Thursday, 17 July 2008

17/07/08: Carcassone

Today we returned to Carcassone.

It was much calmer than on Bastille Day and only vaguely recognisable (which is to be expected; things look very different when varying between night and day). We got much closer to Chateau de Carcassone than on Bastille Day (now to be referred to as 'B-Day') too - we actually got inside! My parents tell me we've been here before, albeit when I was aged four. I don't remember visiting the Chateau itself, but I do remember that it was chucking it down and that I bought myself a knight's helmet to keep my head dry, which was soon followed by a "full" plastic suit of armour (helmet, chest armour and a bendy sword). Good times.

Carcassone is an hours drive from Couiza - plenty of time to reflect, read a book and listen to music. We arrived just after one and had lunch in the car park outside the chateau. We made our way inside and it was very busy and compact. The Chateau is much like one we visited last year (though last year's 'chateau' was more of a port/fort). Inside the ramparts are shops and restaurants (and a church). However, these shops did not really sell anything of interest. Just souvenirs, souvenirs and more souvenirs. The restaurants, cafes, bistros and creperies that also fill thhe Chateau are 'tourist quality'. They are there simply to feed the torrents of tourists, the food they sell is nothing to write home about (and yet, ironically, by saying this I am doing so). We each had a crepe in there. It was the one creperie that didn't charge extortionate prices and for good reason. The crepes appeared within a minute or ordering them, they obviously weren't fresh. They'd just been heated up. Something we could have done for much cheaper. Alas, c'est la vie!

We also weren't keen on paying extorionate prices for the honour of walking around the ramparts when, as we thankfully soon discovered, you could walk around the lower ramparts for free. The views from them were exactly the same as those you'd pay for, just not as high up, but seeing as we were pretty high up to begin with I don't see what difference it would have made.

We took a load of photos from these lower ramparts and here they are: various views of Carcassone (as seen from the Chateau).

After we had wandered the ramparts we headed back to the car and drove across the city to the north. Mum wanted to see the Port and get a ride up the Canal de Midi. The Canal de Midi was built by the Romans as a way to transport trade directly and efficiently from Carcassone to Toulouse. We just missed one trip at four so we had to wait until the next one at six. In the meantime we wandered around the train station. Here, I took some of my favourite photos so far:

When we returned we were just in time and we boarded the canal boat that would take us 5km up river and then bring us back as our guide talks us through everything along the way. It was pleasant and, for mother, a dream come true. Last year when we came to France, we stayed in a village that was situated along a maze of canals. She spoke to many people on 'canal holidays' and saw many people pass through the river which was less than a minute's walk from where we were staying. You basically live on a canal boat for a few weeks and navigate it around the place. It looks really good to be honest. A really good relaxing holiday. She said that she'd take me and some friends on a canal holiday and I liked the sound of it. She never said anything after that. The trip today was a sort of taster of what she could expect. We travelled out of Carcassone and just beyond the outskirts to the first lockgate. We went through it, went a few hundred yards, did a three-point turn and went back the way we came. It was good fun. These are some photographs we took on the way.

Once back on dry land we had dinner in a restaurant across the street and listened to this band that were playing across the street. Almost every night this month (as part of the Festival de la Bastille), locals bands are playing free open air gigs in the city park. Other towns are doing similar things (one city has Deep Purple playing on Sunday - much to my Dad's dismay, as we aren't around - and Massive Attack playing on the Tuesday after - this time to my dismay). The band playing tonight was very loud. I don't want to sound like an old fart, but they were. To the point where it distorted their music. Unless you're a noise band and this is your intention, I see playing really loud as pointless. However, impressively, the vibrations of the first song managed to set off the car alarm of just about every car parked down the street between our restaurant and the park.

As we left to leave we took a few pictures of the band (who were called HushPuppies - I wasn't going to be the one to tell them that HushPuppies are actually a company that make "comfortable shoes").

Once we got back home, I did some blog fiddling and went to bed. All this walking around every day in the harsh French heat is really tiring me out!

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