Review: Château le Thil, Bordeaux
As we sweep down the driveway of buttercup-yellow 18th century Château Le Thil I feel like I've entered another world. The carte postale-worthy château is a short drive from vibrant Bordeaux and the airport but you couldn't feel more secluded if you tried. It's delightfully tranquil for my London ears and there are miles of vineyards as far as the eye can see – something tells me we are in for a merry time!
Bienvenue à Bordeaux
Inside the welcome is typically French - lots of kissing from super chic owner Alice Tourbier and the invitation to make ourselves feel 'chez vous'... in other words we should treat the château like it's home. And what a home it is – huge sweeping staircases, corridors that are so wide you could waltz down them and high ceilings all decorated with a mix of antiques, eclectic patterned wallpapers and luxury mod cons. <em>Je suis au paradis!</em>
My room, or should I say apartment – Retour des Indes – is huge, bright and stunning. As I open the floor-to-ceiling French windows looking out onto the sweeping lawns I feel like I'm in a movie. Resisting the urge to skip round the cavernous chambre I head down to the front of Le Thil where a driver awaits to whisk us to the sister hotel and spa – <a href="http://www.sources-caudalie.com" target="_blank" title="sources" rel="nofollow">Les Sources de Caudalie</a>.
Life is just a bowl of grapes
The Vinothérapie spa at Les Sources de Caudalie is completely unique. I'm starting to realise that everything about this family-run business – the hotel décor, the food in the restaurants, the vineyards, spa and château – is based around the grapes. All the spa products are made from the by-product of the winemaking process and I enjoy having the grape juices smoothed across my face during a facial just as much as I enjoy sipping them during a wine-tasting tour. Other standout details are the indoor and outdoor pools and the huge wine barrel Jacuzzi – what else would it be made from?
Food is almost as important as the drink here and there are two top restaurants to choose from: the five-star La Grand'Vigne and the more relaxed La Table du Lavoir. Every course comes with a different bottle of wine produced on the estate. From light whites to rich reds and silky dessert wines you can see why this vineyard wins so many awards. We are even treated to a delicious dessert cider one night. The service here is impeccable, the surroundings heavenly and we leave in a happy state, full of fine wine and good food. Inspired by the fabulous fare, the next day we try our hands at creating our own gastro masterpiece under the guidance of the hotel's Michelin-starred chef Nicolas Masse. We even get to enjoy our creations in the restaurant afterwards – although something tells me Nicolas spruced up our rather amateur efforts before they were served!
With vines all around and bowls of grapes in every corner you can't leave the château without taking a tour of the family's Grand Cru vineyard – Château Smith Haut Lafitte. We discovered underground caves full of barrels as far as the eye could see, and had a bit of a <em>James Bond</em> moment when the floor opened up to reveal a hidden cave full of wines from the 1800s, and bottles that came up to our shoulders!
La vie est belle
Outside the hotel's main reception are rows of quintessentially French sit-up-and-beg bikes (basket for the requisite baguette included). We hop on them for the mile-long journey back to Le Thil – ever so slightly weaving down the narrow lanes after so much wine!
Coffee and croissants
Breakfast in the château is a much more relaxed affair. We saunter downstairs after a perfect night's sleep to find a table laid out with fresh croissants, fruit, yoghurt, cold meats and regional specialities – scrumptious cannelés. Just the ticket after the rich dinners and endless glasses of wine. There's a real feeling of having the entire place to ourselves and I can just imagine being here surrounded by my hens – with nine bedrooms it's the ultimate place for a civilised house party.
And while it's so tempting to stay cocooned in our sumptuous surroundings quaffing the estate's vintages, no visit to Château Le Thil would be complete without a visit to stylish Bordeaux. We enjoy a walk along the sunny promenade before delving into the many museums, impressive cathedral and chic shops that make up the town.
From €240 per couple per night, <a href="http://chateau-le-thil.com" target="_blank" title="chateau le thil" rel="nofollow">chateau-le-thil.com</a>. Flights from London Gatwick to Bordeaux with <a href="http://www.easyjet.com/en/" target="_blank" title="easyjet" rel="nofollow">easyjet.com</a>.