La Cite

Trip Start Jun 10, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of France  , Languedoc-Roussillon,
Monday, October 17, 2011

As we drove up to Carcassonne, it felt like we were driving onto the set of some serenely set medieval movie (we later found out that many films have been made here including Robin Hood-not the new good one, the older one with Kevin Costner). We were surprised that such a place existed.  When we made it inside "La Cite" (as the old walled city is known), the fairy-tale picture quickly disappeared.  Don't get me wrong, the streets and buildings were lovely, it was the tourist bomb that seemed to have gone off that threw us for a loop.  I know it is somewhat (very) hypocritical for tourists to complain about too many tourists, but someone obviously misplaced our V.I.P. private tour booking.  Regardless, the shops are now uber-touristy offering all things from “I (heart) Carcassonne” T-shirts to wine with pictures of the castle on it (which we bought and didn’t go blind, by the way) to little knight and princess costumes for kids.  We did note that the diversity of the tourists here was quite remarkable and we were hard-pressed to think of a place we have visited in the past that had so many people from different parts of the world.

The (diverse) hordes of tourists were there for good reason.  It is a spectacular place with a rich history.  It was fortified over the centuries by the Gauls, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and Franks.  It was a major stronghold until the Roussillon province became part of France in 1659.  As the need for the fortified presence was no longer needed, the city walls and buildings went into decay for the next 200ish years.  It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century when renowned architect, Viollet-le-Duc took on the project of restoring La Cite.  He obviously did something right as Carcassonne welcomes over 4 million tourists every year.

We spent the day walking the streets people watching as much as sightseeing.  We also did an audio tour of the ramparts (see pic).  We headed back down to our cute little (and very old) hotel in the lower town to relax and drink our “special” Carcassonne wine.  Our hotel had great views of La Cite from its terrace (see pics).

We returned up to La Cite for dinner after all of the tourists had left (all those that were not staying up there anyway).  It was much quieter and we enjoyed our traditional meal with some more local wine.  Meg had cassoulet, which is a piping hot bowl of beans, duck and pork sausage.  It was incredible.  Once again, with our sightseeing ambitions as well as our appetites feeling satiated, we retired for the night.  Tomorrow we are off to our last stop (Toulouse) on this wee tour before we head home on Tuesday.
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