When I was 19 years old, I accidentally stumbled into the L’International des Feux Loto-Québec, ruining fireworks for me for the next decade at least, and I have been trying to find my way back ever since. This past weekend, as millions of drunk idiots expressed their love of the United States of America by trying to blow themselves up, I left the country with my family to see the greatest fireworks display the world has to offer. If fireworks are going to be ruined for me, they are going to be ruined for EVERYONE!
Seriously, I had gone to La Ronde in 1997, which if you don’t know is a big amusement park in Montreal, and as the day was drawing to a close, it happened. Suddenly, from out of nowhere (editor’s note: actually from out of some tubes) there appeared, streaking across the sky, the absolute best fireworks display I had ever witnessed. They had stuff I had never seen before, and stuff I never even would have imagined! It blew me away. And from then on, I was unimpressed with any fireworks display, no matter how amazing. I would sit on the lawn of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. on July 4, year after year, watching some of the best fireworks this country has to offer, and it was meh to me. I had seen firework nirvana.
Over the years the memories began to fade, as memories do, and I began to enjoy the other displays again, but always in the back of my mind was the nagging feeling that something more spectacular was out there. This is why my family and I sat waiting for almost 90 minutes at the Canadian border on Saturday, trying to get out of the country with what seemed like, well, the rest of the country. I wondered aloud why so many people were trying to leave the USA on July 4th weekend, to which my daughter replied, “Maybe they think Donald Trump is going to be the president.” This was a good point.
We did make it through eventually, and spent a fun day at what is now “Six Flags: La Ronde,” as Six Flags has purchased pretty much every major amusement park in the solar system. We rode rides, ate food that was terrible for us, and generally had a great time. There had been some question as to whether or not the kids would make it to the 10 PM start time, but we wore them out good so that when it was go time, they were ready to relax in their seats and enjoy the show. Yeah, seats. Last time was an accident, but this time I bought actual seats, which was the best idea ever because they were super cheap (just a small add-on to the La Ronde park ticket) and we needed seats by that time.
Saturday was not a competition day; it was the opening ceremonies. The theme: Heroes. We were treated to 30 minutes of excellence, set to some the best and most exciting music ever. Star Wars. Superman. Harry Potter. Indiana Jones. Pretty much everything John Williams ever wrote. But also, Batman, Rocky, The Legend of Zelda, Star Trek, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more! It was as good as I remembered, and better.
The Harry Potter section started out with sweeping brooms made of fireworks, and then suddenly the entire sky was a wall of magical fizzing sparkles. During the Legend of Zelda portion you could see fireworks shaped like bows, with other arrow fireworks shooting through them. There were fireworks that skipped across the river on the surface of the water. There were weird alien-looking fireworks that slowly flew into the sky from the ground, lit up the entire time. I wish I could go back every night of the competition, which lasts until the end of the month.
Sadly, I cannot afford to take my family to an amusement park in Canada 10 more times this month, so that will have to do it for the year. But we did make one more stop on our way home the next day. When I asked Ruby what she wanted her room to look like after we move to the parsonage next month, she told me she wanted to have it be part jungle, part glacier, part forest, but have all the different ecosystems be real, not just painted or imagined. Well, we can’t quite pull that off in the new place, but it was clear that we had to visit the Biodome.
The Biodome contains four biomes that you can walk through, each with plants and free-roaming animals appropriate to the climate. If you thought my kids liked the fireworks, you should have seen their faces when we walked through the door into a rain forest. The hot, humid air hits you in the face as soon as you step through the special curtain that keeps the toucans and macaws from escaping, and suddenly you are in another world. I don’t think I have ever seen my daughter like anything so much.
There were monkeys and tree frogs, piranhas and sloths, and there we were, standing in the midst of it all. Edward was very excited when he found the crocodiles, and we all had fun watching the bats fly around in the bat cave (surprisingly not located beneath Wayne Manor).
From the tropical rain forest we headed through another curtain to a more familiar forest, this one of maple trees. Immediately upon entering we were treated to two otters doing some water wrestling, and there is nothing cuter than that. We saw local animals like raccoons and lynx, but when we turned the corner and went underground again we came upon what all four of us later agreed was our favorite spot of all.
The top of lake has a beaver dam, complete with beavers, but when you go underground you can see the underwater entrance. We saw the beavers swimming in and out of the dam, carrying sticks for building. And coolest of all, there was a camera inside the dam, so once you saw the beaver disappear into the side of the dam underwater, you would see it pop up inside on the monitor. We could have watched this for hours. One beaver dragged what I swear was half of a tree up into the dam, and it was so large that the leafy end was still sticking out the dam into the water, even as the beaver had the other end of it up inside. So it did what beavers do and it started gnawing on the sticks, breaking it up into smaller pieces and slowly pulling the whole thing in there. Ruby now wants to get beavers for the parsonage.After we finally left the maple forest we made our way into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where we started out underground this time, checking out the huge fish that populate the area where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean. And then we got to go upstairs and check out the same basin from above, all the while dodging the seagulls who were not shy about turd bombing the visitors. The whole room smelled like the ocean, and we were treated to all manner of aquatic life, from sea stars and hermit crabs, to a tank full of jellyfish.
The last exhibit was the polar regions, where we saw room full of Arctic Atlantic puffins as well as a large area loaded with Antarctic penguins. The penguin all seemed to be posing for pictures, with their chests puffed out and their wings spread regally. The puffins did not give a hoot.
We finally dragged ourselves out of there and back across the border to home. The line was much shorter coming back, although there was still a sizable mass of cars attempting to leave the states. The whole family was exhausted, but we still managed to stay up and walk down to the beach for our local 4th of July celebration fireworks. And you know what? They were pretty good too.