Along the Arvot River in Burgundy, France, a verdant tree- and flower-filled property that once drew Cistercian monks for prayer and reflection now welcomes guests as an auberge par excellence.
The venerable Gothic-style manor house known as Abbaye de la Bussière served as a monastery for 650 years before becoming a state-owned property, shortly after the French Revolution. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Baron Léonce Hély d’Oissel acquired the house and restored it. His daughter, Thérèse, who inherited the estate at his death, donated the abbey to the bishopric of Dijon for use as a spiritual retreat. Eventually, the upkeep became too burdensome, and the compound and attached land were offered for sale.
In 2005, native Brits Clive and Tanith Cummings were searching for a French holding to complement Amberley Castle, the elite Relais & Châteaux hotel they own in England. The hunt led them to this resplendent spot, deep in the heart of the Burgundy region. The couple was immediately smitten with the twelfth-century stone pillars, cavernous galleries, and stained-glass windows, as well as with the abbey’s picturesque location, overlooking the serene Arvot River. They signed a purchase contract that same day and began a meticulous restoration of the main house and its ancillary buildings. The fifteen adjoining acres were tidied up to be used as a park for enjoying casual strolls and quiet contemplation. Soon, the couple and their four children welcomed the first guests.
The scenic surrounds may be glimpsed from each room and suite, where sophisticated furnishings and modern fittings belie the abbey’s more humble beginnings. Patrons are also treated to first-class cuisine at the hotel’s two on-site options, the Michelin Star–rated Le 1131 and the Bistrot des Moines. Its proximity to myriad wineries and other attractions in this oft-traveled region makes Abbaye de la Bussière a perfect base for indulging in the unparalleled beauty and tranquility of this beloved area of France.
“A Halcyon Retreat” can be found on page 111 of the May/June 2016 issue of Victoria.