One of the most basic things to know about Québec City is that it has an Upper Town and a Lower Town…Haute Ville/Basse Ville. It is a question of altitude; the streets surrounding the Chateau Frontenac are the better part of a football field above the cobblestones of Place Royale.
As any tourist in Québec City will tell you, moving between the Upper Town and Lower Town poses a challenge to even the ablest of walkers. Going up, the slopes burn your leg muscles and tax your lungs. Going down, those same slopes wreak havoc on your trick knee and – especially in wintertime – threaten to put you abruptly on your rear end.
To facilitate the up and down migration of pedestrians, the city has, over the years, built a series of staircases. There are more than a dozen in the Cité-Limoilou district that is home to Québec’s Old City. Some are long, some are winding, some are iron, some are wood. They all exist in an attempt to level an uneven city.
Among the most impressive and most appreciated of these staircases is the escalier du Cap-Blanc. Straight as an arrow, it soars up the cliff, linking the delightfully isolated neighborhoods along Champlain Boulevard with the walking paths of the Plains of Abraham. Not only does this staircase serve as a (more or less) convenient shortcut between these otherwise distant sectors of the city, it is also a daily destination for fitness freaks who cherish it as a 398-step plan to firmer calves. As those steps rise toward the heights of the Upper Town, they seem to disappear into the foliage that surrounds them.