Saturday, February 16, 2008

Vive le Festival!

Another wonderful day at the Festival du Voyageur. The enthusiasm and good cheer of the Festival's staff and volunteers is infectious - we are having a blast.

It's Saturday today, so all the shops that are usually open in the underground concourse are shut - which means there's nowhere cheap to buy breakfast. Our only option is the hotel's restaurant - which is kind of pricey - but the menu looks great, so down we go. We stroll in only to find the Francophone breakfasting alone, so we join him. Here he is enjoying his Ukrainian Eggs Benedict - poached eggs on top of shaved ham on top of a potato latke - all covered in hollandaise sauce). Delicious.

Today was our first day running the portrait studio. We've been placed in La maison du bourgeois - a gorgeous re-creation of the original building that would have been in the heart of this fort. (A re-creation with heat, hot water and toilets, I am happy to report - the rest of the festival-goers have to use the porto-potties - not a fun thing to do in minus forty degree weather!). La maison is huge - we're on the main floor which is a big open room with a huge fireplace at one end and a number of pelts hanging from pegs on the wall. I've never been able to touch so much fur before - there's badger, raccoon, beaver, wolverine, deer, coyote, white, silver and red fox - they are lovely to look at, very soft and so tactile, and I feel a sudden longing for a fur coat. The trimmed beaver pelt, in particular, is so soft it hardly feels real.

On the second floor there are a number of folks in traditional costume demonstrating period crafts like finger-weaving - which is how the ceintures are made, and one of the weavers tells us the "arrowhead" pattern used is unique to North America - something of a coup in the weaving world. Because of this second floor activity, a lot of people who don't know we're here or what we're about are drawn to the building, so we benefit from their traffic.

The room we're in is huge and warm and we took more pictures in the first half hour we were up and running than we ever had before. Public response to the guitar has been very warm - people love the idea of having a memento of the Festival - and we had lineups almost all day long. Our two volunteers, Luaune and Mona, tell us that tomorrow should be even busier...can't wait!

A highlight of the day was meeting the Francophone's sister and brother-in-law (Winnipeg is the Francophone's home town). We arranged to meet them for dinner at their favourite Italian restaurant, Casa Grande, later that evening - and boy, were we glad we did! We had some of the best pizza we have ever eaten! The crust was a miracle - perfect crumb, and light as a feather - and the toppings were generous and well-distributed. My Man had the Calabrese (heavy on sausage and capicollo), the Francophone had the Carne (more meat than I have ever seen in one place), and I had the Napolenata (basically a salt pizza with kalamata olives, capers and anchovies - yum!). Washed down with carafes of house red wine, our tummies were full and warm by the end of the too-short meal, when we had to head back to the festival site for that night's performance. The Francophone's Sister insisted on picking up our bill - yet another example of Manitoban hospitality. Merci!!

The band who were to play the guitar that night were called Venus Murphy - another local band who play a kind of Celtic pub rock with incredible enthusiasm. The crowd loved them. They were very vocal about how thrilled they were to play the guitar - and almost all the band members took a turn on it throughout their set - which thrilled us as well!

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