Stairs are major elements of the landscape of Quebec-City, because upper town and downtown display tremendous differences in height and there are excentric stairs to connect the levels. For example, the oldest staircase in town is L’Escalier Casse-Cou translated as: the neckbreck stairs. Or L’Escalier du Faubourg, which is even more precipitous than the neckbreck stairs and which links the quarter Saint-Jean-Baptiste to Saint-Roch. Pedestrians who don’t feel like taking the stairs can use the lift on the Rue Saint-Vallier for free; its entry is hidden in a kiosk – an occurence I really deem remarkable.
The first week I’ve strolled a lot, made photographs, read the assorted inscriptions at memorials, sculptures, places, most of them bilingual in French and English. The more recent are ones only in French, because French has been the only official language in Quebec since 1977. The memorials deal with the history and culture of Quebec, the national identity has beome a dominating topic.
Above all, during my wanderings I’ve been running into two stories that made me ponder. On the gate of Saint Jean the first canadian highway has its own memorial. Well, it wasn’t a highway then, but the Chemin du Roi, the King’s Way, inaugurated at the 5th of August in 1734, has been the first connection from Quebec to Montreal. Since I can remember I was mesmerized by highways as places inbetween, ephemeral places, not here, not there. Already in the nineties, french sociologist Marc Augé dedicated a book to those non-places. They play a crucial role in our lives, we just don’t know about it. In my personal story, highways have been an important opportunity to flee the provincial backwater and everything that was linked to it.