Travel

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The World According to Muffy

The Auberge, a one-of-a-kind, 95-room boutique hotel in the lower town of Quebec City, opened in 2003 (following on from the original smaller version in 1992).

Amidst traditional vaulted ceilings, oak timbers, plaster of Paris finishes and iconic red textiles and accessories are more than 500 creatively displayed artifacts. Discovered during the expansion, each one tells a fascinating story of days gone by.

Digging up the past
Martha Bate Price, the grande dame of the modern-day Price family (whose ancestors made their fortune in the pulp and paper industry), and her children Evan, Llewellyn and Lucy Price, the owners of Auberge Saint-Antoine, have been lauded by experts for both their profound understanding of local history and their adventurous attitude. The family not only helped guide the archeological dig on their property and the subsequent preservation efforts, but also willingly agreed to changes in the architectural drawings midway through the build to accommodate their finds.

The diorama and the dauphine
Bruno, a 10-year back-of-the-house veteran, is the still-excited resident historian—his animated tours (in English or French) are a treat in themselves. He shows us the museum-quality diorama at the main entrance, which illustrates how the land was occupied during three periods in history. In the café he tells the tale behind the artfully showcased Batterie Dauphine—one of three formidable defense walls in the city. The past-meets-present theme continues with each uniquely decorated room bearing its own signature artifact.

Chez Muffy
In a centuries-old maritime warehouse that sits on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, we find Chez Muffy, the hotel’s restaurant, recently renamed after Martha.

Formerly called Panache, Chez Muffy’s grand lofted space blends history with a chic modern vibe. Business-casual fine dining with French-Canadian farm-to-fork food is Executive Chef Julien Ouellet’s specialty. His rustic menus use honest ingredients that hail predominantly from the Price family farm on the Île d’Orléans. By candlelight, with a glass of wine, it’s not hard to picture 16th-century sailors unloading their ships here.

All in the family
Most interestingly, the interior decoration of the hotel was designed by Martha Bate Price, Lucy Price and their colleague, Monique Amyot. The Auberge was their first commercial project and, on the strength of it, the trio have earned contracts around the world.

As you might have guessed, I later discover that our stylish, black-clad lunch companion was none other than the grande dame herself, Martha Bate Price, who, at 87 years of age, still arrives to help run the hotel most mornings.

Truly, a labour of love.

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