Towers and Turrets – Carcassonne

Continuing our homeward journey up through France, it was a natural progression to head towards the beautiful medieval City of Carcassonne. Yet another spot I’d had on my radar for a couple of years but we had never made it before. We needed to do about a hundred miles. It was a really hot day, not ideal for driving but we cracked on regardless. It was a good journey. We chose the number 2 Aire for Carcassonne listed in the Aires Book. The pricing is out of date, it is 15€ for 24 hours with dump and fill facilities, no electric hook up. The co-ords took us straight there. Be warned there is a very tight left hand turn just before you get to the entrance. It’s a bitch with a big van. Take it easy. There is also an 8 meter length restriction on the Aire which we chose to ignore, the spaces were plenty big enough. There is a decent campsite right next door if you prefer. It’s a 15 minute pleasant stroll on the flat from the Aire along the riverside path to the old town, La Cite. The last little bit is steep uphill. The walled town inside the Citadel is a mass of cobbled streets. Sensible shoe alert! Thanks for the warning Naim! The place is just magnificent. My pictures can’t do it justice.

The many watch towers and fairytale turrets can be seen for miles. The now familiar yellow ribbons have even been painted on the castle walls here. Politics are a really big deal around these parts. It’s all to do with Catalunyan independence. The medieval town within the castle walls is very well preserved. It still has a living and working community. The Chateau Comtal and Basilique St. Nazaire with its amazing stained glass windows are both must sees. There are many shops, mostly tourist tack but a few quaint ones, some nice leather goods and unusual gifts. There are also some really good restaurants amidst the fast food plastic tabled snack bars. You just need to be a bit selective and look around. The speciality here is Cassoulet, a rich bean stew. Each place does its own signature version. My favourite is with duck leg and Foie gras. Can’t wait to have a go at making it myself.

You could wander around these little cobbled streets and the ramparts for days and not see it all.

On the second day, we decided to cycle around the Ville Basse or the Bastide as it’s known. This is considered to be the new town although it was built in 1260. The stone arched bridge over the River Aude is beautiful. There is a gothic cathedral to see, Cathedrale St. Michel and many other impressive historic buildings including the Museum de Belle Arts. It has a daily indoor market selling gourmet foods as well as artisan breads and the usual fruit and veg. Around every corner is another inviting looking boutique or book shop. The lively square in the centre of town is buzzing with trendy coffee bars and bistros. We found a wonderful charismatic little wine bar called The Blue Duck on one of the back streets off the square. Great tapas! Fabulous wine! It’s an interesting place there’s no doubt. I just wish we had more time to spend.

The cycle path along the gorgeous Canal du Midi is a full day out in itself if you can afford the time. You can hire bikes quite cheaply. Highly recommended.

Carcassonne is a fantastic place to hop on a Ryanair Flight and visit for a long weekend if you don’t do the Motorhome thing. I am really sorry we didn’t get the chance to go back into the Citadel at night, I bet it looks amazing when it’s all lit up on an evening. Never mind. Next trip maybe. Tomorrow is another day with another town!

Time to get the maps back out folks. Next stop, Rocamadour and the Dordogne.

Au revoir for now mes bons amis!

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