Originally I called it Alice’s Ottawa Diary (to be in line with the Toronto diary), but it totally got out of hands and became ultra-long that Diary simply won’t fit. This trip is so fruitful that I wanted to share with you all the bits and pieces. It’s wayyyy longer than any papers I‘ve ever written in school days. Sonja, Sue and a whole gang of long-time fans would be packing for Atlantic City immediately after I get back to Vancouver, so I needed to start my story NOW (Toronto time, 12:20am, May 19). Many fans would be "mute" for a few days, so for those not going anywhere this week, this long report would keep you company for the time being.
Caution: I must warn you. This is reeaally lonng. If it starts to bother you….Adieu! Or, you can come back again when you run out of things to read.
May 15, Thu - Leaving for OttawaWearing my "Maggie’s André Rieu T-shirt", my parents and I were ready to leave Vancouver for the trip. Grabbed our suitcases, bags and most importantly, the 300 little flags we would be giving away at the Ottawa concert. During the flight, I played Gala Concert DVD. Since it’s a 4hr-20min flight, I even let Otto finished his whole Hungarian Dance No. 5 act. I like the part where André conducted the whole audience and had everyone stop clapping at the same time, guess he’s a good teacher too!
Arrived Ottawa, checked in our hotel, had dinner…. We stayed at a hotel conveniently located in downtown at the Rideau Canal, just a few minutes walk to the Parliament Building, so we strolled along and took some "nightlife" pictures of the Fairmont Chateau Laurier and the Parliament Hill.
Weather forecast for Ottawa was not accurate. It’s supposed to be cloudy with showers but God! It was beautiful, in fact, too warm that I could smell my underarm. So, once we got back to hotel, I quickly washed my Maggie T-shirt.
May 16, Fri - Visiting Parliament Hill, Rideau Canal and violin maker
Sunny day again. Today, I put on my T-shirt which says "Canada". I think it’s the most suitable thing to wear today as we’re taking pictures in the capital city, right at Parliament Building. When I told my colleagues I’d be going to Ottawa, they said "Ottawa is a beautiful city", I thought "Oh yeah? Okay…nice…we’ll see". The last time I was in Ottawa was with a bus tour in 2001, we’re given only like 20 minutes for quick pictures, so I never realized how beautiful the scenery was from the back of the Parliament Building. To be honest with you, we never had a good reason to visit Ottawa again until now, i.e. to see André. It is indeed beautiful, the centuries-old buildings, statues, trees, Ottawa River….so relaxing. Then, we joined a Boat Cruise at the Canal, not a bad deal, $18/person for a 1hr-10min cruise. After the cruise, I walked by the Chateau Laurier, looked around its parking lot and wondered if there’s any sight of André Rieu buses, then, of course, I thought "Helloooo!!!". They’re performing in Montreal tonight, how could they possibly be in Ottawa now. I heard that they’re staying at a hotel in downtown near the Canal last year, but didn’t know which one, so I would look for any luck!
We went back to our hotel to take a rest and get ready to visit Peter Mach, a violin maker whose workshop is not too far from Ottawa in Gatineau (Quebec). You could see him in one of André’s DVDs. Peter and I have been emailing each other a few times and finally we got to meet. I put on my black André Children’s T-shirt and headed for the French-speaking province across the River. And so we got there in just a 22-minute ride from the hotel. Peter showed us his workshop. Whow!! Violin, viola, cello, bass, tons of bows, all kinds of tools and accessories for these beautiful instruments. My parents and I were so excited that we bought a violin right at the spot, and Peter gave us a Mach One Shoulder Rest too. This was his invention which helps the violinist place the violin in a much relaxing position. He then showed us around his house while his wife prepared the afternoon tea, including bread and cheese served on a Mach One (violin-shaped) chopping board and the red wine he made himself from their own grapes. There’s even a nicely carved picture of Stradivarius which Peter’s friend made for him, so Medieval-look! We had a very pleasant time together. When we got back to the hotel at night, I started to play the violin with André’s music as background, but soon I realized it might be a little too loud to play since we didn’t own the hotel. André’s music is always welcome but guess not the "chicken-killing" noise (that’s how we called it in Chinese) I made when sliding the bow across those strings.
