|Globetrotting Planning Articles|
Globetrotting Traveling Articles
Globetrotting Lodging Articles
Globetrotting Touring Articles
Globetrotting Dining Articles
Globetrotting Making Magic Articles
Globetrotting General Travel Articles
12 Tips to Hotel Bliss
Assateague Island National Seashore
Back To Barcelona
Bellagio of Las Vegas
Chateau de Chenonceau
Disney on Broadway
Disney's Magical Express
Exploring Chicago's Museums
Flying Premium Economy
Grotte de Pech-Merle, France
Hong Kong Disneyland Celebrates
Kennedy Space Center
Lake Constance, Switzerland
Lake Thunersee, Switzerland
Learning the Language
Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania
Making Your Way by Ferry to the Magic in Disneyland Paris
Montezuma Castle National Monument
More of Hilton Head Island
Mount Fuji & Hakone, Japan
My Quest for the West
New Orleans Revisited
One Place is Never Enough!
Palm Beach, Florida
Serendipity 3 in New York City
St. Paul's Cathedral, London
Star Wars in Concert
Taking to the Road
The 'Other' Jersey
The Billie Swamp Safari Park
The Egyptian Museum
The Gardens of Versailles
The Green Heart of the Big Apple
The Manatee Tour
The Palace of Versailles
The Pyramids of Giza
The Walt Disney Family Museum
Tired, Tried And True
Traveling the Northern Oregon Coast
Valley of Fire
Viewing Cities From Above
Visiting the French Alps
Wimbledon Tennis Museum
You Don't Have to Cruise to See Alaska
View all PassPorter articles
Carcassonne, France: A Medieval Walled City
|by Cheryl Pendry, PassPorter Featured Columnist|
Last modified 12-08-2010
Cool Tip: Click here to get a FREE PDF version of this article, fully formatted to print and put into your PassPorter Deluxe Binder!
Filed in Articles > International Travel > General Travel
Carcassonne is not a name I’d been familiar with, until I was told about this beautiful medieval walled city in the south west of France by my mother-in-law. Immediately, I mentally put it on to a "bucket list" of places to stop at, if we were ever to make a trip by road down to my in-law's villa on Spain's Costa Blanca.
The opportunity finally arose for us to take enough time off work to make the 3,000 km round trip and, of course, Carcassonne was then high on my list of places to visit. Located almost midway between the cities of Toulouse and Perpignan in the region of Languedoc-Roussilon, it’s an easy enough place to get to, which probably explains why it attracts so many visitors. Having made a stop on our way there, we arrived late morning, and of course, the car parks were busy by then, but despite that, we had no problem with parking. We were immediately impressed by the fact that the first hour's parking was free, allowing people, presumably more likely to be residents and visitors from nearby, to pop into the city and enjoy a little bit of shopping or perhaps a quick meal, without having to pay for parking.
The medieval city stands on a steep bank, overlooking the River Aude, beside the modern day city, known as the Basse Ville (or lower city) which seems to sprawl for some distance in front of you. The city was originally settled because of its strategic location between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It was also used as a stopping off point between the Iberian peninsula, what we know today as Spain and Portugal, and the rest of Europe.
As with many places in Europe, the first settlers here to put their mark on the place were the Romans more than 2,000 years ago. It went on to become a key site for many battles over the following 1,000 years or so, but came into its own in the medieval era. In the 12th century, it was owned by the Trencavels, who left their mark on the city, building the chateau and the cathedral that still stand today.
France - Carcossonne
Inside the medieval city walls, Carcassonne is home to many restaurants and shops to explore. - photo by chezp
Both chateau and cathedral are impressive, with the chateau really another fortress within this already walled-in city. It has a moat, with five towers overlooking it, and today makes for a beautiful picture postcard scene. We found the cathedral, Basilique St. Nazaire a little less impressive. It's still a lovely place, but although travel does broaden the mind, sometimes it can dull the impact of the places you see. Having now seen many other stunning Gothic cathedrals throughout France, we looked at this one and felt it was something we'd seen before elsewhere, with nothing outstanding to commend it.
Sadly for Carcassonne, as the wars receded over the next few hundred years the city fell into decline, and it was only thanks to the work of the 19th century historian Viollet-le-Duc that it was restored to its former glory. Of course, restoration work will always be contentious and, while I'm sure there are some people who’d rather see this place in the state it was left in, personally I'm glad that someone took the time to do this work and give us an idea of how it would have looked hundreds of years ago.
