Nestled in Burgundy, the premiere wine-growing region of France, the Abbaye de la Bussiere has to be one of the most beautiful hotels in the world. As you pass through the elegant wrought-iron gates at the foot of the driveway, the imposing stone building looks like it came straight out of a fairytale. Ironically, back in the 12th century, this now sybaritic hotel housed a spiritual community of Cistercian monks.
Situated in the Ouche Valley about three hours (by car) from Paris, the Relais & Chateaux property is set in a gracefully landscaped, 15-acre park with its own lake, century-old trees, and more than 24 types of flowering plants. The sprawling grounds are lush, green, and tranquil.
Charming Clive and Tanith Cummings, the son and daughter-in-law of the English property owners, live on the grounds with their children and two Shetland ponies. The couple has tastefully restored the neo-gothic buildings, making every effort to retain the charm and ambiance of the past while adding modern luxuries and conveniences. Among the nine buildings is a well-preserved 14th century wine cellar with a press used by the monks to make wines for the sacrament.
The 18 lake- and garden-view rooms and suites have been totally restored and updated. They are tastefully decorated with plush linens and bedding, silk fabrics, period antiques, and flat-screen TVs. The inviting bathrooms, with double-sinks and whirlpool baths, are stocked with Bulgari toiletries. There are three public lounges in the main building: a music room (once a chapel), a hunting room, and a tearoom.
Dining either at the formal Michelin-starred restaurant with vaulted ceilings or at the less formal but still elegant bistro (open for breakfast and lunch) is a memorable gastronomic experience. Much of the food, cheese, meat and fowl are local, prepared to exacting standards by Chef Emmanuel Hébrard, and paired with regional wines and cheeses. The location is a perfect base for exploring local wineries and visiting the nearby cities of Beaune and Dijon (each about a half hour away)—if you can pull yourself away from this Paradise.
21360 Dijon, Côte d’Or, France
[This article was published in the Hartford Courant and the Chicago Tribune on September 26, 2013]