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July 17, 2013

A Second Life for a French Manor House

By Tina Isaac-Goizé | Hotels

A Second Life for a French Manor House
Courtesy of The Chateau de Thil

Given its legendary châteaux and spectacular countryside, Bordeaux—unlike Alsace, Burgundy and Champagne—has never had an official route des vins. That will change in the fall, thanks in large part to the popularity of Les Sources de Caudalie (sources-caudalie.com), a boutique hotel, Vinothérapie Spa and epicurean destination in the region. Added to its offerings this summer is Château le Thil, an 18th-century manor house and vineyard that has found new life as a bed-and-breakfast.

The Cathiard family—in particular sisters Mathilde Thomas and Alice Tourbier—is behind the enterprise. Located just opposite the clan’s grand cru estate of Le Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Les Sources de Caudalie is named for the cult Caudalie beauty brand that is based on grape-seed extracts. Locals call the family, simply, “les Caudalies.”

Château le Thil, located roughly a mile from Les Sources de Caudalie, was built in 1737. The Comtesse de Clary (Josephine Bonaparte’s sister-in-law) renovated it in the mid-1800s; the royal connection remained intact for the next several generations. “Two-hundred years ago, Smith Haut Lafitte and Le Thil belonged to the same family,” says Tourbier, adding that the manor endured as a favorite summer retreat for various branches of nobility descended from Queen Victoria a century ago. “We’ve brought them into a family circle again.”

Freshly renovated, Château le Thil opens onto three spacious salons housing eight rooms and one suite. (An additional room, a suite with a private terrace, and a swimming pool will follow shortly.) Tourbier teamed with her mother for the decor, which varies from room to room, but the overall feel is rustic antique chic: Chantilly chandeliers, imposing wooden wardrobes, trunks, tables and chairs furnish spaces decked with dove-gray walls enlivened by colorful fabrics.

Motifs range from classic toile de Jouy and grape clusters in the Rouge Merlot suite (No. 2) to a lush landscape in the colonial Retour des Indes room (No. 7) to a mustard-hued Pierre Frey tribal print in the Lascaux & Co. room (No. 5). All bathrooms have twin sinks, clawfoot tubs and showers. And because all accommodations are in the front of the building, each offers views of rolling greenery, ponds and the oak-lined allée royale that leads back to Le Château Smith Haut Lafitte and Les Sources de Caudalie. Rates start at $325 (rooms), $520 (suite); Chemin de Smith Hait Lafitte; 33-5/57-83-83-83; chateau-le-thil.com.

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