During our holiday, we spent a lot of time on the beach. Living nowhere near the sea, we like to make the most of it when we have the chance. But on a blustery day, when after an hour you start to resemble a sand statue, a sightseeing trip is the obvious solution to your predicament. This is how we ended up in Carcassonne… and we wondered why we had waited so long to visit this fabulous city.
Recognized by the UNESCO as a “World Heritage” site in 1997, Carcassonne is a crossroad for two major routes used since antiquity, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and from the Massif Central to Spain. It is the perfect example of a medieval fortified town, with two sets of ramparts protecting the castle, the other buildings and the beautiful Gothic cathedral. The city also sports an impressive fifty-two towers, and the Catholic Inquisition requisitioned one of them in the 13th century to conduct their questionings. Towards the end of the 19th century the fortress was in such a derelict state that the government decided it should be entirely dismantled. Fortunately, following a campaign to have Carcassonne recognized as an historical landmark, this decision was reversed. Renovations soon started, led by Eugène Duc-Viollet, an architect who was already working on the St. Nazaire’s Basilica.
When we arrived in front of the main entrance, I felt catapulted back to the Middle Ages. No wonder that the 1991 movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was partly shot in and around Carcassonne! After entering the city and walking around the nearby streets, we decided to first have lunch “Chez Marcel”. The bar is situated next to a shop, and I have to say that the “Produits du Pays Cathare” are rather interesting, just look at the photo… 😉
We then popped into the “Je reviens dans ¼ d’heure” art gallery. The artist, ZANDA, was a very interesting character, and we spent some time chatting about his work, with part of the conversation in German too. We met Kuikui, an imaginary dog present on almost all of his collection, and left having purchased a lovely square painting “Le Raisin de la Vigne”, with Kuikui proudly standing on top of the wine grape!
As this was our first visit, we decided to leave aside the castle and various museums, and to concentrate on wandering around. We loved the atmosphere and my camera got put to good use a lot that day… After a couple of hours exploring, we stopped at a busy square for a drink. Second Daughter was looking at the leaflets that had been handed to us in the streets and was rather keen on visiting the “Haunted House”. We found it next to the “Grand Puits”, after first going to the “Petit Puits” by mistake! She came out looking slightly shaken, but recovered quickly enough, saying that it was definitely one of the highlights of the day and then proceeding to tell us ALL about it in great detail.
It was then time to leave as friends had invited us for dinner, but another visit next year is definitely on the cards. I wonder if Kuikui will still be around?