Chateau: Helen Baron is enchanted by two fairytale destinations in France’s Languedoc
Words Helen Baron
Chateau Les Carrasses
There are many ways a hotel can make an impression: striking contemporary design, ostentatious luxury, sheer scale. Chateau Les Carrasses opts for the rarer and more arresting tactic of looking like it’s been torn from the pages of a fairytale. This is the kind of chateau people share images of on Pinterest, its circular turrets and crenellated terraces rising Disneylike against the sky. The fact that you don’t see it clearly until you’ve driven through its picturesque grounds and up its sweeping drive only emphasises its loveliness. And yet for all that, the vibe is relaxed rather than imperious.
The staff are friendly and informal with each other and the guests – many of whom clearly return year after year – while the décor is tastefully understated. A sense of restful charm pervades the place – the amazing glass orangerie that sits behind the main building being a case in point. Of venerable age and possibly iconic origin (it may have been designed by Gustave Eiffel, the architect behind the Eiffel Tower), it doesn’t command attention so much as quietly invite it. It’s the ideal place to sit and sip a cocktail while the kids explore.
The hotel sits atop a small ridge overlooking its own gardens and acre upon acre of vineyards. Beyond the vineyards is a line of blue hills; beyond the hills, the sea. Closer at hand is the small but beautifully formed town of Capestang, through which runs the justly celebrated Canal du Midi, a tree-lined watercourse speckled with gleaming white motorboats and the occasional British-style canal barge. Boat trips are, of course, readily available, while a short drive will bring you into the heart of the stunning Languedoc countryside. Slightly further afield are the coastal lagoons of Etang de Bages and the historic towns of Narbonne and Beziers.
A clever combination of hotel amenities and self-catering freedom makes Chateau Les Carrasses the perfect family destination. Rooms in the main building boast contemporary comforts alongside historic original features, while the more modern – and very sympathetically designed – accompanying buildings offer larger accommodation for families and groups. Some have private pools or hot tubs, all have terraces or gardens, and they’re furnished in the same spirit as the wider hotel – with relaxed luxury and easygoing comfort. Well-equipped kitchens, barbecues, washing machines and tumble driers make travelling with little ones seem like a breeze.
Bikes and scooters of all sizes are available to borrow at no cost, there’s a huge (and heated) shared swimming pool, a relaxed bar-café and a (slightly) more formal restaurant. There’s also a kids’ club run by a local artist and firmly focused on healthy, creative, open-air play. While your littles are lapping up the fun, you can try wine tasting in the on-site cave. There are regular evening events and the hotel can help you to arrange a wider set of activities in the local area, including golf, horse-riding and, of course, canal-boat adventures.
A one-bedroom property with a pool starts at €209 per night in high season.
Chateau St Pierre de Serjac
Chateau St Pierre de Serjac is like Chateau Les Carrasses’ urbane older brother. The architecture of the main building is similarly enchanting, blending storybook charm with a Hausmann-like refinement. Leaving the road, you pass through the chateau’s gates and follow a long, straight drive through the vines, flanked by cypress trees. The hotel stands on an incline overlooking the domaine, imposing yet impossibly elegant.
Serenity rules at St Pierre de Serjac, where both the hotel and its external accommodations are arranged around a series of peaceful lawns, terraces and fountains. The welcome is warm but (thankfully) not overwrought, and the service is exemplary – staff are always on hand to help with your requests, but won’t interrupt your relaxation. It’s the right kind of luxury, especially for those travelling with children. And children are, of course, very welcome – yet somehow the atmosphere retains a welcome sense of serenity.
This part of the Languedoc offers all the joys of its more famous neighbour, Provence – scenic landscapes, pretty towns and beautiful beaches – without the latter region’s overwhelming number of summer visitors. As such, there’s no excuse not to get out and explore, starting with the friendly neighbouring village of Puissalicon (one of the Languedoc’s celebrated circulade towns, built in concentric circles) and finishing up at the beaches of Sérignan and Portiragnes, a 25-minute drive to the south.
As with Carrasses, you can opt for a classic hotel experience with a suite in the main building, or plump for larger self-catering accommodation in the modern (but aesthetically appropriate) buildings ranged around the grounds. We stayed in a three-bedroom townhouse with private garden and pool (fenced and gated for safety), en suite bathrooms, fully equipped kitchen and open-plan living area. The interiors are beautifully done – restrained yet luxurious, traditional yet completely contemporary, with a real sense of quality craftsmanship throughout.
Once again, activities are many and varied. There’s wine tasting for the adults and regular family-friendly events – our girls loved the evening of flamenco music and dance – as well as horse-riding, golf and (in high season) a daily kids club. There’s also a stylish restaurant, a heated communal swimming pool and a beautifully designed spa. The latter offers a full menu of sensuous treatments plus a heated indoor pool, solarium and gardens – ideal for catching a little me-time while the rest of the family engage in more active pursuits.