May 17, Sat - Tour of Ottawa River / The Concert (before and after)
Sunny still. THIS IS THE DAY (concert at 8pm)!! My Maggie T-shirt was completely dried, so I put it on again. In the morning, we joined an "Amphibious Tour" (It’s a boat and it’s a bus!). It took us around Ottawa downtown attractions, and the same bus took us to the Ottawa River. It’s the first and only bus of its kind which could go in water as well, not like submarine, but still, it’s fun.
The tour guide said that they have 300,000 tulips at the Commissioner Park for the Tulips Festival (May 02-19), and they’re all from Holland. (Ahh! A nice piece of André-Holland related info). So, we finally had some drizzles, but that’s okay, I’ve finished with picture-taking, and we’re just about to go to the Shopping Centre which is just next to the hotel. Well, nothing to buy, we thought we might as well just take some rest in the hotel room before the concert. We didn’t have dinner before the concert so we needed some midnight snacks for afterwards and something for breakfast the next morning. I was about to go to Tim Hortons to get a 6-pk muffins. Just when I got down (to the hotel lobby), my heart popped out. There it was! Wholly Smoke! An André Rieu bus!! No signs of JSO members yet, but some "numbered-suitcases" being unloaded and brought into the lobby. Guess the JSO group had to do rehearsal and wouldn’t check into hotel until after the concert. My God! They’re really staying in the same hotel! How lucky! I quickly went back to the room to get my camera. I should at least take a picture of the bus while it’s still there.
Took a shower, put on another André T-shirt of mine. It’s got a picture I took of the whole Schonbrunn stage in Toronto. It’s Tulips Festival, we put on the tulips corsage Lyndall sent us from Australia. Arrived Scotiabank Place (taxi driver didn’t know where?what?, glad I knew it’s previously called the Corel Centre). The doors wouldn’t open until 7pm, but a lot of people arrived already, many of them on wheelchairs. As in many other André concerts, these elderly people made an effort to go see HIM. (I thought about Pat again, who unfortunately had to give up her tickets for the sake of her health). Soon I saw Dan the Bannerman and his wife Alice in the crowd outside the main gate. I was happy that this No.1 fan remembered the "Alice from Vancouver". Dan was the first fan I met in Toronto last Dec as well. Then, I saw 2 of André’s security guards, one of them being Johann, the other shorter Mr. Security Guard I didn’t have his name but I saw him in Vancouver before and he took a picture of my A RIEU license plate with his cell-phone last Oct. I slightly waved and nodded at Johann when he saw me (remember I was teasing him in Toronto??), and he nodded back. Some of you might have only seen the tough guy image of Johann but he’s not that "cold-blooded" at all.
Bought the "program book" (André in Wonderland" with a program sheet inside), we didn’t get to our seats until about 7:30pm. We had Section C, Row 9, seats 1,2,3. I knew pretty well where my seats would be (the aisle André would use in entry) but the staff who’s supposed to direct people to their seats told me to go around the control thing at the back and go to the far end. I panicked for a while until I saw the back of those chairs says "A", not "C". Whew!!! The guy gave me wrong directions that could have got me heart attack.
My father and I started to give out our home-made flags to those in front rows and the first 2 side sections. One woman obviously thought we’re some staff and asked if I could tell the "venue people" to turn up the air-conditioning. Ha! It was true that I found it too warm myself but of course I had no intention to relate her request to anyone. That moment I thought "Hmmmm…it’d be nice if we had Jeanine Ann’s André fans. Well, the flags helped make a little "manual air-ventilation", maybe that’s why they’re popular??? So popular that some came to me to ask for more, some asked for 2, some 4, one even 8. I told her I could only give her 4 as I had the very last ones that I wanted to give to those nice sweet old ladies watching me. That woman said how about I give her 4, and she’ll ask the other guy (my father) for 4 more (hmmm…she’s gooood, very creative).
My mom must be jealous as so many women chasing after my father. My father, on the other hand, had the time of his life because people seemed to love the flags so much. Occasionally he did have to say "Sorry! My English is limit, ask my daughter". For the flags this time, I only printed them, it was my 80-yr-old father who helped tape them to chopsticks and grouped them nicely in ten’s. He enjoyed everything about André. I’ve also printed 2 little banners to play with. Some nice looking lady came over to me and asked "Are you Alice?" I knew it must be Karen. Boy! With her green coordinates that evening, she’s so pretty (Hey, Claude, you lucky man!!). She had an aisle seat in the very first row of Section B. Okay, let’s be fair, Claude (Karen’s husband) is a good-looking gentleman too!
