Awakening to Carcassone, France

Bonjour mon amis,

I’d love to give you an insight into the French countryside city of Carcassone, today. Some of you are thinking about a holiday non? For those of you like my friends Leanne and her francophile hubby Keith who are planning to visit that beautiful part of  the world very soon or those of you like my blogger friend Hope Ava of the frenchmouse blogspot who delights in medieval castles- I entreat you all to come see Carcassone.

One glimpse at Carcassone albeit from a distance turned my french awakening into seduction and I couldn’t get nearer fast enough. Located in one of my favourite regions of France-the Languedoc-Roussillon, it forms part of  the Aude department of south west France and is such a fabulous juxtaposition of the old and new. With so much to see and do here, you really will be surprised as to how quickly your time flies in one of the oldest fortress cities in France or Europe for that matter!

Lovers of Cathar history and defence, will first realise that the Carcassone is constructed around two medieval cities and is indeed old-some of it dating back to Gallo-Roman times.  Around 100BC, the Romans built a fort after the Celts and remnants of this fort exists within the foundation of The Chateau Comtal or’ Count’s Castle’ today.That’s why it remains listed as a World Heritage Site.

Get up close and personal and run your fingers along aged intact stonework (when nobody is looking) as you wander through Carcassone’s castle and ramparts (with 53 towers)  and its magnificent medieval walled city.

You can also visit Carcassone’s many museums, library, private mansions and churches (the Saint Nazaire Cathedral has very impressive stainglass) or perhaps if the mood takes you can wander up to the local graveyards on the outskirts of town where the memorable and infamous Carcassonians are buried deep in French soil.

Carcassone remains intriguing to both young and old. No wonder it provided the perfect back drop to the film Robin Hood, ‘Prince of Thieves’.

Stand back and photograph Carcassone at dawn or dusk and even at night when the city is illuminated with lights and you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a fairytale. Did Walt Disney really choose Carcassone as the inspiration for his beloved, “Sleeping Beauty” I wonder? See for yourself…

Take it all in from a horse drawn carriage (with or without commentary) or on a bike (Are you listening Richard Tulloch?) or for those of you like myself who want to rekindle that quintessential  ‘Wind in The Willows'” feel and fancy “messing about with boats” will love an up the river experience lavished with a picnic basket of local french produce. Look no further than a river cruise on L’Aude to really get the feel for the place.

If time is of no real concern to you (and miracles do happen),  go to the artificial lake ( Lac de la Cavayere ) outside the city where you can sunbake on the beach and swim or lay back and dangle your tired white touristy legs over the sides of a hired boat and peruse French skies. With a little more energy you can traverse the Tyroleans across the lake in the Forest Acrobatic Park or try your hand on the golf course (or at the club bar), do a few laps at the local Sports Complex or simply contemplate your reflection under dappled shade from the banks of the Canal du Midi (which links the Mediterranean with the Atlantic), while enjoying a spot of fishing. It’s all good.

If fishing doesn’t lure you, then a tip toe through the tulips at Carcassone’s parks and Botannical Gardens such as the Andre Chenier Gardens may be just your thing. If all else fails and you have very little time in Carcassone, there’s always shopping and cafes if you must…(As you know there’s ALWAYS time for shopping and coffee!)

You’ll no doubt love the shops inside the walled city even in a whirlwind! There are only about 120 residents to date living inside the walls but they will never be lonely because of their visitors! Carcassone is a popular destination for tourists and you can wade happily through the compact eclectic maze of shops selling jewellery, tapestries, pressed metal signs…

and kitchenware, lingerie, perfumes and medieval paraphernalia. While shops swell with people and products, restaurants ooze the aroma of cassoulet. Did I mention lunch?

Carcassone is magic. And with you being there, dreams really do come true!

Au Revoir,
Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

Copyright@2010 Therese Waddell

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4 Responses to “Awakening to Carcassone, France”

  1. Hi Therese – yes, listening and reading, you’ll be pleased to see! I visited Carcassonne a couple of years ago, and had an excellent lunch. We found the famous castle a bit like many other famous castles – good for keeping our the enemies, but less fun now you’re not allowed to pour boiling oil on them. Loved the rest of the old town though. Thanks for the post (and the mention!). A la prochaine, Richard

  2. Kay Riley Says:

    Therese! What a woman of surprises you are!!! and so interesting and talented too, I have loved reading your blogs and admiring your beautiful French inspired quilts. Thank you so much for letting me enter your amazing world. Kay

    • Well the lovely people you come across in cyber space! How nice of you Kay to read my blogs but being an excellent English teacher yourself, I can only hope that you will forgive all my grammatical errors! Nonetheless, I’m truly honoured that you’ve read a few of my posts and can only hope you enjoy my future ravings just as much! Best wishes and happy holidays, Therese x

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