by Erin Davis
Despite the meditation sessions it offers, it’s near impossible to tame your imagination upon arrival at Le Monastère des Augustines, as you journey back in time through its storied hallways, rooms and alcoves.
Located in the heart of Old Quebec City, the restored 17th century monastery – now part wellness-focused hotel – offers a peaceful year-round sanctuary, where breakfasts are taken in silence, the colorful gardens ease the mind and yoga takes place in the building’s stunning historic vault.
If you’re in the market for a unique Quebec City accommodation option that isn’t bustling to the brim with tourists – and one where mental and physical wellness is front and centre – Le Monastère des Augustines makes for a tranquil option worth writing home about. The accompanying alluring history lesson is an added bonus – as is the relatively modest price tag considering its prime location within walking distance of Quebec City’s restaurants, shopping and attractions. The thoughtfully-restored property manages to harmoniously blend culture, history and holistic health, leaving guests refreshed and refocused.
It was here – on what became the site of the first North American hospital north of Mexico – where the Augustinian Sisters, originally from France, devoted themselves to helping others (mind, body and soul) for four centuries, laying the foundation for the modern healthcare system in the process. The Sisters who still live on site played a huge role in the restoration of the buildings, working closely with planners and making important decisions. Today, eight remaining nuns live on the peaceful property, in their own separate quarters.
In terms of accommodation, guests can opt for the authentic experience and lay their heads in modest restored monastic cells, with single beds and simple, antique furniture. Those who stay in these rooms share bathrooms with neighbouring guests.
Those seeking a more “frills-attached” experience have the option of larger, upgraded hotel-like rooms that feature modern furnishings and spacious private bathrooms. Regardless of your room number, you won’t find a TV or a telephone; of course, that’s the whole point. In fact, many guests opt to stay in silence, communicating their desire to do through tags that read, “I’m in silence.”
Perhaps being “in silence,” deep in your own thoughts is the best way to explore the property’s impressive museum and archives, which have thoughtfully preserved the life and times of the Augustinian Sisters throughout the years. The museum has some 1,000 items from its collection and 40,000 artifacts on display, and highlights the social involvement of the Augustinian sisters and their work in caring for the sick over the centuries. Items include everything from historic medical equipment, to plates and other household articles, books and religious artifacts.
The wellness-focused activities at Le Monastere include yoga, tai chi, meditation sessions, massage therapy, reflexology, art classes, guided walks and healthy cooking classes. Health evaluations and personal health and diet consultations are also offered. Throughout the sprawling space are areas reserved for wellness retreats and conferences.
An onsite restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and features a changing menu of fresh local and organic ingredients, with no shortage of vegetarian and vegan options. Wine and beer are available here – something that may come as a surprise to some, but it’s all about balance, right? Breakfast is complimentary and features a buffet-style assortment of fresh fruit and simple breakfast items. If you’re not in the mood to chat so early in the day, you’re in the right place as each breakfast is taken in silence (aside from the odd clink of a spoon in a coffee cup).
The best part about the stay, at least for me during the tourist-filled month of June, was the immediate sense of peace and positivity offered within the walls of the establishment and its picturesque gardens. It feels like its own little wellness-filled bubble, where simple pleasures abound (like reading with the backdrop of chirping birds or sipping fresh juice in silence) and you’re suddenly somewhat immune to the stress and chaos of the world outside its gates.
For those who can’t quite fully disconnect, don’t worry – there is Wi-Fi throughout the hotel. It’s still 2019, after all.
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Erin Davis is a Toronto-base writer and regular contributor to Travel to Wellness