You’ve just inherited a grand old home in the regal heart of Bordeaux… well, almost. But that’s how you’ll feel when you walk into La Course, an immaculately turned out townhouse where every cosy corner urges you to make yourself at home. Though the bones are stately and the staircases sweeping, there’s a total lack of wine snobbery and a winking sense of fun, so spirit snacks to your suite any time of day, saunter through the well-stocked cellar and loll leisurely in front of the fireplace. It may come as a mild shock when someone politely asks for the keys back – you were settling so nicely into your roles as lord and lady of the manor.
Check in is from 4pm and check-out is at 11am. Both can be flexible, subject to availability. If you plan to arrive after 9pm, you’ll need to give advance notice.
Double rooms from £417.56 (€500), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €0.80 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include the daily continental breakfast spread, laden with fresh fruit, juices, croissants and brioche. Eggs and bacon can be cooked to order too.
With a bit of advance notice, beauty treatments and massages can be arranged in your suite.
The hotel is closed for most of January each year (exact dates vary annually).
At the hotel
Free WiFi, wine cellar, steam room, free bikes to borrow, free snacks, sweets and cake from the kitchen and a nifty wine machine that dispenses perfect pours. In rooms: TV, air-conditioning, free bottled water and the hotel’s own Echo bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Each cocoon-like room has its theme (we admit that, in less skilled hands, themes can be hokey, but La Course pulls off these flights of fancy perfectly); Les Voiles evokes a sailboat with cornflower-blue walls, wooden floors and two enormous bath tubs; Lovebird is the one for honeymooners, with its multi-mirrored bathroom, bath tub big enough for two and fairytale four-poster. But the real star is Manon dans les Étoiles which has a retractable ceiling so you can sleep under the stars and a sprawling private roof terrace replete will plunge pool, sunloungers and panoramic views.
You’ll need to book the rooftop suite, Manon dans les Étoiles, to get access to the petite plunge pool on a private terrace – it’s certainly not big enough for laps but a dip will do the trick on sweltering summer days.
You can atone for your indulgences in the diminutive gym or steam room downstairs.
Flat shoes and a wide-brimmed hat for gallivanting through the vines, a notebook to jot down your favourite vintages and ibuprofen for the morning after.
Due to sweeping staircases, La Course isn’t suitable for wheelchair users.
All ages are very welcome and there are cots, cribs and highchairs available. Families should book the Nautilus Suite which has a submarine theme, a shell-shaped shower and bunk beds.
For a swinging good time, try and nab the hanging rattan chair in the cellar.
They’ve done away with formality at this hip home-from-home, but a Sézane peasant blouse and Veja trainers would help you feel like part of the off-duty in crowd.
Though there’s no formal restaurant, you’ll never go hungry at La Course. The 24-hour kitchen is stocked with snacks like local salami, cheese, tapenade, rillettes and olives; cakes appear as if by magic every afternoon in the library. Perhaps our favourite gizmo is the wine machine which dispenses a perfect pour into your glass and then charges the amount to your room. Take snacks, tea and cakes out to the sunny terrace, spirit them up to your suite or lounge in front of the fireplace in the sumptuously furnished salon.
Just help yourself to any of the affordably priced reds in the wine cellar – there’s a communal table for garrulous group gatherings or staging your own tastings.
Breakfast is from 8am to a very leisurely midday; you can help yourself to snacks from the fridge any time of day or night.
There’s no need to be furtive when you sneak downstairs for a midnight snack: it’s all there for the taking (but if it adds to the fun factor, then feel free to tiptoe).
La Course is on the quiet, tree-lined Rue de la Course in the historic heart of regal Bordeaux, moments from the monuments of La Place des Quinconces and the stately Jardin Public.
Bordeaux’s Merignac is the one, just a 30-minute drive from the hotel – private transfers are available for €60 each way. British Airways, KLM and Easyjet fly direct from London.
