I’ve been to many unique venues but was never impressed as much as from L’Abbaye de Fontevraud what used to be a cloister and now was transferred to be a destination, Cité Idéale (ideal city). The cloister went through different cycles – it was an abbey, a prison, a hospital, and now it’s a destination with a hotel, restaurant and event facilities, which is also a UNESCO classified historic monument. The whole renovation amounts to €16 m. That’s the venue we visited on our second night during our Angers Loire Valley trip.
At first, when we have been told that it used to be a monastery, my first thought was that it’s the “retreat” type of venue. But that was the complete opposite. It’s a destination up to the highest standard you can imagine. It’s where you find heritage and technology, modern and ancient, past and future, tradition and innovation, simplicity and luxury. The venue promotes environmental and sustainable practices and meets the highest European standard, the RSE-ISO 26000, which was achieved in May, just before the inauguration of the hotel. That includes energy plant comprising a wood-chip fired boiler which removes the reliance on fossil fuels, insulation (reduction of heat loss or heat gain), no mechanical air conditioning, reduced food packaging for breakfast to avoid unnecessary waste, composting organic waste and lastly favouring local businesses and products to use in the hotel (For example, soap, honey, wine). The hotel has 54 rooms and is classified as a 4*. We saw one of the rooms, it has a very warm design, very minimalistic and discreet.
Very interesting thing I found was the iBar, designed by Jouin-Manku, the same architect who designed the Mandarin Oriental in Paris (Which I visited last year) and the Le Jules Verne restaurant on the Eiffel Tower. There you find touch screen table tops and tablets, telescopic lamps and diffused delicate lighting. The bar is located in what used to be the chapel and the ceiling is very high. I was completely fascinated by the design of this place. So much history and tradition and at the same time advanced technology and architecture.
Bar and event and conference facilities
The refectory, where we had our group dinner, is the banqueting hall of the venue. The design of the room gives a gentle reminder of the monastic atmosphere of the past.
The head chef is Thibaut Ruggeri, the winner of Bocuse d’Or 2013 competition, the most prestigious gastronomic competition in the world. And yes, that was an experience! Thibaut Ruggeri uses locally sourced ingredients and we had a splendid fine dining experience, both in terms of the excellent food and the attentive service.
I would definitely love to come back and next time stay longer.
Photos by: Irina Trofimovskaya