It seems very evocative (today's post falls on Halloween) to feature the thousand year-old, Fontevraud Royal Abbey which was one of the most significant monastic centres in the Middle Ages - containing the tombs of Eleanor of Acquitaine (Queen of France and England) her husband King Henry II and son Richard the Lionheart. After the French Revolution, Napolean closed the Abbey and it became one of the toughest prisons in France. Finally after much restoration it became a cultural centre within the Unesco World Heritage listed Loire Valley.
However, now you can actually spend the night and be part of the history of this amazing place, as part of The Abbey has been transformed into the stunningly sympathetic Fontevraud L' Hôtel.
It still has a serenity befitting of it's monastic past, with fixtures and fittings complimenting (and not competing with) the natural raw beauty of the surrounding architecture.
The lengthy restoration was a collaboration between The Abbey and Canadian-born architect Sanit Manku and French designer Patrick Jouin of Jouin Manku.
In an article in Remodelista, they commented about their greatest challenge - where they weren't permitted to touch the ceilings and walls of the former Priory —"everything is built from chalky, white limestone, and when I say everything I mean everything," says Manku.
In the foyer (above) the aesthetic is established - minimal adornment resulting in an unmistakeable reflection of the Abbey's past and yet simultaneously cementing it's new path.
In the bedrooms, we see the necessary hotel room inclusions (light, hooks, art) all hanging from one steel rail. A simple approach that Manku terms as "monk tech".
"The monks didn't have a big budget, but they were incredibly crafty," he told the New York Times. "They wouldn't have six light sources in the same room. They'd have one and a little mirror that reflected the light. And the mirror would also be something you could hang your coat on. We said we need to do the same thing."
A breathtaking setting for the Hotel restaurant, enhanced by the sheer scale of the lighting adding drama within the monumental architecture.
Italian-made beechwood and leather seating designed by Patrick Jouin in the cloister.
The historic setting is brought slap bang up to date with it's technical inclusions - each room comes with it's own mini-iPad to control heating, surf the web etc and in the communal areas there are other workstations such as the one above.
In addition the super cool i-Bar is an interactive zone, where you can get a drink, and use the touch screens built into the tabletops! (See below).
Gardening and the cultivation of both edible as well as medicinal plants has been a core part of monastic life over the centuries, and today is no different with the hotel's courtyard surrounding a similar garden.
The Fontevraud L'Hôtel is a new take on the luxurious hotel experience - one where we are cocooned without being surrounded by excess.
How amazing would it be to spend Halloween here, wondering around the grounds at night and revelling in the Abbey's historical past?! Another experience to add to the bucket list!