Quarante, France

Photo: Les Carrasses

Spring is finally here. The change in the seasons will hopefully bring warmer weather, brighter skies, and an end to those nasty storms. So where do you want to spend the first full day of the vernal equinox? France? Good choice. A winery? No problem. A château? Well, now you’re getting picky. The perfect spot might just be hidden in Occitanie, though.

Occitanie is the southernmost part of mainland France. The region lies along the Mediterranean Sea and the borders of Spain and Andorra. It’s known for its short, mild winters and more than 300 days of sunshine each year. Spring means warm days with cool evenings. It’s also when the vineyards and the olive groves start budding.

After flying to Marseille, you drive west into Hérault. The department is home to Montpellier, one of the fast-growing cities in the country. But you continue heading farther south and a little bit inland to Quarante. Small churches, cozy restaurants, and hillside vineyards fill the small town. A 19th-century château sits on the edge of it.

Château Les Carrasses looks like it comes straight out of a fairy tale. The limestone château, complete with turrets, sits on nearly 150 acres full of vineyards, orchards, and gardens. Cycling and hiking trails wind around the former grape pickers’ cottages and through the hills and the forests. The air smells like honeysuckle and jasmine. On a clear day, you can see the Pyrenees in the distance. A few years ago, the abandoned estate was turned into a romantic hotel.

Photo: Les Carrasses

The hotel has seamlessly blended the historic setting with modern amenities. The heart of the château is the Salon. The large space, where grapes were once stored, is now the reception area, a lounge, a restaurant, and a small shop. You’re welcomed into it with a glass of sparkling wine and an invitation to the evening’s tasting of local wines.

The rooms are spread out across the property. Large suites are in the château. They feature lofty ceilings, living rooms, and muted colors. Apartments, like the Gardener’s House, include outdoor living spaces. While villas have private pools and gardens.

The rest of the property is just as stunning. The restaurant is a casual brasserie instead of a stuffy, formal dining room. Its constantly changing menu focuses on fresh seafood, local produce, and herbs cut from the garden. Many of the vegetables on the current menu still come from La Serre outside. The winter greenhouse is also a reading nook complete with armchairs and a small library.

A terrace outside of the restaurant is shady and littered with sofas. It’s a perfect spot for a late-afternoon glass of rosé. Another terrace, below it, has tables for al-fresco meals beside the infinity pool. Colorful bikes sit off to the side. There are lots of courts—a clay tennis, a beach volleyball, and a pétanque—as well. Then there’s the wine. An elegant Syrah, a fresh Chardonnay, and that fruity rosé. Yes, spring is finally here.


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