Anna Hart discovers the New Year’s Eve haunt for cool Parisians: a decadent Bordeaux party pad hidden among the vineyards.
It’s a little tradition of mine to spend New Year’s Eve in a sense of perpetual anxiety that I’ve chosen the wrong party, booked the wrong cottage or selected the wrong drink. This year, however, I don’t need to fret about where the cool kids are because I know. They’re ensconced in an 18th-century manor, surrounded by Parisian bon vivants and bottles of some of the best wine in the land.
Every Parisian knows the name Les Sources de Caudalie – the luxury hotel and spa set among the vineyards in Bordeaux, owned by Olympic skiers-turned-vintners Daniel and Florence Cathiard and run by their daughter Alice Tourbier and her husband Jérôme. The hotel is famed for welcoming hedonists as warmly as health-seekers; a pre-disgrace John Galliano spent a string of NYEs at the hotel along with his fashionable entourage.
Parisians are also familiar with the best vintages from the Cathiards’ celebrated grand cru estate, Château Smith Haut Lafitte. And they can name all the must-have products in the Caudalie beauty line, conceived by the Cathiard’s other daughter, Mathilde. But only a select few – and now, you – know the name Château Le Thil, an elegant 18thcentury manor purchased by the family last year and lovingly transformed by Alice and Jérôme into the most haut of B&Bs.
Château Le Thil’s eclectic decor makes it feel like a stylish home, on steroids
Guests at Le Thil are an easy 20-minute stroll (or 10-minute scenic whizz on a cycle) through the vines from Les Sources but, tucked away in one of the nine rooms of ‘the secret château’, they’ll have a much more private, retreat-like experience. Indeed, Le Thil’s eclectic decor makes it feel more like a stylish home, on steroids. Alice says she was aiming for a ‘chic junk shop’ look and it works; there is nothing stuffy about this sort of stateliness. In my room – Papillon Vole (I reckon it’s the best) – my bed stands, island-like, in the middle of the room, a clawfoot bathtub hiding behind it.
You’re just 20 minutes from buzzy Bordeaux if you fancy a night out in the town, but this evening we’re dining at chef Nicolas Masse’s La Grand’Vigne – Les Sources de Caudalie’s Michelin-starred restaurant. I can’t resist the cheese plate, with around 75 to choose from (the waiter tells me they actually have 200 in their ‘cheese library’) and when we roll back to our private castle in the woods it seems a total waste of the sumptuous reception rooms that I haven’t got 50 friends coming over for a nightcap or seven.
On the plus side, I get my eight hours and am able to make the most of my breakfast in the sun-drenched, oak-panelled dining room, overlooking the grounds’ lake. It’s particularly fortunate I’m not hungover because I’m introduced to one of my new favourite things: cannelés de Bordeaux: miniature toasted, gooey cakes with a custardlike centre and a caramelised top. They’re a local speciality so I have five. Well, who knows when I’ll be back in Bordeaux again.