Solange Berchemin stays at the historic L’Hotel Du Chateau in Carcassonne.
In the early Noughties, the French hotel business saw some drastic changes. Suddenly, a generation of hotel managers perpetuating a service along the lines: “my way or the high way”, in rustic accommodations, for lack of a better word, were being sidelined by young entrepreneurs attentive to their customers’ demands and more than willing invest time and money to restore old and tired hotels to exquisite standards.L’Hotel du Chateau, situated right below la Porte de Narbonne, the main entrance to the walled city of Carcassonne, is a perfect example of what happened back then.
Cecile and Stéphane Rives acquired a 1* hotel and turned it into a stylish boutique hotel, 17 exquisite en-suite bedrooms some with amazing views onto the citadelle, an indoor spa with 3 dedicated beauticians on site, an outdoor jacuzzi and a separate swimming pool surrounded by beautiful gardens where guests are welcomed by a Rives’ (another family member) striking sculpture.
L’Hotel du Chateau aspire to offer a de-luxe experience. As we toured the rooms and facilities with Cecile Rives, she explained “Our rooms are more than rooms, they are an ambiance, every single touch from the material on the walls and on floors to the utilities is top of the range. We offer a concept” she smiles, a perfect smile and continues, “It’s the Rives’ concept”.
Indeed l’Hotel du Chateau is a family affair where every room has been conceived as a creation. The couple is attentive to their clients’ feedback too. For example, when we got to a double room decorated in an stunning shade of Duck-Blue, appropriate for a town renowned for its Cassoulet, I remarked about the glass walls separating the bathroom from the bedroom. “Our clients told us that they loved the views at sundown over the medieval city, so we figured out how to offer them that very view, when they come back from a day exploring the area.
We came up with glass-wall-panels in the bathrooms, so that they can enjoy the castle while relaxing in their bath before drifting to the gardens by the pool for an early evening drink.”
This kind of attention to details and a discreet charm floats throughout the hotel, a feeling slightly put out of joint by an incongruous emphasize on corporate branding. An hotel marketing video blares at you automatically, each time you enter a room.
Our junior suite situated on the grounds accessible through a gate felt very private and was well appointed with a bonus outside space. The bath had its own room adjacent to the shower/toilet room, the overall décor was contemporary and sober. Everything was very high-tec. After a bit of fiddling with various commands we got the heater/aircon going, sadly it turned itself off during the night making for a chilly wake up. The hotel staff is very professional, and we should have asked for explanations.
Breakfast consists of a basket of dinky French pastries, ham, cheese, toasts and a soft-boiled egg served at a table in the bar area. Taste in decoration is a controversial issue, L’ Hotel du Chateau decor, in my opinion, may not be to everyone’s taste, have a look at the web site pictures and request your preferred option.
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L’Hotel Du Chateau advertises cookery lessons. Online Hotel Bookers offer rates starts from £115 for a double in low season breakfast not included.
The SPA uses Carita beauty products. The hotel location is superb, the walled-city of Carcassonne being across the road, the modern part of the town 30 minutes’ walk away. Being outside the medieval city has untold advantages, not least the fact that you won’t have to cart your luggage on narrow cobbled lane. There is a bus service on the road just outside.
The airport bus which departs soon after each plane arrival stops across from the Hotel du Chateau. The trip by bus to the airport takes 20 minutes depending on the traffic. Taxi-ride is less than 10 minutes.