Relais Bernard Loiseau

I’m an unabashed Francophile, a former French teacher and a frequent traveler to France. After seven trips to Burgundy, traveling by car and on barge and riverboat cruises with my late husband or with friends, I returned alone, last September, to experience the vendange (grape harvest). I was in the vineyards and wine cellars at Olivier Leflaive and Chateau de Pommard, and met winemakers, innkeepers, sommeliers, a masseuse and a mustard-maker at Fallot, in Beaune. And, after many years on my bucket list, I finally had the opportunity to stay at a famous gastronomic destination, Relais Bernard Loiseau. It also happens to be a warmly welcoming, family-friendly, family-operated inn with two indoor swimming pools, located in the naturally scenic region of the Morvan forest, with its granite mountains, lakes and outdoor adventures.

The country inn was already famous as a notable stop on the Paris-Riviera automobile route even before Bernard Loiseau arrived, created his illustrious reputation and earned his third Michelin star, in 1991, kept beyond his death in 2003, and for 25 years. His widow, Dominique Loiseau, heads Le Groupe Bernard Loiseau; in 2017, the always-attentive aubergiste (innkeeper) of the Relais & Chateaux affiliate launched the newly built, wood-clad, four-story, 16,000-square foot spa, Villa Loiseau des Sens, within which she opened a second, less formal santé-plaisir (healthy-pleasure) restaurant.

Teens over the age of 14 can access the new indoor spa pool/hydrotherapy playground, with aqua bikes, showers, jets, plus a Moroccan hammam (a steam room), an ice fountain, a multi-jetted shower and a view of the interior garden from the sauna. There are no age restrictions for supervised youngsters in the original indoor heated pool. The (unsupervised) kids’ zone offers games, toys and TV; teens enjoy billiards inside, or Petanque under the willow tree.

Two-star Michelin chef Patrick Bertron serves his own culinary creations and offers traditional Loiseau dishes and is delighted to introduce children to fine dining and welcomes them into the kitchen, where he gives them a toque that he signs.

Relais Bernard Loiseau chocolates, Grenouille © BernardLoiseau

Spacious rooms have sitting areas and balconies overlooking an interior garden, with its lawns, a duck pond, a chef’s garden and paths leading to the outdoor pool and spa. It’s especially popular for kids during the annual Easter egg hunt, celebrated with fabulous chocolates.

The region is known for its pastoral beauty and ideal for walking, horseback riding and cycling; in fact, proposes 59 bike routes near Saulieu. The getaway destination is a half hour’s drive to Settons Lake, for sailing to swimming or water-skiing; and the Burgundy Canal, for a bike ride along the tow-path and the historic center of Semur-en-Auxois, where kids can explore medieval ramparts, towers and see ancient, half-timbered houses. It’s about an hour’s drive to the historic center of Dijon, the capital of the region, or Beaune, the wine capital, and about 2.5 hours from Paris. I arrived by car from Beaune; the hour’s drive passed white Charolais cattle grazing along the rural route; days later, I departed for the hour-long train trip to Paris, from Montbard (the closest high-speed TGV station).

This is an idyllic getaway for families who appreciate gastronomy, comfort, culture, charm and/or outdoor adventures.