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Carcassonne

by may
(Scotland)

Carcassonne castle

Carcassonne castle

Carcassonne

Every summer we try and go out to visit an offbeat destination. This way, we beat the crowds and the tourist traps and have a great vacation. This year, we went to Carcassonne, a quaint little town in Southern France. Carcassonne, a fortified town in province of Languedoc, traces its roots to back to the sixth century B.C. At an altitude of some 200 meters above sea-level, and spread over 65 square kilometers, it makes for some really pleasant weather and an enjoyable stay. As soon as we arrived at the Carcassonne Salvaza Airport, we took a taxi to the hotel where we were going to stay, the Domaine d’Auriac (called the Auriac), a scenic place for accommodation, over-looking the gurgling waters of the Ruisseau de Saint Jean.

Next morning, the first thing we did was to take the guided tour of the Bastide-St. Louis, an ancient country estate with many monuments and private mansions. Flanked by the rivers called the Canal du Midi and the Aude, I thought I’d just spent the best two hours of my life yet. That afternoon, we spent time boating at the Canal du Midi. Making halting conversation with the boat-man in his Occitan, a French dialect that is a little removed from mainstream French, we discovered that this Canal was artificially created to generate tourism. That evening, talking with the hotel manager, we discovered a little more about the city.

The city is mainly divided into two parts, the higher fortified Cité de Carcassonne and the more expansive lower part of the city, called the Villa Basse. The name of the town apparently originated from the word Carcas meaning the end of a siege, and the term Sonna meaning the ringing of bells. We also learnt that the Fortress was scheduled to be destroyed by Napoleon, but only narrowly escaped. It was later restored in 1853.

The next morning, being a Sunday, we attended mass at the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire, a cathedral dating back to the 11th century. We then walked about the medieval walled town that is the heart of the city. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site, and reportedly has over three kilometers of majestic battlements. We also made trips to the castle and its ramparts that made up the ultimate stronghold of it’s rulers from the 12th century. We lazed around for the remaining part of the day, and spent the evening shopping for souvenirs.

Monday morning, we paid a visit to the house where local poet of fame, Joe Bosquet lived. We also saw some permanent exhibitions of his works there. We also caught up with a couple of exhibitions, namely, the Memorial of Former Soldiers, and the Museum of Chivalry, Arms and Archery. After a pretty late lunch, we found ourselves queuing up at the Narbonnaise Gate to enter the sightseeing tour by train. The next day, being our last day in the city before we could leave, we managed to squeeze in a quick tour of the Museé Beaubois, an exhibition of works by Jean Beaubois. It really was time for us to leave, and therefore we had to miss the Story-telling Workshop and the Restoration Workshop.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. If we could, we’d definitely come back to this little town to take in its beautiful heritage at a more leisurely pace.





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