Savouring silence in Quebec

Retired or not, life can be super hectic. Many of us dream of running away from home to a place of peace and quiet reflection. I know I do.

So, guess what? This is emerging as one of the strongest trends in tourism. and the good news is that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to experience such a retreat.

Here in Quebec City I have enjoyed the privilege of an insider’s tour of Le Monastere des Augustines. This amazing complex includes a 17th century monastery, church and hospital, as well as a modern museum, restaurant and refurbished accommodation for guests escaping the noise and drama of everyday life.

My guide is Edith Caron, the Business Development Director of the Monastere. I am also welcomed by Sister Sarah, who shows me what happens behind the scenes in the order.

One of the most important projects is the deification of Marie-Catherine de Saint-Augustin one of the founders, venerated for her good works and acts of mercy. Not only are her relics on show, but also the positio – a copy of the document sent to Pope John Paul II in Rome to start the process of making Marie-Catherine a saint.

The fascinating museum artefacts tell the story of the three French nuns who in 1639 travelled for 10 weeks to Quebec City to establish a hospital, and the good works this order has done ever since.

You really do need to spend some time here to appreciate this order and its support of the locals. The First Nations People called Marie-Catherine Iakonikonriiostha – ‘she who beautifies the soul’, an indication of the regard in which she was held.

Those who wish to stay here can do so in one of two levels of accommodation. The ‘authentic’ rooms are faithful to the rooms in which the nuns lived, worked and prayed. They are simple, and have no bathrooms, so visitors must be prepared to share these facilities. That said they are charming and when I come back, this is the room I will choose.

The accommodation on the higher floor is refurbished and all rooms have their own ensuites. They are also simple, but slightly larger and self-sufficient. Both floors have wide corridors and breakout spaces for guests to enjoy the peace.

The atmosphere at the monastery is magic; silent, soothing and rejuvenating. Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be enjoyed on a terrace overlooking fragrant herbal gardens or in the restaurant. The food is organic and totally delicious.

And the price? The simple ‘cell’ style room is available from CAD$84 per person, per night. Wellness, yoga and spiritual programs, can be booked on an individual basis.

So, next time you do consider running away from home, remember that there is somewhere very special, albeit on the other side of the world, where you can find a safe haven.

How did we reach Quebec City?

Getting to Quebec is easy or difficult, depending upon your starting point. Montreal has a huge international airport, so many flights are routed via there, which can mean expensive airfares if you’re flying on to Quebec City. There is also a bus or train option from Montreal, both about three hours, and both will deliver you to the charming railway station in the old town of Quebec City.

If, like me, you still enjoy testing out your school boy/school girl French, then you are in for a treat in Quebec, where French is the official language. And unlike the experience in Paris where, even though your intentions are pure, some locals will sneer as you mangle their language, in Quebec the locals are friendly and helpful. So, don’t forget to give your bonjour and ca va a strong workout as you stroll the picturesque streets – you are sure to be rewarded for your efforts.

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Written by Kaye Fallick