Restoring the heart of something that was once beating is something many people strive to achieve. Barn conversions and old build regenerations are becoming popular the world over and letting an old building regain it’s breathe is something that we should all take pride in.
“The spirit awaken, the soul revive”
(‘Pearls of Wisdom: Great Mind’ by Lailah Gifty Akita)
Churches the world over are being converted into private residences, restaurants, hotels and even nightclubs, with those that have been sympathetically restored standing out in the crowd.
In England alone over 18,000 churches and chapels have been sold off within the last few years, with that looking to significantly increase by the end of 2020 and they are not unique. France is home to more World Heritage Sites than the UK so it is only fair to assume that they too, have similar numbers of converted buildings on their books.
So, with our passion for all things historical and a love of anything with character it came as no surprise to us that we wanted to stay in the Sozo Hotel, a hotel that mixes heritage and creativity, when we visited Nantes.
Behind the heavy, metallic greying gates you will find a building of remarkable grandeur. Standing ramrod straight, amongst an ever-growing populous of fledglings, is an architectural gem oozing charm and allure.
Wander through the modern glassed doorway and you enter a world completely different to anything you could imagine. Crisp white walls, high vaulted ceilings and a jet black, heavily lacquered baby grand piano greet you with open arms. Take just a few steps and you will be welcomed by a friendly team hoping to make your stay both enjoyable and memorable.
They take ‘individual service’ to a new level, making you feel like you are entering an elite circle. After taking a few details from you, and having shown you up to your room personally they also tailor their knowledge of the city to suit your particular needs. Not many hotels can boast about that kind of indulgent commitment to their customers.
Throughout our stay we were reminded by the team that nothing was too much trouble, they ‘wanted us to feel like we were at home’ and in the comfortable surroundings of our own inner sanctum that’s exactly how we felt.
The sleek lines and pearly milk-coloured warmth of the walls bring a new glow to a one-time sacred space; no longer will the coolness always felt when walking into a chapel be sensed here.
The thick, fresh robes that have been artfully placed on the bed automatically draw your attention to the oversized bed as soon as you enter the room, with its arched glassed window being used as a featured backdrop. Lighting is tasteful and modern, with one in particular looking more like something you would find in a high-tech spaceship than in a hotel room.
Head into the bathroom, past the large, super-soft, extra thick, heavy white towels and into the overgrown glass cubicle complete with its oversized square rain shower where you will be able to indulge in the luxury Mugler cosmetics smelling of reinvigorating citrus that have been left behind.
Should you not want to leave the comfort of your own chamber then why not call in room service to provide you with a reasonably priced meal whilst you lay back, relax and enjoy your surroundings. Whether you decide to play the latest movie through the modern flat-screen TV or have a go at using the state-of-the-art radio system attached to the ‘spaceship’ lighting you can be assured that the technology is of the highest quality.
Making Breakfast a relaxing affair
After a deep slumber and a refreshing shower why not saunter down for a relaxing breakfast in surroundings that would, at one time, have been part of the congregational area of the chapel. Once again, the staff on hand are attentive to each diner’s needs so whether you request freshly squeezed orange juice or a rich cup of coffee to start your day, nothing is too much trouble.
Breakfast is plentiful with a choice of fresh fruits, pastries and warm snacks that will keep you going throughout the day and should you require anything else, just ask, after all they want you to feel at home.
Would we return to the Sozo Hotel?
This is a wonderfully restored historic monument that, quite rightly, the city of Nantes is proud of. It demonstrates the love a city has for renovating the old turning it into something new. It is a place that everyone should visit at least once if they are travelling around this area of France. Is it however, a place you return for a second time? I am not sure. Yes, it is different, it is creative and it has the wow fact but does it reflect the religious building that it once was?
Not all rooms have stained-glass windows and for some, including me, this is a symbol of all things holy. It is something that I would expect in my hotel room on this occasion and it was definitely lacking.
I cannot deny that what the team at the Sozo Hotel have created is distinctive and individual. No other hotel will be able to recreate the uniqueness of the small detail that appears here; but is that enough?
I also have to consider, if we return we will know what to expect, the mystery lying behind the iron gates is no longer unknown to us.
If you had been impressed by an unusual hotel, would you return?
More of the History
Interested in knowing more about the history behind the Sozo?
- Before 2012, the Sozo was known as the Chapelle of Notre-Dames des Anges.
- It was built in 1870, although construction of the current building started in 1883.
- Before becoming a hotel, the chapel has been a retirement house, a boarding school, a house for refugees, a military office and finally a welcome house to service the district.
Finally, when visiting this exceptional building, make sure to pay attention to the lighting in the reception area; it’s like you have your own angel floating close to you.
Heading to Nantes in the near future and looking to book this particular hotel? Then use this link to head directly over to their website for more information, room rates, availability and special offers.
Disclaimer: We did receive a discounted room for our night at the Sozo Hotel however, all views and opinions are our own.