Please note: my Mum and I were guests of Abbaye de la Bussière, and our stay was complimentary for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Road Trip from Geneva to Burgundy
I’d been looking forward to my press trip to the Abbaye de la Bussière in Burgundy, France for weeks. The hotel is known internationally for its excellence and beauty, and I’d pored over every stunning room on its website, trying to piece together the layout. I was so excited when October finally rolled around and I was packing my suitcase, ready to catch the Gatwick express to the airport the next day. As well as the trip to Burgundy, Mum and I were visiting my Dad in Geneva, just before his move back to New York after a few years working in Switzerland. I’d asked my Dad if he wanted to join me at the Abbaye de la Bussière whilst I was there with Mum for my press trip, as a last hoorah for him in Europe. I was so happy when he said yes, so the trip turned into a little family reunion as well (luckily for me, although my parents are divorced, they get along very well).
My Dad rented a car to drive us all to Burgundy, so Sunday morning found us weaving round the hairpin bends of the Jura mountains, which rise up like a great wall, forming a natural border between France and Switzerland. It was a glorious October morning, and Dad had taken the scenic route, so we got to enjoy the spectacular scenery as we climbed higher and higher up the mountains. The Jura, though no match for the soaring majesty of the Alps, are very pretty and thickly wooded, and in the autumn the leaves transform into rich shades of rusts, ambers and greens. An occasional break in the trees shows a quiet green field, or a small village with its picturesque chalets built into the mountainside.
As a family, we share a collective weakness for French pop-music, so we drove to the soundtrack of Louane crooning Midi sur Novembre and other French hits as the road opened out before us. The drive to Burgundy from Geneva takes about 3 hours, so we were able to enjoy a leisurely pace and decided to stop for croissants and coffee along the way (surely the ideal way to eat on a road trip?). Soon, though, we hit the highway, and then in what felt like no time at all we were taking the exit for Dijon and gliding through the gently rolling hills of Burgundy. The drive from Dijon to the Abbaye is about half an hour, and my excitement reached boiling point as we swept through the large, impressive gates of the Abbaye and up the drive, passing a beautiful small lake as we went and finally rounding a bend in the drive to see the main building standing graciously before us.
Abbaye de la Bussière, A History
Abbaye de la Bussière is run by three generations of the Cummings family. Tanith and Clive Cummings, their children and Clive’s parents live in houses on the estate, and the family as a whole care deeply for their hotel and this very special pocket of France.
The fact that three generations of the family live within the grounds of the Abbey and are clearly so devoted to the place is what gives this hotel such an incredible atmosphere. Although the surroundings are so luxurious, it also feels like you’re visiting a family home. We often met Clive walking his beautiful dog, Newcy (the Abbaye is dog-friendly, which is lovely), and the family cat, Domino, was generally to be found curled up on his favourite chair in the sun.
Burgundy is known for its beautiful abbeys, relics of monastic life in the Middle Ages, which was dominated by two great orders: the Benedictines and the Cistercians. Although not much of the original monastic buildings remain at Abbaye de la Bussière, it is known that Cistercian monks first came to the site in 1131. The Abbaye was a place of prayer and work, with the monks maintaining the lakes, working the land and making wine (the original wine press the monks used in the 13th Century may still be seen at the Abbaye).
By the 19th Century, monks no longer lived at the Abbaye, and it was purchased as a personal home, with many of the rooms changed or demolished. In the first half of the 20th Century, the Abbaye was donated as an act of charity to the local Bishopric and was made into a place of spiritual retreat.
Finally, in 2005 the Abbaye was purchased by the Cummings family, and it has been their labour of love ever since, as they’ve meticulously renovated and restored the beautiful land and buildings splendidly, breathing fresh life into the Abbaye and marking a new, exciting era in its incredible history.
The House and Grounds
When we arrived at the Abbaye, we were personally greeted by Clive, who gave us a little tour of the Abbaye’s main building, pointing out the beautiful communal sitting rooms and telling us some of the history of the place, as well as his plans for the future (apparently, more rooms will be opening, which is fantastic!).
