Quebec: The Place So Nice, We Went There Twice

Overlooking Old Quebec in October, with Crystal Cruises' Crystal Symphony in the background. We're headed back there this week, on a "land cruise" through Montreal and Quebec City. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Overlooking Old Quebec in October, with Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Symphony in the background. We’re headed back there this week, on a “land cruise” through Montreal and Quebec City. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

If you’ve read this blog for longer than half a second, you’ll know that it takes a lot for me to go on a non-cruise trip. In the past, I’ve done a handful of “land cruises” when the opportunity has come up, including a visit to the Canadian Maritimes in 2013 and a trip to check out all that families could do in Miami, Florida that same year.

Now, just a few weeks away from my adventures in Myanmar, I’ve managed to squeeze in another trip to Quebec – known as La Belle Province. It’s rather remarkable, because I was just here three weeks ago, to tour Silversea Cruises’ ultra-luxurious Silver Whisper in port in Quebec City.

Despite being Canadian, I had never been to Quebec City, and it made an enormous impression on me. Now, I’m heading back.

My short five-day trip will take me first to Montreal, and the elegant Ritz-Carlton Montreal. From there, I’ll hop into a rental car and drive to Quebec City for a three-night stay at the historic and luxurious Auberge Saint-Antoine.

The Ritz-Carlton Montreal, built in 1912, was the first Ritz-branded property in North America. Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton.

The Ritz-Carlton Montreal, built in 1912, was the first Ritz-branded property in North America. Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton.

Really, I’m here to take photographs and gather information for a feature on romance in both cities; romantic ideas for Valentines Day. It seems a long way away, but in terms of print deadlines, it’s actually critical to gather the information and take the photos now. I wasn’t really going to even blog about it, but I decided – what the heck. Both hotels would make excellent pre-and-post-cruise properties for the numerous Canada and New England sailings that wind their way through here each fall, and let’s face it: romance in these destinations knows no bounds.

You also don’t need a good excuse to stay at either hotel – both of which were recently ranked as among the very best in Canada.

The Ritz-Carlton Montreal opens up to reveal a world of opulence inside. Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton.

The Ritz-Carlton Montreal opens up to reveal a world of opulence inside. Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton.

The Ritz-Carlton Montreal sits at the corner of Sherbrooke and Drummond in Montreal, just steps from McGill University and within easy reach of Old Montreal. Built in 1912, it was the first hotel in North America to bear the “Ritz-Carlton” name.

The only AAA Five Diamond hotel in Quebec, the Ritz-Carlton is home to Maison Boulud, the hotel’s upscale on-site restaurant that offers up a refreshing twist on French cuisine. Headed up by 3-Michelin star Chef Daniel Boulud, dishes are designed to honour the fine culinary heritage of France and Quebec, but with a focus on utilising local produce and artisanal Quebecois products.

The Ritz-Carlton also offers twice-daily High Tea, a dedicated bar and lounge with fine wines, cocktails and champagnes, and even boasts Canada’s first Dom Perignon Bar.

Quebec City's Auberge Saint-Antoine opened combines three buildings dating back to the 17th century. Photo courtesy of Auberge Saint-Antoine.

Quebec City’s Auberge Saint-Antoine opened combines three buildings dating back to the 17th century. Photo courtesy of Auberge Saint-Antoine.

If the Ritz-Carlton Montreal symbolizes the grace and elegance of the time period Mark Twain once called, “the gilded age”, Quebec City’s Auberge Saint-Antoine embodies the very atmosphere of Vieux Quebec – and offers a modern look into this historic North American city’s colonial past.

Built in 1992, the Auberge features 83 rooms and 12 suites located within three separate buildings dating back to the 18th century, and also incorporates a wharf and battery structure that dates back to the 17th century.

The surroundings may be historic, but the rooms are modern. Photo courtesy of Auberge Saint-Antoine.

The surroundings may be historic, but the rooms are modern. Photo courtesy of Auberge Saint-Antoine.

A Relais & Chateaux property, the Auberge is dedicated to preserving all that is important about Quebec City and Quebecois culture in general, all while providing an unparalleled luxury experience. Guest rooms feature luxury linens placed atop goose down duvets and pillows, Bose sound systems, toiletries from “We Live Like This”, bathrobes and slippers, and windows that actually open – a relative rarity in modern hotels.

During my visit to Quebec last month, I had the opportunity to dine at Panache Restaurant, one of two venues located on-site at the Auberge. Open every day for breakfast and dinner, and from Monday to Friday for lunch, Panache was a feast for the senses, with excellent food and surroundings that featured beautiful exposed wooden beams and stone walls. Panache is situated in a former 19th century warehouse that had been abandoned for decades prior to being purchased by Quebec’s famous Price family in 1990 for the hotel.

The cozy and intimate setting of Panache recalls Quebec City's historic past. Photo courtesy of Auberge Saint-Antoine.

The cozy and intimate setting of Panache recalls Quebec City’s historic past. Photo courtesy of Auberge Saint-Antoine.

In the short flashes that I saw of the hotel that night, I admired the way the past and present were both incorporated into the design of the entire property. Auberge is a modern hotel that puts its historic past on display, and the contrasts – stone walls with ancient masonwork and aged timber beams set alongside modern design furniture and soft accent lighting – are what make this hotel property fantastic. I can’t wait to spend three days here, exploring and soaking up all that the property and Quebec City have to offer.

We’ll have full photographic daily coverage here on From the Deck Chair, and on Twitter (@deckchairblog) and Instagram (deckchairblog). So come along with us as we discover Montreal and Quebec as fall changes to winter here in Canada!

Our Live Report from La Belle Province will continue tomorrow from Montreal and The Ritz-Carlton Montreal! Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.

 

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