Call us greedy (well, we are) but we like our stylish self-catering properties to come with a few extras on the side. Take 42 rue Victor Hugo, which occupies a prime perch in historic Carcassonne. Not only does this two-apartment townhouse have city-slicker good looks (slate bathrooms, Farrow & Ball shades, Smeg-kitted mini-kitchen and elegant period features), it also has two owners who go out of their way to spoil guests – starting with their bellies.
In a nod to the rich culinary traditions on their doorstep, owners Peter and Debrah offer various gourmet experiences for food-lovers. Fancy cocktails and canapés on your first night? Peter is your man (during our stay, we had flutes filled with a fairy tale-pretty potion of champagne and violet sirop). Want a restaurant-rivalling meal, without leaving the apartment? Peter will whip up a four-course dinner, served with lashings of local wine. Any hangovers the next morning will be eased by the property’s generous breakfast: fresh fruit, pastries, boiled eggs, breads, yoghurts, aromatic coffee, juices and the ilk.
As well as coming home a bit fatter and a lot happier, you can return with some new culinary skills under your belt. Peter’s cookery classes begin with a guided tour of the food markets (including Les Halles) and culminate in a long, three-course lunch, which guests help to prepare (past dishes include: goats’ cheese, peach and mint salad, chicken and olive tagine with herb couscous, and fresh fig tart with home-made ice cream). Alternatively, befriend local wine expert, Wendy Gedney, from Vin en Vacances: she will take you on a wine tour, join you for a boozy lunch, give a lesson in wine and food pairing, followed by dinner back at the boutique ranch – expect much eating, much drinking, and much, much merrymaking.
Carcassonne is the perfect fit for weekend getaways. During our whistle-stop trip, we managed to cram in a gourmet feast with Debrah and Peter (we were happy that Peter’s signature chocolate fondant made an appearance on our menu – he told us he’s into cherry clafoutis at the moment), a hearty breakfast, a tour of the brocante where we picked up retro magazines, books, and an apricot-yellow vase, and a sun-kissed stroll around the Aude river. Bliss. Peter and Debrah’s retreat is just a short stroll from the city’s historic sights, which are as stunning out of season as in high summer (in fact, we prefer it when it’s a little cooler, and less touristy – early autumn is perfect). If you needed any further persuasion, remember that Carcassonne is served by the budget airlines (all the more euros for antiques)…
Call our expert Smith24 team for more information on 42 rue Victor Hugo’s food-themed packages (which start from €75 a head), and to indulge in your own slice of Carcassonne culinary magic.