Sunday, September 04, 2011

Carcassonne - Medieval Walled City in Southern France

Other than the terrifying experience of having lost my purse and a scary hour at the local gendarmes station, our visit to Carcassonne was terrific. (It also ended well, with the return of my purse, passport and all cash and cards...see yesterday's post below.)

Carcassonne is a medieval walled city - castle, ramparts, etc., etc. Verrry old, very picturesque, simply full of history - and tourist shops! I got my best meal of the trip there. No, it wasn't the wild boar or the cassoulet I bought my friends at the restaurant there when we celebrated the return of my purse. No, my best meal of the trip was a super fresh ham and emmental on buttered baguette at the patisserie just below the walled part of the city. Just delightful! 3.5 Euros. Simple can be best.

When you get to Carcassonne, before getting to the walled medieval portion, there is the working city (other than the old castle area.) In that section we toured cemetiere St. Michel. I was struck by the many ceramic flower arrangements on and around the tombs.

I devised a way to find our car if we got lost. I took photos of street signs - sort of like Hansel and Gretel's crumb trail. We didn't need them. We just returned to the car and followed our view of the castle top. Easy enough!

A good view of the medieval city from the park below its bridge.

The bridge we walked across.

A critter in the river below. Is it a muskrat?

In the little patisserie where I got the great sandwich, there were little pig pastries. I thought they were cute, but they took on new meaning after I heard the tale of Mme. Carcassonne. Some of the patisseries had elegant, intricate 'constructed' desserts, with ribbon-looking details of spun sugar. This one was no exception.

A touristy feel abounds as we approach the entrance.

Just through the archway you can see tourists lined up to get inside.

Madame Carcas, legendary namesake of Carcassonne. This statue is near the entry to the walled city. The story is that this woman held off invaders by stuffing a pig carcass with corn and wheat and throwing it into the river. The invaders, upon seeing this waste of precious grain, were sure that the town was wealthy beyond imagination and full of warriors - so they retreated. Mme. Carcas single-handedly saved the town. Read more about the legend here.

Sue and Beth headed uphill. I know the adage 'everything that goes up must come down', but how come everything seems to be uphill?

A cute little girl and her daddy. Chocolate ice cream cones are good, but messy!

Sometimes it's hard to tell. I thought this man might be a performer. I was wrong. He was simply another tourist - who probably did not appreciate my taking his photo. (If it looks like a duck, and dresses like a duck...)

Outside of the hotel near the basilica, I spied all of these happy faces.

Gargoyles on the basilica in Carcassonne.

Inside La Basilique de Saint Nazaire.

This quartet sang while we were inside.

This puppeteer was working outside the basilica when we exited. A semi-circle of children soon gathered and sat around him, but I didn't get that photo because I was distraught about the discovery of having lost my purse.

At the police station.

If you ever get to Carcassonne - this lady is an angel. Be sure to visit her shop, Aldenone.

Some views from inside the walled city.

How the view must have changed since the medieval days.

An old national route sign on a wall in the restaurant with the wild boar. -- I kid you not! Beth thought she was ordering a healthy wild mushroom dish. It was actually very tasty. I wish I'd taken a photo of Beth's face when the waiter explained what she'd actually pointing to a wild boar's furry head on the wall behind us! Total shock!


Anonymous said...

Hi, I read your blog through finding you on Ask Jeeves as I was researching a Birthday trip with my husband in Dec..Lovely blog and great pics...Glad you found your purse...Where did you stay ??
Regards Barbara

letterlady said...

Hi Barbara,
We stayed in a very small town not too far from Toulouse (Gargas) in my cousin's house. (God bless her generosity!) From there we were able to travel to many nice towns and villages. I highly recommend Carcassonne (very touristy), Cordes sur Ciel (LOTS of climbing!) and Rocamadour (also Touristy, but wonderful and scenic.) We also drove to Niaux in the Pyrenees to see cave paintings, though there are also some near Rocamadour. Awesome. I hope you all have a wonderful trip! Happy Birthday to your husband!