19 Mar Le Monastère des Augustines: Practicing Wellness and Sleeping in a Monastery
We stayed in a couple of unique accommodations while we were in Quebec City, Canada. One was the Hotel de Glace, North America’s only Ice Hotel, and the other one was a monastery called Le Monastère des Augustines.
Why would you sleep in a monastery, you might wonder? Well, read on to find out all about one of the most unique hotels we’ve ever stayed in!
Le Monastère des Augustines is located in the “historic wings of the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec monastery”, and its history is quite intriguing. The property focuses on culture, wellness, sustainability and heritage, and it is a non-profit organization. Even though the site is a monastery, the sisters and hotel welcome all cultures and all beliefs inside their doors.
We loved spending time in this hotel—it is definitely a calm and rejuvenating place to spend a night, or in our case, three.
Le Monastère des Augustines History
The site was founded in 1639 when three Augustinian sisters made their way to Quebec City to create the continents first hospital north of Mexico. Over the years, the sisters have founded 12 hospitals throughout Quebec, and they laid the foundation for the province’s modern healthcare system. The sisters combined the powers of science and spirituality to heal the sick and they provided their patients with respect and compassion. Acting as owners and managers of the hospitals, the sisters also contributed in nursing and pharmacist roles.
Due to a decline in the community numbers the sisters entrusted their collections, archives and founding monastery to the public so their legacy could be continued. The monastery is now a world heritage site, and it has been restored to artfully combine the original buildings with new and contemporary architecture. To this day, the sisters live in the building’s Saint-Augustin wing, and you might even see them wandering around the site as they work and live on the property.
The Mission of Le Monastère des Augustines
As I mentioned above, Le Monastère des Augustines’ main principles focus on wellness, culture, sustainability, and heritage. These aspects can be found in touches both large and small throughout the entire property. Promoting a healthy lifestyle, encouraging knowledge to be spread to people in the area through community partnerships, and initiating a better work-life balance for employees, are a few of the standard practices.
Both the café and the on-site restaurant focus on serving local and organic food with an emphasis on mindful eating. In regard to waste, a three-tier waste management system has been employed and it consists of composting, recycling and disposal.
Sustainability and the preservation of heritage were also considered heavily during the renovation and restoration of the site. Le Monastère des Augustines repurposed existing buildings and re-used existing or local materials and furnishings when possible. They also installed geothermal heating and air-conditioning systems, high-performance windows, and low energy lighting.
To keep a sense of calm and relaxation throughout the property, use of electronic devices is discouraged in public areas. WIFI is available everywhere, though, and they ask that you limit electronic use to inside of your room or in the community room. Also, please be mindful of any potentially disruptive noises, especially during quiet hours between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. Keeping with this theme, there are no TV’s in the guest rooms and if you wish, you may check your electronic devices in at the front desk to have a truly unplugged stay. All of this may sound a bit harsh and restrictive, but honestly, we found it refreshing. It gave us pause and incentive to take a step back from being constantly connected, and it allowed us to enjoy the quietness that is so often missing from our lives.
Le Monastère des Augustines Location
Le Monastère des Augustines is tucked away in a quiet corner of Quebec City within the walls of Old Town, but it is still close to all the action and the sights. The location really gives you the best of both worlds. The back entrance of the hotel is a block away from Rue Saint-Jean and a short walk to Quartier Petit Champlain.
We spent three nights here and we really enjoyed our location. Micah and I ended up walking all over the city—Saint-Roch, Vieux-Quebec: Haute-Ville (Upper Town) and Basse-Ville (Lower Town), Parliament Hill, Saint-Jean and more. We loved walking around town, but some of the giant hills we encountered were brutal, especially with the icy winter streets. Thankfully, Uber and taxis are easy enough to use throughout town, as well.
All of the rooms at Le Monastère des Augustines are located in the restored former cloister, and there are two types of rooms: contemporary and authentic. The authentic rooms are former “cells” that reflect how the nuns used to live. They have shared bathrooms, antique furniture, and have been updated for modern comfort standards. We didn’t get a chance to look inside one of the authentic rooms, but there is a replica of how the rooms looked when the area used to house the sisters.
The contemporary rooms focus on a simple and fresh design, while incorporating elements from the building’s history. Each of these rooms also include a private bathroom.
