A symphony of art and comfort
I’m not normally a fan of minimalist hotels. How often have I banged my knees on all those sharp edges, tried to get up from a beautiful but uncomfortable chair or twisted on a rock-hard mattress because it’s supposedly good for your back. That being said, since my visit to the Saint James, I have been converted.
Located in the tiny hill-side village of Bouliac, some 20km from Bordeaux, the hotel is a masterpiece of modern design that has it all - tradition, vineyards and top-notch services to cater to guests’ creature comforts.
From a traditional farm house to a modern hotel
Originally one of Bouliac’s most beautiful 18th century farmhouses, Le Saint James Hotel was converted into a hotel and restaurant in 1989. The masterminds behind the project were none other than Chef Jean-Marie Amat and famed architect Jean Nouvel. Their intention was to create an oasis of calm and luxury only a short hop away from thriving Bordeaux.
But, it is much more. Nestling between just two hotel-owned vineyards, which produce the hotel’s signature Merlot and no more than 600 bottles a year, the Le Saint James is a work of art.
Inspired by the tobacco plantations which once grew there, Nouvel took over the design of tobacco barns and left the outside ‘rusty’. Intending to open the entire complex to nature, he added four pavilions connected by airy walkways. You get the impression that the hotel has more windows that solid walls. Where ever you look, your eyes rest on green. Lawns, hillsides, the vineyards… it’s difficult to imagine a more relaxing atmosphere.
Unique touches throughout add to the charm of this hotel
Art continues throughout the hotel with photography exhibitions and specially designed sofas and armchairs in the foyer, bar and rooms.
Each of the 18 rooms and suites is designed differently. One room features a motorcycle sculpture, another a Jacuzzi and mine a sofa shaped in the form of a baseball mitt! What they all have in common are huge windows, which open to nature. The ceilings and beds vary in height to give you a feeling of actually sleeping in the clouds. There is ample space to dress and to sit at a desk or to enjoy breakfast in your room.
The bathrooms are a delight, too. The tub and shower were modern and functional but without the need of a degree in engineering to operate the taps and I enjoyed the complimentary products by Hermes.
Enjoy gourmet cuisine prepared by two Michelin star chef Nicolas Magie
Of course, food and wine are a key focal point of the region and this is evident at the hotel, where two Michelin star chef Nicolas Magie is in charge of the kitchen. His delicious creations can be enjoyed either in the glass-fronted gourmet restaurant or in the form of snacks served throughout the day in the elegant bar or the terrace overlooking the pool and the vineyards.
What to do during your stay….
Learn to cook French cuisine
If you love French cuisine, then you can’t miss the exclusive cooking class offered at the hotel - Côté Cours where you can learn the secrets of French cuisine in a fun and entertaining way, decked out in pink aprons.
Become a wine connoisseur
Once a month, the hotel hosts a wine club where guests can learn about – and drink - local wine, accompanied by special creations from Monsieur Magie.
I loved the welcoming atmosphere, where all guests are made to feel like family and guests with children are given the choice of three toys, which they can keep. During my stay, the staff were on hand to accommodate every necessity. I can’t wait to one day wake up in the clouds again in this heavenly hotel.
All images courtesy of Le Saint James Bouliac.
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