Home' Get Up and Go : Summer 2014 Contents YOU WISH – QUEBEC CITY CANADA
Sitting cross-legged on the
floor in an alcove of Cafe-Bar
Artefact I’m mentally making
home decorating notes. Brightly
coloured plump cushions are scattered
around, soft throws casually drape
the lounges and flames flicker in
the fireplace. The mellow live music
drifting from the lounge matches my
mood as I sip on the house speciality
Panache Kir made with Chambord
liqueur, sparkling wine, sour cherry
eau de vie and maple syrup. Although
Quebec City’s Auberge Saint-Antoine
is the ultimate in chic, it’s far more
than a 5 star boutique hotel with
a string of awards. With a 400 year
history, it’s also an archaeological site,
museum, art gallery and above all it
feels like ‘coming home’.
the highly respected
Quebecois Price family purchased a
series of derelict historical buildings
in 1988 they ignored local scepticism
and set about building their dream
hotel. Soon after excavation began,
the site became a treasure trove of
rare artefacts spanning four centuries
of the city. Recognised as a find of
mammoth proportions, the Prices
happily delayed construction plans
for several years collaborating with
archaeologists to unearth and preserve
5000 pieces including French glass
flasks, brass lock escutcheons, snuff
bottles, porcelain, coins and cannon
balls. In 1992 the Saint-Antoine
opened with 23 guest rooms and a
further 72 rooms by 2003.
Today more than 700 artefacts are
lovingly displayed in glass cabinets
throughout the hotel. Arranged
according to object, colouration or
era, the lighting within each cabinet
changes regularly from soft pinks
through to vibrant blues giving a
different perspective to the pieces.
It’s difficult to pass by any cabinet
without becoming engrossed. Who
smoked the decorative three-headed
clay pipe? How did the owner of the
layered leather soled shoes walk in the
snow? What lay behind the door the
big iron key opened?
With names such as: Secrets,
Dreams, Amber, Autumn Colours
and Mother Goose, each guest room
is also designed around an artefact.
The precious fragment sits proudly
in a small glass box to fit in with the
style of the room and a replica is on
the outside beside the room number.
Named after a pressed glass dish, my
boudoir, the Amethyst Room has all
the expected luxuries and is also full
of surprising ‘cocoon like’ intimate
spaces. The piece de resistance is
stepping through the arched French
doors onto a balcony with views of
both the St Lawrence River and the
skyline of this chocolate box UNESCO
listed village. Blending the outside
with the in, the old with the new is
the signature of this beautiful hotel.
Nowhere is this more spectacular than
the Panache restaurant.
Exposed beams, stone walls, central
fireplace – Panache, like everything
else, has been restored with style.
Light streams through the French
windows overlooking the river, a
pretty wrought iron staircase winds up
to the mezzanine floor and the plush
dining chairs are made for lingering.
With impeccable service, ingredients
from local producers and their own
garden on the nearby idyllic Ile
d’Orleans, the menu is seasonal and
highly creative. After delicacies such
as French toast with apple butter and
poached pears for breakfast, the finest
foie gras with grapes for lunch and
baked halibut with lentils and orange
sauce for dinner, it’s lucky ‘Le Gym’
Leaving Saint-Antoine is difficult.
Clutching the parting ‘surprise’ bag of
home made cookies and sweets I envy
a small group of friends checking in.
Seeing the excitement on their faces as
the desk staff welcomes them ‘home’,
I know exactly how they are feeling. •
Author Jocelyn Pride was a guest of
Canadian Tourist Commission.
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