In 1639, three Augustinian sisters arrived in what's now Quebec to serve the health and wellness of the inhabiting French colony and people of the First Nations. In 1644, they established the continent's first hospital north of Mexico in Old Quebec (Hôtel-Dieu de Québec) and dedicated their lives and legacies to the foundation of Quebec's healthcare system. The sisters' work led to four centuries of care and the opening of 12 hospitals across the region. They were vocational nurses, pharmacists, and owners. Eventually, when they realized they could no longer sustain this work on their own, they passed on the Augustinian mission to the public.
travel to Old Quebec to experience heritage in a new way, at Le Monastère des Augustines
With clean lines and modern design hugging restored architecture, Le Monastère is a non-profit heritage site in the historic wing of the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec and a wellness sanctuary for travelers in need of a holistic getaway. While it no longer holds the religious aspect, it still embodies the values of the Augustinian sisters, and celebrates their leadership in medicine and welfare.
Brimming with calm and dotted with whispers of centuries-old tradition, Le Monastère des Augustines offers an inside look at this Augustinian history with an elaborate museum housing 40,000 artifacts, preserved design and structures, and guided tours and signage in both French and English.
Why I chose this Wellness Hotel for my trip to Old Quebec
Living with lupus nephritis, I often travel for wellness. That means I look for spas and spa hotels, wellness classes, outdoor activities, and slow itineraries. Knowing I would be in Old Quebec for the Women in Travel Summit, I was positive the full schedule would leave me feeling exhausted and rundown -- not something I want with lupus.
When I saw how centrally located Le Monastère des Augustines was (walking distance from the UNESCO site's best shopping streets, restaurants, and Fairmont le Château Frontenac), in addition to its wellness activities and sustainable practices, I knew it'd be the perfect getaway for me. With lupus, adequate rest and stress-free environments are key in health management and flare-up prevention. Embracing practices that guide mindful breath work and low-impact movement is one way I am able to continue traveling healthily with an autoimmune disease.
My Holistic Getaway in Old Quebec
You'll notice the expert fusing of modern elements with historic construction at Le Monastère. Lowering your head to enter your room without hitting threshold beams, in some ways you'll feel like you've traveled back in time. Yet, as you use your electronic key card to access reserved guest areas or shower in luxe facilities, you'll realize Le Monastère des Augustines is able to weave centuries of preserved history with todays comforts -- all while honoring sustainability.
From the geothermal heating and cooling system to their medicinal plants and signature teas, holistic wellness flows down the halls and accompanies thoughtfully arranged collections throughout the hotel.
Both contemporary and historical rooms are available to book for accommodations, so I chose to stay in their museum room: an authentic nun cell renovated to honor its origins with a modern twist. I was channeling my inner Sister Mary Clarence when I envisioned myself in this single room, winding down from each day's full itinerary.
Staying at a wellness hotel allows me to unplug and rejuvenate, but modern amenities are always a perk!
How Le Monastère des Augustines Helps you balance wellness with your daily schedule
Some wellness getaways completely strip you of your digital connection to the world. It sometimes feels forced and can prevent you from considering a wellness hotel for your trip. Le Monastère des Augustines creates a healthy balance, instead. Promoting the four pillars of health, they leave you with plenty of opportunity to feed your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health without pulling your arm.
Some of my favorite hotel features included:
- Mindful eating: Breakfast was served each morning in silence, and offered local organic food. I loved entering my day with calm and, within a day, felt inspired to even leave my cellphone in my room. The hotel's boutique shop also sells an assortment of sandwiches and healthy beverages -- perfect for offsetting my poutine binges (sorry, we are in Quebec after all!)
- Holistic wellness: Guests can choose to add activities to their booking, which includes awakening, vitality, and relaxation classes. Meditation, yoga, guided walks, and other teacher-led classes are announced on a schedule board at reception.
- Learning and exploration: The heritage of the monastery is available to all guests with a free museum that showcases art, artifacts, and medical and pharmaceutical objects from the 12 hospitals. There is also a beautiful church and choir.
What to know before you visit Le Monastère des Augustines
I am the type of traveler who visits new places for a mixture of learning, adventure, food, and wellness. If you want a true heritage feel during your visit, I suggest booking one of the authentic rooms, like I did. These rooms featured shared facilities, though had a number of bathrooms and showers to choose from. Linens, towels, soap, and a lush bathrobe were included.
When you visit Le Monastère des Augustines, you'll be able to unplug but still have access to internet as needed (thank the WiFi gods). Don't expect to see a television or phone in your room: hotel-wide WiFi and a communication room on the 4th floor is all the connectivity you'll see (other than connecting with your inner self, of course).
The aura of the monastery inspires you to put down your device. The spirit of the sisters encourages you to live a more balanced life. When you see everyone else disconnecting, you'll tend to do so as well. In fact, even as an entrepreneur, I found I only spent about one hour on my computer each day. I became quite efficient with my workload, anxious to return to tranquil unplugging.
How to get to Old Quebec City for a relaxation getaway
I flew into Old Quebec (YQB) from Laguardia Airport in NYC (LGA). I used Delta reward points for my departing flight (connection in Montreal; total cost $10) and returned on Air Canada using Chase Sapphire points (connecting in Toronto; total cost $130).
YQB Airport to Old Quebec:
From the YQB airport, you can get into Old Quebec via taxi for $34 CAD flat rate, credit cards accepted. Note: this rate doesn't include tips. Uber is also available at the airport and is slightly cheaper.
Ground Transportation in Old Quebec:
Buses and trains are available for travel to Old Quebec. I found Google Maps and Rome2Rio had the best information on ground transportation, but I ultimately decided to travel by plane, taxi, and on foot. Coming from NYC, I found the journey was too arduous to travel by bus or train and the cost difference, insignificant.
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