The Train to Carcassonne


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Europe » France » Languedoc-Roussillon » Carcassonne
April 24th 2019
Published: April 25th 2019
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Part of the reason I am behind in my blogging and now typing this when I should be typing today’s is, we had a very early train from Paris to Carcassonne. The initial plan was to blog while we were on the train, but sleep won out.

The day started at 3:30 for Jerry, yes, he got up first because it just takes him longer. I slept until 4:30. We had done most of the packing the night before, so only needed to shower and to the last-minute items in the morning. We were on the curb waiting for the cab by 5:30. Yes, we took a cab to the train station, normally, we take the metro everywhere, to the train station, to the airport, but we are in our mid 50’s now and are trying to accept our limitations and also, I believe we deserve to have some comfort in our travel these days. Lugging baggage up and down subway stairs, was fine (and sometimes still is) when we were in our 40’s, but not in the mid 50’s while the mind is willing, the body is simply saying, boy you deserve a break today and I don’t mean
McDonalds.

At 5:30, Paris is dark an oh so quiet. The only sounds or activity were the staff setting up the outside café tables at one of the two corner restaurants and the occasional clicking of the high heels of a woman on her way to work. What she does at that hour of the morning is beyond me. Another observation I just have to make, which will insult every cabby in New York, Uber drivers included, the cab drivers here are pleasant and most of them wear suits and ties and most importantly, they have taken a bath.

The taxi ride to the Gare Montparnasse was quick since there was no traffic. The station how was busy as several trains were leaving between 6 and 8. The station has been modernized so gone are the big boards that roll as each train leaves and the tracks are posted, now its all monitors, which with my eyes I can’t even see.

Brief aside: Speaking of my eyes, this has been an interesting trip, I have developed cataracts, my eyesight wasn’t great before that, so I don’t exactly see things very clearly. In fact, this entire
trip has been like one big impressionist painting. So, I guess you could say I am seeing France through the eyes of Van Gogh.

Are train was scheduled to leave at 6:47, and it left 10 seconds late. You can say a lot of things about French trains, but they are always on schedule, we have never experienced any serious delay. Todays trip was in two parts, the first on a TGV first class, only two stops to Toulouse, switching to a reginal second class to continue on to Carcassonne.

We were up to early to get breakfast at our hotel, and I was under the impression that a light breakfast was served on the train, oops lost in translation and worse yet the café car was not even open. So, no food for us. We didn’t even really have time to get a bit when we transferred trains in Toulouse.

We had a seat facing each other with a table in the middle, I booked this specifically so I could blog while on the train, but what happened was I fell a sleep about 20 minutes after leaving the station. We both catnapped the entire 4
and ½ hour trip. The train goes 317 km an hour to even if your awake, the countryside goes by pretty fast, unless you look at the distance. I did manage a glimpse of some vineyards and a chateau here and there, that is in between naps.

The one thing of interest on the first part of the train trip was the young woman traveling with your cat. He wasn’t doing well, and was not a seasoned traveler, but what I did not like is that instead of being at the seat with her, she shoved in the luggage section, nothing was going to fall on him, but he was scarred and all alone, every time the door open you could here the poor kitty meowing. He made it to Toulouse safely, but he was not very happy. We would never travel with Tarragon that way, in fact he flies first class with out when we take him on a plane. We have never brought him to Europe, because we think it would just be too stressful for him, so this trip we hired very excellent cat sitters, who sent us pictures and updates every other day, he appears to be very happy, but I am sure when we get home we will still have hell to pay. I know he has already had one spy on our trail here in Carcassonne. (more later.)

We transferred trains at Toulouse to a regional train, closest comparison is the LIRR or NJ Transit, but 100%!m(MISSING)ore comfortable and reliable. Being that it was a regional it also meant the local, so we stopped 10 times before getting to Carcassonne 90 minutes later.

Carcassonne, Future Home?

Upon arrival, we exited the train and stepped out of the station. It is right on the midi-canal and across that is the city, one of the most central stations we have had the pleasure to be in. It was a brief 15 to 20-minute walk from the station to our hotel, which was on the Aude river and directly across from the Cite. On the way we stopped at a store to get water and wine, and the bank to get cash, all directly on our way.