Soon after we got back to our seats, the Seventy Six Trombones started. I just LOVE this piece so much for the entry. Flags were being waved as André and JSO came down the aisle. To my BIG BIG surprise, André grabbed a flag from one woman and waved it himself. He literally "robbed" that flag from the woman but that was so cute. Although I didn’t get a high five from him (he had his eyes on Dan who’s sitting in Row 8 just across the aisle), seeing him waving our flag was the most interesting thing I’ve never thought would happen. Frank walked by me with 2 violins, last one to enter was Franco. (Sorry Lyndall, your Italian favourite was once again within a metre span from me!)
The concert itself…..guess I won’t go into details as there was great info from previous concerts but I can say the Platin Tenors were there, Mirusia, Carmen and Kalki were there (Kalki also sang as soprano in Vancouver, 2006). There were some AR in Wonderland songs, and some rearranged pieces (as mentioned by others). The concert was beautiful as always and I think we’re quite responsive. Dan had his famous banners lined up including "André for Prime Minister", we had 2 little ones "Waltzing Matilda #1… Yeaaah!!" and "Come back to Canada soon…Please!" I hope André and JSO were quite happy with the turn-out and would come back to Canada more often.
On our way back to the hotel, I met someone from Rhode Island who collects AR balloons and she had two in her hands. She said with the ticket price for Boston concert, it’s a better deal for her to go see one in Ottawa instead.
Sorry! I’m not done for the day yet….
Back to the hotel, knowing that JSO would be staying here, I quickly took a shower and went down to check out the lounge. (We’ve already wasted much time waiting for the taxi at Scotiabank Place). The AR buses just got back and the JSO members came in and lined up for the elevators. I could see from one level up that a charming wavy-hair guy was in the line. Our dearest André!! If I went down the escalator, I would have landed 2 metres behind him on the main floor. But I thought "Nahhhh! They had a long day, I rather not disturb them, besides, Mr. Don’t-Know-What-Name Security Guard was standing there to monitor the lobby area as if there’s a big DO NOT DISTURB sign everywhere. And yet, I thought I might be blamed for months if I didn’t have any André/JSO related stuff to report for the Parlour, so I decided to stick around, maybe I’ll see Bela, maybe I’ll see Mirusia, and Laura….they would probably recognize me.
I quietly stood a few metres away from them. I saw Bela and then he saw me too. He then stopped chatting with the crew member and reached out his hands, so I quickly walked over to him. He’s such a friendly guy that I got to hug him like friends. Boy! What a nice guy! I was prepared that I wouldn’t be so lucky to see him again the next day, so I wished him a nice trip and hopefully we’ll meet again! Ruud and Roland were at the Concierge and I had a little question for the Concierge too so I waited patiently behind the 2 of them…that is until Ruud turned around to me so I smiled at him and told him I had a great time at the concert. He said "You’re there?" "Oh, yes! I came from Vancouver to see the concert…because you don’t come to Vancouver anymore!!". Ruud said he likes going to Vancouver too. I asked where’s Lin (she’s not in the concert), Ruud said Lin’s taking a week vacation. Ruud is very nice to talk to. I then asked him something that I’ve always wondered. "Did Lin do her own hair? She always has very gorgeous hairdo" "Well, sometimes she does her own sometimes…..!"
So much for the day…I went back to our room, had a muffin and a banana.
May 18, Sun – Adieu / Ottawa to Toronto
I’ve brought along a little gift for André in case I have a slim chance to pass it to him. I didn’t expect to give it to him myself. I went down to the lobby around 8:10am and saw the most perfect person…Kerstin was there with Karin. I asked Kerstin if she could help me deliver the gift, it was so nice of her to do me a favour. She also said that they’ll be in Vancouver again next year. (Yeah!! Good news!!) Okay, mission accomplished.
Wait a minute….maybe I’ll still be able to meet Mirusia or Laura. I saw Ruud again finishing breakfast in the restaurant. He has such good manners and asked if I had a good sleep. I said I don’t understand how they could have so much energy even they’re on the road so often for the tight schedule. He joked that he’s more tired when at home looking after the kids. I’m afraid he’s quite right in this case. Then, Laura came out from the restaurant with 2 suitcases (Yeahh!). "Hi Laura, remember me?" "Of course, we’re in Toronto." Sooo nice of her… Laura worried a bit about handling 2 suitcases at one time when stepping onto the escalator, so I offered to carry one for her. She said "You don’t mind?" (Well, helloooo!! Why would anyone mind doing a little something for the JSO, of course I don’t mind, it’s a pleasure!!)
