Kibagabaga, which lies between Kimironko and Gacuriro in Kigali, had fallen off the radar of tourists for several years because of limited accommodation and restaurant options and the fact that it was so far away from everything else.
However, the new Via Via Kigali hotel has given the area a new lease of life.
After driving down the winding road from Kibagabaga Hospital, which is the main landmark in the area, we made our way to Via Via Kigali with its imposing Romanesque features.
Walking into the driveway I was welcomed by the sight of a huge garden with an outdoor play set, trampoline and lush patio chairs.
Via Via Kigali is nestled on a terraced hillside landscape and has a cafe, restaurant and guest house. It has picturesque views of the newly-opened Kigali Arena and the sprawling neighbourhood of Remera stretches out to the resplendent Kigali Convention Centre.
The hotel has a huge garden in the front yard and two landscaped gardens at the back. Astrid and Adolphe, the proprietors, seem to have put a lot of effort into the interior decor and have a great eye for design.
The chairs, armchairs, loungers and tables are all locally made and sourced from artisans that Via Via Kigali promotes at the guest house.
The use of locally-sourced papyrus to make Acapulco chairs upholstered in African wax print cushions was ingenious. The walls are adorned with digital photos with beeswax frames.
The front office desk is adorned in Imigongo art with the table made from wooden blocks engraved with imigongo patterns.
My double room was well-furnished with cinnamon-coloured curtains, plush white sheets with African wax print bed runners and an en suite bathroom. It also had a balcony with a gorgeous vista of the Kigali Arena. It also had a pine dining table with a safari style chair.
The attendant Annabelle was gracious and showed me around my room and the dining area. She handed me a passion juice as a welcome drink.
As I sipped my juice, I set about to explore the place and found a section in the restaurant where they had a plethora of locally-made products from artisans they support.
Via Via Kigali, which was opened in August, is about a 20-minute drive from the airport and the central business district.
It has six well decorated rooms; a master bedroom for four people with a balcony, dressing room and jacuzzi, a dorm room for travellers on a limited budget and four other rooms that can be booked as single, twin or double rooms.
The restaurant’s menu is small but creative fusing different types of dishes from the Mexican chilli con carne, Belgian Stoofvlees to local dishes like Akabenz.
I enjoyed the Stoofvlees for dinner, which is a Flemish beer beef stew served with fries. The beef stew, made from beef, onion stew, Leffe (Belgian beer) and seasoned with thyme, bay leaves and mustard, had a sweet and sour taste. The beef was tender and the thinly cut fries were crunchy and tasty.
I equally enjoyed their breakfast option of pancakes with fruits and honey served with tea. The pancakes were delicious and went well with the diced bananas, mangos, golden berries and passion fruit, and a generous sprinkle of honey. The homemade granola with yoghurt and fruits also comes highly recommended.
Via Via Kigali is the first in Rwanda of a global franchise that seeks to provide memorable and joyful intercultural experiences for travellers. It is also committed to sustainable tourism as a vehicle for socioeconomic development and increased tolerance.
What stood out for me was the relaxed ambience. It is also child-friendly with a trampoline and outdoor play set.