LES SOURCES DE CAUDALIE, BORDEAUX, FRANCE
BEST FOR: A RURAL GETAWAY WITH AN EMPHASIS ON THE GOOD LIFE
NOT FOR: TEE-TOTALLERS OR ANYONE WHO ISN’T A FAN OF WINE
Overlooking the vineyards of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, a 20-minute drive from Bordeaux in southwest France, the concept of this spa is based around the great proven paradox: that somehow the French diet of cooking in buttery sauces and drinking a glass of wine or two every day is good for your health. Which means that everything from the spa treatments to the activities on offer, is based around eating and drinking well – specifically wine. Even the rooms, in buildings designed by architect Yves Collet who used recycled local materials to ensure that they are in keeping with the surroundings, face the vineyards or the calm, still lake. Each one has been decorated with antique furniture, rich, jewel coloured drapes and striped cushions on the sofas. The best of the bunch are the suites on stilts, deliberately meant to resemble the cabins on stilts in nearby Arcachon Bay, which have been decorated in collaboration with contemporary designers (the newest, Ile aux Oiseaus, meaning Bird Island, is by bridal wear designer Delphine Manivet). Whitewashed panelled walls are combined with pretty, patterned wallpapers and these suites come with their own raised decks.
At the Vinotherapie spa, treatments have been developed to combine the virtues of natural hot spring water, rich in minerals, which is drawn from 540 metres beneath the earth with knowledge from the latest scientific discoveries of the benefits of the grape. It’s a dreamy setting – wood and stone treatment rooms and a beautiful pool with floor-to-ceiling windows to really let in the natural light – that has you feeling relaxed before the therapists have even begun to work their magic. Treatments range from a bubble ‘barrel bath’ infused with an exfoliating grape marc to a purifying ‘merlot wrap’, where warm bentonite clay and essential oils are lathered onto the skin to improve texture (there’s also a hydrating honey and wine yeast wrap that moisturises while strengthening your immune defences). Mix and match treatments or plump for a ‘Caudalie cure’: programmes that range from two to six days with a particular aim in mind (such as firming and toning the body, say, or relieving stress).
It would be cruel to be so close to the grapes and not to be able to drink wine. Head to La Table du Lavoir for bistro-style dishes (a wash house in the centre of the room pays tribute to the 19th-century winegrowers wives who used to come here to do the washing). Or sit down for dinner at two-star Michelin restaurant La Grand’Vigne, which is in a former orangery and modelled on an 18th-century glasshouse, you can pair food with wine from the impressive cellar, where you’ll find 16,000 bottles stored (ask knowledgeable head sommelier Aurelien Farrouil for a look around and he’ll tell you about the best wine producing regions in the world). And, yes, the hotel actively encourages tasting tours so you can also see the vat room and try the first and second wines of the chateau. Or, venture further afield and borrow a bicycle to explore the surrounding vineyards (chef Nicola Massie will make you a picnic to enjoy along the way). This is the antithesis to a medi-spa where food portions are tiny and alcohol is banned; here it’s all about moderation and the idea that a little of what you fancy won’t harm you. What a refreshing outlook. Bon Vivant, we say!
CONTACT: tel+33 (0) 5 57 83 83 83; email: www.sources-caudalie.com
PRICE: Doubles from £216 per night
NEAREST AIRPORT: Bordeaux
TRANSFER TIME: 20 minutes drive