The Abbaye truly took my breath away – I’ve never stayed anywhere so beautiful! It’s been sensitively adapted to hotel life, so that the gorgeous architecture truly shines, but the rooms are also sumptuously decorated and luxuriously comfortable. I adored the hotel’s three main sitting rooms: the ladies’ room, the gentlemen’s room and the upstairs bar/lounge.
Notable features of the hotel’s decor were the beautiful sculptures that were strikingly placed around the gardens, corridors and rooms. These sculptures were made by Paul Day, who is local to the area and is a well-known sculptor.
Day’s work includes the famous ‘The Meeting’ sculpture at King’s Cross St Pancras station, and there’s a smaller replica of this statue on display at the Abbaye. Day’s ‘The Kiss’ stands in the garden near to the ancient dovecote. Apparently, this was the statue Day had originally designed for the London train station, but it had been considered a little too provocative!
Even though I was at the Abbaye for three days and did my best to explore as much as possible, I felt I was only scratching the surface of its depths. There are wonderful nooks and crannies everywhere. Each day, I discovered a perfect new reading spot, or a staircase to climb, that twisted up to a walkway on the roof, where I could step out and admire the view of the patio fountain sparkling in the sunlight.
The gardens, too, provided acres to explore, and we all enjoyed walks around the lake and down to the kitchen gardens and beehives. The Cummings have big plans for the gardens; having restored the beauty of the lake, Clive’s dad is now overseeing the building of a Monet-esque bridge to the lake’s tiny island, and Clive is constructing a large greenhouse in the kitchen gardens.
Apparently, the Cummings also hope to build proper tree houses that guests can stay in, which sounds absolutely incredible!
After a tour of the building, Clive showed us to our rooms, which were next door to each other in the main part of the Abbaye. Mum and I were given a junior suite by the hotel (the Loizerolle), and Dad had booked himself a superior room (the Valmagne).
Both rooms were gorgeous! Mum and I couldn’t get over the size of our suite, which had a sofa that converted into a pull out bed for Mum, as well as an enormous King sized bed, a chaise lounge, a big desk, wardrobes and tv. Although the room was so large, it still had a cosy feel with its exposed roof timbers and glowing purple and yellow velvet cushions.
I think the bathroom was the size of my flat’s living room, and I had a wonderful time making use of the jacuzzi tub! I loved the huge shower as well, and the embossed dressing gowns that were hung ready to use, as well as our slippers and deliciously scented Bvlgari toiletries.
One of my favourite things about our room was the view from our window, which looked out towards a beautiful turret, as well as the pretty dovecote and gardens. I loved waking up to watch the sun rise and the sky turn pink over this glorious view each morning.
My Dad was delighted with his room too, which was spacious and exceedingly comfortable. I snapped a few pictures before he got settled in:
Another lovely touch was the bottle of homemade peach liqueur that was left in each room, as well as a freshly made loaf cake.
Both were absolutely delicious, although the liqueur was a little strong for me, but my Dad didn’t mind helping me out with my share! It was so nice to be able to help ourselves to a slice of cake in the afternoons when we started to get a little peckish.
Lunch on the Terrace
After unpacking and enjoying settling into our rooms, we realised it was most definitely lunch time, so we made our way to the terrace to enjoy a picnic-style luncheon of cold cuts, salads, cheese and bread, with a half-bottle of local Burgundian wine (Santenay) to enjoy. What a spectacular start to the holiday!
In my next blog post, I’ll be sharing the fantastic supper we enjoyed in the Abbaye’s Michelin starred restaurant on the first night of our arrival, and more posts about my stay at the Abbaye and exploring Beaune and the surrounding countryside will be appearing on the blog soon too, so do make sure to check back for more this week!
Abbaye de la Bussière, Burgundy, France
Room rates at Abbaye de la Bussière are from 225 Euros (approximately £200) per room, per night. For further information and for reservations, please visit www.abbayedelabussiere.fr/en. You can also email email@example.com, or call +33 3 80 49 02 29