I recently spent two nights at the Monastère des Augustines, the fabulously restored 17th century monastery turned wellness hotel in Quebec City. I’d wanted to stay there since I first heard about it opening in August. The Monastère did not disappoint. It’s right in the old walled city, so guests can wander around and see old buildings and more old buildings, which is one of my favorite things to do. Here are 10 more excellent features of the Monastère.
The Augustinian nuns who first arrived in Quebec in 1639 had a long tradition of silent breakfast, except they had a novice nun reading religious texts while everybody else was silent. Nowadays, the server might whisper an inquiry about whether or not you want coffee. But other than that, blessed silence! Who needs to make conversation first thing in the morning?
I thought I’d faint when I saw coconut yogurt on the breakfast buffet. And both soy and rice milk. And lots of nuts and dried fruits as toppings. I also ate dinner there one night. They have a whole vegetarian salad bar, mostly of premade salads mixing vegetables and grains. For an entrée I ordered a house-made mung-bean burger. The chef even whipped up a special olive tapenade for me since the usual one has anchovies. Oh, and when you enter the restaurant, there’s the most massive refrigerator full of microgreens, which they change out every few days because they serve so many.
Antiques in my room
Instead of keeping all the nuns’ artifacts behind glass or in storage, the rooms incorporate old monastery furniture. I had an old wardrobe, nightstand and desk.
3 yoga opportunities per day
Three! Seven in the morning, noon and 5:30 in the evening. I went to the early morning session, which was just a little movement and a lot of meditation.
Guests can tour the onsite museum for free. I learned more about the history of this order of nuns, who are responsible for TWELVE hospitals in the province of Quebec. These were some smart, industrious and caring ladies.
I’ve always loved the Catholic tradition of relics. I got a chance to visit the chapel which the remaining nine nuns in residence still use. And there I saw relics of the Blessed Marie-Catherine of St. Augustine, the order’s most famous member. She’s already partway to sainthood, and perhaps Pope Francis will canonize her soon. The nuns are understandably proud of her. One of her femurs and some cervical bones are displayed in a relic case.
While the wellness center is a secular space, it’s decorated with lots of Catholic paintings and statues. Fun to browse the hallway art.
Idea of unplugging
Little signs all over encourage guests to unplug. The spotty Wi-Fi in the building also encourages unplugging. I made it about three minute. But it’s a really nice idea.
I met a couple of the nuns, who were lovely. At the monastery’s peak, 225 Augustinian nuns lived here. But the number of women entering religious life has nosedived since the 1960s. Sister Sarah McDonald, one of very few young women to enter the order in recent years, gave my little group an excellent tour of the chapel and told us about the life of Blessed Marie-Catherine. I liked the way she explained the spiritual path: “Each vocation starts with one little yes, and then becomes a plenitude.”
A caring place
The Monastère reserves seven of its 65 rooms for caregivers and people who accompany a loved one to the hospital next door. The Hotel Dieu hospital specializes in cancer and dialysis and serves many people in more remote areas of Quebec. The Monastère also offers free retreats for family caregivers to come and recharge. And that makes me love the place even more.