This leg of the March getaway is new to both LY and me – Carcassonne! I’ve heard so much about the medieval village and castle enclosed within the old city walls, and I had been anticipating to go for a long time. Being three hours from Bordeaux by train, it was a perfect day trip for my visitor and me, as we could conveniently make a stop in Toulouse on our way back 😉
We took the 9:31 train in the morning from Bordeaux St.Jean, but what’d you know…the train was delayed for half an hour due to “difficulties in preparing the train”. Hmm. I closed my eyes and promptly fell asleep, waking up and getting off at our destination, Carcassonne.
The first thing I saw when I exited the Carcassonne train station was the Canal du Midi and its clear, green water. The supreme icing on the cake was the gorgeous blue sky, which lasted the entire weekend despite the weather forecast of rain. Quelle chance! It was too bad that the boat tours weren’t operating until April. It would have been such a relaxing ride.
We were told that if we only had 4 hours in the city, head straight to the cité médiévale as that is without a doubt what Carcassonne is known for. So we did. The walk from the lower town to the walled medieval city took approximately 20 minutes on foot, and we passed by Place Gambetta, shown above, on the way.
There are two bridges that connected the lower town to the walled city – Pont Neuf (new bridge) and Pont Vieux (old bridge). The cité started to appear in a distance as LY and I approached it from the Pont Neuf, stopping on the way to admire its gorgeousness. In all honesty, the view of the cité from afar was much more impressive than I had imagined it to be. It was reminiscent of Mont-Saint-Michel, actually, but with the beautiful sky and clouds, the cité seemed much more attractive than MSM. I am clearly being biased because the weather sucked when I went to MSM. Oh well.
I could picture the cité lit up at night – it must be stunning! I almost regretted a little that we decided to stay the night in Toulouse instead of Carcassonne, but you can’t see both cities at night without arriving in Toulouse way too late, so we chose Toulouse. Still, the cité already looked like a scene from a fairy tale, and I couldn’t wait to get in!
Before continuing to the cité, I hopped over to the other side the Pont Neuf to get a view of the Aude river (Aude is both the name of the main river traversing the city and the department in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon, where Carcassonne is found). I would assume those are the Pyrénées mountains in a distance. River, city, mountain, clouds, sky – it almost felt like Switzerland all over again 😉
The cité is engraved with age and history. Inside the cité walls, LY and I entered the Château Comtal (Count’s Castle) where we could get a spectacular view of Carcassonne from the top. The tour around the castle itself reminded me once again of Mont-Saint-Michel.
A friend asked me before whether I prefer lakes (or water) in general or mountains. Him living in a mountainous region adored the lakes that we explored together. There are no mountains in Bordeaux, so I am always awed when I see the magnificent mountain ranges in the distance (or even up close in Switzerland!) However, I do love lakes and rivers and I even said that a city is made more beautiful with water. And a place with both water AND mountains? Then it’s a blessing from the best of both worlds!
The afternoon sun cast a dramatic shadow of the castle on the greens. Oh, what a wonder it was that spring decided to show itself just for us! As far as Bordeaux was concerned, the temperature immediately dropped (below zero in the morning!) after the weekend, so in retrospect, we were really REALLY lucky!
As LY and I were walking back to the train station, we heard some loud noises…and saw some crazy people! Apparently March 9 was the day of the carnival of Carcassonne – what luck that we happened to be there! I’m not sure exactly what it was all about, but who cares? It was like an early Halloween costume party, and everyone, young and old, was dressed up in some kind of funky outfit. Some people would throw tiny paper stars at passers-by. LY got thrown at a couple of times but I was fortunately (or unfortunately?) not a target.
Before I knew it, the guy with the white hair in the band pulled me aside and said something like, “Venez, les gars, le photo de la siècle!” which meant “c’mon guys, the photo of the century!” I was a bit surprised and unprepared as he handed me the trombone and placed me amidst the band, and LY promptly took a photo for us. Ha! Awesome guys 😉
So, the trip to Carcassonne was filled with exploration, some unexpected encounters, and a lot of walking. We headed to Toulouse at night, but that will be another story for another day. Ciao!