I’m breaking my own rules today.
Regular readers will know that I rarely recommend accommodation options here on Distant Francophile.
To my mind, choosing where to stay while travelling is a very personal thing. Tastes, budgets and expectations of a perfect getaway all come into play when we decide whether or not we like a hotel, apartment or even a campsite. What I love, you might hate, and vice versa. So I generally find it is safer to avoid recommendations, or at the very outside, provide simple lists of places we’ve stayed to give you a starting point for your own research.
But every now and then you stay somewhere that just blows you away. That makes you want tell everyone about the place. Even go as far as packing up all the special people in your life and taking them there, just so they can share the amazing experience with you.
I had this sort of stay a couple of weeks ago at Les Sources des Caudalie.
Now, I have to confess that I’m a Caudalie fan. I use a number of their products (we can only get a limited range in Australia, so I stock up while I’m in France) and I enjoyed brand creator Mathilde Thomas’ book. So you could argue that there was a better than average chance that I’d enjoy staying at the flagship property in Martillac, which is about 20 minutes outside Bordeaux.
However, I’d suggest that you would have a fabulous stay here even if you’d never heard of the Caudalie brand and what sisters Alice and Mathilde have achieved. (Alice and her husband look after the wine and accommodation businesses – there will soon be four Caudalie properties throughout France. Mathilde, together with her hubby, founded the spa and skincare empire. To say that they have quite an entrepreneurial family really is an understatement).
So, what is it about this place that I fell in love with? And why is it that I’m prepared to break my own rules to tell everyone about it? Well, there are any number of reasons, but here are the big six.
Les Sources de Caudalie looks pretty flash when you pull up to the gate. You pass by a cluster of tiled roofed buildings, the main ‘house’ and the spa. All of this is set amongst Bordeaux vineyards and situated directly opposite the family winemaking chateau of Smith Haut Lafitte.
It’s a fairly impressive set up.
I was extremely conscious that I was very crumpled after driving across most of France on the day we arrived. But I need not have been. The welcome we received was extremely warm and friendly – and I don’t think it would have mattered how crumply I was.
Check-in was seamless and the lovely Cécile took the time to confirm our ‘program’ which included our spa, dinner and winery tour reservations (all of which I’d made via the internet or email well in advance of us leaving Melbourne). Cécile then took the time to show us around the property, pointing out where we needed to go to eat, swim or taste the wines. Finally, she took us to our room, where we found out we’d been upgraded to a suite.
I almost squealed with excitement.
Ok, so we were lucky enough to receive an upgrade to a huge (almost apartment sized) suite. It was absolutely gorgeous with views of the whole property, but all the rooms I took a peek into looked fabulous. They are spread around the grounds and are offered at a variety of price points which range from reasonable in terms of five star establishments through to blow the budget type prices. (If you are looking for a slightly cheaper experience you could book into one of the rooms in Château Le Thil, the associated chateau situated off the main grounds around 1.5 kilometres away.)
One element I really loved was the use of scent in the rooms. The Les Sources team use their own products to fragrance the rooms and everything smelled divine. Caudalie products are also featured in the bathroom. Other lovely touches included all the things you’d expect from a top flight hotel – complimentary water, a plate of grapes, a range of teas and a choice of reading materials.
With its reflective lakes, immaculately manicured gardens, swans, substantial distance between rooms and views over vineyards, it doesn’t take long to come to the conclusion that you’ve landed in a very special setting. While some traveller reviews describe it as a resort, for me it was more of an ‘estate’ containing all sorts of activities aimed at relaxing. Aside from a stunning day spa, there were indoor and outdoor pools and it was very pleasant to wander around the gardens and take in the large number of sculptures that adorn the grounds.
Interestingly, there were a group of big time European bloggers and Instagram influencers enjoying a stay at Les Sources the same time we were, a fact that made this little Australian blogger smile. Scott and I were very entertained watching them taking photos of each other on balconies, at the spa and with the swans. It crossed my mind that perhaps everything was so spot on due to their presence however the longer I stayed the more I doubted that thought. It appeared to me that wherever you were on the estate, all guests were afforded the same service and I watched Cécile treating another couple to same welcome experience we’d appreciated after the tribe of bloggers had left.
The Dining Options
There are three dining options on site, catering to all tastes and budgets.
La Grand’Vigne is the two Michelin starred restaurant, headed up by chef Nicolas Masse. David Leibowitz wrote an excellent review of La Grand’Vigne after he dined there a couple of years ago while staying at Les Sources de Caudalie.
As we’ve experienced the fun of Michelin starred dining previously (and mainly because we didn’t want to travel for five weeks with Michelin star style clothing) we chose to dine both nights in the more casual restaurant La Table du Lavoir. Situated in the former washhouse the restaurant has a great ambience. On both nights we dined there we enjoyed excellent food – including comforting autumn dishes like pumpkin and chestnut velouté, filet de boeuf and moelleux au chocolat. The wine and the service were also fantastic. I’d recommend booking as it was flat out both nights we were there.
If sharing plates are more your style, then Rouge – a wine and tapas bar – might be the option for you. We ate lunch there and loved every bite of the many small plates we tried. They even offer jarred and tinned products to take away, in case you’d like to prepare yourself a little picnic.
Breakfast is served buffet style in the beautiful main restaurant space and included hot options – something that you don’t always see on hotel breakfast menus in France. I decided that I liked eating breakfast while I gazed across the lake to the vineyards. I don’t think they would have been prepared to let me move in though.
There is no other way to describe it – the spa at Les Sources de Caudalie is simply a high class facility.
Available only to those guests opting for treatments (naturally using Caudalie products, which are full of the skin enhancing benefits of grapes), you lounge around sipping spicy tea while awaiting a softly spoken, mauve clad therapist.
All the usual suspects abound – facials and massages – as well as a few more unique options, like bathing in a barrel filled with grape marc. As with everything else at the property, it is the little details that make the experience top notch – I really liked being given a choice of music to listen to during my treatments. (For the record, I went with classical and nature but could have chosen jazz or world music.) A minimum spend gives half day access to all the spa facilities which include deliciously warm thermal baths, a steam room and spa baths. Booking is definitely recommended. And of course, there is a well stocked Caudalie store in case you want to continue the experience after you leave.
The Tour Of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte
Now it isn’t often that you get a free tour of Grand Cru Classé vineyard when you book your accommodation – but you do at Les Sources. And I’ve paid for tours over the years that weren’t as good as the one that Chloé, our guide, delivered.
While you visit the cooperage, the winemaking facilities and the cellars, which are filled with row after row of wine barrels, you are treated to an intriguing insight into the history of the Chateau (which dates back to the 14th century) and the making of the current day wines. We were lucky enough to visit while they were picking the grapes and therefore were able to see the winemakers in action – something we’ve never experienced before.
And of course, no wine related tour would be complete without a little taste of the finished product – all five couples on our tour enjoyed both of the full flavoured white and red wines produced at the property.
Tours in English run daily at 3:00pm. Perfect if you want to spend your morning at the spa immersed in grapes and spend your afternoon thinking about grapes in a whole different fashion.
It’s safe to say I’m working on a plan to get back to Les Sources de Caudalie as soon as I can possibly manage it.
Have you stayed at Les Sources de Caudalie near Bordeaux? Did you love it as much as I did? Or perhaps there is another hotel that you’d happily return to time and time again. If you have an answer to any of those questions, I’d love for you to share it in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir.
Please note: This is an unsolicited post and no compensation of any kind has been received from Les Sources de Caudalie Martilliac or associated companies.