Road trip from Bordeaux, Carcassonne, Perpignan - where to lunch?
We will be leaving Bordeaux by car in the morning and driving to Girona, Spain. That means we will be passing through Toulouse, Carcassonne, Narbonne, and Perpignan on our way that day. Toulouse may be too close to Bordeaux for lunch, since it is only 2 hours into the trip. Carcassone looks romantic and timing seems about right, but a quick internet search did not reveal any places that caught my eye.
So, I thought I would ask my Chowhound brethren -- any ideas on where our party of four should stop for lunch? Not necessarily looking for Michelin stars, but interesting, romantic, innovative, etc would all be welcome.
I'm not sure that I have any specific recommendations that will be of any use, but one thing you may have to bear in mind (and apologies if you already know this) is that in France they eat lunch early in comparison to Spain, so you will need to leave pretty early if you want to eat in or near Carcassonne. Lunch is between 12 and 2pm, but most places will expect people to arrive before 1.30 at the latest. French people tend to arrive between 12.00 and 12.30. Google maps reckons Bordeaux to Carcassonne is a drive of more than 3.5 hours (which doesn't allow for stops or traffic jams). Toulouse is more than 2.5 hours as well, and that doesn't allow for the time it takes to drive into a big city, negotiate the one-way system and find parking - so, in your position, I would think about finding somewhere before Toulouse.
Anyway, if you think you can get to Carcassonne by about 12.00, a place we have been to, but which may be a bit off your route, is Le Relais du Chantovent in Minerve. It's lovely and a reasonable price for the quality of food. But it will add to your journey time, as it is about half an hour away on smaller roads, to the north east of the city.
Otherwise, I have seen recommendations for (but not been to) Le Languedoc in Carcassonne, which is supposed to do the best Cassoulet.
Avoid going into Toulouse on a trip like this – it's a large city (million plus population) with all the traffic, parking problems you might expect.
Carcassonne is lovely (particularly from a distance) but has a lot of tourist traps – Theresa's suggestion in Minerve might make for a more relaxing stop.
If you really want to eat cassoulet for your lunch, you could just divert off the motorway into Castelnaudary and get yourself to somewhere like http://www.letirou.com/fr/ (easy to find from the A61) - but get there early, at latest one o'clock.
It's not clear when you are taking this trip but you should be warned that the motorway between Perpignan and Girona can have very heavy traffic during the summer holiday season – it’s a bottleneck on one of the main routes between northern and southern Europe and should be avoided on the holiday weekends. If you are tempted to detour to the coast and lunch in somewhere like Collioure (looks close on the map), please think seriously about it as you may double your journey time – or be prepared for bumper-to-bumper traffic.
If I was doing this trip, I think I would start early, grab a coffee and a sandwich on the motorway and arrive at your destination in time for a long slow relaxing Spanish afternoon lunch.
If you can make it to Carcassonne in time for lunch, I would recommend Le Comte Roger. We had a wonderful lunch there a few years ago. If you can get there by 1:30 I think you will be fine. It is right in the center of the old town, but did not attract the bus tour crowd, thankfully. The food is updated traditional. Toulouse is a beautiful city, which we spent 3 days in, but if you are just passing through it will result in a delay in your trip. If the timing is right, though, Le Bon Vivre is an excellent bistro with indoor and outdoor seating in the Place Wilson. It's a classic with great food and atmosphere, very popular, the sort of place that will make you feel like a knowledgeable local. Looking at Google directions, I think the best bet is to get an early start and get to Carcassonne for lunch. Otherwise, you will have a very long drive from Toulouse (though since dinner in Spain is very late, that might not be a problem).