History and location are what make the difference here – the Abbaye de la Bussière was founded in 1131 as a Cistercian abbey and is set in 17 acres of grounds dotted with ponies, ducks and geese between Dijon and Beaune. A group of Benedictine monks founded the Cistercian Order only 33 years earlier a few kilometres from the Abbaye in the village of Cîteaux, in Latin Cistercian. Here they lived a solitary life strictly following the Rule of St Benedict. Throughout the centuries many buildings were added – a refectory, a farmhouse, some outhouses and monastic dwellings – where some of the rooms are now found.
The Abbaye de la Bussière is still evolving today. English couple Clive and Tanith Cummings bought the imposing building in 2005 and started the challenging process of transforming it into a hotel. In 2006 they opened with nine rooms; they now have 20, and hope to add 15 more in the fullness of time. Clive calls the Abbaye ‘a journey that we share with many regular guests’. You’ll notice upmarket touches: Jacuzzis; charming pieces of antique furniture; silky fabrics and colourful flowers; and many a thoughtful detail that show the effort put into the renovation. The bucolic views over the park are exceptionally relaxing, and the grounds have plenty of hidden treasures: look for the dovecote and the water mill, or borrow one of the bikes and cycle to a marina on the nearby Canal de Bourgogne.
The Abbaye’s Michelin-starred restaurant Le 1131, open five nights per week, is a dramatic space under vaulted arches with columns, sculpted capitals and high-arched windows. Chef Guillaume Royer, Meilleur Ouvrier de France, loves foraging in nature: in his cuisine you might taste local wild mushroom and asparagus. When the restaurant is closed the Bistrot Des Moines, in the former monks’ kitchen, is open for less formal dinners. The rural location of the Abbaye means that peace is assured, other restaurants are found in neighbouring villages, a short drive away.
We visited again in late 2016 and were once again struck by the enclosed world it inhabits, conjouring up feelings of peace and tranquillity and what it might be like to be a monk. The garden and water courses and fish hut are great. Deep reds and velvets a theme throughout; certainly it is simply furnished not designed, but does not disappoint. The galleried dinning room atmospheric.