HOTEL OF THE WEEK HOTEL DE LA CITE
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