We stayed in one of the contemporary rooms, but no matter which type of room you choose, both offer comfort and simplicity. You will be welcomed with a clean design, large windows, and natural fiber bedding and towels. With purpose, there are no TV’s or alarm clocks in the room, which provides a quiet space with no distractions. We slept so well in our extremely comfortable bed, and the relaxed environment really took it to another level.
There are several common areas throughout the hotel, too, and there is also a communications room where you will find phones, computers and a printer.
On-Site Restaurant and Cafe
The hotel offers meals as either an a la carte option or an all-inclusive package. Le Monastère des Augustines concentrates on serving a natural, organic, and local (when possible) menu, and they strive to focus on mindful eating. They have both a restaurant and a quick service café that are open to both guests and the public.
We wanted to explore the cuisine in Quebec City, so we opted out of the hotel’s all-inclusive option. I heard great reviews of the lunch and dinner options for the onsite restaurant, but unfortunately, we didn’t make it in to check out either one. Breakfast was included with our room rate though, so we did pop in for a bite to eat in the mornings. One unique aspect of breakfast at Le Monastère des Augustines? It is observed in silence as a morning ritual just as the Augustinian Nuns have done throughout the site’s history. We were welcomed to a quiet room with soft music playing, as well as a buffet filled with fruits, yogurts, granola, bread, jams, fresh fruit juices, teas and so much more. It was a delicious and peaceful way to start our day.
We also stopped into the boutique a couple of evenings for a quick snack. A few of the items that made the cut were a pasta salad, a chocolate fudge bar, and tea.
Museum, Chapel, and Gardens
Inside the onsite museum, visitors will find almost four centuries of history. It showcases the way of life for the sisters in the community and displays information on the work caring for the sick. There are a large number of objects and artifacts from all 12 of the monastery’s hospitals on display in the museum. The primary mission of the museum is to preserve the cultural heritage of the Augustinian Sisters so future generations can observe their way of life and learn from them.
All guests of the hotel receive free admission to the museum and guided tours for $5. Admission for non-hotel adult guests is $10.50 and guided tours are $15.
There is also a chapel on site. We didn’t attend any services in the church, but we did hear the choir singing lovely melodies on Sunday morning. We poked our heads inside the chapel one quiet afternoon, and we thought it was quite beautiful.
Another perk of the hotel is the vast garden located outside throughout the grounds. From what we could tell, the garden looks beautiful in the summer full of greenery and flowers. But, during our visit, the temperatures were quite frigid. After walking miles and miles around the city, we didn’t spend time exploring the outside grounds of the hotel, but when the weather warms up it would be a wonderful spot to relax, indeed.
Wellness Programs and Services
Le Monastère des Augustines focuses on total health and a holistic approach. They concentrate on all levels of health: emotional, spiritual, mental and physical. There are a large variety of wellness courses and lectures offered on-site. You can find everything from yoga to concerts to meditation and more. Some of the programs offered are scheduled out on monthly and yearly calendars—the programs could be a series or an individual session.
There are also three programs offered on a daily basis: a meditation walk series, a vitality series, and a revitalize series. Some of the all-inclusive accommodation packages include these daily activities, but all guests can register for individual classes for a small fee.
In addition to courses and activities, there is also an onsite spa that offers a wide range of services such as holistic health consultations, nutrition consultations, massages, and more.
Unfortunately, we didn’t participate in any of the classes or activities due to a lack of time, but we did manage to squeeze in a massage one afternoon. We were taking a break from the chilly weather outside and decided to ask the front desk if there were any openings for an afternoon massage. And what do you know…we were in luck! There were two spots open, so we decided to snatch them right up. We were advised to don the robes in our rooms and head to the designated meeting point. After meeting our masseuses, we ventured to the massage rooms and prepared for one of the most relaxing hours we have had in a long time. Micah thought his massage was good, but I must have hit the jackpot because it was one of the best massages I’ve had to date. The room was beautifully simple with a giant window, delicious essential oils hung in the air, soft music played in the background and a talented masseuse worked magic on my sore back and body.
Even though we didn’t fully participate in all the wellness opportunities at Le Monastère des Augustines I left with a renewed sense of calm. I forgot how much I relished a relaxed silence and have since been trying to incorporate it into my daily routine. A January stay here was the perfect way to kick off 2019, and the best way to unwind after a crazy, non-stop 2018.