Flight of French fancy.
Last November, Les Sources de Caudalie was awarded the prestigious Palace status, a title held by the 23 finest five-star hotels in France. Sitting on a terrace sipping the estate’s own wine, watching a horse working the organic vineyards and feeling refreshed after a facial at the spa, which uses the vines in its products, you will appreciate exactly why.
Owner Alice Tourbier calls Les Sources ‘an experience’ and it truly is: a mere 20 minutes from Bordeaux airport, the sense of tranquility here makes it feel a world away. It’s also a family affair—Alice’s parents, Florence and Daniel Cathiard, bought the vineyard here after former lives in business and as members of the French Olympic ski team, their daughter Mathilde started the Caudalie beauty brand and spa and Alice and her husband, Jérôme, entered into the fray with their wondrous hotel and three on-site restaurants.
The finest suite in the house is undoubtedly L’Ile aux Oiseaux, a cabin on stilts over a lake, which receives a makeover every two years. The current incarnation, by bridal designer Delphine Manivet, is all soft-pink furnishings, shimmering mother-of-pearl tiles and floating white curtains—it’s like stepping inside a fondant fancy, in the best possible way.
- The tasting menu at Les Sources’s two-Michelin-star restaurant, La Grand’Vigne, is truly unmissable. Dishes such as langoustine tartare with caviar are predictably mouthwatering, but a humble egg is the star. Chef Nicolas Masse varies the other morsels on offer, but his signature dish, oeuf de ferme, remains a constant. What one man can do with such a basic ingredient is, quite frankly, incroyable.
- When asked about her favourite destination in France—not Bordeaux, mind you, but the entire country—Alice could hardly say the words Arcachon Bay quickly enough. The colours at this treasure of the French coast, she says, are like nowhere on Earth—and the oysters even better. Luckily, it’s just a 50-minute drive away from Les Sources and the hotel will happily arrange a day trip.
- You simply must take a tour of Florence and Daniel’s Château Smith Haut Lafitte, once owned by a Scottish wine merchant—hence the Smith. The château has its own cooper—a rarity—who visits forests to choose the French oak for the barrels. The sight of his handiwork in the cellars is quite breathtaking—the central panel of each barrel is stained red with wine, purely for aesthetic effect. Bordeaux may be famous for its reds, but be sure to sample the whites, too—the clay soil and climate here are perfect for the Sauvignon Blanc/Sauvignon Gris/Semillon blends produced.
Prestige rooms from €300 per night, based on two sharing, with breakfast (00 33 5 57 83 83 83; www.sources-caudalie.com). easyJet flights from London Gatwick to Bordeaux from £23.24 per person (www.easyjet.com)