I enjoy going for runs in parts of the world beyond Vermont when I have the opportunity to travel. Typically, I have a full day of activities whether I am visiting for work reasons or solely for vacation, so the logical time to fit in a run is first thing in the morning. I am usually not much of an early morning runner, but running through the streets and parks of unfamiliar locales provides a great way to explore before the touring throngs descend on the attractions as the day progresses. I recently had the opportunity to visit Quebec City with the Trailrunner family, and decided to go for a leisurely city run on our first morning in this beautiful city, only 6 hours away. We were staying in the old city, inside the city walls, and this made for a great starting point for some exploring on foot.
At the start of the run, I was drawn to the most famous sight in Old Quebec, the Chateau Frontenac Hotel. This really is a grand hotel, and quite a spectacular building on a bluff above the St. Laurence River. The Frontenac, with its tower and turrets looks remarkably like the fictional Hogwarts Castle of Harry Potter fame, but is of surprisingly recent construction, having been built “only” a little more than 100 years ago in 1893. There is also a huge promenade deck on the river side, high above the lower city and the river, providing for some more room to run, and I was far from the only person out there enjoying a pleasant summer morning.
After soaking in the views from up on the bluff, I jogged down the long set of stairs which brought me to the riverside, into the oldest inhabited part of the city. I discovered that the cobblestone streets of this ancient section of the city require much of the same care that is needed when running the trails – I had to run “eyes wide open” at all times so that I didn’t careen head over heels on an errant stone, much like I have to do on the less urban trails of Addison County, VT.
The view of the Frontenac itself from this lower level (about 200 feet lower than the higher city bluff) was also particularly breathtaking.
Before setting off on this run, I had noted that, just to the west of the Chateau and the Citadel, there was a large expanse of park land, called “The Plains of Abraham“, which looked like a good place to get in some true trail running. If you remember The Plains of Abraham from your high school education, you will remember that this was the sight of one of the battles which changed the course of history, where the British defeated the French, effectively ending French colonial ambitions in most of North America. What you probably didn’t know was that this battle, this turning point in world history, lasted all of 20 minutes. I will resist the temptation to insert snarky comments about French military prowess.
I had hoped that there might be some way to access the Plains of Abraham park from the riverside, but was disappointed to see no trail connection. (Note, there apparently is a rather precipitous trail up from the riverside, but I did not notice it in the course of this run.) So, I added some mileage to this run with a job on a bike path alongside the river front road, through a mix of parks, docks, and construction sites. After a few minutes along the river front, I more or less retraced my steps back up to the Frontenac, getting a few odd looks from some early morning walkers as I jogged up the seemingly endless stairs, and back to my hotel and a waiting cappuccino. This came together as a slightly less than 5 mile run with a pretty steep descent and climb.
Jeff Byers is a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Middlebury College. He also writes the Middlebury Trailrunner blog. We'll be periodically highlighting posts from his blog, but for more recommendations for trailrunning and cross country skiing in the county, head to his website.
This entry was originally posted on August 9, 2012.