Saturday, April 27, 2013

Travel Friday to the Medieval Fortress City of Carcassonne

We were up bright and early on Friday morning for the three hour and 20 minute ride on the high-speed TGV train from Lyon to Carcassonne.

Carcassonne is located at the foot of the Pyrénées Mountains in France's south central region of Languedoc.

Carcassonne is considered to be the best preserved medieval city in all of Europe. We have yet to see anything that surpasses its beauty and sheer size in our vast European travels.

The old city, known as La Cité, evokes visions of Visigoths, Franks, Saracens, bold knights, fair damsels and witty troubadours in a truly medieval 13th century atmosphere. Carcassonne's La Cité was actually used extensively as the set for Kevin Costner's 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

We were both excited at the possibilities on this overcast Friday.

Train Travel agrees with Laurie

Carcassonne's Train Station

The weather report called for a 60% chance of rain. We were lucky as the precipitation held off until it started to sprinkle very lightly at the very end of the day.

Canal du Midi completed in 1681

This 155 mile long canal was once the main path for goods to travel across the south of France from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.

Sustenance in Carcassonne's
Ville Basse or La Bastide St-Louis

Carcassonne is divided into two parts. The train station is located in the lower city, known as both the Ville Base and La Bastide St-Louis, at the base of the hilltop fortress that makes up La Cité. The 30 minute walk from the train station to La Cité allowed us to soak up many interesting sights.

Cool Ville Basse Fountain

Now, this place looked good to me

Carcassonne's Old School for Girls

I am currently reading Kate Mosse's book Citadel which is set in World War II Carcassonne. One of the main characters in this fine piece of historical fiction is a teacher at this institution of learning.

Chilling Out on Place Gambetta

A Camino de Santiago Route

Not one word David Lassen!

Interesting statue on a small church

Laurie by the Pont Vieux

The Pont Vieux

The Flood of 1891 was really something!

We took this picture from the Pont Vieux back towards the Ville Basse. By crossing the bridge, we got our first good view of . . . 

La Cité

But before we walked up the hill to the fortress we still needed to browse some more rues.

World's Oldest Boulangerie?

Wild Drain Pipes

Getting Closer

The Moat and Outer Walls

This moat was never filled with water. Its original depth was enough to keep invaders at bay.

The Porte Narbonnaise

Madame Carcas

The locals tell the story of Dame Carca's heroics during a very long siege of La Cité about 1,200 years by Charlemagne and his troops. Madame Carcas saved the town just as the food was running out. She grabbed a pig, stuffed it with as much of the remaining grain as possible and then threw the pig over the wall at the invaders.

The pig burst open on contact. When Charlemagne's troops saw that the pig was still so well fed after all of this time, they surmised that La Cité's food stores were endless and gave up the siege. La Cité was saved!

Madame Carcas sonne-d (sounded) the long awaited the victory bells and La Cité had a new name: Carcas-sonne.

A good story to be sure but as with many great tales, it may not be 100% historically accurate.

Laurie sneaking her way into
La Cité via the Porte Narbonnaise

La Cité's Inner Walls

More of the Inner Walls

Les Lices

Les Lices are the spaces between the inner walls and outer walls and were used for Jousting Tournaments when things were peaceful.

These small holes were used to pour
bad things onto invaders

Well Preserved Turret

See the Red Bricks?

These are bits of building materials left behind from Roman times.

Basilique St-Nazaire
built between the 11th and 14th centuries

Any self-respecting medieval church must have its share of gargoyles to ward off evil spirits!

Cover your ears!


We saw the real life model to this guy
on the right walking in the Ville Basse

Stop Yelling!

Nice couple, don't you think?

Laurie lighting candles in St-Nazaire
for Kevin and Jacob

The Tomb of Bishop Radulphe
dating from 1266

St-Joan of Arc

Holy Water Font

Lining up my shot through
an Inner Wall arrow slit

We left the Basilique to do some serious shopping.

First stop . . .


Lots of Chocolate

I was TRULY happy

Fortress Building Blocks

Sorry boys, they were too bulky to bring home to you.

Who Me?

Colorful Flowers

It was after 1:00 p.m., and we were hungry . . . time for lunch!

Our goal was a restaurant suggested by our travel guru, Rick Steves. We were looking for the Adelaïde Restaurant.

Correct Rue

It IS an award winning restaurant . . .

With a GREAT view of La Cité's
Château Comtal

The view from our dining table

 A GREAT place for a school field trip

Awesome view at lunch indeed!

The Onion Soup was marvelous

As was the Languedoc 
specialty of Cassoulet

Cassoulet is a combination of pork sausage, duck leg and beans that was simply AWESOME!!!

After lunch, it was time for more roaming about La Cité.

I love medieval street signs

This one too

Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevielle

He was a historian and archaeologist that was born in Carcassonne and was instrumental in the 19th century rennovation of La Cité.

Excellent Rusty Door

I liked this old spigot

This one too

Another view of Les Lices

 An Old Alleyway

 Happy Shopper

It was a Café and Boutique, so I opted to have a cappuccino while Laurie continued to bolster the local economy.

It was a good place to people watch
while Laurie shopped

 Cruising La Cité's Mean Rues


Quaint Flower Box

Draft Horses at Work

It was time to leave La Cité and head back down to the Ville Basse. Along the way we found quite a large mural.

Interesting Musicians

One Absinthe too many


A reminder of home

The Chapeau Rouge Café

And, finally, a rustic building

We had a wonderful time in Carcassonne. The town more than exceeded our expectations!

Now, it is time to prepare for a full Falcons playoff football weekend.

Saturday night at 8:00 p.m., our Junior (2-2) team plays in Avignon against the host Warriors to open their playoff hunt.

Sunday sees the Falcons hosting a doubleheader.

At 11:00 a.m., our Cadet (3-0-1) squad hosts the Montpellier Hurricanes.

The weekend's main event is the Senior (8-0) team's Division III National Playoff opener against the Albi Hurricane (5-3).


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