Called the “hill that prays” by locals, Fourvière stands guard over the city of Lyon in a conventual silence - a uniquely serene and spiritual place. Maïa Group chairman Christophe Gruy made it the home of an intimate hotel, imagined, designed and decorated by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, Jacques Grange and Louis Benech. The appearance of the Villa Maïa’s spellbinding matt glass opaque bronze-tinted panels evolves to the sun’s rhythm. Like a living painting, Lyon stretches as far as the eye can see from metal-framed terraces. On the other side, towards the garden, the building delicately flirts with the Antiquaille district, rich of Roman history with a sense of timeless peace and serenity.
Whichever of the 30 rooms and 6 suites they choose, inspired by Japanese art, guests enjoy a hotel that owner Christophe Gruy would have liked as his home, “full of attention to detail, surrounded by gardens, bathed in spirituality and shared family values.” Ideally located on the hill of Fourvière, the new Villa Maïa hotel affords unique views over Lyon and the 100 m2 flat, with views as far as the Mont Blanc and over the boats navigating on the Saone and Rhone rivers will give you a thrill to the city’s nightscapes.
Sober and made to measure furniture adorn the contemporarily decorated rooms with a hint of “art deco” creating a Zen-like environment, echoed in the Japanese straw clad walls. The colours oscillate between brown and oatmeal, highlighted with bright-coloured accessories and mixed with an artistic impertinence from Anamorphoses (circular photographs) by Charles Maze. The majestic Carrara marble and bright nickel bathrooms open onto the rooms through glass partition walls ensuring guests never lose sight of Lyon.
But by contrast and just as intriguing is the opportunity for the guest to look inward, away from the busy city towards the garden, created for contemplation, imagined as a cloister, reflecting “the hill that prays” and featuring an exceptional diversity of plants; somewhat as an abandoned kitchen garden where nature has reconquered the ground. With its plane trees, magnolias, Irish yews, low shrubs, holly, oaks and hedges of Osmanthus (devilwood), this garden is a true haven of peace, designed as a painting to preserve its quietude.
The ancient vaults fittingly feature the hotel’s spa, revisiting the art of Roman thermal baths. A Pompeian ceiling, walls in vibrations of plaster supported by big marble columns set the scene for the majestic 20 metres long swimming pool, found across a sublime black and white chessboard marble floor - a place out of time, again imagined by Jacques Grange. Behind the vaults, the greenery of the garden enhances the serene atmosphere, designed by Louis Benech. Aware that perfumes affect our beings, Villa Maïa asked the designer to create a fragrance – a bouquet – carnations and irises plus bitter almonds and a hint of aniseed opening out into harmonies of musks, sandalwood and Tonka beans.
There is no shortage of excellent restaurants in Lyon, often coined the gastronomical capital of Europe. But conveniently located on the same premises you will find Christian Têtedoie’s famed Michelin establishment with a choice between informal and high-end dining. Elected “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” (Top Chef) at 35 and President of the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France, Christian Têtedoie, schooled in the Bocuse tradition, hosts epicureans in his “Têtedoie” starred restaurant located on the hill of Fourvière, facing the Villa Maïa.
After a day out in Lyon, the Villa Maïa library and bar are ideal for a uniquely cosy pause. Enjoying breakfast with views over the garden and cocktails looking out over the City of Light, every moment is memorably enjoyable. Made with Saint-Just glass, the bar plays with light and transparency. The bright nickel metalwork adds a modern touch. Served from 5 pm to midnight, the almond-flavoured cocktails are in harmony with the fragrance of the Villa Maïa. And we can testify that teatime here is quality time as no other, nestled in the velvet settees beside the library, we fell under the spell of brioches, pink pralines and other delicacies.
In 2016 at the “World Travel Awards”, Lyon was elected the best weekend destination in Europe. The dynamic and modern city’s strength lies in its universally recognised traditions for gastronomy, silk and the cinema. By day or by night, Lyon is always beautiful and breath-taking during the annual Festival of Lights in December. A good reason to return one fine day to this place of romance, culture and gastronomic delights.