42 rue Victor Hugo
A welcome that involves a perfectly chilled glass of Blanquette de Limoux, the local sparkling wine, and canapés is always going to be a winner in my eyes. And that's what greeted us when we arrived at 42 rue Victor Hugo, a charming guest house in the medieval city of Carcassonne in south-west France. It certainly was a relaxing way to kick off a short break.
Weekend getaways are the perfect time to take a break from real life and one of the things I enjoy most about staying in an apartment is that for a precious few days every year you can pretend that you own a beautifully decorated bolthole in a city far from home. While it's a daydream for me it proved a reality for Peter and Debrah Woodcock, the British couple who transformed the 18th centuryhôtel particulier (private mansion) into a luxury bed and breakfast.
The building, which was built between 1735 and 1750 was commissioned by a wealthy textile merchant and remained as a complete house until the 1980s when it was divided into separate apartments. And, it's one of these apartments that Peter and Debrah purchased and converted into the boutique chambres d’hôtes.
We stayed in the mezzanine apartment, one of three guest suites, complete with wet room, fully equipped kitchen and a double height sitting area which leads upstairs to the sleeping platform with an incredibly comfortable superking sized bed. The décor of the apartments is understatedly chic with inviting texiles and cleverly designed spaces. They feel instantly relaxing, especially when the early evening sun filters through the enormous windows. The vast rooms lend themselves well to the muted and often dark colour palette, which accents perfectly against the crisp white used elsewhere and highlights the beautiful period features such as the intricate cornicing and the marble fireplaces.
Debrah, who's a designer, came up with the concept for the interior décor, and aimed to bring back the elegance and grandeur of the property with the look she created. Many of the decorative pieces, such as old books and glassware, were sourced at nearby brocantes (flea markets), which compliment the modern pieces of furniture.
While interior design is Debrah's forte, cooking is Peter's specialty and during our stay we were treated to a delicious four-course dinner complete with local wines. Sadly we didn't even have enough room to finish his famous hot chocolate fondant but he assured us that it tasted even better the next day. Thankfully he wasn't joking and when he brough us breakfast the following morning we got to sample it along with the pastries, still warm from the oven. It was absolutely delicious and after that trip, chocolate cake for breakfast has become a weekend treat in my house!
Note - Since we stayed at the bed and breakfast they are no longer offering evening meals to guests. Local gastronomy is still very much part of 42 rue Victor Hugo though and Peter now runs Carcassonne Kitchen offering market tours and cookery days taught at the guesthouse.
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