Bonnelles, France

Photo: Le Barn

Parisians have a new, favorite weekend escape. It’s less than one hour from the French capital. It’s near the Palace of Versailles, Château de Fontainebleau, and Disneyland Paris. It’s on the edge of the Rambouillet Forest, the second-largest protected forest in France. Plus it took over part of La Cense, a horsemanship school.

Welcome to Le Barn. The rambling estate—dotted with stables, trails, and a pond—looks like an adult summer camp. The buildings—light-filled spaces with Shaker-inspired decor—feel like the combination of a classic country home and a hip boutique hotel. The rooms—complete with canvas curtains, linen sheets, and custom-made bath products—seem like they were decorated by a chic Parisian friend. While the policies—i.e. no set check-in or check-out times—are lax.

Clark, the house dog, greets you upon your arrival. He likes to hang out near the porcelain stove in the lobby since the open space doubles as the bar. People coming and going to play board games, read in armchairs, and sip glasses of wine mean constant attention for the friendly pup. La Serre (the Greenhouse), the conversatory-turned-restaurant overflowing with green plants, and L’atelier, where breakfast is served and cooking classes are held, are in the main building, as well.

Photo: Le Barn

When Clark moves on to another guest, you go to find your room. It’s simple but elegant, as expected. In addition to the light fabrics, it has cork walls with equestrian sketches and a balcony overlooking the horse paddocks. There’s even a cute teapot, so you can make yourself a hot beverage before breakfast each morning.

Though it’s adorable, your room isn’t the reason you’re staying at Le Barn. It’s all the outside activities that sold you on this hotel. You can learn how to ride a horse, of course. You can borrow a bike, grab a fishing rod, work on your golf swing, or play lawn games, too. There’s a storage room for all your athletic gear. Yoga sessions are held regularly. Plus a projection room will keep you occupied on rainy days.

Then there’s the spa. The wellness center sits in a former flour mill at the edge of the forest. Massages are available. So are a hammam and a sauna. It’s the outdoor hot tubs to which you’ll keep returning, though. The two Nordic baths are surrounded by wooden decks and heated by wood burners. The hot water and the peaceful setting create a truly serene atmosphere. All that’s missing is a glass of local Sauvignon Blanc. But you can grab that as soon as you finish soaking. It gives you an excuse to go visit Clark again.


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