To be clear, wellness tourism does not have to mean spending $5000 American dollars to sit in silence with strangers, drink clay and eat organic foods; I can just go to Portland for that…shout out Portland!
Wellness tourism is a travel experience that puts you in a state of receptivity.
Unfortunately in our daily lives we aren’t always able to sustain that feeling of openness unless you are Ghandi, Oprah or high. Wellness travel can start with the intention to unwind, experience a new culture, gain perspective on your life, or get away from the familiar. Travel reminds us that the world is way bigger than the 9 to 5, Starbucks latte, or weekend visits with the fam. It’s a way to check in with yourself and make space so whatever is coming your way can enter your atmosphere.
While trying to book a last minute hotel after deciding we would have to make the almost three hour drive from Montreal to Quebec City in hopes of running into Celine Dion, the greatest singer in the world, we found this gem just hanging out on the inter web waiting for us to book it. We had previously decided we would exchange our fall foliage road trip to Vermont for Montreal since we don’t ski, had visited all the covered bridges we could find, and pretty much saw every orange tree there was. Even though we don’t speak an ounce of French we thought sure why not onwards to French Canadia!
The hotel integrates the 17th-century European-style architecture with the contemporary experience both inside and out. A blend of culture, heritage and holistic health, the hotel converted the Augustinian Sisters’ former “cells” into 65 redesigned guest rooms.
This incredible monastery turned hotel is the manifestation of three young French nun’s who came to Quebec in 1639 with the dream and purpose of devoting themselves to the care of body and soul. The new developers, a non-profit organization wished to eternalize the nuns’ concept in this hotel and museum. These three woman founded the healthcare system in North America opening the first hospital just North of Mexico, founded 12 monastery hospitals managing them as nurses and pharmacists while also laying the groundwork and foundations of Quebec’s modern health care system. It’s likely you will see a sister or two walking around the hotel which is still connected to the building’s Saint-Augustin wing where they live and the Museum which they run.
As a non religious but highly spiritual person who was traveling with a religious Catholic it was an incredibly experience for both of us. The monastery is a space where one does not take priority over the other and religion and spirituality can co-exist peacefully. Even finding your way to your room was a spiritual experience.
The sensitive redesign of this monastery kept some of Augustinian sisters heritage while still making the design comfortable for people from all walks of life and faiths. Many hallways and corridors housed the original religious statues that were present in the 400 year old monastery recalling the time when Nuns roamed the halls instead of spiritual seeking travelers.
After staying here I was ready to join the convent and clearly I missed my calling because now I just write blog posts.
When booking you have the option to stay in one of thirty-three rooms redesigned with the spirit of monasticism. The rooms have been restored in a sacred way consistent of that which you would experience as a member of the monastery. The rooms are more than affordable at around $84 dollars a night depending on single or double occupancy. You’ll have access to a sink and mirror, utilizing a shared hall bathroom and basking in the light from those gorgeous windows! What I noticed about these rooms were the smaller size of the doors and how guests had to bend their heads slightly to get in the room. What a beautiful way to enter a sacred space-bowing with gratitude.
We stayed in a contemporary room due to the availability of the time of year we went but did not miss out on any sacred experience. The contemporary rooms include a King or Queen bed with a full private bathroom in your room. A small workspace sits opposite of the bed and the restored windows still highlight the beauty of this old special building. The cost for this type of room was just slightly higher than the Authentic rooms around $104 which was worth every holistic penny.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
The Vitality breakfast served from 7:00a.m.-9:30a.m. was a natural, locally grown and mostly plant-based diet. Guests attending breakfast were invited to observe silence and contemplation following a century old ritual meant to savor the present moment. What a gift the silence was.
We usually were out exploring this gorgeous city throughout the day and into the night so we missed lunch and dinner however the Monastic Hotel offered a variety of healthy choices:
- Self-serve counter with salads, fruits and vegetables, sprouts, nuts, grains and other choices
- Lunch and dinner menus with a variety of choices
- Healthy infusions — hot or cold and caffeine free — inspired by the Augustinian Sisters. Definitely try the Canadian Kombucha.
- Yes there is booze-Wine and beer, a selection of local products, organic and biodynamic
They also offer personalized consultations in healthy eating to help guide your choices during your stay. You really can’t go wrong with anything here though as everything is made with the utmost thought and care. As we all know eating is as sacred an experience as you can get.
A wellness travel experience can come from where you are, what you do or what you don’t do.
In the spirit of wellness the Monastery offers a variety of wellness programs. Morning practice, meditation, yoga, massage, walk, relaxation etc. are just some of the offerings they provide. We weren’t able to participate in any of the wellness programs since we were there for only two days but I can say for sure that this wellness hotel is not like others. It is not a self-congratulatory wellness experience where you attend to remind yourself how holistic you are and the peace and serenity gained are like the spoils you’ve won from the spiritual war you fight everyday in your normal life. This is a sacred giving space where these women who valued the spirit, mind and body and were so deeply connected to their own divinity were able to nurture and heal those most in need. The energy of their giving and generosity flows through these walls even though only 100 hundred of the once 800 sisters remain, seven of which were working with the Augustinian Museum and Hospital next door.
The Museum and Archives
The history of the sisters is still directly connected to the hotel in spirit and through the actual museum. The Museum hosts a permanent exhibit The Augustinian Sisters: Healing Body and Soul demonstrating the 400 year old principles the sisters held sacred. Learn about the community’s way of life, their work caring for the sick, and how they balanced their traditional vocations for action and contemplation. Admission is free when staying at the hotel and even if you are not a museum goer I would highly recommend this experience.
During our visit we had the pleasure of running into one of the sisters who spoke both French and English and could be seen in many of the museums archive videos. What I found most profound was a statement from on of the original Augustinian sisters about the modernization of healthcare, a sentiment I deeply agree with in my own life and the healing of those around me…
“Soon, A diploma will be needed….In the evening of December 31, 1899, she watches over a child whose fever has finally broken and thinks about the new century. Like the other sisters, she has great hopes for advances that will save lives. And yet she worries about the future. They say that soon you will need a diploma to read the sick, that this diploma will be more important than experience when judging the competence of a nurse. She wonders if acquiring this new knowledge will leave her time to ensure that her patient are not.”
They were not only pioneers in healthcare but were also healers that used many of the homeopathic and natural remedies myself and my family grew up using.
Aside from the beauty emanating from this hotel the location is perfectly situated in the heart of Old Quebec or rather Old Quebec is built around this monastery. Old Quebec surprisingly has a ton of young folk who attend the local universities nearby making this a destination not just for the history lover but also a place that is young and thriving with modern culture.
Old Quebec is completely walkable so bring comfy shoes and make sure you meander your way into one of the many restaurants suggestively built to lure tourists in to enjoy some of the many takes on old and modern French Canadian Cuisine. What is truly unique about this city is the cooperation of old and new, young and old, with a spirit that honors both the past and future.
Living holistically sometimes causes us to seek out our own connection in a self oriented way. The gift I gained from spending time here was seeing what true spirituality can look like when you are living aligned with your divinity where giving and healing to those around you becomes tantamount. You might come here to relax and gain peace which you undoubtedly will but you will leave more receptive and looking for opportunities of giving in your own life.
Stay here if you can, take the moment for yourself then come back ready to give to others.