As we walked up to the main entrance to the city, we spotted Le Petit Train, or small train, waiting outside the imposing walls and we decided to take a tour on it to get more of a feel for how big the city is. The quick answer is that it's huge -- or that's certainly how it feels when you view it from outside the walls. I guess it’s probably the right feeling, as in total, the walls are around two miles long. That’s a lot of wall to defend!
There are two sets of ramparts, with a space in between them and a total of 52 towers dotted along both sets of walls. Once you view it from below or a little distance away, the towers make it look more like a fairytale castle than anything else, although of course, for much of its life, it was anything but that.
The city has only been taken in battle twice in its history, and as you view it from outside, you can certainly understand why. It’s an imposing sight and one I'd have thought twice about attacking.
Once we completed our external tour, we headed inside through the imposing Porte Narbonnaise, with its two external towers that date from 1280. The defences as you go through what is now the main entrance into Carcassonne include two iron doors, two portcullises, a moat, and a drawbridge. This is not somewhere you'd have entered easily in centuries gone by.
Once inside, it’s easy to forget that this was designed as a fortress. Today, it’s thronged with people, exploring the huge variety of shops along the little streets, and the restaurants. You really can buy just about any type of souvenir here, and indeed we even saw swords being sold in some shops! Probably the biggest problem here is the amount of choice you're presented with. We wandered for a good hour or so, checking out all the restaurants, and trying to decide which would be best for us for a hearty lunch. Every turn we took led us into another shopping area with more places to eat. You certainly won't starve in here, and it's good to see that nearly every place we passed is open from late morning until late night, with no pause in serving.
We eventually made our way to the back of the city, and the Porte d'Aube, almost opposite the main entrance we'd come in, with its view over the more modern city below us. It must be wonderful to live there and be able to look up at this beautiful sight above you. If I lived there, I'd be heading up for regular visits, perhaps to browse the shops, have a meal or just to enjoy the wonderful scenery.
Perhaps the biggest joy of this place is there's no fee whatsoever, apart from what you pay to park here, to visit Carcassonne. It's a beautiful place to stop and spend time, and should our travels take us down to that part of France again, we’ll definitely be calling in again.
France - Carcossonne
The medieval city walls of Carcassonne. - photo by chezp
About the Author: Cheryl and husband Mark live in England and love to travel, particularly to Disney, and they have made numerous visits to destinations across America and Europe. They recently completed their tour of every Disney theme park around the world, which culminated in their visit to Japan, including the Tokyo Disney Resort. Click here to view more of Cheryl's articles!
Related Links:Read additional articles from PassPorter.com
Serendipity 3 in New York City - A Dining Review last updated 12/29/2008
Hong Kong Disneyland Celebrates - A New Year In A New Disney Park last updated 12/18/2008
Valencia, Spain - Travel Tips last updated 11/27/2008
Bellagio of Las Vegas - Simply Bellissimo! last updated 1/08/2009
Hever Castle - Kent, England last updated 1/15/2009
View all comments in forum thread
So what do you think? Click here to share your comments, feedback, and experiences on this article and topic!
(Note: You must be a member of our PassPorter Message Board Community to leave comments. Join today for free!)
Updated 12-08-2010 - Article #552
Subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter, PassPorter News, published for more than 58,000 opt-in subscribers worldwide.
As an added bonus for subscribing, you will receive a 20% discount coupon for the PassPorter Store -- no catch!|
We respect your privacy and never sell or rent our subscriber list. Subscribing will not result
in more spam! We guarantee it.
by PassPorter Travel Press, an imprint of MediaMarx, Inc.
| LEARN MORE|
Learn More With Our Award-Winning Guidebooks|
PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disn...
Planning a trip around the globe, or just away for the weekend? Ask questions and share experiences!
Forum Sponsored by CruisingCo.com
Stone Mountain Christmas
11 Oct 2014 at 11:27pm
We are planning on stopping at Stone Mountain on our drive south right after Thanksgiving and they have a Christmas village and celebration with...
(click title above to view replies)
by Queen of Everything
7 Oct 2014 at 11:11am
Next summer (2015) we will be traveling to Davis WV to my family reunion. This is the first time we will be reunioning :p in the general vicinity...
(click title above to view replies)
Renting a house in Europe?
30 Sep 2014 at 6:44pm
We have often rented homes for vacations in the US and Canada. I am planning a trip to Italy next year and hopefully will be joined by one of my...
(click title above to view replies)
Total Visits: 5222