“If you like “wellness travel,” you’ll want to book a personal or girls’ getaway to Le Monastère Des Augustines, located in the historic wings of the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec monastery. I had an opportunity to visit this 17th century cloister during the Women In Travel Summit (WITS18) in Quebec City in early May.
Women of Head and Heart
The monastery, which offers retreat packages and holistic health programs, follows in the heritage of the Augustinian Sisters who devoted themselves to caring for the body and soul. The Sisters founded the first hospital in Quebec City.
Tourisme Manager Marie-Eve Perron told us about the Augustine Sisters as we toured the monastery’s museum. “The Augustine Sisters arrived in 1639. This was their home. They cared for the sick and were always dedicated to healing,” said Marie-Eve. “While there were 250 sisters in 1950, today there are only 10 to 12 sisters here. They gave all their artifacts to Quebec City and many volunteers helped curate the materials for display,”
A Sacred Place To Stay
In the back of the restored building is the lodging, where the focus is on enjoying peace and quiet. The stairway leading up to the rooms dates back to 1757. There are just 64 rooms – half are authentic cells where the sisters lived. The furniture is from the 19th century – it’s like staying in a museum. There are single beds in the rooms and bathrooms are shared. The rooms are very reasonably priced from $84 – $104 per person double occupancy.
There are no televisions and they offer sleeping bags for mobile devices. Mindfulness is a priority, as is letting go of technology.
There are contemporary rooms available for sharing too — with two beds and a private bath. These rooms are more modern but still simple. There is purposefully nothing on the walls to capture the attention.
Daily activity classes feature yoga, meditation and tai chi. In addition, the monastery hosts 100 special programs each year, including concerts and retreats. (Note: The prayers and singing are about well-being not religious offerings.)
To support their social mission, the monastery welcomes family caregivers and offers low-cost accommodations for families of the sick. Compassionate meditation retreats are provided as well for medical students, as a place to take care of themselves.
The Role of Food and Nutrition
Food and nutrition play a big part in the wellness program at the monastery. Lunch is the heaviest meal and light dinners are on the early side to facilitate better digestion.
Just as the Sisters took their meals in silence until 2012, guests are encouraged to take their breakfast in silence, to go inward in the morning. “To the sisters a balanced life is a balance of action and contemplation,” said Marie-Eve.
Our group was so impressed with the restaurant that we stayed for lunch. It was very reasonably priced and included a delicious salad bar, entree course, wholesome dessert along with a selection of unique herbal teas. They allow outside guests but you need to make reservations. I would definitely go back to the monastery for lunch. It was so good, so good, so good.
Time For Yoga and Meditation
Before dining on a healthy meal, we had a yoga class in the downstairs vault. It’s part of the museum and the place where soldiers were hidden during the war.
Our instructor Marjolaine led us in a restorative yoga class as she talked about healing the body and soul. I found the rhythm of my breath and quickly calmed down.
♥ “Yoga is about mindful conscious movement,” said Marjolaine. “Bring more presence in your movement.”
♥ “Yoga is about breathing,” added Marjolaine. “Breathing consciously can have a profound effect on our body.”
♥ Marjolaine spoke about mindful eating: “In what state of mind do I eat?” she asked. “Same when I prepare. What do I put in my body?”
♥ She prompted us on positive thinking, such as “What sound track do we put into our system?”
♥ She talked about the importance of relaxation and how to trigger the breaks we need to relax — including yoga and meditation.
“Meditation is concentration or focus on our breath. When we stop and meditate it’s like brushing our brains. Make brushing your brain become as important as brushing your teeth. Brush your teeth for 2 minutes and brush your brain for 2 minutes,” said Marjolaine. “Be in the present moment. The more we practice meditation the more we can see our thoughts and nourish the good ones and let the bad ones go.”
Marjolaine gave us a relaxation breath to practice 3x each day: You inhale through the nose to a count of 5 and exhale through the nose to a count of 5. You do this breath 6 times in a minute.
“If you practice this breath for 3x each day you will see benefits,” urged Marjolaine.
“We have a fantastic pharmacy within us. And breathing is part of that.”
Try this breath and LMK if it works for you.
Are you ready to book a retreat to Le Monastère Des Augustines? This boomer girl definitely wants to go back.