Chateau Castigno - Sept 2019

My birthday was the rather weak excuse for 4 hedonistic days at Ch Castigno, some half hours drive north of Narbonne:it is really not possible to imagine anywhere buried more deeply in the French countryside. A Belgium couple bought vineyards and houses in the village about 5 years ago. The vineyard had a lot of money thrown at it, and the accommodation in the village has expanded from a handful of rooms to the present 24. These too have had a lot of money thrown at them - "shabby chic" is not cheap to produce

We enjoyed our stay here, although I was disappointed at the over-selling of a hotel room as a "junior suite" when quite patently it was no more than a hotel bedroom with no real sitting area and about one metre of space around the bed. To be fair to the hotel, they were aware of my disquiet and did offer us an upgrade to a "prestige suite", but we declined their offer as, although the suite was enormous, it had no views and was a hike from the pool

They claim to be a 5 star hotel, but do not have enough staff to justify that tag. They are, though, a very good 4 star hotel

Staffing shortfalls could be seen for example in chamber -maiding. Rooms were badly made up each day. And the turn down service at night only appeared on one of the four nights we were in the hotel. That one night a chambermaid had entered the room, closed just one set of shutters, and dumped two chocolates beside the bed, failing to tidy anything in the room.

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Petite Table - Breakfast & Dinner

The Petite Table occupies the scenic main square. Because the hotel has grown it is operating precariously close to capacity, with tables unacceptably close together, and not enough serving staff. We had breakfast here every morning (no other option), and the breakfast really was first class. But, because of staffing, it was difficult to place your order, and virtually impossible to get, say, another cup of coffee.

Both breakfast and dinner suffered from being served outside. In early September it was a trifle cold. We shivered at breakfast ( even covered in one of the provided - on demand- blankets) , and at dinner our food was but luke warm even on arrival at the table. A really lovely setting, but management needs to do some work to improve the running of Petite Table

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La Table - Lunch & Dinner

For us La Table was the success story here. We ended up having 2 lunches and one dinner in this Michelin starred restaurant. There were plenty of waiting staff, everyone was very congenial, and the Boys had their photos taken with the chef, though they were a bit worried about the flattened bears' decoration on the restaurant walls.

I understand that they changed the lunch menu for us on our second lunch, in order to avoid repetition.

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The Winery

A brisk half hour walk from the hotel, the state of the art winery was a brand new, bottle shaped building, sheathed in cork. In all my days visiting winerys, I have never seen so much money spent in setting up a winery. They cannot ever make money, or get a return on their investment. St Chinian AOC can only ever get a certain price per bottle, and they are not producing enough to pay the bills. The owners must have deep pockets.

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The Village

All Wikipedia has to say is that Assignan is a commune in the Hérault department in southern France. The hotel claims to be "breathing life" back into the village. Without knowing what the place was like 5 years ago it is difficult to know how much the hotel has helped the village. It certainly looks prosperous today, and I have no idea whether the hotel has attracted weekend house owners, helped other vignerons, or brought money for the village to improve amenities.

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A day out and about

St Chinian

A small town that has the surrounding AOC wines names after it. We had a wander round the town, but found little to commend it. A major road runs through the town, and juggernauts are continuously passing through .


The town is on the Canal du Midi. The Archbishops of Narbonne built their summer residence in the town - substantial vestiges remain, especially of the palace with a 15th-century ceiling - and there is an impressive collegiate church (12th to 15th centuries with earlier vestiges) whose massive tower dominates the surrounding countryside to this day.

Oppidum d'Esserune and Etang Montady

The Oppidum d'Ensérune is an ancient hill-town (or oppidum) located between Béziers and Narbonne. It has been listed since 1935 as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture. We were not too impressed by the oppidum, there was little to be seen, and the museum was a little short on exhibits, and generally a bit "tired". The settlement was occupied without interruption between the 6th century BC and 1st century AD, its location being chosen presumably because it was a hill with good views over the coastal plain, being close to the Roman road Via Domitia, the Montady lake, and fertile agricultural land below.

Below the Oppidum was the swamp of Montady, which is now wedge shaped fields separated by irrigation ditches that converge in the centre. In the 13th century, the swamp was drained; the ditches allowed water to flow to the centre of the circular depression, from which it was conveyed through underground pipes several kilometres to the south. The drainage is still functional and remains in use. The vista is striking and impressive.

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We dropped down to Colombiers from the Oppidium. There, by chance, we came across a boat trip along the Canal du Midi. We took this unplanned trip on the canal through the seventeenth century tunnel: a trip down memory lane; and washed down with a glass of wine and an interesting chat with the lady captain

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Overall it was a very nice 4 day stay at Chateau Castigno, the food was very good and reasonably priced for the quality.

David Grant Holidays