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A Fairy Tale to Remember at the
Exceptional Hotel de la Cité
 
The spacious manicured gardens are inviting for afternoon tea

An unparallel culinary experience awaits guests
The private dining room
The views of Carcassone at dusk are breathtaking

By Samantha Francis

Once upon a time in 1909 in the land of Cathar castles, a luxury hotel was built within the medieval citadel of Carcassone, France, standing between the ramparts, the Saint-Nazaire Basilica and 12th Century Château Comtal. Though the hotel has transformed over the last 96 years, the hotel has maintained its status as one of the grand hotels of southwestern France and has attracted the likes of celebrities including Johnny Depp and John Malkovich. When Orient-Express Hotels purchased Hotel de la Cité in 1997, they not only invested in restoring its former neo-gothic architectural character, but also in bringing their high standards of luxury to France.

Arriving to the medieval city that surrounds the hotel truly transports you into a place rich in history, culture, wine and gastronomy, traits that the Hotel de la Cité embodies with the utmost in excellence. The hotel itself comprises 61 rooms and suites. Fifteen of these rooms offer a private terrace, overlooking the hotel’s beautiful gardens, the amazing countryside below and the Black Mountains and French Pyrenees in the distance. Though the rooms are individually decorated with fine fabrics and locally crafted furnishings, they each carry a piece of history with artwork reflecting Carcassone’s past mixed with the perfect amount of luxury to enjoy when you return from exploring the medieval surroundings. The bathrooms are spacious with deluxe, soaking tubs and a selection of bath accoutrements from L’Occitane. Plush bathrobes and slippers await to whisk you to a land of relaxation or star gazing on the terrace.

One cannot visit Hotel de la Cité without embarking on an adventure of wine and gastronomy. Of course, when in France, you must indulge in at least one glass of champagne, a good precursor to any culinary feast. The hotel’s Library Bar is an intimate, comfortable space filled with red leather couches and floor to ceiling bookshelves housing antiquities and books of history, art and culture, as well as the original hotel guest log books dating back to 1909. In addition to traditional favorites and signature drinks, the Library Bar also offers a selection of champagne cocktails, including a “coupe de champagne” with crème de violet, candied violet flower, unique to this region.

The culinary experience at Le Barbacane is impeccable. Not only is this Michelin-starred restaurant renowned for its innovative cuisine, the flavors and memories you take away will last a lifetime. Executive Chef Franck Putelat and hotel sommelier Georges Gracia made sure we experienced the best of the best by creating a meal that still has my taste buds reeling with excitement. A six-course meal offered everything from cream of endives and scallops with chorizo sausage, and roasted lobster with potato risotto and lemon confit to venison back coated with pepper, red cabbage and chestnuts, and was topped off with homemade sorbets and warm chocolate soufflé. The wine pairing was just as luscious, featuring unique wines from local vineyards. The hotel prides itself on one of the most impressive and finest collections of vintage wines from the Mediterranean and French Atlantic coastline, with over 10,000 bottles. The wine cellar itself, built into the rock beneath the citadel and lit by candlelight, can be reserved for exclusive tastings and private dinners.

The Hotel de la Cité is the perfect destination for peace and tranquility, and to experience historic sights within the fortress and the surrounding region of castles, Minervois and Corbières vineyards and picturesque villages. Whether you take an hour plane ride from Paris, 3-hour drive from Barcelona, Spain, or are simply driving through the countryside of southern France, Hotel de la Cité should be a definite stop on your journey.

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