Set in beautiful Uzès, L'Albiousse is a lovingly renovated 18th century B&B with an exquisite courtyard and five comfortable bedrooms.
How would you describe 42 Rue Victor Hugo in a nutshell?
With 42 Rue Victor Hugo in Carcassonne we wanted to create a place that is exceptional, with beautiful 18th-century features and contemporary interior design. It has all the luxuries and comfort of a small boutique hotel while guests will also enjoy having their private spaces as in a regular holiday home. It is sort of a hybrid between a boutique hotel and a holiday home. Our three luxury apartment rentals are self-catering and therefore the ideal stylish city getaways in beautiful Carcassonne and to explore the south of France. On the first floor of a grand French townhouse you can choose the apartment that you like best, with 18th-century features, contemporary designer furnishings and decoration.
How does a British couple end up running a ‘hotel particulier’ in the south of France?
It was more of an accident. We bought 42 Rue Victor Hugo a few years back as a holiday home and over time, when we renovated the place, we were thinking how we could make better use of it. It was not even planned that we would live here all the time.
Is there anything that you miss about your previous life?
There isn’t a whole lot that I miss. We wanted to have a change in lifestyle. And while we probably work the same hours here, it is our own business and that is giving us a lot of pleasure.
Who is responsible for the interior design at 42 Rue Victor Hugo?
My wife is a designer and she is in charge of the interior and the design — the combination of the beautiful 18th century features and the contemporary furniture.
My background is in finance but I have worked in the advertising and media industries, so there is an affinity to design as well. I am more the hands-on guy, running the business, taking care of the day-to-day. We are actually complementing each other perfectly.
You invite your guests to your home for dinner. Where is your passion for cooking coming from?
I have had a passion for cooking for many many years. I have enjoyed cooking for as long as I remember. On the night our guests arrive we usually serve some canapés and cocktails and we also offer a gourmet dinner as part of a package. It isn’t so much a dinner in our home, we try to celebrate the food and wine of the region with our guests. I think this is really interesting as different guests from different parts of the world sit together enjoying the food and they usually find out that they have many things in common. We have conversations about Carcassonne, the region, France, the food and wine etc. And they don’t have a long way home, just two yards and they are back in their own apartment.
What memories would you like your guests to have after they have left?
We would want them to tell all their friends about the relaxed and enjoyable time that they have had with us at 42 Rue Victor Hugo, and in Carcassonne. That there is plenty to see and do just around the corner, that we made their stay as pleasant as possible, helped them where we could and that they felt like at home.
You are offering gourmet or gourmet wine breaks as well?
Yes, we have put together a perfect package for our guests to enjoy all the good food and wine of the region. The break is usually for 3 to 5 days and we pick the guests up at the aiport and then invite them for canapés and cocktails on the first evening. On one of the other days we organize a wine tour with our qualified Master of Wine to taste everything from white wine, red wine, rosé and sparkling and visit some vineyards. And on the last night I usually cook a four-course gourmet meal that we serve around our dining table, obviously matching the perfect wines. There is also a delicious breakfast included with patisseries and bread, fresh fruit, homemade jam and cheese that we bring to the suite every morning. And there is wine and snacks in the kitchen for in between.
And if our guests want to cook themselves, there is that option as well. We will go to the local market and then prepare a range of classic French dishes together.I read on your blog that you had to cook for a Michelin star chef?
Yes, that was actually when we first opened, he was our first paying guest. His girlfriend made the reservation and I was not even aware of it until they had arrived. I thought, well, he might just flip burgers but would not have expected him to be a Michelin star chef.
On his first day he went to the market and he came back with an array of food to cook for his girlfriend. I told him that he should use our big kitchen, when he invited me to join him. It was a wonderful experience and I was given a masterclass in my own kitchen.
But I still had to cook for him the next day and I was incredibly nervous. I had never cooked professionally for guests before, and the first guest to do that for was a Michelin star chef. I think I was actually ready with dinner 3 hours before I had to. He was really nice and it turned out to be a great evening. He was very complementing giving me a lot of confidence. I thought, if I could cook for him and he liked it, I could cook for other guests as well.