Bordeaux’s train station is 20 minutes away by car and serves Paris, Toulouse and Biarritz by SNCF.
Hurrah, Uber has reached French wine country: now you can both go to town at tastings. If you are toting a rental car, the Cité Mondiale public parking garage is a 10-minute walk from the hotel and costs around €30 a day.
Worth getting out of bed for
It’s tempting to stay ensconced here by the fireplace with a glinting glass of something local from the winecellar, nipping occasionally to the kitchen to fix another charcuterie plate. When you are ready to venture out, take one of the hotel’s free-to-borrow bikes to view the classic sights in the city centre. Make Place de la Bourse your first port of call – the enormous square is a symbol of the city and entirely encircled by imposing architecture. It’s also home to the marvelous Miroir d'eau (‘water mirror’), which reflects the square in two centimetres of water. In summer, take little Smiths here to run through the cooling mist clouds, screaming with joy – by all means, try it yourself too.
Northwards is the hip, waterfront neighbourhood of Chartrons, home to avant-garde design shops, fashion boutiques and, on Sundays, the farmer’s market on Quai des Chartrons where you can pick up a picnic.
Don’t miss the imposing Cité du Vin, the world’s most impressive wine museum. You could spend an entire afternoon in the shiny and inventive six-storey structure that brings the world’s wine cultures and civilisations to life through imaginative displays and totes a panoramic restaurant on the top floor.
Of course, you’re also in striking distance of Bordeaux’s stunning surrounding countryside, sprinkled with priceless vineyards and commanding chateaux. If you’ve got your own wheels, make a day trip to the Unesco-protected mediaeval town of Saint-Émilion, climb the spectacular sand dunes at Pyla-sur-Mer or seek sea breezes in Arcachon.
Get revved up for city adventures at Café Piha, a cosy coffee shop and brunch spot serving pancakes, warm croissants and specialty brews. Later, make a pit-stop at Massa for falafel, stuffed pitas and vegan tahini galeto. Control freak? Try immersion therapy at Restaurant Influences, an intimate spot run by a Franco-American couple where the ‘surprise’ set menu changes with the seasons. You’ll be barking with anticipation at Le Chien de Pavlov, a bright and lively bistro with corking chalkboard specials.
Save the drama for Le Quatrième Mur (the fourth wall) – it’s helmed by starry TV chef Philip Etchebest and housed inside Bordeaux’s Grand Theatre. We suggest visiting at lunchtime when prices are lower and the room is at its liveliest.
For unbeatable views, take refuge at Mama Shelter’s funky rooftop bar where the hip and tattooed bartenders will make short work of your complicated cocktail order. Or flit to Frida, a wine bar on Rue Bahan with a gorgeous garden and tasty tapas.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this twinkling townhouse in France and unpacked their caramelised canelés and Médoc magnums, a full account of their boozy European city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside La Course in Bordeaux…
It’s hard to imagine a more tempting city break than Bordeaux: grande-dame architecture, a decadent gourmet scene and the world’s most famous wine – what’s not to love? For a while, the only letdown was the lamentable lack of hotels: decent options in the city center were often heavy-handed affairs with a high likelihood of shushing from port-faced, blue blazer types. Thankfully, a new guard of boutique and bijou options is arriving, the very best of which is La Course. Everything about this exquisite yet unfussy townhouse says, ‘make yourself at home’: instead of a formal restaurant or bar, you help yourself to snacks from the 24-hour communal kitchen or bottles of well-priced red from the subterranean cellar… before sprawling in front of the fire or taking a sunny seat on the terrace. The whimsical residential appeal extends upstairs to the seven bedrooms – each has Elle Decor-worthy interiors and buckets of personality. If we were borrowing the wine bore’s parlance, we might describe this well-heeled guesthouse as ‘vivacious and youthful with floral notes and unexpected depth’. But there’s no pretension in sight here, so suffice to say it’s the perfect place to drink up, sleep in and hang out.