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Run your city // Run Old Quebec

Cours ta ville // Courir le Vieux-Québec

- Photos by Julien Marleau

Every time you set foot there again, you won't believe that it's your home, here.

You may know that this setting contains considerable pieces which are content to imitate the story rather than to 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 back: you could run in the middle of Saint-Jean, Saint-Louis or Grande Allée, almost without seeing anyone. No more crowds to break through. No more footsteps chased through the horde.

The gradual return of visitors has not discouraged you. You continued to run there, taking other less traveled paths. So, you still go through the middle of the streets without bothering anyone.

For some reason that you cannot explain, on the fringes of the busiest arteries, the interior of the walls and several sectors of the old stones at river level remain almost deserted.

It's the joy of running in Old Quebec: there are no single directions for pedestrians and the possibilities for routes through its meanders are almost infinite. You like the winding lines of the streets, their narrowness which suggests that the buildings rise high into the sky even though they are only three stories high, sometimes four at most. Stone. Tin roofs. The condensed past.

You sometimes retrace your steps to retrace your steps along parallel routes. You frolic on Couillard, go back towards the basilica by climbing Sainte-Famille, then you return by tumbling down the Côte de la Fabrique and head east again, but via Garneau, this time. Afterwards? It depends. You explore and that's where you have fun discovering corners of your own city that you never imagined.

As you walk, far from the crowds, the place regains its aura of mystery, its marvelous potential. You had never climbed at the Cavalier-du-Moulin park, at the end of Mont-Carmel, and were unaware of the superb view that this piece of the Plains along avenue Saint-Denis, east of the Armory, promises. You run on the walls of the Citadel and on the ramparts. You climb the Gouverneurs staircase or descend the Casse-Cou to set foot on the uneven surface of the cobblestones that awaits you below.

Narrow streets, closed to automobile traffic. Your step is unstable. There you are, heading back west along Rue Sous-le-Cap, catching the surprised glances of diners whom you see inhaling leg stew through the rear windows of the Buffet de l'Antiquaire.

You get back on the cobblestones. Climb a few steps, line up on the top of the ramparts overlooking the lower town and the Old Port. The Louise basin sparkles. The White Birch exhales long puffs of smoke spit out from its mass of bricks. The bell towers of the disused churches of Limoilou punctuate the horizon.

Restaurants. Souvenir shops. Chocolate factory. Sauna. Theaters. Semi-basement bars. Punks. Itinerants. Tourists. Residents. Students. Convenience stores. Police. Delivery men who clutter the streets in the early morning. Gardens hidden behind impassable walls. Tiny streets leading to old stables converted into garages.

You explore Old Quebec without tiring of the beauty it exudes throughout your discoveries. You slow down. You look up. The basilica extends its benevolent shadow. You can guess that, in the city hall across the street, the new mayor is probably putting on his running shoes to better imitate you.