So fairy tales really can come true. I’d always conjured up a place in my mind from a story book and imaged it in real life, but never did I expect to be sleeping in it. But at the beginning of December, that dream finally came true and its location was Chateau Grand Barrail Hotel. A luxury hotel located near the medieval city of Saint-Emilion and in the heart of the Bordeaux vineyards, with some of the worlds best wine-producing estates just a stones throw away. The main part of the Chateau in the photo dates back to the 19th-century, surrounded by a 7-acre park and the hotel a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. As far as buildings go, this Chateau from the outside is absolutely picture perfect.
Standing out against the backdrop of the rolling vineyards, this Chateau’s fairy-tale turrets, spires and exterior simply can’t helped but be enjoyed during every waking moment you’re staying here and it beauty changes throughout the day. Bright and reflective in the midday sun, taking on an orange glow as the sun sets and illuminated during the evening by the colourful flood lights and soft glow of the moon.
The hotel is split into two parts. The main imposing 19th century chateau containing the hotels bar and restaurant, with the newer extension housing the 41 rooms and five suites. I love how the decor changes so much throughout the hotel. It’s classic and refined as you enter reception, grand and opulent within the Chateau – yet incredibly modern in the spa area. It almost feels like three different hotels packed into one.
Depending what you class as the front/rear of this property, all rooms offer views across the manicured gardens and over the autumn vines. We stayed in one of the hotels superior rooms, which offered a generous amount of space, exposed chalet styled beams, woollen tartan materials and bold injections of orange and olive-green feature walls. The bathroom was lovely too and from what I could tell, recently renovated. Floor to ceiling white marble effect tiles and some excellent bath products from Omnisens Paris. It all felt very wintry here at Chateau Grand Barrail Hotel and even more so in our cosy room.
After settling into the hotel, we took a short 10 minute drive in to the centre of Saint-Emilion. Known for its Grand Cru wines, it’s one of Bordeaux’s most important winemaking regions and today creates some of the best and most expensive wines in the world, which are highly prized and collected from around the globe. Aside from the never-ending Chateau’s and wineries to visit here, the town was awarded UNESCO world heritage status in 1999 – meaning it’s full of medieval charm, history and quaint bistro’s. What I found most interesting about the town was that the vineyards are almost inside the city itself, with the likes of Chateau Clos Fourtet perched right on its edge. You don’t have to travel far for good wine in Bordeaux.
Some of the churches here in Saint-Emilion date back as far as the 12th century and so even if you’re not a wine drinker, there is so much to see and do. For the foodie you can expect to find some incredible food and wine shops galore. We sat outside under the warmth of a heated cafe and tucked into quality steak tartare, excellent wine by the glass and an endless supply of the Bordeaux staple – canelés.
After a quick power nap in our room, we popped down to the hotels bar just before dinner, indulging in a glass of Saint-Émilion’s finest – red wine. As you head up the stairs to the bar and restaurant, it really is a stark change to the rest of the hotel and it’s all contained within the 19th century chateau. Enter through the white washed conservatory encased staircase, the trees either side are full of fluttering birds chirping away and the two tables perched at the top of the staircase are perfect for people watching – just as the evening guests arrive for dinner. There’s even a smoking room for that after dinner cigar.
It all becomes rather extraordinary once you step into the dining room. It’s one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve set my eyes upon this year. Stunning antique mouldings, beautiful stained glass windows, splashes of gold and a slight oriental/Egyptian theme around the room giving it a real sense of old-style baroque. As well as the room itself, the food is absolutely stunning too and is all looked after by head chef, Romain Gondras. I fell in love with this zesty clementine creation and you can read all about it in my full restaurant review.
Breakfast is served in the main restaurant once again and was of course every bit as indulgent as our dinner was. It was also a new perspective on the room too, seeing the morning light pour in through those colourful stained glass windows which reflected all around the room. Breakfast is served buffet style and in true French fashion, the savoury table was piled high with mountains of cheese, yoghurt, cereals, pastries, hams and eggs.
Warm French sticks, flaky croissants, home-made fruit loafs – they even had freshly toasted canales. If breakfast is your thing then I highly recommended making the time for it at this hotel. It was one of our favourites from the trip and the quality of everything served was incredible.
We really didn’t want to leave Chateau Grand Barrail Hotel that morning, as of course fairy tales have to come to an end – but at least this one had a happy ending. Especially more so seeing the entire hotel wrapped in the morning fog and the grounds and vineyards encased in an icy blanket. All that’s left now is for me to come back during the summer to see this hotel in yet another season, enjoy the outdoor swimming pool they had hidden away and that terrace for sipping the local wines, made from the surrounding vineyards. If you’re looking for a hotel in the centre of the Bordeaux wine growing region with fairy-tale charm – Chateau Grand Barrail has it all.
NB: I was invited to review and my stay was complimentary. All views are as always, my own. My views are not influenced by anyone other than my own palate and slightly poor eyesight.