When we stepped off the train, I think we both had the same impression, we like it here, this could be home.

The bastide, city outside the walls of the Cite, is very walkable, very non-touristy and quaint. Yes, the town does seem to be on some hard times, but the vibe is good and there was nothing but locals from the station to our hotel.

We got to the hotel very easily, not getting lost and no hills or steps. I had originally booked an apartment for us, on a square just around the corner form this hotel. I wanted the opportunity to really get the feel of living here, but it was not to be they canceled on us 30 days before our trip, so instead I booked us to a DoubleTree right on the river and directly across (with view) of the Cite. Bonus, it’s a Hilton so points for future travel. Second bonus, it was a 5-star hotel, I have never heard of a 5 start DoubleTree.

The staff was friendly, and spoke great English (which is good, because the rest of the city was certainly a French lesson for us). We checked in smooth and our room was ready, even at 2. The room was huge, great spa tube, rain shower head and two
sinks in the bathroom. Double bonus, terrace looking at the Cite and King size bed.

After checking in, we headed out for our one and only activity today and that was going up to the Cite. The Cite is the largest fortress in Europe and it is pretty much in one piece. It is quite a hike from the bastide to the Cite, but you have to do it. The view is nice, the Pyrenees, vineyards and the bastide. It was a clear sunny day so we had an excellent view. The bad news it is one big tourist trap. Crowded, children running everywhere and just gotcha souvenir shops everywhere. The one thing worth doing, which we did not have the energy for, is going in to the Chateau Comtal, mainly because this gets you to the upper ramparts and even better views. We walked by a restaurant we had reservations for the next night, and as we walked by, I was thinking, no, this will be over priced and mediocre food.

I am not going to give my usual history lesson here; you can do that for yourself. It is very old and does have a very interesting history in catholic and French history. The catholic part not so positive, a lot of throwing people off the walls.

Coming back down form the Cite was much harder than going up. We exited through a different gate, and the path down was a bit steep and nothing but cobblestones, my paranoia of twisting my bad ankle was very heighten, mainly because grace is not my middle name. We returned to our hotel, in time for wine-thirty from our terrace, but not enough time to blog, or I just wanted to enjoy the wine and view.

The only thing left to do tonight was dinner, and oh la la what a dinner it would be.

L’Ecuire

Dinner was a Michelin travel guide recommendation and it was also on the Fork, so easy to make a reservation. It was a great find. The name translated means The Stables. The restaurant is actually located in former horse tables, totally renovated but literally in the stables and the actual stalls of 6 horses. The horses lived better than most people.

Before I continue you need to know that this area is known for a few food items, all things duck, foie gras and cassoulet. It was a short walk to dinner along the edge of the southern part of the Bastide. It is located in an assuming building, you walk through a garden area back to the stables, where else would stables be but in the back of the building. Here our French lesson began. The hostess/server, spoke zero English so the entire evening was our very bad French and my translation app on the phone. We did just fine. If nothing else, I can read a French menu I know the words for all the things I don’t like and won’t eat, internal organs.

The ordering was fairly simple as it just jumped off the pages. They did not have champagne but they did have an aperitif with champagne and kir royale, it wasn’t bad, When in Carcassonne. We started with foie gras with a mango and pineapple chutney, I liked it, it cut the richness of the foie gras.

We both could not resist and do what we rarely do at dinner and both ordered the same thing, cassoulet Languedocies. It was the best decision made that night. We wanted a regional wine, so totally relied on our server to make the recommendation, how we managed to say that I don’t know, but we did. The wine went well with the cassoulet, but the star of the meal was that cassoulet, it was the best I have ever had in my entire life. We both cleaned our bowls and then took the spoon and scrapped the yummy caramelized duck fat off the side. The duck leg confit was perfection and even had a crispy skin on it. It will take me many many tries to match this dish.

We waddled back to the room, had a quick nightcap and were out like babies.

Do I need to say the dish of the day: CASSOULET

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Tot: 3.907s; Tpl: 0.051s; cc: 15; qc: 62; dbt: 0.0511s; 3; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 2; ; mem: 1.5mb