Vinotherapy

An early start in the dark –  a young man from Macedonia speeds me seamlessly through the silent countryside towards Gatwick, intent on his dream of making enough money in London to buy an ice cream parlour in Amsterdam.  I am dreaming of an escape from city life to an imagined paradise for a few days …

It was an easy run.  Gatwick has improved and there was time to have breakfast at ‘Comptoir Libanais’ before departing for Bordeaux and specifically, ‘Les Sources de Caudalie’ – a sheltered spa, deep in the middle of a celebrated vineyard.

It’s an extraordinary place  –  beautiful, discreetly luxurious, warm and tranquil …

A first encounter with the vines and ‘un bon acceuil’ …

We are taken to our rustic abode amongst the vines by two chic ‘femmes françaises’.  The air is soft and fragrant, we luxuriate in the warmth of the sun and we have the afternoon to explore. La vie est belle.

The vineyard

Sculptures abound, which adds to the slightly surreal atmosphere of this place.  I feel I could have strayed onto the set of an art house film –  just hoping they haven’t noticed. Very French, so it’s good that we both speak the language.

A viewing platform

I just caught the bird, before it flew. I’m not sure about the rest of it ..!   As we approached the vineyard buildings, a bird man greeted us.

Birds of Bordeaux

The idea of the birds clustering around him and twittering all together is charming but I can’t help thinking at the same time of the shade of St. Sebastian, shot with arrows.  He is a martyr in a painting by Andrea Mantegna in 1480, which you can see in The Louvre, Paris.  The lushness of the vines is tempered by the challenge of climate change. A good vintage is always dependent on the weather.

View from our rustic abode, which is ‘calme, luxe et volupté’ …

Our house among the vines from the other side …

Outside heated pool …  7.30 am

We were up early and had the pool all to ourselves.  Followed by the most luxurious ‘petit déjeuner’, taken in the main building.

The dining room is on the left, with an outside terrace overlooking the lake …

The chef’s vegetable and herb gardens are here too  –  I had wanted to get a photo of him bent over his parsley but he moved too quickly.  He probably didn’t want to be on show  –  a very special chef, one of whose original dishes  –  which we were given later on  –  is ‘oeuf en colère’.  Translated literally it is ‘angry or furious egg’ but could also, I thought, be called ‘egginatizz’!

‘oeuf en colère’

Spicy line-caught sea bass with beetroot sorbet …

Another astonishing and delicious concoction by our chef, Nicolas Masse, at ‘Les Sources de Caudalie’ … This photo was taken from his recipe book, a copy of which was in our house. Today we tried the more simple café for lunch and were able to sit outside.

Lunch outside on the 2nd November …

There are three swimming pools here and this one has real pzazz. Indoor, but full of discreet light and glorious colour. Again, we had it all to ourselves.

‘Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven. (William Wordsworth 1770-1850)

Everywhere we went we found interesting things – on our way to the spa for massage and general wellbeing, we came upon boats and bears and sculptures celebrating wine.  The vineyard has private roads. It’s true that you never forget how to ride a bicycle  –  I was a little wobbly but it was at least twenty years since I last took to two wheels!  Inspiring – I just need my own private road!

On guard …

Elegant Edwina

Bibulous guardian of the bicycles!

The vineyard offered a wine tasting but  when we arrived they told us the group was full.  We meandered around the entrance and noticed there was a walk through the forest with a glass of wine offered at the end.  All good!

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte – Bordeaux

An impressively large bottle of wine

Stone sink at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Bordeaux

The horses who plough the vineyards – Apollon, Bacchus, Quitus …

The start of the forest walk

… and off we go !

Crossing a primitive bridge to the island …

Autumn leaves …

A woodland shrine …

A bit of a sharp shock! Am glad there is no Vlad the Impaler rushing out of the bushes …

We finally arrive at a Hansel and Gretel house in the middle of the forest, where hens, goats and llamas potter about and a handsome young couple sit outside, chatting together at a table.  There is also a large, modern building behind the house, where the barrels of wine are stored.

The llama looks at us curiously  –  his expression reminds me of my brother, about to laugh at his own joke!

We climb up over an iron walkway to look through the windows of the winery. It looks very high tech  –  I wonder what the sculpture outside signifies?

A giant safety pin, signifying?

Barrels of wine – an example of ‘the circular economy’ at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte …

It’s more hi-tech in the woods today …

Our welcome glass of wine is on the horizon  –  and we get to explore the house in the woods too. I would have liked to take these candlesticks home with me – fashioned out of the old vines.  They both sport great personalities  –  full of ‘joie de vivre’!

Ta-da! Here I come, bearing gifts …

The discreet charm …

More bibulous statues greet us on the walk back through the vines. I feel as if I am ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’  –  soon I will have to step back into the reality of the daily round.

Bacchanalian delights … the eyes have it!

Lady vintner – she looks like a hard worker in comparison!

Walking tall – old and contemporary is an eclectic mix and keeps your eye in …

After another swim, followed by a grand dinner, we join in a stargazing session at 10pm.  Cameras on tripods and telescopes are set up. We fleetingly see stars, the Moon and Mars but there’s a lot of cloud cover  –  so it’s back to our rustic abode for a long sleep before we set forth on our return to the grey skies of London.

And so …  to bed …. to sleep, perchance to dream …

 

A last morning ‘double’ swim – both outdoors and indoors.  There is a mist hovering above the outdoor pool as the heat rises from the water. You could call it ‘romantic physics’. Easy for me to describe the former but more difficult to explain the latter in scientific detail.  I love science but am more intuitive  than analytical.  We need both.  Meanwhile, a blackbird sets off a chorus of birdsong. And I am hungry …

Another fabulous breakfast and then it’s time to pack and say thank you to all who made our stay so welcoming and pleasurable.  I hope it is only ‘au revoir’ and that we can make a return visit.

‘Au revoir’ to the golden boys …

‘Au revoir’ to the ‘Leaping Hare’

I never found out why there was an enormous green rabbit sitting in reception and I only managed to get a rather blurry picture of it by subterfuge.  But it sums up the glorious and surreal ambiance of “Les Sources de Caudalie’. A spa in a vineyard.  And so much more.

FIN

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