Sometimes you stumble across somewhere that is just too pretty to be real, even when the weather isn’t on your side, and instead of being bathed in sunlight, grey clouds and drizzle dominate. On the day we visited Caunes-Minervois, south east of Carcassone, it was one of those days. Summer had ended and autumn was starting to take a grip. Tourists had largely left and the steep, narrow, cobbled roads up from the medieval abbey were empty. Thankfully, we did come across a local who cautioned us about going any further up the road, in our wide Honda CRV – even though the road is accessible to vehicles, and we had been advised we could offload outside our Chambre d’Hote, the road was becoming more & more inaccessible, and so we had no alternative other than to turn around and head back down to the parking area outside the Benedictine Abbey. It’s worth knowing this if you stay at L’Ancienne Boulangerie, as you may find yourself dragging a lot of luggage up a steep cobbled hill.
However, all was forgotten when we arrived at the B&B, as it was so pretty and so quintessentially French. Wooden shutters, honey coloured stone, wrought ironwork and honeysuckle and ivy (I think) climbing around the front door,
The frontage doesn’t really hint at what lies behind the front door. It’s a warren of corridors and rooms and a winding, quite steep staircase – which again, if you have mobility issues, you might want to be aware of. It’s a beautiful old building, which apparently used to be the old bakery – l’ancienne boulangerie – which served both the village and the abbey. Now, it’s an absolutely delightful Chambre d’Hote with three, maybe four bedrooms, a beautiful communal lounge, a large breakfast/dining room and a terrace, accessible from an upstairs corridor, and the room we were allocated. The Australian owners have put a lot of love into this building, to create a very pretty B&B, full of antiques and curiosities and vintage finds. Nothing perfectly matches – and the deliberate mis-matching works well, as every room and nook and cranny has something of interest to absorb.
Our room was pretty, and again, very typically French, with chalk painted furniture and a big wooden framed bed. It did have an en-suite of sorts – a shower cubicle in the room, and a toilet behind a door (in what was probably once a cupboard) and a wash basin in the room. So, not the best arrangement, but OK for just one night. Perhaps the best thing about the room was its access to the first floor terrace, through French doors. Other guests can access it via a corridor, but it did feel as if it was ours, and therefore, very private.
We didn’t see the terrace at its best, as it was a grey. drizzly day at the end of September, but there were still enough clues to show that in the summer, this would be a lovely place to either soak up the sun on the loungers, or enjoy a pre-dinner drink, or two.
Breakfast was a leisurely affair, chatting to the owners and enjoy a typical French start to the day – excellent coffee, juices, hams, cheeses, fresh bread, croissants and jams, home made yoghurt and fruits. Again, had the weather been better, the breakfast room would have been even more pretty, with sunshine streaming in, but candlelight and soft lighting set the mood very well. It was clear that this B&B is at the very heart of this village – people stopped to chat by the open window and a couple of locals popped in for coffees.
And, as we found with a few of the French establishments we stayed in on our recent roadtrip, a dog was part of the deal. This one was very placid, and was no bother at all – but again, if you have an aversion to dogs being anywhere near your breakfast, it’s maybe worth knowing that this one is allowed to wander. But then, aren’t they all?
Because of the weather and the shortness of our stay, I don’t think we saw the best of L’Ancienne Boulanagier or Caunes Minervois, but we were still impressed. If somewhere could be this pretty and picture-book on a dull day, I can just imagine how stunning it all must be on a bright summer’s day, when everything is in bloom and the light reflects off the beautiful stone buildings. Given how big France is, and how much there is to explore, I can’t see us making a beeline back – we’d obviously revisit if in the area – so I’m glad we did get to see this quaint medieval town this time around.