Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Ultimate Rest and Relaxation: Les Sources De Caudalie, Bordeaux
I arrived to Les Sources de Caudalie in Bordeaux with a cold. Not a chills and fever kind of cold, but the pervasive, underlying type of cold that makes you feel run-down and tired for a couple of weeks - just enough to be annoying. Plus, it was raining. So, in addition to having a cold, I was actually cold.
But shortly after checking into our room (despite arriving four hours before the official check-in time), there was a knock at our door and we were presented with a plate of sweet, ripe grapes - freshly picked from the hotel's grounds. I began to feel better.
I flung open the windows directly facing the bath and took a long, hot shower, letting the steam float out into the cool air. I watched as the sky turned from grey to blue and yelped with excitement over the Caudalie bath products and skincare samples, having been a fan of the brand for such a long time.
Afterwards, we walked the short distance to the beautiful indoor pool and relished the silence (it was empty) and the water's warm temperature. I swam a few lengths before noticing that my stuffy nose had nearly cleared completely - all within a few hours of landing in Bordeaux.
The fresh produce cultivated on-site became a reoccuring theme to our stay at Les Sources de Caudalie. Walking amongst the damp grass in the gardens, we found healthy, gleaming heads of lettuce, herbs marked in French with chalkboard signs, and rhubarb sprouting prettily from the soil.
I marvelled at the gorgeous flowers that just peeped over the garden's low hedges: dozens of colorful poppies, tulips, and daisies bobbed their heads along to the breeze. It seemed like a fairytale, and felt like one too.
That night, in the hotel's farmhouse-inspired bistro, La Table du Lavoir, I ordered the beetroot salad and admired the tri-colored beetroots on my plate. I savoured every garnish knowing that it had been freshly picked from the same garden I walked past every morning.
The next morning, we borrowed bikes from the hotel reception (no locks, no taking down names - just pull them out of the bike rack and go) and cycled amongst the vineyards, breathing in the country air. "Isn't this incredible?" John shouted to me over the wind as I gripped my handlebars tightly. A dog the size of a small cow with a lion's mane stepped into our path and panted gently as he trod next to us, guarding the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte.
For lunch, we treated ourselves to La Grand Vigne's 5-course tasting menu, where John fell in love with a bottle of Chateau D'Yquem 'Ygrec' 2014 and I rekindled my relationship with oysters on the half-shell.
It was so delightfully sunny outside, we took our desserts and petit fours outdoors and enjoyed the hours before our tour of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte as slowly as possible. Hardly any other guests were around, so it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves!
In the end, no one else turned up to the tour at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, so we had a lovely, private view of the premises where we marvelled at the oak barrels made on-site (the workshop smelled amazing) and the incredible wine cellars. Each year, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte produces 10,000 cases of red wine and 3,000 cases of white wine, plus a further 5,500 cases of their "second" wines, Les Hauts de Smith and Le Petit Haut Lafitte for export.
After the tasting, we arrived back to our room, still full from our earlier, delicious two-Michelin starred meal. We decided to take a nap and woke to the sounds of frogs having an animated conversation outside our balcony. The sky was completely dark. We dozily ordered room service around 9 p.m. and promptly fell asleep again before asking for our tray to be taken away. I was getting used to this slow living business.
By the time we left Les Sources de Caudalie, I felt like I could ... breathe again. Both metaphorically and literally. The cold I'd brought with me from London had completely disappeared, gently nudged out of my system by the incredible food we'd tried, copious number of naps I'd taken, and the daily laps in the pool.