Claude Lévêque’s Mort en été at Fontevraud
A refectory for the ages at Fontevraud
Anyone who has spent time in the Loire Valley knows it is a land of unique wines, historic chateaux and beautiful towns and villages (all a short distance from Paris by train or automobile). Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years there, inventing and writing, and Joan of Arc received her history-changing vision in the region (in the city of Chinon, to be exact). If you like your holidays steeped in history, book the Fontevraud L’Hôtel, the former Fontevraud Abbey, which was founded in 1101 by Robert d’Abrissel, an itinerant preacher. The abbey welcomed both women and men into its order and was administered by a series of 36 abbesses from the 16th century on. Eleanor of Aquitaine ended her years inside its walls, and she and her son, Richard the Lionheart, are buried on its grounds.
Every detail of this 54-room monastery turned hotel, from the natural-fiber mattresses created in Sri Lanka to the bespoke light fixtures and fabrics, was overseen by design visionaries Sanjit Manku and Patrick Jouin, whom you might know from their projects at Paris’ Plaza Athénée and Munich’s Bayerischer Hof, among others. A unique world of spiritual order reigns. No room is alike; some are duplexes, while others are attic hideaways, high-ceiling studios and light-filled nooks. All possess a calm that Manku and Jouin sought to instill when designing the interiors, befitting the vows of silence tradition. If you’re fan of design, this hotel is your spot.
Worldly appetites can be sated in Le Restaurant, where tables afford a view of the garden, where executive chef Thibaut Ruggeri tends plants and herbs used in his kitchen’s creations.
The hotel is a perfectly positioned headquarters for Loire Valley explorations — day trips to Chinon, the many wineries in the region (check out Domaine Cousin-Leduc, where Olivier Cousin makes some of my favorite wines of the moment) and storied castles Chambord, Azay-le-Rideau and Chenonceau. Rates from $191 per couple, at fontevraud.fr/en.