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The Montreal Gazette: Checking In: Old Quebec hotel reopens with new green awards

Posted on 07/08/2014

Checking In: Old Quebec hotel reopens with new green awards

1700s nunnery now a boutique inn

 BY ROCHELLE LASH, SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE JULY 18, 2014

Hôtel du Vieux-Québec and Tournebroche restaurant are two of the most exciting things to happen at 1190 Rue Saint-Jean since the 1700s.

The building originally was a nunnery in Old Quebec and, after several incarnations over the past 300 years and a $2-million makeover, it reopened this spring. The news at this trendy boutique hotel includes major green ventures, a high-design reception area and lounge and the launching of Tournebroche, a gourmet rotisserie.

Hôtel du Vieux-Québec has been crafted by Chris Keating and his son, Justin, who is the managing partner. They have collaborated and created a progressive, environmentally sensitive hotel venture that they call HVQ for short.

A ‘new’ 300-year-old building

“Every year, we add more comforts and services,” Keating said.

This year, one of the big investments is esthetic. The prestigious architecture firm Lemay Michaud redesigned the tiny reception area and stairwell, so when guests arrive, the message is: stylish, fresh and contemporary.

The living room is another appealing new space, with stone walls, recycled barn wood and a hint of industrial chic. There are books, board games, chess, an espresso machine, tea and fruit, as well as artifacts related to the hotel’s history.

Upstairs, Hôtel du Vieux-Québec has 45 rooms on five floors and six family-friendly apartments in an attached building, all accessible by elevator. The walls are wood-panelled, with many of exposed brick or old stone. The furnishings are simple and comfortable, the result of a renovation a few years ago. Each room has one or two beds with 300-thread-count sheets, a flat-screen television with a DVD player, coffee and tea, a rain shower and a mini-fridge — so handy in summer, especially with children. Some rooms have espresso machines and gas fireplaces (for use from November to April), and one spacious room, the Québécoise, has a whirlpool tub.

The greening of a hotel

The Keatings have been awarded five out of five Green Keys by the Hotel Association of Canada for their environmentally friendly accomplishments.

Hôtel du Vieux-Québec uses solar power for certain systems. The energy-efficiency experts at Groupe EcoSynérgie of Quebec City installed panels that convert sunlight into electricity and reduce energy consumption. The rooftop panels also multi-task as a shelter for the hotel’s own beehives; as well, the Keatings nurture an urban garden on their rooftop.

HVQ’s eco-operating systems include low-mercury and LED lighting, energy-saving heat production, water-efficient bathroom systems, a water dispenser to encourage guests to refill their plastic bottles, eco-friendly cleaning products, recycled paper including tissues and toilet paper by Cascades, and biodegradable bags.

The lounge’s new furniture was custom-made by Quebec craftsmen using wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and containing no added urea or formaldehyde.

In 2009, HVQ became the first hotel in Quebec to become carbon neutral, which means that it purchases gold-standard offsets from Planetair (planetair.com) to compensate for the hotel’s greenhouse gas emissions. (An offset funds the green ventures, balancing the buyer’s emissions and energy use.)

The designer rotisserie

Guy Collin and chef Stéphane Roth run the gastronomic Le Patriarche, one of Quebec’s few CAA-AAA five-diamond restaurants, and recently felt the urge to tackle “bistronomie.”

They partnered with Justin Keating, and created Tournebroche at Hôtel du Vieux-Québec. The specialties are spit-roasted poultry and pork, served with gourmet sides such as chicken liver mousse and trout gravlax with grapefruit-zested cream, and craft beer from Microbrasserie de l’Île d’Orléans.

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