Chill out from your hectic pace, regain some peace, and learn to breathe again in the oldest monastery in North America, outside of Mexico. Unwind among more than 375 years of history in the Monastère des Augustines within the walls of Quebec City.
Inscribed on the wall in the lobby, “On August 1, 1639, Marie Forester, Anne Le Cointre and Marie Guenet, three young Augustinian Sisters from France, contemplated this roughly cleared site and summoned up their courage. Neither hunger, nor cold, nor isolation would prevent them from establishing a haven here to heal the bodies and souls of an entire people.”
I stayed in one of the 33 “authentic” rooms (or cell as it was called when the sisters lived here) with original Augustinian furniture, a pedestal sink, and a simple wrought-iron bed (it was the best sleep I had in all of 2015). There are rooms with a single bed and a few with two beds. All are carefully designed to recreate the full historical experience of the Augustinian Sisters. Make sure you duck going in and out of your door, they were a lot shorter in the 17th Century.
Spend some time roaming the halls, it’s better than any art gallery I’ve been to lately, you’ll find more Augustinian furniture pieces and incredible artwork, with a few of the paintings dating back to the late 1600s. Don’t mind the leaning staircase, it adds to the charm of this place. It reminds me that no path in life is ever straight and easy.
Despite the sparse furnishings in the “cell” rooms, they are cozy and the bed is super comfortable. There are no TVs and guests can choose to leave their cellular phones at reception. I recommend bringing a good book, grabbing the hand-made quilt off your bed, and finding one of the common rooms to curl up in. If you don’t want to leave your room, there’s enough space to read on your extra wide window ledge.
In the “authentic” section of the hotel, you’ll find 6 shared washrooms (private toilet stalls), one side houses the private showers for the floor to share. The price depends on the season and the package you choose, right now it starts at $84CDN per night, per person, based on double occupancy. (That’s under $60 a night in USD!)
If sharing a washroom is not your thing and you want a little more modern space to rest in, they have 32 “contemporary” rooms with king and queen-sized beds and a private washroom with a bathtub. Currently, the price starts at $104CDN per night, per person, based on double occupancy. (approx $73USD right now)
This is the most affordable night’s stay in such a unique setting as you’ll find in Quebec City!
Make sure you take time to visit the museum directly attached to the hotel, it is included in your monastic stay. Pay the extra to take the guided tour – imagine what it would have been like to live life as a cloistered nun.
Join one of the yoga classes or meditation or other holistic health classes. Order a relaxing massage. After eating a healthy breakfast take a long walk within the walled city. Take your time and enjoy your stay.
I could feel a tangible sense of peace as I entered the hotel. As I walked the halls, contemplating the life of the first Augustinian Sisters who built this monastery in 1639 and the Sisters who gave of themselves from that point on, I was deeply moved. They left their families at such young ages to serve in an unknown territory, they cleared the land and built this building, and they built the first hospital on this continent north of Mexico which sits attached to the monastery. They served the aboriginal peoples and the few European settlers in New France with every ounce of themselves, without a selfish thought, until their dying days. The sacrifices they made for others… I found myself in tears. Overwhelmed with the remnants of their presence in that place. My time there got me thinking about my life; what I do for others, how I give of my time, talent and treasure… My stay there changed me.
Monastère des Augustines is known as a healing hotel, a haven of peace in the heart of the Old City.
I only stayed one night so it wasn’t enough time to experience everything the wellness hotel offers but I did manage to get in their “Silent” breakfast before checking out, it’s included in your stay. Yes, a delicious and extremely nutritious breakfast in silence, in keeping with the morning ritual the Sisters still to this day experience. For this mom of 4 very loud children, that was heaven on earth!
Keep your eyes open, you will see one of the Augustinian Sisters walking through the building. They may have moved out of the quarters in which the hotel is now housed, but they are still on the property, going about their duties and fulfilling their calling.
In founding 12 monastery hospitals, the Augustinian Sisters not only laid the foundations of Quebec’s modern healthcare system, but also actively participated in it: as the owners and managers of hospitals, and as nurses and pharmacists. They also contributed significantly to the economic development of the regions where they settled and worked with great devotion. ~ Augustines, La Fiducie du patrimoine culturel des Augustines.
My daughter, who wants to attend medical school when she graduates from high school in a couple of years, turns 16 in May. We were originally planning on a trip to New York City to celebrate but we’ve decided a pilgrimage to Quebec City would be a much better way to commemorate such a memorable year. Emma will be the age Sister Catherine de Longpré was when she arrived at the Monastery in 1648. Known as Catherine de Saint-Augustin, she was a nurse who oversaw one of the expansions of L’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, the first hospital on the continent north of Mexico. She was also considered to have co-founded the Catholic Church of Canada.
I’m looking forward to experiencing this again with her. Also… right now, the way our Canadian dollar is performing, we won’t be traveling to the US to vacation anytime soon. To all my American friends and family… this is a steal of a deal for a getaway with how strong your dollar is compared to ours. Spring break is just around the corner!! Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport is 15-20 minutes away, I took a cab to the hotel. Unless you plan on leaving the historic section of Quebec City to explore Sainte Anne de Beaupre Shrine or the Albert Gilles Copper Art & Museum (North America’s only copper artist), you may not need a car. Old Quebec is a UNESCO world heritage treasure, it’s also a walkable city and I’d recommend seeing it on foot as opposed to driving around looking for a parking spot.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Quebec Region, invited to enjoy the grand opening of the Holy Door at Notre-Dame de Québec Cathedral Basilica, the only Holy Door outside Europe. It should be experienced by all before the door closes for another 25 years in November 2016. All opinions are my own.