A night at the museum

CanWest News Service
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This Quebec City inn is decorated with its own artifacts

In 1600, the land on which Quebec City's Auberge Saint-Antoine now stands was submerged in water. Now, the charming 95-room hotel is bathed in chenille, awash with exposed wooden beams and soft lighting and brimming over with class - and the fluffiest goose down comforters.
General manager David Mounteer refers to the style of this sea of good feeling as "modern warm," and he's spot on. The hotel is clean and cozy, with comfortable couches, fireplace-warmed nooks, terrific food and drink and remarkable cultural relics in every corner. It makes for a great getaway -particularly if you want to vacation without leaving your hotel.
Auberge Saint-Antoine, which opened in 1992, is known as a "museum hotel," owing to the scores of artifacts unearthed during a major excavation of the storied property, which was once a wharf, gun battery and maritime warehouse. Instead of conventional art on the walls, there are more than 700 fossils of a not-so-distant civilization, including eyeglasses, earthenware dishes, reassembled serving platters, wine decanters and pieces of artillery. The artifacts, some of which date back to the 17th century, are grouped thematically and mounted in glass cases beautifully integrated with the red, gold, pink and green-tone interiors. The furnishings are equally detailed and interesting.
The rooms are divided into historical suites and more contemporary digs, with oversized bathrooms and flat-screen televisions. If you can score a room with a gas fireplace and terrace, all the better. Rooms range from $169 for a classic room to $1,499 for a top-tier suite. There are also plenty of semi-private, comfortable spaces - particularly Cafe Artifact just off the lobby, with its plush armchairs and throw cushion-covered couches.
Panache, the restaurant, has ancient stone walls and resembles a lovingly converted barn. A recent tasting menu - $95, plus $74 for generous wine pairings - included Champagne-glazed Atlantic oysters, pan-seared foie gras with chanterelle gnocchi and truffle-perfumed broth, duck a l'orange and local strawberries. Breakfast (I recommend the French toast with caramelized apples and grilled nuts for $14), lunch and a la carte dinners are also served. Cafe Artefact offers lighter fare and an elaborate cocktail menu.
What to do when you're not eating, drinking or holed up in your room? Le Gym offers an advanced workout space and sauna. Spa treatments - from an Intermezzo Facial ($65) to a Phyto Marine slimming wrap with algae ($185) - can be booked with the front desk. The 60-minute couples Swedish massage is particularly relaxing, with just the right balance of New Age music, aromatherapy and muscle-relaxing manipulation.
The hotel is located in the Old Town, facing the Saint Lawrence River and nestled snugly between the Musee de la Civilisation and some charming pedestrian promenades. You're in an ideal spot to explore museums, churches, boutiques and restaurants.
Auberge Saint-Antoine is all about the dignified romance of lazy breakfasts, sipping fancy cocktails as the lighting dims around you and exchanging sly glances over intimate dinners. In other words, it's the kind of museum that justifies taking your staycation on the road.
Auberge Saint-Antoine (418-692-1177; saint-antoine.com) is located at 8 Saint-Antoine St.
Sarah Treleaven was a guest of the hotel.
National Post

Organizations: Auberge Saint-Antoine, Musee de la Civilisation, National Post

Geographic location: Quebec City, Old Town, Saint Lawrence River

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