The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - ANTHEA GERRIE

IT MAY only be 108 years old, but the Ho­tel de la Cite is the last and most dec­o­ra­tive piece in the 1,200-year-old jig­saw puz­zle which makes Carcassonne such a fas­ci­nat­ing place to visit.

It was at the be­gin­ning of the 9th cen­tury that this an­cient ci­tadel got its name when it sur­vived a siege by Charle­magne with the help of its moat, draw­bridge and thick Ro­man walls. But it was for­got­ten 1,000 years later, fall­ing into dis­use and dis­re­pair after Rous­sil­lon was ab­sorbed into France and Carcassonne lost its strate­gic im­por­tance as a strong­hold on the bor­der with Spain.

The whole place was re­con­structed by schol­ars in the 19th cen­tury who re­paired the walls and re­placed the me­di­ae­val fairy­tale tur­rets, and in 1906, they de­cided to en­dow the ci­tadel with a ho­tel in keep­ing with the city’s his­toric charm to at­tract the new tourists. That charm re­mains, epit­o­mised by a ba­ro­nial din­ing room, pan­elled li­brary and rooms with ex­pan­sive decks from which guests can en­joy the views of the ram­parts into which the ho­tel is built, and the lush green­ery of south-western France stretch­ing into the dis­tance.

Rooms are tra­di­tion­ally fur­nished, with ac­cou­trements such as a Ne­spresso ma­chine and hand-made choco­lates of­fer­ing a wel­come touch of to­day. The mar­ble bath­rooms would ben­e­fit from a light­ing up­date, but fluffy tow­els and robes make up for it.

The Bar­ba­cane restau­rant be­low of­fers Carcassonne’s only Miche­lin­starred din­ing, with plenty of fish and veg­etable choices, and the break­fast buf­fet, served in the same spec­tac­u­lar din­ing-room, awash with stained glass, is redo­lent with home-baked bread and pas­tries and lo­cally-made cheese and pre­serves.

To work off all that good food, a 20-minute morn­ing jog through the city with a coach and an au­dio guide is of­fered. And more re­laxed in­sights are avail­able from a sto­ry­teller who in­tro­duces guests to the town’s le­gends over tea, pas­tries and choco­late in the de­light­ful gar­dens - or around the fire­place in win­ter. RATES: Rooms from about £186 dou­ble. www.mgallery.com

Tra­di­tional: but ex­pect to find hand-made choco­lates await­ing you

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