Les Sources de Caudalie - Stephanie On The Source in Bordeaux
Les Sources de Caudalie, the spa sanctuary folded between forests and vineyards in Bordeaux, is the perfect getaway for a frisky couple, a mama-to-be, a gaggle of girls, a ‘Big’ birthday, an indulgent Hen, and an all-about-me retreat. Having been there recently myself, I’d go out on an (expertly massaged) limb here and defy anyone to not like their stay. The fact that I spy Kourtney Kardashian and her all-female entourage/friends within moments of my arrival, gives the place instant kudos. I mean: she clearly isn’t going to waft into anywhere that’s not worth it, right?
You’ve probably seen the Caudalie beauty range before: a premium French brand that promises youthful radiance via the humble grape. Mathilde Thomas started Caudalie in 1995 using extracts from the grapes and vines at her parents’ vineyard, the top-selling Château Smith Haut Lafitte (a ‘caudalie’ means the unit of the duration of the wine's flavour left on the palate, with one caudalie being equivalent to one second).
When her parents touted the idea of a hotel on their vineyard, Mathilde and her husband (and business partner) Bertrand conceived of a Caudalie spa on site. Mathilde's younger sister Alice and her husband Jérôme took the reins on building and managing the property, and when Les Sources de Caudalie opened in 1999, Mathilde herself performed the first facials.
Caudalie now has several spas and treatment rooms around the world, but this remote corner of Bordeaux is still the brand’s heartland - and brand devotees are drawn here in their droves. "Mathilde is aware of the unique universe we've created," Alice tells me, "and when she's shooting a new cosmetic line she will often come back to Bordeaux to take inspiration from Les Sources de Caudalie and the vineyard."
When the family were breaking ground on the hotel, they conveniently discovered a hot spring that drew water from 540m below ground, so Vinothérapie Spa treatments benefit from the water's minerals and oligo-elements (trace metals that are good for your immune system). But before I start waxing lyrical about probably the best facial I’ve ever had, I’ll walk you through the aesthetics of this outrageously pretty hotel. The architect, Yves Collet, used recycled materials to create the buildings - think lots of reclaimed wood to blend with the forested landscape - and the interiors are a mish-mash of country casual and city sumptuous.
With Château Smith Haut Lafitte on the doorstep (and it’s well worth walking the 120 seconds it takes to get to a wine tasting and tour) there's no shortage of fine wine.
And where there’s good wine there’s normally good grub, and Les Sources de Caudalie doesn’t disappoint. There is a 2 Michelin starred restaurant called La Grand’Vigne where you will be wowed by inventive and frame-worthy dishes that are presented with immaculate French flair.
One of the puddings was a plate of cold chocolate crafted into the shape of grape vines - hard in to imagine, but even harder to photograph with justice. Despite just scoffing a tasting menu, my friend and I devoured this in a frenzy. You might have guessed by now that this is not one of those worthy wellness centres where you're starved and denied Bacchanalian pleasures; this is the land of the French Paradox, where you're encouraged to indulge in a little of the really good stuff, and for God's sake don't feel guilty while you're about it. "With every sip of a grand cru, like Château Smith Haut Lafitte, you will feel the perfume and the richness so you won't drink too much," Alice assures me, "and it's the same with our gourmet restaurant. The chef will create a natural way of balance so that it is all not too much."
La Table du Lavoir is the hotel’s casual eaterie that’s steeped in rustic charm. Knock back the rosé, feast on elegant French fare, and then spend an afternoon sleeping it off beside the pool. We did.
If you can't help feeling calorie guilt, know that there are bikes you can ride into the forest and beyond, soaking up the sunshine (and maybe a bit more booze if you stop off at the neighbouring vineyards).
But let’s face it: the spa (and what it can do for my face) is really why I’m here. Centred around a pristine pool, the Vinothérapie spa is all hushed and hallowed, with guests padding about in plush robes. There are trays with carafes of fruit-infused water, silver pots of tea, and bowls of black grapes.
It’s womb-like, and when my therapist Camille comes to find me for my anti-ageing facial, I’m already blissed out. We discuss my amateur beauty routine at home. “So you do not exfoliate regularly?” she asks kindly, “So you are moisturizing dead skin, oui?” She examines my dehydrated face, prescribes the perfect Caudalie products, and gets to work. With a strong but deft touch, she cleanses my skin, performs a rigorous facial massage and applies a 15-minute mask (during which time she treats me to some sublime reflexology).
Now, my husband can't understand facials. He calls it: "A lot of money to have your face washed". But in this case, I really think it's taken years off me. Camille uses the Glycolic Peel, a mask that miraculously exfoliates, and then the supreme anti-ageing products in the range - the Premier Cru Eye Cream and Day Cream. The active ingredient for Premier Cru is Resveratrol, an ingredient sourced from the grapevine stalk for its major anti-wrinkle and firming properties. A final spritz of Beauty Elixir refines the pores and gives radiance - "90% of the products I use are Caudalie," says Alice, "and the beauty elixir is a key part of my routine."
I thank Camille profusely and take my plump, soft, fresh and glowing face into the evening sun. As I slip my ever-so relaxed bod into the outdoor hot tub fashioned from a wooden wine barrel, I'm thinking: "Today, I'm feeling just a teensy bit like I'm keeping up with the Kardashians."