9/8/08

If someone told me I could earn a living reviewing spa resorts around the world, I would never have believed them! If they had tried to convince me that I would be following in Madonna’s footsteps bathing in wine, in a spa resort in the south of France, well, I don’t think I would have believed that either.

As my taxi driver sped me towards my destination, Les Source de Caudaile, an exclusive spa about 20 min drive from the heart of Bordeaux, he briefed me on local history and continually checked for my reaction in the rear view mirror. Far from relaxed, I clung for dear life as we weaved our way through the early morning rush hour traffic.He told me that twelve years ago, a famous French skier, Daniel Cathiard and his wife Florence, joined forces to restore a 16th century castle in Martillac, on the outskirts of Bordeaux.

The castle, Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte also came with 55 acres of vineyards and despite having no experience in wine making, they successfully produced Smith Haut-Lafitte wines. Having fully restored the Castle and another nearby smaller chateau for private residence the couple got to work on opening a small four star hotel and with it, an adjoining spa. Their beauty range Claudalie is now sold worldwide. The couple’s daughter Alice has taken over the running, which doubled in size to 50 exclusive rooms and apartments. The l’Institute de Vinotherapie offers the worlds only oenologically based health and beauty treatment. This means that by using the polyphenols in the grapes, which contain antioxidants capable of combating free radicals like smoke, stress, pollution, the skin can be protected from ageing.

Recent research also shows that polyphenols is a cholesterol-reducing element in red wine. Grape seed oil is rich in fatty acids, which therefore makes it ideal to moisturise skin. I was happy to give it a try.Nothing could have prepared me for the serenity and beauty of the place. Carefully designed to create space, clean lines and tranquillity this spa is Zen-like, with natural wood beams framing large window areas and clean smooth limestone paving throughout.

As you enter the main area you can lounge in the huge Hydro-massage pool, referred to by some guests as the ‘healing pool‘, where the water is warm and comforting. The atmosphere in the main seating area, which surrounds the hydro-pool, is relaxed and tranquil with views of sun drenched vineyards and the large shimmering outdoor pool.Based on the first floor, my bedroom was a real haven. The double french doors opened out onto the small lake to the rear of the hotel.

Each evening I had the privilege of watching the resident swans swim in unison, peacocks swaggering about the grounds and when the trees sway a little, I could catch a glimps of the most exclusive of the hotel’s accommodation, the separate Cabin Suit, on the far side of the lake.I was given a card with my shedule written out - four treatments over my two days, with full access to all the amenities including a haman, outdoor jacuzzi and the michelin starred La Grand Vigne restaurant .The treatments I chose included a honey and wine wrap which lifts dead skin with the tartaric acid naturally found in grapes and helps circulation. The Peachy Complexion facial will do exactly as it prescribes while the crushed Cabernet Body Scrub softens the skin and the Sauvignon Massage tones. I found the treatments a little rushed but in a place this luxurious, the treatments almost became secondary to the view from my room.I met a wonderful glamorous lady from London called Paula on my first day by the pool. A sun-kissed well travelled lady, with immaculate hair and pristine, painted nails who told me she had travelled around the world on spa trips and Les Source de Caudaile was the best she’d found. We spoke about life, love and our treatment schedules, our smoking habits, fashion preferences, when the subject of age arose. Im usually a good judge but Paula left me pondering. She could be close to 60 I thought to myself, a well preserved 60.“Im over 70” she confided and I was stunned to silence. The most valid proof that a spa trip once a year can do wonders!It was time for lunch and I knew I was nt going to be disappointed. This spa has a wine cellar that exceeds 10,000 bottles, a two star Michelin chef in their restaurant and a cigar room where you smoke hand rolled cigars and sample wine from the region, difficult to surpass. Who ever imagined that a spa trip could be so indulgent!Les Source de Chemin de Smith Haut-Lafitte, 33650 MARTILLAC, France. T 0033 5 5783 82 82http://www.source-caudaile.com/sources@sources-caudaile.com
Sara Colohan travelled with Air France fly direct to Bordeaux
Internet: http://www.franceguide.comtel/: 1560 235 235 (95 cents per minute)

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