Okay, guess that was it! I was waiting for the elevator to go back to our room but so happened I turned around for a peek. Some girl with goldie-locks and fixing her suitcase waved at me. My God! Mirusia’s still here!! I ran over to her…"Miruusiaa", "Hello Alice"…Oh God! "How can you remember my name?" "Of course I remember, we did the Charlie’s Angels!" Boy oh Boy! This girl is not only sweet and talented but has very good memory…I mean..after the trip to Australia, signing thousands of autographs, and she still remember my name?? You can imagine how honoured I felt. I was holding her warm little hands with soft little fingers for a minute and that felt gooood! Oh wait! I have my Charlie’s Angels picture with me, maybe I should get an autograph. I had 2 pictures with me. My "A RIEU" picture and the Charlie’s Angels one. First I dug out the A RIEU, then Mirusia signed on the Angels picture. Bela popped up too!! Lucky me I got to hug him again. Those of you who’ve met them several times already might not remember how happy one could be. Then, Johann came in to remind them they had to go. "Hi Johann", I said. "How do you know my name?" "Of course I know your name." (you might have noticed this conversation sounded very similar to that with Laura and Mirusia). "We met in Toronto too…" Johann saw me holding a picture and asked "Do you need an autograph? Is this your car?" I started to lose focus and mumbled like "Yeah! Sure! I’d love to but didn’t see André, and even if I did, I’d probably couldn’t get near him….." Before I could finish my sentence, Johann said "Can I try (for you)?" Heavens!! My Good Lord! He then took my picture and came back later with an autograph. "He(André) likes the car. Let it dry…." and off he left with a gentle smile on his face! Well, what can I say, Johann is my new best friend, or better yet, my new love (hahahaha!!...is he single??) Am I in Cloud Nine or what! I went back to my room and told my parents, I’d be smiling even when I’m sleeping tonight.
Checked out hotel, took the VIA Rail from Ottawa to Toronto. With some countryside view along the route, I played Dreaming DVD. Though the ride was a bit bumpy, with André’s music with me, it’s so relaxing!
Checked in hotel (Toronto)..finally had free internet access…checked my emails…got Sue’s email about any possible Ottawa story….Whoa! I’d be busy, I’d better start writing before I get back to Vancouver.
May 19, Mon – In Toronto with relatives
My uncle, aunt and cousin had a wonderful time at the Dec 15 Toronto concert. We talked much about André’s concerts, had dim sum, shopping, dinner… More relatives came to our hotel room and chat until midnight. Boy! I needed to start my "diary". Fine! I should be okay if I had 4 or 5 hours of sleep. Almost 4am, couldn’t open my eyes anymore…okay, bedtime! Ha! Hotel room key didn’t work, couldn’t knock on the door, had to ask Front Desk to fix it.
May 20, Tue – Back to Vancouver…almost
Nope! I slept for about 3 hours and my mom got up already…I had the sofa bed in the living room and couldn’t get asleep then. Checked out hotel, dim sum again. My cousin played André’s Masterpiece in her car. It’s Skaters Waltz when we’re getting close to the airport. I thought "What a nice final touch for this trip!"
Oops! Said it too soon…At check-in counter.. "Sorry, your flight is cancelled and has been rescheduled to leave at 7am tomorrow morning. What?? You’ve gotta be kidding! I have to work the next morning, but most of all, I thought…how on earth am I gonna type up the Ottawa report and send pictures to Sue tonight?? "Okay, we’ve found you a flight leaving at 5:45pm, connecting flight in Calgary, arriving Vancouver at 10pm. Well, better than nothing!! Seats were pretty messed up. I didn’t get to sit with my parents, I exchanged my seat with a girl who could then sit with her mom. But then I was sitting in the middle. These 2 guys sitting beside me, one at aisle, the other at window, were probably wondering what the heck I was writing…my draft looked like worms too.
Okay, guess I’d stop and start playing The Homecoming…
Finally got home, unpacked my stuff and started typing this novel.
Sweet dreams!! Back to the cruel world tomorrow!!