- Photos by Julien Marleau
Every time you set foot there again, you can't believe it's home here.
You might know that this setting conceals considerable pieces which are content to imitate history rather than bear witness to it, the emotion remains intact. Beauty takes precedence over truth.
It was the desertion of the old town caused by the absence of tourists that first brought you there: you could run in the middle of Saint-Jean, Saint-Louis or Grande Allée, almost without seeing anyone. No more crowds to split. No more footsteps chased through the horde.
The gradual return of visitors has not discouraged you. You continued to run there by taking other less frequented routes. Thus, you still file in the middle of the streets without bothering anyone.
For some reason that you can't explain, on the fringes of the busiest arteries, the interior of the walls and several sectors of old stones at river level remain almost deserted.
It is the joy of running in Old Quebec: there is no one-way street for the pedestrian and the possibilities of course in its meanders are almost endless. You like the tortuous line of the streets, their narrowness which suggests that the buildings rise high in the sky when they are only three floors, sometimes four at most. Stone. The tin roofs. The condensed past.
Sometimes you retrace your steps to retrace the path by parallel routes. You frolic on Couillard, go up towards the basilica by climbing Sainte-Famille, then you come back by tumbling down the hill of the Fabrique and take again towards the east, but by Garneau, this time. Next? It depends. You explore and this is where you have fun discovering corners of your own city that you never imagined.
As you walk, far from the crowd, the place rediscovers its aura of mystery, its marvelous potential. You had never climbed in the park of Cavalier-du-Moulin, at the end of Mont-Carmel, and ignored the superb view that promises this section of the Plains that runs along Avenue Saint-Denis, to the east of the Armory. You run on the walls of the Citadel and on the ramparts. You climb the Governors' Staircase or hurtle down the Daredevil to put your foot on the uneven surface of the cobblestones that awaits you below.
Narrow streets, closed to automobile traffic. Your unstable step. Here you are heading back west, taking rue Sous-le-Cap, catching the surprised gaze of diners whom you see inhaling a stew of paws through the back windows of the Buffet de l'Antiquaire.
You go back to the cobblestones. Take a few steps, files on the top of the ramparts overlooking the lower town and the Old Port. The Louise basin sparkles. The White Birch exhales the long puffs of smoke which its mass of bricks spits out. The steeples of the disused churches of Limoilou punctuate the horizon.
Restaurants. Souvenir shops. Chocolate factory. Sauna. Theaters. Bars in the semi-basement. Punks. Itinerants. Tourists. Residents. Students. Convenience stores. Police. Delivery men who clutter the streets in the early morning. Gardens hidden behind impassable walls. Tiny alleys that lead to old stables converted into garages.
You run through Old Quebec without getting tired of the beauty it exudes throughout your discoveries. You slow down. You look up. The basilica extends its benevolent shadow. You can imagine that, in the town hall just opposite, the new mayor is probably putting on his running shoes to imitate you better.