Perfect for: Romance, great wine, and oysters
Bordeaux ticks lots of boxes – not only is it the world’s major wine industry capital, its winters are mild, its summers are long and warm, and its pretty Arcachon Bay is home to some of the best oysters we’ve tasted. Plus, much of its gorgeous neo-classical architecture has been UNESCO listed and celebrated as an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble. Set on a hill overlooking the famous wine centre from across the Garonne river, Le Saint James is a luxury hotel that boasts its own restaurant with Michelin-starred chef, and cookery school.
It’s safe to say that even on our extensive travels, we’ve never slept in the same room as a Harley-Davidson. But that was before spending two blissful nights in the Harley-Davidson Suite at the sensational Le Saint James in Bouliac, a tiny, peaceful village near Bordeaux, in which a giant white former police motorbike takes pride of place.
Monsieur 2 and I have decided that we’re in need of an escape where we can indulge our love of gastronomy in a relaxed setting. I knew of Le Saint James, a Relais et Chateaux property just twenty minutes from Bordeaux, and booked us in.
After checking in at the super-friendly reception we enjoy a welcome champagne cocktail in the chic, modern bar before we’re escorted along a dramatic dark corridor, past the restaurant where we’re booked in for dinner tonight and into our suite.
“Wow!” Monsieur 2 gasps, “look at the size of that bed!” And he’s right, it’s vast – and unusually high, too. “Every bed is hand-made to be the perfect height from which to appreciate the view,” we’re told. That’s the kind of attention-to-detail we love! Sliding doors open onto our own private terrace, which overlooks the hotel’s own vineyard, the Garonne, and Bordeaux beyond. We open a bottle of chilled Graves from the well-stocked mini-bar and relax on loungers until it’s time to dine.
Dinner in the restaurant is remarkable, not just for the impeccable cuisine but for the surprising – and welcome – informality. Service is polished and professional but studiedly unfussy, and we don’t feel at all underdressed in our (admittedly smart) jeans.
Of seven sensational courses, highlights are Maillemort asparagus with morels, Milk calf grilled on a wood fire with sweet onions and Medjool dates, and probably the best cheese we’ve ever eaten including a thrillingly pungent Roquefort Fermier.
We drink – bien sûr – Pomerol, one of Bordeaux’s finest and most famous wines, and go to bed replete.
Breakfast next day is served by choice in our room, and is a sumptuous spread of excellent warm breads and patisserie, charcuterie, yoghurts, fresh fruit and the lightest, fluffiest omelettes.
It sets us up nicely for the activity I’ve lined up – a trip on the Bay of Arcachon in a traditional flat-hulled pinasse, taking in a tasting of the oysters for which the Bay is famous at a charming oyster-fisherman’s shack and lunch at the delightful Pinasse Café in the chic resort town of Cap-Ferret.
Back in Bouliac, we enjoy aperitifs on the romantic candle-lit terrace of Le Saint James.
Then we head over for dinner at the hotel’s Café de l’Esperance, just across the road.
In contrast to the haute cuisine of the hotel restaurant, the café is a rustic, hearty affair, with a mouth-watering buffet of cold hors-d’œuvres, grilled meats for main courses (Monsieur 2 loves the unusual local speciality of duck ‘cutlets’, cut across the breast, while I enjoy a perfect veal chop) and a button-popping dessert buffet.
“Do you think I should have a rum baba?” Monsieur 2 asks, having already polished off a chocolate Nemesis, mango panna cotta and coffee crème brûlée; “Only if you want us to pay excess baggage tomorrow!” I’m forced to reply. It’s a wonderful dinner, especially washed down with the hotel’s very own Le Vin du Jardin, made from the very grapes which grow outside our room.
Next morning we’ve time for a dip in the heated outdoor pool before showering in our suite’s giant wet-room.
Once dressed, we head to the restaurant for another splendid breakfast, and enjoy the view.
Then it’s aprons on and time for a last little treat, a morning course in Côté Cours, the hotel’s cookery school. A small class size means we have our excellent teacher’s almost undivided attention, and it’s with immense pride that just a couple of hours later we sit down to a restaurant-worthy lunch that we’ve made ourselves!
We can’t resist stocking up on some professional gadgets and fruity olive oil from the school’s stylish shop.
Before leaving, we take a last stroll around the grounds to admire the stunning Jean Nouvel-designed buildings – the architecture is as much a feature of Le Saint James as its peaceful setting and culinary delights – and as we do the staff, whose flawless, attentive but unobtrusive service has been a real highlight of our stay, all take the time to say goodbye.
“You know darling,” I say to Monsieur 2 as the taxi takes us towards Bordeaux Airport, “I think we might just have found a perfect place for a honeymoon?” “Yes, I rather think we might have,” he agrees, returning my knowing smile…
Special packages available:
The Discover Aquitaine:
* 2 nights in a deluxe room
* Breakfast served either in the bedroom or in the restaurant
* A dinner for two in the French bistro, ‘Le Café de l’Espérance’ – including drinks
* A day out on a typical ‘pinasse’ boat in the bay of Arcachon with oyster tasting & a picnic on the Arguin sandbanks
* A gastronomic dinner for two in the Michelin starred restaurant, ‘Le Saint James’ – including drinks
* A cookery class in the hotel’s state of the art cookery school ‘Côté Cours’
The total price of the package is £1,404 based on two people sharing and is available from April to October 2014 subject to availability.
* VIP welcome (champagne on arrival & gifts)
* 4 nights in a suite with breakfasts
* Champagne breakfast on one morning, served in the room
* 1 dinner in the gastronomic restaurant, gourmet menu, drinks included
* 1 dinner in the bistro, à la carte, drinks included
* 1 candlelit dinner in the suite, 3 course menu, drinks included
* 1 class in the cookery school, with lunch
* 1 wine-tasting class with the wine waiter
* A private visit (excluding transfers) to a Chateau in Saint Émilion to taste the wine and visit the cellars
* A day out on a Pinasse in Arcachon, with oyster tasting and a picnic lunch on the boat (excluding transfers)
* 2 hours in Oxy-Zen, at 2km drive from the Saint-James (Sauna, Jacuzzi, relaxation room, one massage per person)
Package available, subject to availability, until September, 2014.
les Deux Messieurs Honeymoon package price : €3,980
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