Le Vieux Québec (Old Quebec City) is built on a large rocky cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence River. This is what gave the city its strategic military importance in days of yore. The magnificent Fairmont Chateau Frontenac hotel crowns Upper Town. Below it lies Lower Town along the river's shore. Both areas feature beautifully restored old buildings full of shops, restaurants, museums, etc.
There are two ways for a tourist to go between Upper Town and Lower Town. First, you can take L'Escalier du Casse-Cou (Breakneck Stairs). These stairs have existed since 1635 (replaced several times, of course, over the centuries). Walking down to Lower Town is fine. Walking back up to Upper Town is another thing. What you don't see in my photo is that, at the top of Breakneck Stairs, there is a further very steep climb via sidewalk past more shops and restaurants and then there is another set of stairs leading up to the Chateau Frontenac. Pretty daunting.
OR you can simply ride the Funiculaire du Vieux Québec! This vertical funicular railway with two cars has existed since 1879. Renovated and rebuilt several times, it now runs on electricity instead of the old water ballast system. It will carry you in comfort up and down from the Chateau Frontenac to the base of Breakneck Stairs. Each one-way trip costs $2 per person and, believe me, it is worth every single friggin' penny.
This is the view of Lower Town that you see from the Funicular. The St. Lawrence River is very narrow at Quebec which also made the City easier to defend and therefore more impregnable.
[Photos by Debra She Who Seeks and My Rare One, June 2013]