Passion Points: Spa/Wellness
One first glance, the relaxation room of the Caudalie Spa, in New York’s Plaza hotel, has a very unusual ingredient: along one of its walls, wine bottles are stacked floor-to-ceiling and a sommelier is on-hand to facilitate a tasting. Can wine and spa be a successful blend? Mais oui —at least according to Caudalie’s stylish founder Mathilde Thomas.
In some ways, the Frenchwoman who recently relocated with her family from Paris to New York, grew up immersed in wine and wellness, in a unique part of the world. Her family owns a stunning French vineyard in Bordeaux, where Thomas grew up and developed the ground-breaking line of anti-aging products when she was just in her twenties. Together with her husband, Bertrand, she trademarked her remarkable line, using the anti-oxidant qualities of grape seeds, as Vinotherapie, and the products were an overnight sensation in the French beauty market.
Encouraged by their success, the Thomases launched a spa in Bordeaux, the acclaimed Les Sources de Caudalie, in 1999. Crushed Cabernet body scrubs and Merlot wraps are now on offer in New York as well, at the Caudalie Spa at the Plaza hotel, opened in 2009. As for her new hometown, Thomas is full of praise: “New York City is so international and really the epicenter of the world,” she says. “We have a crush on the city and love the energy.”
Indagare spoke to Thomas about her ground-breaking products, favorite places in Bordeaux and what makes a great spa.
What has been the greatest challenge in familiarizing people with Vinotherapie?
When we trademarked Vinotherapie back in 1999, people thought they would be sitting in a bath full of my family’s wine, which of course is not the case. The greatest challenge came after trying to explain (and convince) to our international clients that Vinotherapie was not a gimmick. In France, it was easy, as we were already in stores and we were the number-one anti-aging brand. In the other countries, when they heard about Vinotherapie they thought it was fun, but they didn’t know that we have extensive research from the University of Pharmacy, scientific publications featured our results, patents, and a team of worldwide specialists focused on polyphenols, and five in-house formulators, assisting on the development of the brand.
What makes a successful spa?
You have to have it all. You have to have the best products and a quality skincare line behind the spa. You have to have the best therapists with the best hands and the best décor with the best partner. Every aspect is important – the five senses must be stimulated. When I visit a spa, I look for these qualities that I value in my own spa: the best scents, the best ambiance, the best touch, the best food. I must have the complete experience and I want to share that with our clients.
What are some of your favorite spas that you have discovered during your travels?
I love the Spa at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. Their massages are great. The masseurs have big, strong hands that are amazing. I also love the décor of the Vigilius Mountain Resort, in Switzerland.
In Bordeaux, what are some special places not-to-miss?
Bordeaux is a great place to live because you eat really well and, of course, you have the best wine ever. Also, you have the ocean forty minutes away and you can ski within a two-hour drive. Back in Bordeaux, my favorite restaurant is actually my sister’s: La Grand Vigne on Château Smith Haut Lafitte, which was awarded a Michelin star. The other local spot I love is La Tupina, a quintessential, beautiful Bordeaux restaurant. For the best vineyard experience, I suggest borrowing a bike from your hotel, which is typically free, and asking for a recommendation of the best path through the vineyards and touring them at your own pace. You can visit Château Haut Bailly or Château Carbonieux ; there are a lot great wine groves, just ten minutes by bike from each other.
You recently opened a spa near Versailles at Les Etangs de Corot. What inspired you about this property?
My sister and brother-in-law bought this charming place in Versailles because it’s only 15 minutes from Paris and in the beautiful countryside. It’s an idyllic place to unwind and so close to the city.
What are your favorite restaurants in Paris?
There are so many amazing restaurants in Paris, but if I had to pick three: The Jules Verne at the Eiffel Tower is ideal for a big night out and has amazing views and the food is fantastic. For a hip scene, I would go to Café de Flore where there are always interesting writers, actors and singers dining. And for a great local experience, the Caves Petrissans, on Avenue Niel in the 17th district, is perfect.
Do you think French women have a different approach to beauty/wellness?
French women learn from their mother’s how to protect and treat their skin when they are teenagers. They are taught to prevent issues versus American women who tend to buy a lot of makeup to cover up issues, even when they’re young. American women want instant gratification and a quick fix when wrinkles appears and that’s probably why the products in the U.S. are much higher in AHA and glycolic, which is not good for sensitive skin, as they can be quite abrasive. The key is prevention!
Your family recently relocated to New York from Paris. What have been some of the biggest adjustments?
New York City is amazing: you can have anything you want anytime of the day or night. But it’s also a tough city because it can be noisy and people are very driven and there’s a lot of energy. That said, we’re having so much fun! Since I’m French, the biggest adjustment would probably be food. It took a little while, but now I have my favorite fish place, my favorite cheese place, my favorite bread place, but still it’s hard to compete with French food. We’ve been making an effort to experience new things in the city. Central Park is incredible. I also love going to the museums, especially with my children. The best part is that the options are endless.
Your family owns a renowned vineyard in Bordeaux; what are some other wine regions in the world that you love?
I am in love with Napa. The colors out there, especially during dusk and dawn, are amazing.
What Caudalie products do you always have in your carry-on when traveling?
I always carry a mask (instead of a cream) when I travel because it locks the moisture into the skin. Our Vinosource Moisturizing Cream-Mask is full of glycerin so it forms a barrier over the skin to keep it nourished. Another must-have is my Beauty Elixir to freshen up and my Grape Water to moisturize my skin, especially during long flights. I never leave home without my Hand and Nail Cream and at least one new fragrance samples.
What was your latest splurge/bargain during one of your trips?
There is this little boutique in a chic neighborhood in Paris called Biba that has amazing bargains. It’s right in front of Hermès in St.-Germain and run by a great girl who sells scarves, bags, purses and really chic clothes at super-reasonable prices. Recently, I bought three new scarves and outfits for this summer by a few up-and-coming designers. The last time my husband and I were in London we decided to splurge on a quick trip to the countryside. We were there on business and only had two free hours, but were determined to visit the incredible gardens of this lovely chateau in Buckingham that we had heard about: Stowe Castle. At the last minute, we took a car and it was incredible: the grounds are beautiful with these old bridges. It was so romantic.
Where are you dreaming of traveling next? Where are you traveling next?
I’m off next to Punta Cana with my family! My dream, though, is to ski in the U.S. I want to go to Jackson Hole and also to Canada to ski Whistler. Those are the next two spots on my list.
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