Monasteries and Convents: Unconventional lodging at its best

One of the great things about traveling is that you get to stay in a nice, comfortable accommodation where someone else is responsible for changing the sheets and keeping your room clean.  Unfortunately, most of us are programmed to automatically book a hotel when considering places to lay our head during vacation.   If you’re like me, you may be a little more adventurous and prefer unusual digs that most tourists would not only dream about, but be totally unaware of its existence.    Staying at a monastery or convent is a perfect off the beaten path mode of lodging that more people are taking advantage of these days.  As an added bonus, it helps to create lasting memories and is kinder to your wallet.

Once a former hospital, Park House Guesthouse is located in Liverpool, England and is run by Augustinian nuns. All rooms are en suite and the available amenities are television, beverage equipment, ironing facilities, on-site parking and full board. A theater and library as well as shops and restaurants are nearby. Rates start at 32€ pp. Visit them at http://parkhse.com

A view of one of Park House's double rooms

The number of monks and nuns is dwindling; so many monasteries and convents are beginning to offer their properties for short and long term lease.  It makes sense to offer the available quarters for rent because the revenue helps to pay for the upkeep of the often aging structures.  Some are still fully functioning entities while others have been converted to Inns and B & B’s rather than be left empty.  While they may not offer creature comforts like four and five star hotels, this would be a great opportunity to enjoy the historical aspect of such properties.

The Abbey of Mount Melleray was originally founded in 1832 in Brittany, France but their monks were expelled during the French Revolution so they decided to relocate to Cappoquin, Waterford, Ireland. Today the monks operate a thriving dairy farm and an abbey guesthouse with shared bathrooms (prices are to be negotiated). The monks also manage an on-site gift shop and cafe. Visit them at http://mountmellerayabbey.org

In most instances, the daily rates are between $25.00 to $95.00 US for singles and doubles; $100+ for suites, the rooms are average size, some meals may be included and bathrooms are likely shared.  While these accommodations are available world-wide, US properties may tend to be a bit more modernized while European ones are more historical treasures.  My friend, Eileen Barish runs a website and sells guidebooks that spotlight European monasteries and convents.  You will be amazed at the excellent deals that can be had for staying at such elegantly stoic landmarks.

Unique geometric exterior of St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota USA

St. John's Abbey offers singles, doubles and suites from 65.00 to 110.00. Each room is minimally furnished and has a private bath, lakeviews, heating and air, a phone for local calls and is wired for internet access. Contact them at http://abbeyguesthouse.org/

Monasteries and convents are often sought out when people are looking for their own personal spiritual retreat.  The grounds are quiet, one can walk the gardens in peaceful introspection and there are many places were you can sit in solitude without being disturbed.   This type  of pilgrimage or retreat is not suitable for the tourist, because most of the time is spent in prayerful silence and religious worship.  While they do not proselytize or force feed their religious beliefs, they only ask that you respect their standards of conduct.  Please note that they may also have standing curfews that are strictly enforced.  If curfews are a concern, be sure to ask about their policies before booking your stay.

Maison Notre-Dame du Chene is a spiritual pilgrimage located in Loire, France. While there is a separate house for families and groups to use for celebrations and meetings, the guesthouse is primarily reserved for those seeking religious sanctuary. All guestrooms are ensuites and breakfast is served daily; rates begin at 35€ pp. Visit them at http://www.notredameduchene.com/prier/340_centre_spirituel_inscription.php

In her books about European Monastery lodging, Good Night and God Bless, Trish Clark “provides detailed descriptions of each type of facility.  There are directions on how to get there, along with general tourist information and some ideas for things to do and see in the surrounding area.  It also lists nearby restaurants and pubs.”

Located in Kent, England, this 13th century order of the Carmelites provides single, double and family rooms at rates beginning at 26€ pp including breakfast. The Friars Aylesford Priory has an on-site restaurant and sits on acres of park-like grounds. Visit them at http://thefriars.org.uk

One of the eighty bedrooms located in the Friar's guesthouse

The beauty of the entire experience is that you’ll  never know what hidden gem you will find in your research on monasteries and convents.  Perfect case in point: Maison du Seminaire in Nice, France.  Located at the foot of the Mediterranean Sea, this beautiful former Seminary has 60 rooms that rents for 70€ per night.  Each room is en suite, has televisions and telephones and wi-fi and parking is free.  The rooms are bijou, but the views more than make up for that.  There is a restaurant on the first floor that opens out onto an outdoor terrace.  From that vista, you will get to see the rich and spoiled frolic on the beach or watch them sail by on their luxurious yachts.   The delicious irony for you, my dear budget traveler, is that you get to enjoy the same beach for a mere pittance compared to what they’ve paid.

What's not to love about this location?

With a room view like this…the accommodation gods have smiled down upon you

Rooms are small and practical, but would you really go there just to spend your time sleeping?

Fantastically magical views from the outdoor terrace

So, what do you think, dear reader?  Would this type of accommodation be appealing to you?  Or you may have already had the good fortune to stay at one of the monasteries or convents.  If so, where did you stay and would you recommend it to the rest of us?

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