food, history, travel, Uncategorized

Why you should visit the magical castle of Carcassonne

Carcassonne in my eyes, is the real-life version of a fairy-tale – according to wikipedia:

Carcassonne is a fortified French town in the Aude department, of which it is the prefecture, in the former province of Languedoc. It is divided into the fortified Cité de Carcassonne Carcassone was founded by the Visigoths in the fifth century, though the Romans had fortified the settlement earlier. The fortress, which was thoroughly restored in 1853 by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997.

Very cheese video that looks suspiciously made in the early 90’s but gives you an idea of what to expect.

We had the good fortune to visit this magical place one evening since it was very close to Castelnaudary where we were based. I had no idea what to expect and had visions of something like Monteriggioni or the like but wow, this honestly was something else. A Harry Potter like fortress come to life was what ran through my mind upon first sight. Disneyworld has nothing on this real-life vision. Keep in mind this was a battlefield in the Middle Ages specifically the hundred years war. You can see the slits where the locals spied on their enemies and poured boiling hot oil on unwelcome (and unlucky) intruders.

While the castle itself is only one part of the actual city of Carcassonne – it is obviously the main attraction and the main reason people flock to the city. Every summer from the end of June until August, they have a festival with over 120 theater & music shows within the walls of the castle. It is considered one of the best festivals in South West France. 

Inside the walls are squares, shops, restaurants, hotels and loads of people. Parents beware, expect to be guilt-tripped into buying a sword – weapon – cheesy outfit for your child as they are on display everywhere and considering the surroundings, is that really a surprise? Obviously everything is geared towards tourism though apparently there are still real residents living inside the castle.

I don’t mind the over-the-top shops and toys because as an American, there is nothing I like more than visiting a place you only imagined in movies. I always am left thinking how lucky Europeans are to be surrounded by such history and not strip-malls with the same Target/World Market/Micheals stores you invariably will see in #anytownUSA. Certainly is more fun than my own school field-trips to the missions in San Antonio and a sad bread factory year after year.

My favorite shops in town centered around desserts. As per usual for my glutton self I took any free sample that was offered and wondered how many varieties of ‘chocolate olives’ could exist in one town. Not enough apparently.

Since we had been stuffing ourselves silly, we decided to go for a light dinner at a local beer/wine garden within the fortress with our friend’s parents. I got a wooden side-board of honey, goat cheese and fresh bread. Paired with the local Rose wine, it was the perfect light dinner and right up my alley.

 

A light dinner to me obviously still includes dessert so one of the guys (and he shall remain nameless) got a very girly ice-cream (above left) and I got the sweet crepe I always dreamed of. Banana’s and nutella – if there is a god, he would have invented this combination. Afterwords, we took the opportunity to take one last walk around this amazing place and hopefully burn off at least a 10th of our ‘light’ dinner.

We had a great time and I will be back again on the hunt for my chocolate olives and macaroons, hopefully when the  annual summer festival is in full swing. Au Revoir Carcassonne! 

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0 Comment

  1. Reply
    phildange
    03.09.2012 at 11:27

    I always regret Americans only know history through Hollywood and Hollywood only knows history through English propaganda . The fightings in Carcassonne during the 100 years war (1355) were very short compared to the several battles of the anti-Cathars crusade over a century before, from 1209 to 1245 between the French crown and the legitimate Lord of the place .
    Beside, in the 6th century BC, the actual location of the city was occupied by the Gaul tribe called ” Volques Tectosages” and was an important trade town already called “Carcaso” . So much for the Wisigoth founding … Later the Roman came, then the Wisigoths, then the Arabs for a short time, then the Frankish Emperor .
    After that, the city was a part of the Occitan sweet land, the highest point of western civilisation from the year 1000 to the dirty Albigensian crusade led by the Pope, the French and English kings and the German Emperor . Northern Barbarians who destroyed the most tolerant and enlightened kingdom of Europe .

    1. Reply
      ggnitaly84
      03.09.2012 at 12:10

      believe me, I am a constant search for truth when it comes to history and don’t believe any one publication. That said, thank you so much for the history lesson, I do wish when we would toured the castle they would have mentioned the anti-cathars crusade in more detail. I will certainly be looking it up now.

      I did hear of a interesting factoid that the residents of carcassonne at one point threw all of their food stuffs and goods over the walls to scare potential invaders and to convince them that they were a rich, fruitful community that shouldn’t be challenged.. makes for a fun visual image..

      1. Reply
        phildange
        03.09.2012 at 13:07

        I don’t know if you can do it, but it’s worthy to go a little south from Carcassonne and visit the Cathars fortresses which never were taken by force but only through starvation and thirst . They are middle-Age castles on top of mountains and look like Incas solar temples . Montségur ( Ariège), Peyrepertuse, Quéribus and Puylaurens (Aude) are the top 4 .

  2. Reply
    Jennifer Avventura
    03.09.2012 at 12:02

    A magical place indeed. Love the wooden castle blocks!

    1. Reply
      ggnitaly84
      03.09.2012 at 12:06

      me too! If I had more space in our car, I would have bought them.

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