heaven only knows how many people were there? Estimates range anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000. The orchestra, conductor, choir, narrator, band, guest singers, special effects, fireworks and very importantly ...the audience....were way above even the word 'fantastic'. I cannot ever see this show surpassed as far as I am concerned. It is the biggest 'high' I have ever had. All I can say is that if the reason for writing the music was to culminate in what took place last night in Quebec, then it was worth every ounce of sweat that went into the making of this piece. Thank you to everybody who made the Performing Night of My Musical Life. -Rick."
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