It may feel like we've landed in western Europe, but civilization lies close at hand in the form of Auberge Saint-Antoine, a boutique hideaway on a stretch of Québec City’s Old Port.
As we drag our luggage through inches of snow, the hotel porter rushes over to lend a hand and kindly agrees to store for us until check-in. In the lobby, a cozy couch faces a lit fireplace, inviting us to take a seat away from the cold. Flicking through the magazines stacked on the coffee table, I breathe a sigh of relief at the prospect of relaxation for the next four days.
Cynthia, Auberge's Director of Sales offers to take us on a tour. Leading the way, she rhapsodizes about the heaps of history that sets this hotel apart, especially from less traditional lodgings in the city. Flashback 300 years and you'll find a wharf, soon after, a cannon battery, and then — one of North America’s biggest and busiest seaports. After being purchased by the Price family in 1993, the Îlot Hunt property was given a makeover 10 years later and comprises three sites in the city's Old Port: the Hunt House (drawn in 1760), the Old Maritime Warehouse (dating back to 1822), and the new site which connects both historical buildings.
Throughout the hotel, 95 rooms and suites display original artifacts discovered during an archaeological dig when the hotel was first constructed — many of which date back to the 1600s. Among them, glass tableware and lamps from 1880-1925, monetary pieces, and the 'Petit Canon', which you can see for yourself in the hotel bar, Artéfact.
Several rooms also make chic statements with details like rustic brick walls and one-off furnishings handpicked by the two of the hotel's owners, Martha and Lucy Price (mother and daughter), along with homely touches like decorative pillows and woolen throws.
Book ahead to snag the Suite Jardin (priced between $600 to $980 per night plus tax, depending on the season). Located in the Hunt House, the suite is a contrast of modern splendor and antiquated grandeur. Soak in the clawfoot tub while admiring the 18th-century decor, original paneled floors, and exposed wood beams. Downstairs, get comfy with a classic book by the fire while taking in the floor-to-ceiling views of Old Québec.
Le Coup de Foudre
Our Luxe King Bedded Room displays the La Chambre de Rubis (ruby chamber) artifact. Following the hotel porter in, we're truly lost for words at its beauty. Equipped with a cozy fireplace, colorful couch and luxury bathroom with double sinks, the room has the most charming arch window, which behind the mound of snow, looks onto the stunning St. Lawrence River.
On the countertop, a card expressing the Auberge's gratitude for having us stay, beside a box of freshly baked assorted sponges. Twisting the cork from a bottle of L'Or de l'Isle-aux-Coudres (a local pear cider) we raise our glasses to a beautiful start to our time in Québec City. Something tells me this will be a vacation to remember.
Dine in the hotel's farmhouse-inspired restaurant, Chez Muffy (a top choice among locals, open to the public as well as hotel guests) and dig into dishes like Pan Seared Duck Foie Gras with Apple Jam and Caramelized Peanuts, or Striped Bass with Wild Rice, Butternut Squash, and Green Alder Pepper Milk Froth. After indulging on savoury, guests can choose from a large dessert menu, with favorites including the Crispy Apple Galette with cream cheese ice cream, and Mont-Blanc with Chestnut Mousse, Seabuckthorn Confit, and Sorbet.
Dining is serious business here, largely thanks to Executive Chef, Julien Ouellet, a graduate of l’École hôtelière de la Capitale and former Chef de Partie at the renowned West Restaurant in Vancouver. Ouellet is passionate about using local, seasonal ingredients from the hotel's farm on l'île d'Orléans to create gastronomic excellence. Expect a menu full of twists on classical French and Canadian cuisine along with a wide selection of wine to please any pallet.
Fancy branching out of Old Town? Hail a cab to nearby neighborhood Saint-Roch to sample a selection of small plates at L'affaire Est Ketchup. Try the Pétoncles ët Boudin (scallops), Longe de Porc (pork loin), or for vegetarians, the Risotto et Pieuvre (pepper risotto).
Later, mingle with locals at one of EnRoute’s 'Best New Restaurants in Canada', Kraken Cru. While its food takes inspiration from Canada's east coast raw bars, its nighttime vibe is rather more 'tequila, lemon, salt' than fine wines and bubbles at the bar. Thankfully, after a night of sophisticated dining, that fit the bill just fine. Just be warned that reservations aren't taken.
Witness first-hand a tradition highly-valued by the people of Québec: ice fishing. In the winter months, inflatable igloos spring up around the Louise Basin, which transforms into 'Village Nordik' from January to March. And if picking live trout off a rod isn't your style, pass the time toasting marshmallows and warming up at a nearby fire pit.
Spend your afternoon browsing the racks of Rue St. Paul, chock-full of little antique stores filled with treasures from a past life. Fulfill your old-world wishlist at Antiquities Bolduc, where you'll find an inventory of 609 antiques, from mirrored chests and film cameras to collectible toy cars and cameo pendant brooches, before unwinding with a cocktail at the bar of Québec's most photographed building, the beautiful Château Frontenac.
The Auberge Saint-Antoine is happy to accommodate any requests or questions prior to, during, and following your hotel stay in Québec City. For more information, visit their website.