21.08.2017 - 21.08.2017 34 °C
We ventured out this morning to the medieval town of Carcassonne. The drive is only about 90 km and is mainly on the large toll autoroutes - speed limit 130. You would think that we would have gotten there in no time. This is not the case. We would be cruising along at a great speed, then all of a sudden traffic would slow to a crawl. After a bit, speed would pick back up and away we would go. There were also a couple of stops due to accidents. We arrived in the new town of Bastille St. Louis which is below the old town and fortress. Parking was very easy. We walked toward the fortress and soon came to the XIV century bridge that connects Bastille St. Louis to Carcassonne. It is an impressive site. Also at that point is the tiny, unimpressive Chapel of Norte Dame de la Sante. It is noteworthy in that it is the start of the Pyrenean foothills path leading towards Saint-Jean Pied de Port, on the way to Santiago de Compostella. We crossed the bridge and spotted a small park with some shady trees and benches and had our lunch. I should also mention that by this point it was +34. Maybe a better day for the beach. After lunch, we made the short walk up to the fortress. Did I mention it was hot🌝🔥🌝🔥. We headed into the walled medieval village and were greeted by fairly large crowds of people. The medieval village is now a warren of tourist shops, restaurants and hotels. We didn't spend much time there. We went up to tour the Comtal Chateau. Once there, you can tour 3 sets of ramparts that surround the city. We paid the €9/person and went in. The tour starts with a video about how Carcassonne came to be what it is today. It started out as a castellum during the IV century under Roman rule. Later it became an important fortress when it was on the French/Spanish border. It rose and fell in importance over the centuries, but grew in size as well. It has been restored and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We then toured the ramparts. We were hot and felt a bit wilted, but we made our way up and down narrow spiral staircases and through guard towers. A couple of hours of that was exhausting. When we finished the tour I went and visited the Bascilica of St Nazaire which is the church in the old town. It's pretty big and the stained glass is stunning. We agreed that we had had enough and headed back to the car, stopping for one last picture and look back at the fortress. The drive back also had its share of traffic challenges and we were tired when we got back. A tall glass of wine and a meal helped. Arlene hadn't had a martini in nearly a month so we remedied that as well.