Stepping Back In Time in Quebec City
When most people think of Quebec City, they inevitably picture the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac. From its lofty vantage point overlooking Quebec’s Old Quarter, it has become an icon of Quebec City. But just down the hill, in the heart of Vieux Quebec – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is the Auberge Saint-Antoine, one of the best-kept secrets in the country.
Located in the oldest section of Quebec City, the Auberge Saint-Antoine is integral to the history of Quebec City. The hotel integrates three historic buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, plus a wharf and battery structure that date back to the end of the 17th centuries. A modern lobby and reception area links these very distinct buildings together, and even in this elegant space, care has been taken to ensure the lobby and bar don’t look out of context.
To that end, the lobby incorporates earthen walls designed to look like the whitewashed walls of old. Reclaimed wood in the form of massive pilings has been added as accents to the main Reception and Concierge desks. And throughout the lobby, designers have strove to ensure a connection with the world outside, through wooden accents on furniture, lighting pieces designed to mimic tree branches, and ample wood and stone elements that are seamlessly integrated into the floors.
You’re also likely to notice the historic artifacts that have been placed throughout the hotel in backlight, lightbox-style enclosures inserted into the walls. These artifacts were recovered from the very grounds that the Auberge stands on, with ten different digs occurring over a ten-year timespan. Everything from bottles to cutlery to eyeglasses was recovered from the site, and is now on display in the hotel, making it something of a living monument to the people that had come before us.
Out of 5,000 artifacts unearthed from the property on and surrounding the Auberge Saint-Antoine, over 700 are currently on-display in the hotel. Together with the hotel’s spectacular design, these artifacts create a sense of place that is missing from many modern, more nondescript hotels.
This individuality applies to the other rooms in the Auberge as well. No two rooms are alike, and each boasts its own unique archeological artifact, along with a description about what it is, and where it came from.
The 95 guest rooms and suite feature all the luxurious touches you’d expect from a hotel affiliated with the prestigious Relais & Chateaux group, and the Auberge delivers, with rooms offering Bose sound systems, luxurious beds, plush robes and luxury bath amenities, electronic toilets, and even heated flooring and no-fog mirrors in the vast majority of rooms.
For three nights, I occupied one of the beautiful suites in Maison Hunt (or Hunt House in English) – one of the oldest sections of the property. There are only six suites here, and though they might lack heated flooring and mirrors, nothing beats the coziness of these unique suites.
My room – 325 – was one such suite. With its exposed beams and elegant wall-mounted accent lights, this suite only got cozier by the day. The weather in Quebec was chilly during my stay, with high winds and rain that lashed the French windows. Fortunately, my suite had a gas fireplace that heated the sitting area and the bedroom nicely. Coupled with a Diana Krall CD playing on the in-suite Bose sound system, it didn’t take long for me to become so relaxed that I didn’t want to leave.
The only thing I found even remotely annoying about my room were the “night lights” placed underneath the two bedside tables. Motion-activated, they would turn on when you swung your legs out over the bed, or when you walked in front of them when the room’s lights were turned off. Unfortunately, they bathed the room in harsh, fluorescent light that had a tendency to startle rather than soothe. Fortunately, they were easily remedied by reaching under the table and simply unplugging them.