Carrying on in Carcassonne

Trip Start Apr 01, 2011
Trip End Jan 26, 2012

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Flag of France  , Languedoc-Roussillon,
Sunday, May 8, 2011

Our first stop in France is the town of Carcassonne, located in the south west, close to the Spanish border.  As with most of the towns we have been to, Carcassonne has an old town and a new town.  The new town is pretty standard but the old town is completely enclosed inside of a medieval walled fortress with a castle inside of it.  The first parts of the castle were built by the Romans during the 2nd century and successive owners of the castle added to it for the next 1,000+ years.  The castle, medieval village, and village walls were restored between the 1850's and early 1900's.  We spent the better part of a day exploring the village and castle.

I have to admit, I had a few stereotypes in mind as we were on our way to France but I am happy to say that so far, we have not run in to a single skunk walking around saying "Mon cheri" in a bad French accent, nobody has been rude to us, they smoke no more than the Spanish or Portuguese and most of the time, we are probably the worst smelling people in any given room.  Luckily though, some of the stereotypes have so far proven to be true.  They have great wine, great bread, excellent cheese and prepare some amazing meals.  In fact, we had the first exceptional meal of our entire trip in Carcassonne.  Not to knock Portugal and Spain but it seems that they eat for the sake of staying alive (and keeping the pig population in check) whereas in France, food is part of the experience. The quality and flavor of the food is more of an art and passion than just sustenance.  The restaurant we went to was close to our hotel which was in the middle of nowhere (more on that later) and was recommended by the owner of the hotel we were at.  We were following the directions he gave us which took us deeper in to the industrial park, past a fiberglass molding factory and in to a parking lot with a flashing sign that just said "Restaurant." The door to the place looked like we were going in to a warehouse and our hopes were not super high.  I decided that I should be adventurous and try something different so I ordered the gizzard salad which had salad greens, grainy dijon dressing, slices of apple, slices of toasted almonds, and about 3/4 of a cup of sautéed, sliced chicken gizzards, which actually tasted great and I have no idea why we don't see them on the menu in Canada.  For a main course I had Cassoulet which is a stew of white beans, sausage, duck, mutton and some sort of magical assortment of flavors. Robin had a salad with mixed greens, walnuts, and a honey mustard dressing, and on the side there was two little half sandwiches - one sandwich had a little round of goat cheese and the other sandwich had a little scoop of a maple-flavoured ice cream, it was amazing!  Then for the main course she had a piece of salmon and some coconut basmatti rice.

As I mentioned, our hotel was a little far from the main part of the town, it was on the way to the airport in a mainly industrial area.  We decided on our first day to walk in to town.  Armed with a map and directions from the hotel staff, we started our trek to town along the highway and after about 45 minutes of walking and only having to dart across the highway once, we made it in to town.  At the end of the day, we were going to take the city bus back to our hotel but as is our luck with buses, ended up missing the last bus of the day so we decided that it was still light enough to walk back to the hotel.  As some people keep reminding me, my navigation skills are not always the best.  I have been doing quite well on our trip so far and maybe due to that, I was getting a little over confident.  I was looking at the map thinking I knew exactly where we were and then over the hill, the airport appeared... And it was on the wrong side of us.  I figured that it was unlikely the airport had shifted a kilometer to the left and the more plausible explanation was that we missed a turn at some point.  We had been walking for about 45 minutes and should have been back at the hotel by that time, I was not sure where we had missed the turn and the sun was getting very low in the sky, so not the best time to have to back track on a lonely highway for 20 minutes.  We ended up making it back to our hotel just as it got dark.  Robin still lets me carry the map since then.

As I had mentioned, we have not run in to anyone in France yet that has been rude or unfriendly, in fact it has been totally the opposite.  We knew we were going to be arriving at our hotel a few hours after the reception was closed so I e-mailed them to find out what options we had to get in to the room.  They e-mailed me back with the room number and told me they would just leave the door unlocked and the key on our bed.  The next day, we inquired about laundry facilities and the hotel owner showed us the location of a laundromat on our map.  We packed up our dirty clothes and were just walking out of the parking lot toward town when the owner drove up and asked us if we wanted a ride in to town.  He only had a 2-seat car but he made 2 trips to get us both to the laundromat.  On a couple of occasions we have been standing in the street looking at our map and had people stop and ask us if they could help us find something, we have had people overhear us trying to decipher menus in restaurants and they have asked us if they could help us figure out the food and they have even acted as translators for us when restaurant staff did not speak English.

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Grandma Asmus, Andrew, Linda, Annabelle & Chica on

Happy Birthday Mike!!!

Bob & Bobi on

We have sent you a new map for your birthday...apparently the one you have is broken. we hope you had a great day. Belated wishes!!
Love Bob & Bobi

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