Pick up your hire car at Carcassonne airport and indulge in olde-worlde chic and great skiing in the Pyrenees.
"If there's a more spectacular medieval town in the whole of France then our name is Joan of Arc. And anyone who disagrees with us might just get a mouthful of lance!"
It's all true - this place just reeks of the Middle Ages and its beautifully preserved fortifications are reminiscent of a time when everyone knew how to handle a sword.
Olde-worlde chic. That doesn't mean people wander around in designer chain mail but it does mean you can drink down the history of this place in a debonair fashion while you sup on your espresso at the local cafe.
The French aren't as surly as you might have been led to believe. Despite the number of tourists that invade Carcassonne, the locals remain remarkably welcoming.
Carcassonne and the eastern Pyrenees are nippy in winter, but it's one of the drier parts of France and the days are crisp and sunny - ideal for skiing.
Carcassonne's proximity to the Mediterranean ensures there's a healthy seafood presence on most menus, but cassoulet, a bean and meat stew, is the region's traditional dish.
Carcassonne provides the backdrop for several films, including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Chocolat - so the town has been host to the likes of Johnny Depp and Kevin Costner.
The fortified section of the city almost met its maker in the mid 19th century. It was up for demolition until campaigners convinced the government restoration was a better idea.
"Do not die without seeing Carcassonne." - French songwriter Gustave Nadaud
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Built in the 12th century, the Chateau Comtal once provided a comfy home for Carcassonne's counts. Now it houses an archaeological museum.
The chateau is inside the walled Medieval City, which is a pedestrian-only area, so park your hire car at the metered car park next to the entrance to the city.
This church is so old it makes Bruce Forsyth look positively sprightly. It's a vast structure with a Gothic interior dating back almost 1,000 years.
The church is also in the Medieval City, so park up outside and take a stroll.
There's only so much history a man can take before he wants to go off and meet some birds. Luckily this attraction has an amazing array of winged creatures to ogle at.
There's a free onsite car park.
If you can't find good food in France, you may as well give up eating. Sample some of the region's finest produce at the market in Place Carnot.
Place Carnot has a free car park, where you can park for 30 minutes. There's another free car park a short walk away at Calvary Bastion, on Boulevard Barbes, where you can park for longer.
Overcome with the urge to hit the beach? Head to this artificial lake just outside Carcassonne, which has three of them.
There's a free car park by the lake.
For enthusiasts who like a bit of variety, this resort, which caters for snowboarders, skiers and cross-country skiers, is ideal.
It will take around two hours to reach the resort from Carcassonne. Just head northwest on the N113 towards Boulevard Jean Jaures/N113 and follow the Avenue Bunau-Varilla/D118, heading towards Ax-les-Thermes.
If you have small children in tow and want a bit of worry-free quality time on the piste, you can pop the little 'uns in the resort creche before heading for the black run.
Head northwest on the N113 toward Boulevard Jean Jaures/N113. Follow Avenue Bunau-Varilla/D118 and continue on the D117. The journey should take around an hour and 40 minutes.
Take a break from skiing with a spot of horse riding in this charming little resort, based in one of the area's most beautiful towns.
The journey should take no more than two hours. Go northwest on the N113 toward Boulevard Jean Jaures/N113, then pick up the A61/E80. Take the exit onto A66 toward Foix/Pamiers/E9/Andorre and continue on the N20.
This beautiful plateau not only provides a testing terrain for snowshoe-equipped walkers, it also has 12km of dog-sledge tracks for those who prefer others to do all the legwork.
The quickest route to Plateau de Beille is via the A61/E80. After around 24 miles, take the exit onto the A66 toward Foix/Pamiers/E9/Andorre, then follow the N20 towards Vicdessos. The journey will take around two hours from Carcassonne.
" You are going to need a hire car if you want to enjoy the picturesque French countryside, where you'll find some of the world's natural wonders - such as the beautiful mountains and water falls. Everyone talks about how awesome it is to drive on the motorways, but you are still going to need good walking shoes, as La Cite - our UNESCO World Heritage Listed medieval citadel - is only accessible on foot. "