etangs-de-corot

Our relationship with beauty stems from our mothers. We grow up witnessing creams plastered on cheeks; the smacking of newly painted lips; a heady spritz of perfume. Curiously squeezing out these potions and slapping them onto our baby-fresh skin, we inherit tastes and stick to the same brands that we recognise our mothers adored. Beauty is a maternal matter.

The name Caudalie represents a family story unlike most others, where ambition has been passed down through generations. Former ski champion, Florence Cathiard, ran Château Smith Haut Lafitte and the vineyards with her husband Daniel. Her daughter Mathilde and husband Bertrand Thomas then launched Caudalie cosmetics, followed by sister Alice and husband Jerome Tourbier opening hotels Les Sources de Caudalie in Bordeaux and Les Etangs de Corot in Versailles.

The stereotypically French “laissez-faire” attitude towards beauty is at the heart of the Caudalie brand; it’s wholly organic, with the Caudalie properties favouring lakes and vineyards over modern hotel gimmicks. Creeping vines have made their way up most buildings; a symbol of nature’s welcome invasion. If you’re wondering how a French lifestyle epitomises good health, a pilgrimage to the heart of Caudalie will provide the answer.

On a Caudalie quest, begin at Les Etangs de Corot in Versailles. The hotel was the birthplace of the painter Jean-Baptiste Corot and, unsurprisingly, the views from the bedrooms offer a perfect Impressionist composition of a sun-dappled courtyard and glimmering pond. Dinner at Le Corot is charmingly “rustique”; appetisers are embedded in bark chips and dried blades of grass while main dishes are presented on thick wooden slabs. The food itself follows a similar earthy theme; snails, pumpkin seeds, artichokes and truffles make up dark greens and rich browns. Breakfast is served in the Café des Artists, known in the 19th century as the Auberge Cabassud, which became the meeting place for painters, poets and musicians. Naturally, the choice is hunks of fresh breads, brioche if you fancy, or even chocolate cake.

From the sheer opulence of Versailles to pastoral simplicity, the fast TGV train south to Bordeaux from Paris takes just two hours. A 20-minute drive from Bordeaux you’ll find Les Sources de Caudalie, camouflaged among vineyards. This “tobacco-farm” style is typical to the region and the honeymoon favourite “cabana suite” takes pride of place hovering on stilts above the pond.

Caudalie was the first to launch a Vinothérapie Spa in 1999. The spa culture here seems effortless and, in that sense, very French. Free time is spent wallowing in fluffy dressing gowns in the sun or bobbing in a heated pools. For something really special, the signature “premier cru” facial uses spring mineral water (sourced from 540 metres below the site) and grape-seed cosmetics chosen for their anti-ageing properties. The 50 minute session incorporates eight different products and includes dermaroller treatment, gentle exfoliating, a hot-oil massage and countless creams, finishing with a showering of grape water spray (a cult Caudalie product).

For 650 years the neighbouring Château Smith Haut Lafitte has mixed traditional and contemporary methods to perfect the art of winemaking. Every bottle has two years of work and 300 people behind it – the dedication clearly pays off, as the Chateau’s vintage frequently wins awards. Les Sources de Caudalie’s Grand d’Vigne restaurant has two Michelin stars and offers an indulgent eight courses of homegrown ingredients paired with wines from LaFitte next door. Simple but refined, menu highlights include a crispy breaded farm egg (Alice Tourbier’s favourite dish), wild turbot with seasonal vegetables and tart poached pear.

Bordeaux is a registered UNESCO site and the epicentre of wine heritage, but the real highlight is the new Cite du Vin museum, opened in June 2016. Far more than an elaborate wine shop, here wine means culture, community and history. It’s considered heresy to simply come for a drink – the museum has hosted prestigious art exhibitions, concerts, writing workshops and TED Talks. Inside, you’ll find a projection room, a library with over 2,000 books on wine culture and an impressive cellar containing bottles from South Korea to Georgia. For a different feel, the cream-coloured streets of St Emilion, another UNESCO site, are well worth a visit. Porous limestone walls tell a fascinating history including the biggest underground church in Europe. Miraculously, the tiny town has only 250 inhabitants but 860 wineries.

Caudalie represent a well-rounded holiday: chic hotel, nourishing spa, good food and wine. Every aspect – from cosmetics to hospitality – simply falls into place. Through their accomplishments, the family demonstrates how businesses should work with the earth and local producers. By investing in soil and evolving with nature rather than quashing it, they prioritise a sustainable future for generations to come. And you? Leave with a bit of that French joie de vivre that once seemed so unattainable.

Book a stay at Les Etangs de Corot (rooms from €179) or Les Sources de Caudalie (rooms from €240) with Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

Thanks to a new high-speed train line, journey time with Eurostar has been reduced by an hour.

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